Dear Night Writer: What's with Studebaker's, anyway? They make this big deal about the '50s decor, but when a bunch of us showed up after the game, we were told we didn't meet the dress code. Dress code? On Rockville Pike? I went to high school in Rockville, and we never had a dress code. -- Disgruntled D.A.
Dear D.A.: First of all, I assume your signoff is a matter of profile, not profession; and that you dressed the part. Well, Studebaker's may be '50s, but only on the flip side.
Studebaker's ("the original entertainment vehicle") is a franchise operation, and the totemic car, the malt shop interior and saddle-shoe uniforms are all part of the package. But while the decor is down-home, the attitude is upscale: This is the New Pike, after all, the Gold Coast of the yellow-tie crowd.
Studebaker's dress code forbids "athletic footwear," T-shirts and tank tops, hats, backless sandals and "faded, torn or frayed" jeans. In an era when you can spend $50 on pre-distressed jeans and even more to fly Air Jordan, this has raised some eyebrows. However, managers Kelley Lynch and Michael Katz say the rules are enforced at the doorman's discretion. Low-topped sneakers, the leather kind, may get by; high-tops are out. Acid-wash faded jeans are okay but not worn-out ones. A fedora would probably fit in, a farmer's visor gets mulched.
This is all part of the club's attempt to attract the "profile" customer, and keep the rowdies out, Lynch says. So far, they've had few serious complaints. (Studebaker's code isn't the only one in Rockville banning rips and sweats, but it's the most stringent.)
Interestingly, the peer report is very favorable. Studebaker's has become a hangout for bartenders from other Pike bars, most of whom have to go home and change first. One said the dress code "keeps a nice crowd in there." Another said the first time he showed up straight from work in jeans and sneakers, he was turned away despite his VIP card, "but it didn't keep me from going back."
Studebaker's capacity is about 450, and weekend crowds have been hanging out the door, but don't try bribing the staff to squeeze you in. Lynch says he once turned down $500. On the other hand, guests at the Days Inn, where the club is located, don't have to wait, and the doorman remembers one guy who left the line, booked a $79 room and then cruised past the queue.