Going Out Guide: Josephine starts over

November 3, 2011

It’s not easy being a club owner. One day yours is the hottest spot on the block, with lines of people outside fighting to get in. Then another day, well, things look a little tired. The hip crowd and the big spenders have moved on to the newest place to see and be seen.

So you decide it’s time to start over.

This, in a nutshell, is why Josephine shuttered its doors from August until mid-October.

The result? Less French boudoir, more sleek and modern.

The makeover involved knocking down walls, moving the bathrooms and removing business offices to add 1,000 square feet of space. The side Gold Room almost doubled in size; the dimly lit, Goldfinger-ish space now boasts a 40-foot bar in addition to 11 table areas with gold-tinged leather couches for bottle service. The main room added an onyx bar with fireplaces behind it and replaced the flocked fleur-de-lis wallpaper with mirrored columns laced with LED lighting.

Overall, the biggest difference is that it’s easier to get around, which means it’s easier to be served. There’s also a new by-the-glass champagne and sparkling wine menu, which ranges from Veuve Clicquot ($18) to J. Roget Brut ($9). (If, that is, you’re not already perched at a table, which requires a $500 minimum for up to eight people.)

The sunken dance floor is still adorned with poles for, um, dancing by scantily clad dancers, and the female staff now wear some sort of very, very tight tuxedo-style uniform — not much of an upgrade.

The music got a makeover, too. Fridays will now be under the control of the Glow team, which already hosts the biggest DJs in the world at Fur, and plans to bring Pete Tong, Fedde Le Grand, Roger Sanchez and other giant-club acts to this intimate 200-person space. (Tonight, it’s Sharam, the D.C. DJ who was formerly one-half of the Grammy-winning/chart-topping Deep Dish.)

Josephine had decent DJs in its previous incarnation, but the music always felt like set-dressing for the bottle service experience — a banging soundtrack for the servers winding through the crowd carrying bottles of champagne topped with sparklers. Now, it’s a reason to go. “People want to hear really good music, but they didn’t want to go to a big club with a lot of kids,” reasons owner Alain Kalantar.

Josephine’s management team includes veterans of such Miami hot spots as Mansion and Opium Garden, and they’ve arranged for the high-end SET nightclub to send some of its residents up to spin one Saturday a month.

Other featured acts include DJ Enferno — you know, Madonna’s tour DJ — to DJ Dirty Hands dropping hip-hop. One of the benefits of the enlarged space is that the two rooms can be separate — hip-hop in the Gold Room, house and trance sounds in the main room — or combined into one massive space, as they will be on Fridays.

Josephine, 1008 Vermont Ave. NW. Wednesday-Thursday 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday-Saturday 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. 202-347-8601.
www.josephinedc.com
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Fritz Hahn has written about bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. A product of Prince George's County public schools, Fritz majored in journalism at the University of Maryland and lives in the District.
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