By Fritz Hahn
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Monday, May 22, 2006 12:00 AM
At most Washington clubs, the cover charge starts around $5 for a DJ, or $10 at your better lounges. It can go as high as $40 if you're a high roller who needs to skip the line at Love on a Friday night. But you don't have to be famous or well connected to waltz into nightclubs without paying, occasionally enjoying an open bar and complimentary food. The key is having an e-mail account.
Every week, promoters send out thousands of invitations to their events at clubs like Love, Fur, H2O, Platinum and Juste Lounge. If you're on their list, gaining free admission and other benefits is as easy as printing an invitation or filling out a form on a Web site.
Here are a few of our favorites that have proved reliable over time. Just watch the clock -- when a promoter's site says "Guest list ends at 11," it really does end at 11, even if you're next in line at the door.
Absolute Addiction: AbsoluteAddiction.com offers free admission to MCCXXIII on Fridays and the cool dance spot Five on Saturdays for "members" who arrive before midnight. Thursday's ladies' night at Play offers women free drinks until midnight, while women get free cosmos on Wednesdays at the Modern lounge in Georgetown.
Love: Love owner Marc Barnes handles his club's promotions on Friday nights, and the hip-hop-flavored events feature performances by celebrities like Pharrell, the Roots and Alicia Keys. You can buy tickets from Ticketmaster for $10 to $20, or you can print out a pass from lovetheclub.com and arrive early (before 9) to take advantage of free admission and free food and drink.
eVIPlist.com and Madpowerunit.com: These two promoters run events for a predominantly African American clientele. Recent e-mail coupons have been good for an open bar and free buffet at MCCXXIII on Wednesdays and Avenue on Fridays. Both events also feature a DJ and dancing late into the night.
H2O: Fill out a form on H2Odc.com for guest-list spots at the club on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as shots at a free buffet and open bar for early arrivals.
Panorama Productions: Another veteran promotions team, Panorama handles events at Fur, MCCXXIII, Home, Platinum and Love, which frequently include open-bar happy hours as well as DJs. Get passes and information at dcclubbing.com.
Platinum: Notable for allowing clubbers between the ages of 18 and 21 with few hassles, Platinum's Web site, platinumclubdc.com, allows you to sign up for a guest list that guarantees free admission before 11.
There are still more ways to beat the system, though the easiest is to arrive early. For example, the Clarendon Ballroom offers live music every Thursday night. Arrive for happy hour and you can skip the $7 or $8 cover charge levied after 8. At the Adams Morgan hot spot Chloe, waits of up to an hour are common on weekends, and there's a $5 cover. But arrive at 9:30 -- when it seems many of the club's regular patrons are still picking out their shoes and applying make-up -- and you'll skip both.
Sound like too much trouble? There are dance nights with no cover. One of the most popular is the long-running salsa night at Lucky Bar on Mondays, which offers a free hour-long lesson at 8, followed by a night of dancing. Mantis's barebones basement grooves to the sound of soulful and progressive house Wednesday through Saturday.
DJs spinning retro hits and danceable rock are the draw at Tom Tom, a crowded two-level club on Adams Morgan's main strip. (When you need a break, head upstairs and try to grab a couch.) Both lounging and DJ crowds head to the Wonderland Ballroom Thursday to Saturday for rare grooves, hip-hop, funk and more; there are seats as well as a roomy dance floor upstairs and an outdoor beer garden.