Lounges on the Horizon
As 2007 dawns, here are some things I'm looking forward to welcoming to our vibrant nightlife scene, and some other things I'd like to see this year.
The Hot New Area
It looks like a stretch of K Street NW near Franklin Park will be the place to see and be seen while you drop lots of money on bottle service. A trio of new projects is scheduled to join the high-end kstreet Lounge and the popular Lima restaurant and lounge. The biggest news is Park Place, a four-story restaurant and nightspot run by nightlife magnate Marc Barnes, coming soon to 14th Street between I and K. Barnes says it'll be less like the wide-open dance floors of his landmark club Love and more on the lounge-with-bottle-service tip. The opening has been pushed back because of permitting issues, but it looks like a spring opening is in the cards. Fur Nightclub owner Michael Romeo is also getting into the act with two lounges on opposite sides of K Street. Lotus and Tattoo, he says, are going to be for an older crowd than his Eckington dance spot. The upscale Lotus, opening in February, will have an Asian-inspired design, while Tattoo, which Romeo calls "a biker bar," is slated for the summer.
Sick of H Street Yet? No? Good!
The Nightlife Story of 2006 just won't die. There are several new bars and restaurants coming to H Street NE this year, if all goes well, starting with the Pug, a boxing-themed sports bar run by longtime Capitol Lounge manager Tony Tomelden. Look for Belgian beers on tap at Dr. Granville Moore's Brickyard by summer.
Basketball and hockey fans get new places to talk about Gilbert and Ovie when a new pool hall and a new lounge arrive near the Verizon Center. I've blogged about the subterranean billiards spot Elroy's before, but it currently has a new name -- Rocket Bar -- and an expected date of completion: February 1. Meanwhile, the Chicago-based Bar Louie chain is scheduled to move into Gallery Place later this year. It comes from the same corporate family as Largo's Red Star Tavern, so expect a long list of signature cocktails and an upscale menu of gourmet sandwiches and burgers.
Irish Eyes Can Finally Smile
Good news: Nanny O'Brien's isn't closing. Great news: It's being taken over by the Bedrock management company, who own the nearby Aroma lounge and Atomic Billiards. The new owners promise that Irish music and Guinness will continue to be the focus, but they'll be working on cleaning up the place and refining the menu, beginning later this month.
I love the odd, esoteric beers at the Dogfish Head Alehouse, but the Gaithersburg location makes it a bit of a haul for residents of Washington and Northern Virginia. Sometime in March, though, the franchise owners are opening a second alehouse in Seven Corners. Like the Maryland location, this Dogfish Head Alehouse won't be a brewpub, but the converted Pizzeria Uno will serve fresh-from-Rehoboth 90 Minute IPA, ApriHop and World Wide Stout.
What the D.C. Nightlife Scene Could Use in 2007
Something to Replace Polly Esther's
We know that '80s nights at Polly Esther's were the butt of jokes; we made plenty of them ourselves. But the place served a purpose, especially for bachelorettes and people who wanted to go out and dance to songs they could sing along with. Hip? Not at all. Fun? Sure. With weekend clubbing dominated by electronic, hip-hop and indie music, an increasing number of readers are asking us to point them towards clubs where they can dance to "songs they know" -- Abba, Madonna, Michael Jackson and the like. Let's hope someone can step up, because there's a market waiting to be tapped.
Supper Clubs -- and Not in Name Only
"Dinner and dancing" isn't just something from a vintage Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie. Judging by the e-mails we get, there are plenty of people -- ranging from their 30s through their 60s -- who want a place like the old River Club, where they can get dressed up, have a nice dinner, see live entertainment and do a little dancing, including some slow, romantic numbers. Sounds like a no-brainer, but there's really nothing that covers all the bases. Blues Alley doesn't have room for dancing, the food at New Vegas Lounge isn't that great, and most of the U Street jazz spots just aren't big enough. The new restaurant Posh is promising to be a supper club with bands and dancing, but so far, it hasn't delivered.
Promises Made, Promises Kept?
When stadium construction forced a number of gay cabarets and nightspots from their longtime homes on Half Street and O Street SE, the nightclub owners were assured the city would try to help them find new buildings. Problem is, strip clubs -- especially gay strip clubs -- are not welcome neighbors in many parts of the city, and laws stipulating a 600-foot buffer from residential buildings mean that they won't be moving into a revitalized downtown anytime soon. It's not just the nakedness, either -- even clubs for fully clothed dancers are having applications for liquor licenses turned down by Advisory Neighborhood Commissions in Northeast and Southeast. The city should step in and make sure that these establishments, which were part of gay community life for decades, can relocate and get on with business.
Dialogue About the Smoking Ban
Smokers are going to have to get used to going outside, and nonsmokers are going to have to get used to crowded sidewalks, crowded patios and crowded rooftop decks. To help us all get along, businesses should start supplying ashtrays and trash cans outside, and neighborhood organizations should -- where appropriate -- work with nightspots to allow for rooftop decks, patios and other outdoor areas so that smokers can stay on the premises while they have their cigarettes instead of blocking sidewalks and streets.
And finally... A Moratorium on Britpop and Indie Dance Nights at the Black Cat
The Black Cat has plenty of Britpop/electronic/indie DJ nights that show up regularly on the schedule: Mousetrap. Right Round. Bliss. Razzmatazz. The Wag. Sorted. Depeche Mode vs. New Order vs. Your Mom. That's not even counting the new wave/electronica/hip-hop nights like Black Catatonia, Notorious, Reach Up, etc. Isn't that enough? We're not saying the existing ones should go away, but a ban on new ones would be nice; a party that pairs the music of Killing Joke and Ultravox, as is happening on Jan. 13, should be the final straw. Also, while we realize that events like Mousetrap pack the mainstage every month, the Black Cat is, in its heart, a live music club. Would it kill them to put a band on the backstage when there's a DJ upstairs? (Thanks to special contributor David Malitz for this one.)
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