A Bit of Ibiza in Northeast D.C.
Friday, August 24, 2007
For the first few weeks of its existence, the owners of Ibiza nightclub tried to create a celebrity scene more reminiscent of Los Angeles, New York City or its namesake Spanish island than gritty Northeast Washington. The July 6 grand opening of the 30,000-square-foot space found DJ AM -- known to the People-reading crowd as Nicole Richie's ex and to fellow DJs as a creative mix master -- on the turntables. Socialite and friend-of-Paris Kim Kardashian was the evening's "host," sitting at a table above the DJ booth, while lines outside snaked around the block.
Subsequent Fridays found model-turned-DJ Sky Nellor, who has performed at soirees for Armani and Calvin Klein as well as at clubs across the globe, and Samantha Ronson -- sister of DJ-producer Mark, companion of Lindsay Lohan and DJ at Jessica Simpson's birthday party -- in control of the parties.
Then reality bit. "A lot of those DJs in L.A. and Vegas don't have the same draw in D.C.," says Ibiza marketing director Marquis Perkins, so the club began scaling back its VIP guests. Perkins also isn't sure that D.C. crowds were quite ready for the genre-hopping mix of hard rock, alternative, '80s pop and current hip-hop that's the sound of the moment at fashionable clubs in Hollywood or New York's meatpacking district. "Usually in D.C. it's one [style] or the other," he says. The solution was to call on DJ Dirty Hands -- a.k.a. Chuck Koch, owner of Fly Lounge -- who can slip Mimms's "This Is Why I'm Hot" between two new-wave hits and make it work.
As Koch spins on a Friday night, crowds bob and groove on the huge 100-by-70-foot dance floor. Ibiza's main room is one of the most impressive club spaces in the city: a wall of light-emitting-diode lights flashes colors, lasers shoot overhead and dancers in short skirts provide a bit of distraction. To take in the scene, head for the industrial-style mezzanine. Lines at the upstairs bar also seem to be shorter, though there are seven bars throughout the club's three rooms. (The smaller Zen Room and loungey front room have their own sound systems and DJs.)
As the Friday lineup finds its way, stability comes from Glow, the Saturday destination for fans of trance and house music, which moved to Ibiza from Fur. "We were there for three years, and it was time for a change," says Glow promoter (and resident DJ) Pete Moutso. "It's hard to get people to come to the same place every week. Even my friends don't want to. And every promoter wants to be at a new club. It makes it a little easier to promote."
Glow's schedule is filled with marquee names. Already confirmed are Paul Van Dyk (Oct. 25), Armin van Buuren (Nov. 10), Gabriel & Dresden (Sept. 8), Sander Kleinenberg (Oct. 13) and solo appearances by Sharam and Dubfire of local Grammy-winning Deep Dish (Nov. 24 and Oct. 20, respectively).
Moutso, who has been with Glow since the beginning, loves the new setup -- "It reminds me of [the club] Amnesia in Ibiza, with the DJ booth set high, and the LEDs" -- and the sound. Ibiza's owners spent almost a year getting everything right and spent about $6 million converting the space and installing a top-of-the-line Martin sound system.
While trance dominates the largest room, other styles are featured throughout, including hip-hop from XM Radio's DJ Xclusive and funky and soulful house by local man-about-town Adrian Loving. Glow's one sticking point with Ibiza came when the club wanted to make the night open to men 21 and older and women 18 and older, while Glow has always been 18-and-older.
Eventually, the two sides hammered out a compromise: Men ages 18 to 21 are welcome on Saturdays, as long as they purchase tickets in advance, not at the door.
Anyone who's at least 18 is welcome for Thursday's college night, when DJ Geometrix spins hip-hop. The cover is $20 on Thursday and Friday and varies on Saturdays, though as usual there are plenty of passes for free or reduced admission online. Thursday is handled by Dcclubhost.com, Friday is the province of IbizaDC.com.
Ibiza has had some problems. The split-level roof deck could be the best outdoor club space in town -- certainly the best since Nation's. Pillow-strewn banquettes line the walls, and the hardwood deck is spacious enough for dozens (potentially hundreds) of clubbers. Unfortunately, the bar remains empty. Neighbors launched a protest against the club's deck, and until the issue is resolved, the club is not allowed to serve alcohol on the roof. Though plenty of patrons were up there on my last visit, Perkins says it shouldn't have been open.
Before its opening, Ibiza announced it would have happy hours five days a week and would offer its own Starbucks. Perkins says that until the new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms building down the block is finished, and other offices open nearby, there's not enough neighborhood business to warrant opening at 6, and the Starbucks should open by September.
Ibiza 1222 First St. NE; 877-424-9207 Vibe: A large, well-appointed club that should appeal to fans of electronic dance music, celeb-utante wannabes and crowds just looking to party.