By Fritz Hahn
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Monday, May 22, 2006 12:00 AM
It's Friday night, and 18th Street in Adams Morgan is hopping with folks dressed up and ready to party. This is arguably the hottest stretch of bars and clubs in the area. And there's a bouncer at every door checking driver's licenses, turning away anyone who's not 21. Even Tryst, the strip's lone coffeehouse, cards everyone after 9. No matter where you go -- Arlington, Annapolis or Georgetown -- the process repeats itself.
The years between 18 and 20 are an awful limbo -- old enough to want to go out, old enough to have tasted independence at college, but not quite old enough to get into all the clubs you want to explore. Still, there are plenty of ways to enjoy an evening on the town without worrying about being turned away because of your age.
Music fans should have few problems, as Washington's major concert venues -- including the 9:30 club, the Black Cat and the Birchmere -- are all ages, all the time. But some smaller clubs offering live entertainment, including Iota, Galaxy Hut, DC9 and Madam's Organ, are 21 and over, with few exceptions.
If you're looking to go dancing, some of the area's most exclusive lounges and nightclubs, including Love and MCCXXIII, offer a token "college night" once a week, which attracts mixed crowds who sip cocktails as well as sodas.
The Platinum Club has bounced between 18-and-over and 21-and-over nights recently, but is currently open to everyone for hip-hop, house, Latin and other styles Thursday through Saturday. (Sundays remain 21-and-over for hip-hop.) On the rock side, the Mousetrap, a long-running all-ages Britpop and indie-rock dance night, happens once a month on the main stage of the Black Cat, and there are events featuring soul, indie, electro and '80s music every weekend on the club's smaller back stage.
Click here to see a longer list of 18-and-over club nights.
Most regular swing-dancing events, such as those at Glen Echo's Spanish Ballroom or the Chevy Chase Ballroom, are all-ages. Sadly, many of the area's biggest and best salsa nights are off-limits to anyone who isn't of age.
In general, choices have shrunk recently, as several clubs that hosted 18-and-over events, including Lulu's and Polly Esther's, closed earlier this spring, andNation, which welcomed everyone Thursday through Saturday, shut its doors forever in July.
If you'd rather sit around and talk to friends instead of hitting a crowded club or concert hall, you have a variety of options.
Coffeehouses are a traditional choice, and the Dupont Circle branch of Cosi, Arlington's Murky Coffee, Old Town Alexandria's Misha's and Silver Spring's Mayorga are excellent and offer plenty of opportunities for people watching.
If you simply must join friends at one of those hot lounges or restaurant bars, the best suggestion is to visit on a weeknight, when most don't post a leather-jacketed colossus at the door to check IDs.
On weekends, one good idea is the Black Cat's Red Room, which features an excellent jukebox stocked with rock, soul and jazz, a pool table, pinball machines and several large booths. You can order from the Food for Thought Cafe on the other side of the club, and there's always an optional DJ night (ranging from free to $6) on the backstage. The downside: It's loud, smoky and packed on weekends.
If you're interested in shooting pool, Buffalo Billiards and Ballston's Carpool allow anyone to play until 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. (After than and during the week, though, it's 21-and-over only.)
There are plenty of mainstream clubs that open their doors to under-21s on certain nights. Below are the clubs that let everyone in to dance. Unless otherwise noted, all events listed are 18-and-over, and IDs are required.
Alchemy -- This night for the goth and industrial music scenes often features well-known live acts on Nation's large stage. When there's no band, however, admission is two-for-one between 9 and 10.
College Night -- It's College Night every Thursday at Apex, a staple of the Dupont gay circuit. DJ Timothy Mykael spins dance music from house to trance. Anyone with a college ID gets free admission; it's $5 for everyone else. Doors open at 9.
College Thursdays -- Although the swank Platinum club calls it College Thursdays, the dance floor is often full of people who've already matriculated. DJs spin hip-hop on the main floor and house and Latin in the VIP room. Get free admission before 11 with a college ID. Doors open at 10; and while jeans are allowed, athletic apparel isn't.
Destiny -- The vast Fur nightclub -- formerly a warehouse that stored fur coats -- features reggaeton, bachata, salsa and Latin music pumping out of the huge speakers on the main dance floor, with hip-hop and reggae in the smaller Martini Room. Fashionable dress is required.
Apex -- Friday's only 18-and-over gay dance night features high-energy dance music in the main room, with karaoke upstairs and a rotating team of VJs spinning videos in the basement.
Cubik -- Simply the biggest and best dance night for fans of electronic dance music, Cubik (formerly known as Buzz) welcomes international DJs on the level of Paul Oakenfold, Bad Boy Bill, Tiesto and Fatboy Slim to Nation. It's a rave-style event, with lots of younger -- and we mean mostly under-25 -- people dancing and having a good time indoors and on the large patio. Dress is very casual, and lines can be long, so arrive early. (Admission is generally cheaper before 11.)
Plush Fridays -- The main floor at Platinum is now ruled by hip-hop, with house, techno, HiNRG, trance and Latin in the basement and VIP lounge. Doors open at 10, and there's no admission charge for ladies until 11; men can sign up for the guest list at www.platinumclubdc.com.
Beautiful Saturdays -- You'll hear hip-hop and R&B on the main floor at Platinum, with house, hip-hop and trance in the VIP room. Doors open at 10. Sign up for the guest list at www.platinumclubdc.com.
Glow -- Washington's biggest trance night is at Fur, where DJs like Sasha, Deep Dish and Armin van Buuren take to the decks. Doors open at 10, and discount passes are available from www.clubglow.com.
Liquid Ladies -- One of Washington's most popular dance nights for lesbians and their friends finds uptempo dance and party music at Apex.
Velvet Nation -- Largely gay and largely raucous, Velvet attracts famous touring DJs as well as local hotshots. Its biggest annual event is the Madonnarama, a celebration of all things Material Girl. Expect to groove to house, techno and other club music at Nation. Doors open at 10.
Lavish -- Home's new college night has Chris Styles of Hot 99.5 playing hip-hop and Top 40, DJs Travieso and Chino supplying salsa, reggaeton, merengue and bachata, and guest DJs spinning house in the basement. Doors open at 10, and women are admitted free until 11.
Spank Me -- An 18-and-over night at MCCXXIII, one of Washington's most uptight lounges? Apparently so. On Tuesday nights, you still have to dress to impress, but there's hip-hop and Top 40 on the main dance floor; house and trance up on the third floor in the B.E.D.-like Spank. (Get free admission before 11 by printing a coupon from http://www.panoramai.com.)