Let Yourself Go at a New Club in Shaw
By Fritz Hahn
Washington Post Weekend Section
Friday, December 14, 2007
The scene: Town, a new nightspot in Shaw, is "what Washington needed," say owners Ed Bailey and John Guggenmos. And what, exactly, have we been lacking? A surprisingly cozy 20,000-square-foot club with a stage custom-built for nightly drag shows, where the focus will be on big production numbers, and two large dance floors that throb until 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
"Sometime in the last decade, night life got so serious," Bailey says. "It's supposed to be about having fun and letting go." Many of Washington's newer clubs offer multiple rooms and experiences, but that's the opposite of what Bailey and Guggenmos wanted. Both floors have a large central space where music is the focus. That way, Bailey says, the dance floor can provide "a big unifying experience. That big, happy moment when you're all rallying together and you feel, 'I'm not alone. I'm standing with thousands of people, and I'm feeling the same thing that they are.' " Both levels have alcoves and raised areas with couches and seating. The speakers are focused enough that you can have conversations, especially in the narrow, nearly soundproof room that runs the length of the club on the second floor.
In your glass: The emphasis is on basic drinks: bottled beer, flavored vodka-and-mixer.
On the dance floor: The long-running Velvet party at Nation, which Bailey and Guggenmos were involved with, had a reputation for bringing in the biggest names on the gay party circuit, but after years of what he calls "thump, thump, thump" DJs, "the music got a little out there for a general audience," says Bailey, who's known on the East Coast for his own DJ skills. At Town, he says, "we definitely wanted to be more accessible musically than we had a reputation for being at Nation."
Friday's 18-and-older Downtown party features straight-up retro downstairs, including Deee-Lite and Boy George, while the second floor features a mix of new electro tunes and driving remixes of pop songs. Saturday, meanwhile, is 21-and-older, and the music is closer to what was heard at Nation: tribal and house but less dark, with more vocals and remixes of popular tunes. Both nights feature plenty of scantily clad go-go boys gyrating on raised platforms.
Need to know: There are two 45-minute drag shows each night. The dance floor is covered with tables and chairs, but there's plenty of room for standing, too. Miss Lena Lett hosts on Friday, while Ella Fitzgerald, the famed host at Ziegfeld's, is the emcee on Saturday. Performances begin at 9:30 and 11. The upstairs dance floor gets going at 11 both nights.
Nice to know: Come as yourself, whether that means in a button-down shirt and jeans or a T-shirt that you're going to whip off on the dance floor, because Town doesn't have a dress code.
Town has a designated smoking area in the rear of the club, but waits can be really long. Bailey says the number of smoking customers is much higher than they anticipated. Don't try to go out front, either: To avoid disturbing the neighbors, anyone who walks out the front door has to wait in line and pay again to get back in.
Price points: Admission is $10 on Friday and $12 on Saturday. Parking in the club's secure lot is $15. The coat check charges $3 per item. Drinks are about $8 each.
What people are saying: "When I read the description [on Town's Web site, http://www.towndc.com], I expected a diverse mix of danceable music . . . but what I found was nothing out of the ordinary," says transportation planner Michael Eichler, 34. "The first song I heard . . . was a remix of a Whitney Houston song, so I proceeded upstairs, where I was greeted by a Britney [Spears] song. At that point, I realized that neither of the floors was going to play the electro-pop-rock advertised on the site."