While there's little doubt we're knee-deep in recession, nightlife is alive and well with the latest round of big-city openings luring revelers from their beloved bars and into a new lineup of dance clubs, sports bars and lounges.
While from city to city the trends are different, what is apparent is that even the most posh bars are going out of their way to make nightlife as friendly and affordable as possible. It begins at the door, where doormen are friendly and welcoming, into the bar, where you no longer have to buy $500 bottle service just to be worthy of a booth, and even on the bill, where drink prices are cheaper than in years. Here is a roundup of some of the best new club openings across the county, and the best way to make the most of your nightlife dollars.
Infusion Lounge, San Francisco.
Money saver: Log-on to the club Web site for free guest list info.
On a square better known for panhandling and department store sales, Union Square is home to one of the biggest openings to hit SF nightlife in almost a decade. A dressy crowd of tech workers and city fashionistas arrive to the decadent supper-and-dance club created by Hong Kong's hottest designer, Kinney Chan. While quirky pubs and dance dives throughout the Mission and Marina open like fast-food franchises, a nightclub of this size and caliber is a rare commodity in this mostly touristy area of downtown.
Union Square is home to one of the biggest nightlife openings to hit San Francisco in almost a decade. The Infusion Lounge is spread across 6,000 square feet.
sprawls over 6,000 square feet, including a VIP lounge with low-flung, bed-style lounges arranged among hard-wood floors, stacked-stone walls and teak-wood paneling. Those not in the mood or demographic for $400 bottle service will find a stylish main lounge with club chairs and cocktail lounge opposite an industrial metal bar attended by a knowledgeable and friendly staff of chipper 20-somethings. The main dance floor is surrounded in acrylic pillars illuminated with Eastern patterns opposite an elevated DJ booth spinning hip-hop and pop anthems.
Guy's, Los Angeles.
Money saver: Skip the $7 valet and park on the street for free after 6 p.m.
The guys that shuttered ever-popular Guy's almost 16 months ago, with promises of a bigger and better bar space, have succeeded with the unveiling of their all-new architectural lounge space made famous by Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. Located next to Hollywood's famous Dominick's steakhouse, this strip of Beverly Boulevard is abuzz in late-night traffic and valet of nearby Jerry's Deli and the occasional siren of a passing ambulance en route to Cedars.
The building's exterior looks nothing as it did before, imploded of its bungalow styling and rising of a loft-style edifice of warehouse windows with industrial wood and metal accents. Gone are the all-black interiors and low ceiling. In its place is an extravagantly tall ceiling with crisp acoustics among a sleek fireplace and new front smoking patio that won't have the neighbors trying to rip away the club's alcohol license due to late-night noise. Once home to Hollywood's most famous karaoke night, the verdict is still out on whether the starlets will be returning to their amateur mic night.
Chloe, New York.
Money saver: No need for $500 bottle service; booths are for one and all.
We didn't think much of this subterranean lounge bar at first, located under Casanis on the Lower East Side. A run-of-the-mill French eatery serving a decent moules frites, the restaurant's owner debuted a new underground VIP den located through a velvet rope entrance just around the corner. It was a shaky start with midweek nights luring no more than a few drifters and wine-sippers. But, suddenly, things turned hip after a few star sightings and lengthy articles in the New York Times.
Visitors arrive to a chatty doorman who now encourages weekend visitors to arrive early with a table reservation or face a 30-minute wait at the door during prime 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. hours. Once inside, visitors discover a sexy urban pub that mixes elements of '20s Berlin with exposed beams intersecting a raw concrete ceiling above industrial tile floors. The bar is lined in shiny red banquettes, some reserved for bottle service, among amber lighting and the thump of '80s rock. The main bar is no bigger than five barstools long with well-trained staff pouring signature cocktails like The Chloe and a superb Gimlet.
Bull & Bear, Chicago.
Money saver: Afternoon happy hour specials from 4 p.m.
While our current fixation on Wall Street allows us to fantasize that this bar is purely stock-market related, the
also refers to the city's two championship sports teams with a wink and a nod. Created by the guys behind Stone Lotus and Manor, this upscale sports bar lures beer-craving locals and happy-hour revelers from the nearby Merchandise Mart to a stylish, yet fun, beer bar with a culinary kick.
Full of boozy architectural perks, a long drinking bar features an electronic stock ticker winding its way across the ceiling. The space is lined in five separate booths that fit anywhere from six to 16 drinkers, complete with a table-mounted beer tap pouring glasses by the ounce. Not limited to just beer, a menu cutely named the "Well's Street Journal" offers wine and Champagne by the glass, martinis and a seriously delicious house margarita. Noshers will find a food menu of Kobe sliders, entrée salads and fierce truffle fries that could easily double as a full meal.
XS, Las Vegas.
Money saver: Stay at Encore and beg concierge for door comps.
Vixens in stilettos and dapper dudes in white dress shirts make a grand entrance down a long corridor and revolving glass doors leading to the coat-check entrance of XS, located in the all-new Encore Tower at the Wynn. Up a stairway, an ornate hallway leads to the main entryway offering a magnificent view of the new
resort pool shimmering in light reflected from a grand chandelier located above the main dance floor.
The amphitheater- architecture of XS creates three levels offering banquette seating and table service for those too refined to walk to one of two bars. Throughout the club are several stripper poles that encourage ladies in their Gucci best to show off their finest drunken dance moves at least until the real dancers arrive. During warmer months, glass doors open to an additional poolside lounge of daybeds and cabanas with a bar and flirty summer spirit.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.