Rock-Star Treatment, It's Written In the Ink
By Fritz Hahn
Washington Post Weekend Section
Friday, January 11, 2008
The place: Tattoo Bar
The scene: A trendy crowd sings along to hits like "Life Is a Highway," grooves to Gwen Stefani's doo-wop single "The Sweet Escape" and pumps its fists along to AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long." VJs mix the tunes while showing the accompanying videos on TVs on the walls and behind the bar, including a monster 136-inch set.
The VJs are the stars, bouncing from '80s and '90s songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana and the Cure to thumping mash-ups of Tiffany and the Eurhythmics to vintage hip-hop by Tupac and Biggie. It's a special treat when they throw in Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" or the Stones' "Start Me Up," complete with their grainy video clips. (Is Mick Jagger really wearing a skin-tight leotard?)
The room crackles with energy. Yes, you can rent a table if you purchase a $300 bottle of vodka, but you'll have just as much fun if you don't.
The space: There's more leather in this long, narrow room than at a Hell's Angels convention. Motorcycles and tattoos are key elements throughout. Black leather walls and matching banquettes have tire tracks woven into them, and the most prominent decorations are arty photographs of intricate tattoos. A gorgeous onyx-topped bar is lighted from beneath, showing off swirls of color in the rock. Black ropes separate the VIPs from the rest of the bar. The length of the bar makes getting drinks a breeze. Custom-made helmets diffuse lights on the walls. The hallway to the bathroom is lined with curtains of motorcycle chains.
Perhaps the ultimate in excess is the Rock Star table, located on a platform 10 feet above the bar, next to the VJ booth. A glass-fronted balcony gives occupants an unfettered view of the crowd and vice versa. Those at bachelorette parties who dance up there know eyes will be on them, and most aren't shy. (They shouldn't be: They're paying $2,000 to be up there.)
In your glass: The house list is stacked with cocktails that just barely cover their potency with fruit flavors. The best among them is the Stranglehold, which tastes like a revved-up Sex on the Beach. There are only a few beers available, including Heineken and Amstel Light.
On your plate: There's a small menu of basic bar food -- burgers, wings, nachos, chicken tenders.
What to wear: "Dress trendy. Look good," owner Michael Romeo says. Guys sport everything from cellphone holsters clipped to their khakis to the latest hoodies and kicks from Commonwealth. Women's outfits range from short denim skirts to figure-hugging dresses.
Need to know: Different promoters handle different nights and all offer free admission if you RSVP. See Jamie Hess (Jamiehess.com) for Tuesday, JetsetMafia (Jetsetmafia.com) for Wednesday and Absolute Addiction (Absoluteaddiction.com) for Thursday.
Nice to know: The first two tables as you enter are generally first-come, first-served, with no reservations or minimum purchase. Snag one if you need to sit -- the chrome stools at the bar are generally removed on Friday and Saturday nights.
Price points: A table's going to cost a minimum of $300 for four guests or $500 for eight, up to $2,000 to host a dozen friends at the Rock Star table. Most people are happy to just get in (free to $10, depending on night and time of arrival) and buy their drinks a la carte. At happy hour, which runs until 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, cocktails are $5. The coat check costs $5 per item, but it's essential, because the lounge warms up when it's packed.
What people are saying: "The aesthetics are enjoyable. I'm from California, and this reminds me of places in California, not D.C. It's really fun, especially on Friday and Saturday night," says Hannah Crory, assistant operations manager for a medical spa, who loves singing along to the videos.