Those who are usually behind the scenes at Capitol Hill favorites were dressed to the nines as they gathered for the third annual Hilly Awards this past weekend.
The Hillys are the brainchild of Julia Robey Christian, executive director of the Capitol Hill Association of Merchants and Professionals, who first pitched the idea of Hill denizens voting for their favorite businesses back in 2009.
Through donations of services, food and drinks, the ceremony came together. Two years later, the event has grown from a small gathering in Eastern Market’s North Hall to a full-blown gala at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. This year, more than 6,000 votes were cast for Hill favorites.
“The first year was so simple,” Robey Christian said. “We’ve looked at ways to harness the power of the Hill to get people involved with the Hillys.”
A red carpet led to the crowded lobby Sunday at the Atlas, where live jazz played in the background and bow ties and boas predominated. D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells, who represents Capitol Hill, and Council Chairman Kwame Brown made the rounds, chatting with the local business owners.
After the lights dimmed and the awards ceremony began, the audience was treated to almost-musical numbers from the hosts and a couple of political pokes.
“Capitol Hill has three of my favorite places in the city: Barracks Row Main Street, H Street and ... um,” Wells deadpanned in his best Rick Perry impersonation before the presentation of the Best New Business award to bar and restaurant the Queen Vic.
After the ceremony, the audience crowded into another room, where employees of Inspire BBQ, which won the Community Service of the Year award, brought around trays of food and bartenders vying for the Bartender of the Year award showed off their skills.
Vicki Davis, co-owner and operations director for Inspire BBQ, was recognized for the restaurant’s community service. Inspire BBQ hires people ages 18 to 24 so that they can learn culinary, service and entrepreneurial skills as they help work events such as the Hillys.
“The recognition is wonderful,” Davis said. “We’re like a big family.”
2011 Hilly Award Winners
Professional Service of the Year: National Capital Bank
Home and Garden Service of the Year: Saving Grace Services
Health, Wellness and Beauty Service of the Year: Capitol Hill Yoga
Arts Business of the Year: The Fridge
Artist/Artisan of the Year: Sharkey
Nonprofit of the Year: St. Coletta of Greater Washington
Community Service Award: Inspire BBQ
Cafe/Coffee Shop of the Year: Peregrine Espresso
Retailer of the Year: Monkeys’ Uncle
Bar/Tavern of the Year: Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar
Restaurant of the Year: Belga Café
Best New Business: The Queen Vic
Bartender of the Year: Matt LeBarron, Granville Moore’s