It’s been a long 18 months for parents balancing full-time child care and remote work and school during the pandemic. Rachel Lubin and Molly Nizhinikov, founders of Ivy City’s “family social club” the Lane—which opened just before the start of the pandemic—are acutely aware of the challenges. Both moms have six and four year olds at home, and Nizhnikov recently welcomed a two-month-old baby. So, the duo are offering caretakers a break with a new program. Starting Wednesday, September 8, families can drop kids off for two hour blocks of supervised play.
“When we first opened the business, we felt like parents were spending so much time away from their children that we really needed to create a space where everyone would be together in a harmonious way,” says Nizhnikov. “Now it’s clear that we’ve spent plenty of time together and could probably use some moments apart.”
Parents are welcome to hang out with their kids at the climbing wall or settle in with a coffee and zhuzhed-up toast from the revamped cafe menu. But if not, the supervised play sessions—$40 per child—will host a maximum of five children paired with a staff member. The group will traverse the 7,880-square-foot space, taking part in a structured, activity-filled adventure. Time slots are available on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 4 to 6 PM and on weekends from 9 AM to 11 AM or 11 AM to 1 PM. The social club is also rolling out a monthly parent’s night on weekends where adults can drop kids at the Lane for three hours and enjoy a solo evening on the town.
“When we started the business, it was all about, what do families want? Then the pandemic changed it to, what do families need?” says Nizhinikov. “Now we’re kind of in a moment where we can do a little bit of both—finding ways to provide what families desperately need and also what will make them happy.”
Like many businesses, the Lane experienced a number of pivots throughout the pandemic, providing a slate of virtual programming for kids quarantining at home and coordinating “pods” for socially-distanced learning. The social club will continue to team up with organizations who participated in the online initiative, and launch in-person courses like gymnastics with Power Tots and theatric sessions with Washington Improv Theater. There’s even a parkour class for kids to learn how to climb, swing, and roll through their surroundings.
Of course, there are also new safety precautions in place. The Lane’s staff is fully vaccinated and all patrons over the age of 12 must provide proof of vaccination. Masks will be required for anyone over the age of two. Even before the pandemic, sanitation was a priority—kids aren’t exactly renowned for their sparkling hygiene—and the two-floor interior undergoes a non-toxic spray and UV light treatment weekly.
“For months, people have been going to restaurants and feeling great,” says Lubin. “But families have not been feeling as confident. We’re creating a safe bubble where families can come in and actually just have fun.”
Costs vary by program. Families can get unlimited access to the space for $95 a month (families with one to two kids) or $110 a month (families with three or more children). Open play sessions with parents on-site are individually priced at $20 per kid and again, drop-off sessions are $40 per child for two hours.
The Lane. 1408 Okie St., NE. 202-656-1105. Open Wednesday to Friday from 10 AM to 6 PM; Saturday and Sunday from 9 AM to 6 PM.