The latest stream of bar openings sweeping the nation isn't the usual minimalist dance halls or lounges we've come to know over the past two seasons. They're a bold collection of theme bars and VIP clubs turning nightlife into a spectacle of make-believe.
The bars include a cozy VIP lounge straight out of an Edward Hopper painting, a pre-Bolshevik Russian whisky hall and turn-of-the-century piano bar by a rock legend. Here's a closer look big-city nightlife and how best to get through the door.
Lavo, Las Vegas
Door secrets: Book a late dinner, use the inside VIP staircase.
From the nightlife posse that brought Tao to Sin City, Lavo it's the latest supper club to sweep desert nightlife. Within the Palazzo Resort, Lavo is divided among a main dining room, upstairs nightclub and lounge with outdoor terrace. The menu is by Ludo Lefebvre, formerly of L.A.'s Bastide, who creates a family-style menu of Mediterranean specialties.
The interior design is inspired by the Roman bathhouses of Constantinople with towering ceiling and brocade wall details heavy on eccentric water features. Turkish water basins flank the bridge that leads to the upstairs nightclub where walls of glass overlook the action below. The dance floor is surrounded by an elevated VIP area with banquettes and mirrored alcoves under a domed ceiling that adds to the hallucinogenic 2 a.m. effect.
Apple Lounge, Los Angeles
Door secrets: Dress to impress. (The restaurant bans denim jeans.)
It's Hollywood's latest breakout star. The new Apple Lounge makes its subterranean debut under the new Bradley Ogden eatery Apple. The space is familiar to locals who have called it Luna Park, Moomba and Pearl before its current incarnation as a full-service restaurant, Pussycat Lounge and this basement VIP club.
At the helm of the basement VIP den is New York party promoter Allison Melnick, who transformed this 1,000-square-foot space into Hollywood's version of a "seedy" lounge with a single-room dance floor that shimmers in the reflected light of an apple-shaped disco ball and endless star sightings of Paris, Lindsay and Nicky Hilton.
Apotheke, New York
Door secrets: Arrive early, no later than 10 p.m., especially on weekend nights.
In a once-dodgy stretch of Chinatown more familiar with hush-hush brothels than on-the-up boites, this pharmacy-theme cocktail lounge is the latest elixir to fill the old Opium Den space. Like a bar one of the Romanov daughters would have partied at till 3 a.m., the interior space is a nod to turn-of-the-century St. Petersburg.
The space is decorated with wooden banquettes in regal tones of red atop herringbone wood floors offset by exposed brick walls. Mixologist Albert Trummer and a cast of "doctor" bartenders pour classic drinks like sidecars and Death in the Afternoon at a 10,000-pound marble bar with a collection of vintage shakers and distillers.
Shade, Scottsdale, Arizona
Door secrets: A flash of the Delano room key is all you need.
After a six-month delay, Scottsdale is at long last quenched of its first W Hotel and with on-site outpost of L.A.'s Sushi Roku as well as all-new nightlife concept known as Shade. Indoor and outdoor architecture begins with a peek-a-boo valet area with underwater views of the hotel's infinity pool and outdoor terrace lounge.
Inspired by the beach clubs of the French Riviera, the nightclub is decorated in themes of fire and water with floor-to-ceiling retractable windows that open to an outdoor lounge high enough above the surrounding area to thump with nightly house music till 2 a.m. A sleek setup of VIP cabanas brings bottle service to the desert but with an affordable price list that will have you seated from under $200.
The Stork, Hollywood
Door secret: Late dinner reservation = easy club entrance.
A handsome doorman with overly sculpted eyebrows and dark suit ushers incognito celebrities and hush-hush guests to this supper club VIP room currently at the top of L.A.'s social calendar. With owners who include DJ AM and Loyal Pennings of LAX Nightclubs, the space is home to a full-service kitchen and VIP dance bar currently on the path of professional partiers like Leonardo DiCaprio and the Hilton sisters.
The dinner menu comes compliments of Cobra and Matador's owner Steven Arroyo, who serves dishes like homemade ravioli, fish 'n' chips and steak frites in a glitzy, yet informal, nightclub setting. While the Hollywood contingent on hand most nights is there for a bottle of Ketel One rather than plates of food, the eating surpasses most pub grub found at local supper-club hotspots.
Florida Room, Miami
Door secrets: A flash of the Delano room key.
Dominating the local hotel market for much of the past decade, Miami's Delano Hotel recently embarked on an ambitious remodeling that included many of the hotel's lounge and restaurant spaces. Teaming up with bad-boy rocker Lenny Kravitz, the hotel officially opened its Florida Room in early 2008 just off the infamous lobby area and pool deck. After a rocky and quiet start, the bar took off by mid-summer with a series of private parties and soirées that ramped up its social standing.
A mirrored ceiling of smoky glass and crystal chandelier bring a refined vibe to plank floors with its cozy bistro tables and rattan barstools. It feels like a Buenos Aires tango bar. A wink and a nod to classic Floridian design, elements of deco glamour envelope the single-room piano bar that has hosted star-partiers like Jamie Foxx and Lindsay Lohan. Each night a variety of live music performances take place, ranging from a solo act at the Lucite baby grand to celebrity DJs spinning the night away with acid rock.