Where Luxury Meets Lounge
By Fritz Hahn
Washington Post Weekend Section
Friday, November 30, 2007
The scene:"We've tried to come across as though we're not really open," says Dirk Van Stockum, one of the threee owners behind the club. "We're looking for people who have the right fit for us, whether it's how they handle themselves or how they look."
The crowd is diverse: black and white, 20s through 50s, buttoned-down and trendy. The club uses a network of "ambassadors" to talk the place up and invite people. The patrons are more mature than at some nightspots, but that's fine with Van Stockum. "We feel our niche is appealing to an older, more professional demographic that doesn't feel catered to right now," he says.
The space: Two of the city's best-known night-life entrepreneurs -- Marc Barnes, the man behind Love, and Masoud Aboughaddareh (a.k.a. Masoud A.), the longtime promoter and owner of Lima -- join forces with Van Stockum, formerly of '90s D.C. hotspots Club Zei and Fifth Column, late of the celebrity-ridden Tao restaurant and lounge in Las Vegas, after years in New York and Miami. Together, the trio opens a warm, four-story lounge and restaurant near 14th and K streets. Eschewing the minimalist and modern decor that you'd find at nearby kstreet or Lotus, all four floors of the glass-fronted building exude luxury. Warm chestnut and mahogany, onyx-topped bars, leather sofas, soft carpet and gleaming hardwood floors -- think of the loungier parts of Love writ large. The second and fourth levels have balconies that let patrons watch the action below. Floor-to-ceiling windows let in light and make the Park airier than most lounges and offer a view of Franklin Park and the scene outside the velvet ropes (and, um, the Kinko's next door).
In your glass: Four house cocktails, one for each floor, named after former first ladies. Examples: The Jackie O. has a simple recipe (Plymouth gin and lemon juice), but it gets a nice kick from fresh sage; the Lady Bird uses Hennessy, Lillet, agave and some Moet for texture. Glasses on upper floors are composite plastic instead of glass, just in case someone on a balcony drops one to a dance floor below. (I've seen it happen.)
Need to know: Admission is, Van Stockum says, "invitation only," but don't be deterred. He says it's easy to get one. "Call our receptionist and speak to them. Look at the Web site. Make reservations. Reach out to us. See what we're trying to do. Nine times out of 10, people are welcomed." It's possible to go without an invitation and talk your way in, but you'll need to dress well, have a small party in which women outnumber men and arrive early.
The door staff has mastered the fine art of barely acknowledging people who are trying to get their attention, even those on the list.
As for dress, I've seen people wearing suits. I've seen Adidas track tops and jeans. I've seen the shirt-khakis-tie combo on Saturday night. When in doubt, look better than usual.
Nice to know: The higher you climb, the more crowded it is. That's where the small, curtained VIP room is, so the crowds figure that's where they want to be. As a result, getting a drink is a struggle upstairs, but a quick elevator ride to the first floor leads to service with very little waiting.
The club also has a small patio with couches and heat lamps through the back of the first floor.
Price points: There's never a cover charge. House cocktails run $12. If you want to reserve a table, it's a minimum of $500 with a group of four to eight. If you want to claim a sofa, be prepared to spend a combination of $500 or more on food, martinis, champagne or whatever.
What people are saying:"It's got an international flavor, and it's usually not too packed. The ratio of men to women is pretty good, which is unusual for D.C." says Shane Zamani, a physician.
One of my guests said that if she didn't return, it would be because the bouncers made it such a hassle to go there, and we had reservations.