City Paper is not for tourists
Fur is designed to be “a nightclub like no other.” According to the club’s Web site, this three-level “exceptionally high-quality socialization and entertainment venue” on Patterson Street NE boasts “the most sophisticated sound and intelligent lighting system there is,” including “a custom designed and built, 100,000-watt new generation EAW Avalon speaker system”—which engineer John Fiorito says offers “much greater power” than even the booming room-shakers at D.C. dance meccas Nation and Five. And Fiorito should know: His company, Ohm Productions, installed all three systems.
But one thing that sets Fur apart from most other area clubs isn’t inside the Northeast night spot. It’s outside.
No, not the pimped-out, logo-adorned all-terrain vehicle parked out front. We’re talking about that chic awning hanging high above the long, long line of Fur patrons waiting to clear security and go inside.
The 75-foot-long canopy, which, like the Hummer, sports the Fur logo, is a particular source of pride for the club’s owner, Michael Romeo. “I designed it myself,” says Romeo, who formerly ran Chinatown’s now-defunct Club Insomnia. The vaulted stretch of black fabric supported by a metal frame covers most of the sidewalk in front of the club. “It’s good, because if it rains,” he says, “people don’t get wet.”
Romeo declines to say how much it cost, but Silver Spring awning maker Thomas Co. estimates that a canopy that size would generally run around $8,000.
According to Romeo, this is something of an innovation on the local nightlife scene: “I don’t think anybody else has one in D.C.”
He’s right: Less than 2 miles away on Okie Street NE, the sprawling megaclub Dream has something a bit more sophisticated. “That awning is nothing compared to what we have at Dream,” says Dream promoter Masoud Aboughaddareh, who also hosts a Friday-night party at Fur.
At Dream, patrons also stand in line under an awning—one that, in winter, can be enclosed like a tent and even features space heaters. “When you walk into the line, it’s as warm as the inside of the club,” says Aboughaddareh. “But the one at Fur, it’s open.”
Nonetheless, Romeo is so proud of his expansive canopy that he directed Web designer Frank Thomas to give it prominent placement on the club’s Web site. Appearing at the top of the page in bright, flashing colors is a simple declaration: “No matter how inclement the weather FUR is open rain, sleet, or snow. A large awning protects you at the entrance to FUR.” Click on the flickering phrase and a scenic photo of the awning pops up, complete with caption: “Even when its raining you’ll be able to stay dry waiting in line to get into FUR.”
The awning shot has proved quite popular with visitors to the Web site, Thomas reports, nabbing a total of 12,724 hits since October 2004. The awning is also a familiar sight to the more than 30,000 customers who’ve actually visited the place since it first opened this past fall, according to the club’s own numbers.
Waiting in line is, after all, just a part of life for clubgoers—especially at Fur, which has earned a bit of a reputation for lengthy delays at the door.
Those who turned out for Fur’s grand opening back on Sept. 18, for instance, had plenty of time to admire Romeo’s handiwork. Even those who had bought advance tickets spent a significant part of the night waiting to get into the club. And waiting. And waiting. “We waited for almost two hours to get in,” says Dupont Circle resident James Gallina, 27. “It was a zoo. There were people in the street. There were honking horns. The police were on their loudspeakers telling us all to get off the street. Unfortunately, both sides of the road and their sidewalks were swamped with frustrated clubbers.”
Headlining DJ Paul van Dyk had to wait, too. As the renowned German turntablist noted on his own Web site: “[E]ven I had a hard time getting into the venue.”
“It was a total disaster,” Romeo admits. The crowd outside was estimated at nearly 3,000 strong, he notes, but the 16,000-square-foot club can hold only about 1,500. Eventually, he says, “We just stopped letting people in.”
Romeo says the club has since adopted several measures to get people out from under the awning and into the club much more quickly: Advance tickets are now limited to a few hundred per night. And the club presently runs two separate lines—one for patrons with VIP passes or table reservations and a second for general admission—as opposed to the single queue that got so backed up the first night. “It’s better now,” he says. “We try to get people in as fast as possible.”
But the line sometimes gets so long that Romeo’s awning can’t cover everybody—as the clubgoing Gallina found out on the rainy night of Nov. 27. “The line stretched way past the end of the awning,” he recalls. “I got wet.” The rain was so intense, Gallina reports, that the awning didn’t do much good for people underneath it, either: “Water was also spilling off the awning in several places onto the pavement next to the line, getting people wet in line.”
The club, however, continues to spread the word about its wondrous protective canopy. “We heard about the awning,” says Kerri Mason, editor of New York– based Club Systems International, a monthly magazine that covers aesthetic and technical trends of nightclubs worldwide, and which recently nominated Fur for a Best New Club award. The winner will be announced at the magazine’s third annual Club World Awards in Miami next month.
In fact, Mason notes, “We have a whole bunch of photos of that awning.” Not that the magazine took those pictures, she points out—the snapshots came with a whole bunch of other promotional materials from the club. “They made a big deal about it,” she says.
And why not? At least two of the three clubs that Fur is competing against for one of the magazine’s so-called Disco Globe trophies—Atlanta’s ginormous Compound and Denver’s split-level Lotus/Karma club—don’t have huge awnings like Fur’s. Well, at least not permanent ones. “We just have a temporary awning,” notes one Lotus employee who answered the phone. “When it rains, we put one up.”
To editor Mason, the Fur canopy seems “a little bit of a throwback to like, you know, an amusement-park ride.”
“I can’t say that played into their nomination,” she adds.
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