It is late on a Thursday afternoon in Northwest Washington, and a sharp, black Benz parks near the corner of 8th and U Streets. The car’s owner, Abdula co-owner of D.C. Live, one of the District’s largest nightclubsand a dreadlocked sidekick glance toward the entrance to 2009 8th St., where workmen are darting in and out. The two bypass the scene and head around the corner toward a takeout joint, but soon returnwith no food. Abdul, with his cell phone pinned to his ear, nonchalantly approaches a man and woman standing outside of 2009 and strikes up a conversation. The man is Derek Owens, a black guy who, backed financially by his white stepfather and two half-brothers, owns the property and much of the rest of the short block. The woman is Gloria Nauden, his half-black, half-Asian marketing consultant. Owens and Nauden are gearing up to open 2K9, what they hope will become D.C.’s first “multiethnic, multilifestyle” nightclub.
“A lot of promoters or club owners have tried [attracting a diverse audience] at some point or another after their opening, but not from the onset,” Nauden explains. “And so we’ve heard from a lot of promoters, ‘Hey, it’s not going to work. We’ve tried it. Yadda, yadda, yadda.’”
Nauden, former entertainment and marketing director for BET, devised a complex marketing strategy to jump-start 2K9: two radio stations, three print journals, a hand-picked street team composed of representatives of five nationalities, and 20,000 fliers. She set aside Thursday, the first night, for “media and tastemakers” only, hosting a bourgeois, older black crowd, which got to listen to WHUR and a New Orleans jazz band. Friday and Saturday, “international” and “cosmopolitan” nights, respectively, were wilder: women in cages, a man on stilts, a masseuse on stage, a face painter, and plenty of dance music blasting from the speakers. In this carnival atmosphere, the dance floor eventually filled out with whites, blacks, Asians, and Latinos, not to mention a well-known drag queen.
Though this “club of tolerance” is open to everyone, Nauden actively controls the demographic for profit’s sake. On Thursday evening, an MCA Records van pulls up outside of 2K9 to promote an upcoming release from rapper Rahzel of the Roots, playing the single “All I Know,” quite loudly. Owens’ stepfather-financier remarks, “I don’t think I want that truck out here. They’re making noise.” Nauden confronts the promoters with her proper marketingspeak: “It’s the wrong market. It’s 25 to 54,” she clarifies. “Everybody here’s got on suits.”
Nauden later declares, without a hint of irony in her voice, “We’re not opening the floodgates to everybody and their mama. We want to have the right mix of people who are tolerant.” Neil Drumming