It seems strange that a club that bills itself as a "Martini & Cigar Lounge" lacks actual lounge space, but that's the first thing that's striking about Ozio's new four-story M Street location. There aren't many places in the club to just sit, chill, sip a cocktail and puff on an Opus Torpedo.
Many elements have been retained from Ozio's previous location, including the large art deco light fixtures over the bar, as well as the extensive martini menu and a large humidor. The walls are a warm ocher color, and feature caricatures of cultural icons like Humphrey Bogart and Louis Armstrong. The bar looks swank, no doubt about it.
The first floor is long, narrow and, on weekends, extremely cramped, with many people congregating in the walkway between the bar and a row of booths and couches along the wall. When customers at the bar get more than two deep, getting through is difficult. When you do, though, try a classic cocktail like a Cosmopolitan or martini -- that's where the bartenders really shine, even under pressure.
Up one flight of stairs, there's a dance floor (which was packed with salsa dancers and people watching them) and a larger bar area; but again, the narrow aisle between the bar and the tables was jam-packed, and hard to negotiate. This is also where the restaurant area is; and while it's full of tables and has a view of the dance floor, it feels like a restaurant, not a club. That didn't stop people from dancing between tables, though.
Through a door off yet another bar, there's a smaller room with brighter walls, a fireplace, and even a waterwheel and running water.
If you can head for the VIP lounges, you should. Service is faster, there's more room per person and the decorating is fantastic -- the third floor, for example, features a fireplace and faux-Georgia O'Keefe paintings on the walls. There's nowhere to sit that isn't reserved for table service, but at least you can move and breathe.
On recent visits, the club has been packed with the well-dressed, ethnically diverse crowd that you'd find at Platinum, MCCXXIII, or similar upscale party spots. But for the most part, it didn't seem to be an extremely social crowd -- Ozio seems like a place you come with a group of friends to dance and drink, not one for meeting people or just lounging about.
-- Fritz Hahn