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Wristbands for kstreet, hard hats for Polly Esther’s: S&T plays gift-giver to the venues and voices on the D.C. nightlife scene.
Twelve months of dabbling in area pubs and clubs—not to mention many meetings of the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board—have given S&T a pretty good idea of who’s been naughty, who’s been nice, and who’s been knocked out of business on the city’s nightlife scene. For places like Club U or Kili’s Kafe, there’s nothing much a generous columnist can do to compensate for the loss of a liquor license. Maybe in five years—pursuant to D.C. Code. But for other needy nightlife honchos, their regulars, and their oft-disgruntled neighbors, S&T does have a few thoughts on the perfect gift. Herewith, S&T’s Barhopping Holiday Gift Guide:
To: The staff at kstreet
Item: Something to keep the bouncer busy
In August, promoter Swaptak Das & Co. helped open a thoroughly wired nightspot called kstreet, featuring, according to an e-mail, “[f]lat screens built inside each table….22 high end cameras capable of web casting parties….DVD mixers that allows the DJ to mix video and audio.” It’s all part of what Das calls the venue’s “wow factor.” “When you use technology, people are like, ‘Wow, I’m in a high-tech place,’ ” he says. Yet outside the club the vibe is a helluva lot lower on the “wow” scale. While black-clad waitresses wield wireless handheld order-taking devices inside the joint, the dark-suited doormen out front are armed with only their eyes to check the cred of incoming clubbers. For a venue that brazenly boasts about its electronic specs, the lack of some type of glitzy gizmo at the gate is utterly disenchanting.
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Luckily, California-based Precision Dynamics Corp. has a rather flashy contraption designed for just this sort of thing: the AgeBand electronic ID-verification system. According to a brochure, this “sleek” machine features “bar code scanning and magnetic-stripe readability for fast and easy verification” of any swiped ID. The system also allows for “patron flagging” to keep out undesirables. Patrons whose IDs pass muster with AgeBand receive a wristband, which can be imprinted with bar codes or even embedded with microchips and radio-frequency antennas. How’s that for bling-bling?
To: Patrons of Polly Esther’s
Item: Hard hats
Since 1999, the retro-themed downtown D.C. dance club has been the scene of two horrendous tumbling-electronic-equipment disasters: Six years ago, a sound-and-lighting rig collapsed onto the club’s crowded second-level dance floor, injuring about 30 people and sending 15 to the hospital, according to a Washington Post account of the incident. Then, two years later, a wall-mounted television above the bar came loose and fell, sending yet another patron to the hospital with injuries. A flood of lawsuits since prompted club president Gary Ouellette in 2004 to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (Show & Tell, 1/7).
S&T believes that Ouellette’s customers deserve adequate protection, too—namely, some type of headgear. Perhaps of the plastic yellow construction-worker variety, which not only matches the club’s winking-smiley-face logo but also blends in as part of one’s disco-era Village People costume.
To: Cada Vez manager Charles Zhou & Co.
Item: One-year subscription to the Source magazine
For the past year, operators of the controversial U Street NW venue have been lobbying the District’s ABC Board to lift a licensing restriction that prohibits the nightspot from playing hiphop. Though they haven’t vocally denounced the genre, several anti–Cada Vez forces, including members of the Dupont Circle advisory neighborhood commission and the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, have delayed Zhou’s plans for a modified playlist.
But Cada Vez management isn’t especially convincing, anyway. Zhou & Co.’s paperwork is rife with pop-cultural typos that cause one to question whether the venue truly takes it musical selections seriously. Consider this gem: “As this Board is aware, Hip-Hop artists include Bonyce, Fifty Cents, Usher, and a host of other popular tunes heard on top radio stations around the country” (Show & Tell, 2/4).
Flipping through the Source should at least provide him with some other examples of popular acts: Genuine, Ludicrous, and Young Cheesy.
To: The staff at Elephant & Castle
Item: Big measuring cup
Over the summer, one patron’s complaint about potentially inaccurate beer pouring at the downtown D.C. restaurant triggered an investigation by regulators with the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Office of Weights and Measures (Show & Tell, 7/15). The inspection turned up several 16-ounce and 20-ounce glasses that just didn’t jibe with their corresponding price specials. “The merchant can either scale down the size that is indicated on the beverage menu or…acquire larger glasses,” noted Weights & Measures Chief Jeffrey Mason.
Or, how ’bout just pouring an accurate pint? New Hampshire–based Pro Tap Design and Canada-based Azbar Inc. both sell computerized draft-beer monitoring systems that electronically measure every drop of suds that seeps from the spout. Too drastic? OK, let’s keep it simple: A standard one-quart measuring pitcher with colored markings. 16 ounces? Check. 20 ounces? Check.
To: Kalorama Road resident Denis James
Item: White flag
It’s been a rather rough year for Adams Morgan’s chief anti-barfly. As of February, James had reported that he could still hear the charismatic cries from a nearby nightspot—“Heaven & Hell!” “Club Heaven!”—inside the first floor of his house, in apparent violation of the city’s noise regs (Show & Tell, 2/25). In the spring, James was alarmed by the proliferation of black railings enclosing portions of sidewalk in front of the same club, as well as in front of neighboring venue Columbia Station, which appeared without the proper permits (Show & Tell, 6/10)—not that James’ e-mail complaint to DCRA could undo the unapproved construction. This week, club owner Mehari Woldemariam goes before the D.C. Public Space Committee for retroactive permission to construct those existing fences. Meanwhile, a total of eight neighborhood venues have changed their legal status from restaurants, which must sell a certain amount of food to keep hawking booze, to taverns, which can get by on free beer nuts.
Denis, the Adams Morgan you once knew has been washed away in a sea of liquor. Time to throw in the towel. Or better yet, have a beer. Or four.—Chris Shott
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