High above downtown Greenville, with the expansive view of the city skyline spread across the horizon, there is a hidden patch of soft green grass floating among the clouds.
“We call this our secret cocktail garden bar,” said John Deck, general manager of the AC Hotel Greenville and its rooftop gin bar, Juniper.
True, the grass in this so-called “secret garden” is technically astroturf, but it still makes for a surreal experience to find this Instagram-photo friendly spot looking down on the corner of Main and Broad Streets.
The cocktail garden is one part of a multi-zone rooftop atop the hotel. Located in the new Camperdown development, AC Hotel and Juniper, operated by Auro Hotels, are set to open their doors to the public at the start of 2021.
In a preview tour, Deck strolled through the 16,000-square foot rooftop area, which will soon be home to Juniper and three other so-called “zones.” Deck said the concept of a sectioned rooftop came from his time visiting other rooftop concepts and being frustrated that the whole roof was booked for a private event.
“When you’re staying in a place for just one night, let’s say, and the whole roof is booked, it kind of defeats the point of what should be a real draw for the hotel,” Deck said.
The rooftop allows not only for certain sections to be privately booked with others remaining open, but it also offers a diverse set of options and experiences for hotel guests and Greenville residents alike.
The keystone of the rooftop is Juniper, which will offer gin cocktails and small plate dining, in addition to a “curated selection” of wine, beer and liquor. Harkening back to the 1960s, a gin trolley will circulate throughout the rooftop with a professional mixologist whipping up bespoke drinks table side, all depending on the diner’s preferences. (Don’t worry; if you don’t like gin, there are countless other options).
“Juniper is really the hub and the main purpose of the rooftop, so that is the big draw,” Deck said. “Gin is making a strong comeback. With its botanicals, its fresh quality, we thought it paired perfectly with open-air, al fresco dining.”
Walk out of Juniper, past the windows looking into the kitchen where chefs will be at work on the al fresco menu, and you’ll find yourself in what the hotel’s developers call “Fire Box.”
A partially open-air space with a view of the plaza below, Fire Box will feature fire pits, couches, relaxed chairs and trees in planter boxes. The vibe is more akin to an outdoor patio. With an Equinox Louvered Roof system, the ceiling can be opened like slats of window blinds on sunny days and closed when it rains, while walls can automatically slide down to provide shade if the sun is too blaring or warmth on chilly days, with space heaters installed along the ceiling.
Fire Box will host the hotel’s more casual eatery, Fire Box Pizza, which specializes in Neapolitan-style pizza fired on a stone oven shipped in from Italy, as well as beer and wine options.
“We actually thought about operating a food truck in here, but space-wise it was just a little too large,” Deck said. “But this is still a great casual option for hotel guests or people just out late downtown, although since it’s still part of Juniper, if you want to enjoy a cocktail or small plates out here, feel free.”
Deck said Fire Box Pizza and the area will likely stay open until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, although if the demand is there, it could stay open as late as 2 a.m.
The other two zones are the aforementioned cocktail garden, which is the only fully open-air zone in the roof.
“To me, the cocktail garden is our prime real estate,” Deck said.
He envisions wedding ceremonies on the grass with the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance, or other private events, while receptions can then be held in the fourth zone, the banquet room known as “Jasmine Hall.”
“The banquet room is the only spot that will have full four-top tables set up,” Deck said, walking into the banquet room area, which is designed to accommodate large groups, with space enough for a dance floor. The flooring is all tile, and the ceilings will boast a wallpaper mural. A bar that is shared with the cocktail garden will be along one wall, so guests at an event can get drinks from either zone.
For those not staying at the hotel, the rooftop can be accessed from a separate elevator, which allows for less foot traffic going through the lobby.