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Hump-day nights at Republic Gardens are packed with African-American singles banking on the nightclub’s upscale atmosphere (and “Hook ’em up Wednesdays” radio jock Russ Parr’s legendary matchmaking acuity) to put them together with the buppie of their dreams. On Fridays and Saturdays, a line of D.C.’s black upwardly mobile inches slowly up the block for another “off-the-hook” party experience. On Mondays, Republic Gardens is closed. Last Thursday it was gone. The club’s loyal but relatively few Thursday night patrons were surprised to find that 1355 U St. was now the address of Alibi’sthe block’s newest nightspot.
Jokingly dubbed “white night” by some of the club’s own staff, the Alibi’s party is the brainchild of three local bartenders: Republic Gardens’ barkeeps Bernie Bernstrom and Jeremy Pollock along with ex-State of the Union mixologist Leslie Grobar, who decided that it was “about time” to give U Street “something different.” The neophyte promoters began a “grass-roots” effort of networking, e-mail bombardment, and flier distribution aimed at attracting a more diverse (read: white) crowd to the predominantly black location. The promoters also chose not to attach the locally well-known Republic Gardens name to any of their material, opting instead to tout Alibi’s as a brand-new attraction. They even covered the sign out front.
With the blessing and financial backing of the club’s owner, Marc Barnes, Alibi’s grand opening last Thursday boasted free pool, inexpensive drinks, a “complimentary lavish buffet,” and two DJs spinning progressive, alternative, and retro dance. For some of the dismayed Republic Garden’s regulars, the liberal mixing of music from the Beastie Boys to Jimmy Page and Puffy to Rufus was enough to make them ask for their money back. For others, free crab cakes and healthy portions of Republic Gardens’ famous jerk chicken were enough to keep them content. Newcomers were impressed by the club’s luxurious interior.
Bernstrom says that the club pulled in about 800 people over the course of the night, compared with Republic Gardens’ usual 2,000. Still, Alibi’s will continue (yes, with free food), and the promoters believe that the club will become a staple on U Street and possibly expand into a permanent location. Unfortunately, Alibi’s second week pits it against Howard University’s monstrous homecoming and all of its satellite distractions. Bernstrom doesn’t seem too worried. Nevertheless, he wants everyone to know that this week, he personally invited the newest member of D.C.’s glitterati and rumored Republic Gardens regular, Harrison Ford.Neil Drumming