Raleigh has a secret room accessible through a bookcase at a downtown bar. Upstairs at The Architect Bar & Social House, a giant arrow in the skylight points the way to a lounge where visitors can chill with family and friends. The main room is spacious with an area for dancing and various events, with seating all around.
The bookcase in the northwest corner opens to reveal The Green Light, an architectural office transformed into a cozy room with its own bar, rusty décor, low-light ambiance and cocktails to intrigue every taste. With only 30 seats and no standing room, The Green Light intimately allows for a relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere.
“We are committed to the guests—the people visiting here—because we want them to enjoy their time,” says host Jason Mitchell, who recommends that visitors RSVP their spot, especially on weekends. “We cater as much as we can. You can come and celebrate a special event like a birthday, or just get together with someone.”
The Green Light has caught the attention of national publications. “That little room has gotten more accolades than anything I’ve been involved with,” says owner Jon Seelbinder, who was born and raised in North Carolina and moved to Raleigh in 1999, then worked in the hospitality business while studying industrial engineering at North Carolina State University. “It was very unique when I first looked into it. I had a vision that I wanted for the bar, especially with the history of the building.”
Built in 1922, it contained a few surprises—which Seelbinder encountered during the renovation. “We pulled away the Sheetrock and insulation, and discovered windows that had been covered for many years. We ripped the bones off the walls and created something that had a synergy with the historic buildings in the neighborhood.”
Seelbinder opened The Architect Bar & Social House in January 2012 and added The Green Light in September 2013. “I love designing and furnishing a new business, and with The Architect Bar, the interior look gave me a lot of ideas,” Seelbinder says. “It was fun to create The Green Light into a vintage yet timeless room.”
The downtown area was undergoing new development, and change was in the air. “I wanted to embrace and elevate the bar scene with a DJ in a cool old building that has modern touches,” he says.
The COVID pandemic proved to be one of Seelbinder’s biggest challenges, forcing him to temporarily close his doors and go into debt for the first time in order to weather the storm. “I’ve had to work hard to come out, post-COVID. I used the time to refresh the look of the bar and keep it up to date.”
Taking Care of Business
Seelbinder takes pride in providing his staff with opportunities to gain experience on the job, and promoting people like Monte Williams. “I really appreciate that [Seelbinder] gave me a chance to learn and become manager,” Williams says. “That’s the way Jon is; he treats people with respect.”
Mitchell admires the way Seelbinder oversees a variety of circumstances. “It can be customers disagreeing with something or people having one too many,” he says. “He comes in and just takes care of it in a calm manner.”
Over the past decade, The Architect Bar & Social House has hosted over 400 events. “People have gotten married here,” Seelbinder says. “We flip the room for the reception and then flip it again for dancing.” There is a splendid view no matter where you sit, he adds, with large, open windows overlooking downtown Raleigh.
Whether patrons are hosting a birthday, an engagement party or a company event, The Architect Bar & Social House provides catering and other services to help make the event memorable. “We have a whole catering service that can take care of whatever you need for that special night,” Seelbinder says.
At The Architect Bar, patrons enjoy craft cocktails and brews with fresh local ingredients and a seasonal menu. An in‑house mixologist can create customized cocktail menus for any occasion. “It’s a fun place to work, with something going on every night,” Williams says.
Seelbinder just renewed his lease until 2031, so he and The Architect Bar & Social House will stick around for a while. “I love it here and plan to entertain in downtown Raleigh for a long time,” he says.
Seelbinder also owns Virgil’s Cocktails & Cocina, Little City Brewing + Provisions Co., The Merchant NC and, soon, The Yard at 701 Glenwood Avenue. The Yard will feature an upfitting of a building already on the property, along with the addition of 15–20 repurposed shipping containers that will house several bars and hangout areas.
Call 919.833.4949 to inquire about general information and private events at The Architect Bar or The Green Light. Text The Green Light at 919.699.5256 for seating. Learn more at architectbar.com.
Subject to change, here is a list of events regularly taking place at The Architect Bar & Social House.
Mondays: Amateur comedy night
Tuesdays: Open mic night
Wednesdays: Salsa nights, with a class followed by dancing
Thursdays: Single games night, followed by karaoke night
Fridays and Saturdays: Popular DJs