It takes more than a DJ and bottle service to make it in the club scene these days. Everyone else does it, too, as well as restaurant-turned-nightclub-at-night establishments, tapas-lounge-turned-bottle service-at-night joints too. Gamble a nightclub's success solely on those boring pillars and the place won't be long for the world.
The key to becoming a hot spot is finding a niche — some aesthetic gimmick or unique amenity that separates a club or lounge from the rest of the herd. All of the stellar service and strong drinks in the world can't help a place that doesn't have some kind of character. Finding a unique angle or an attraction to a particular crowd is everything. Catch on, and the place can turn into the new 'it' in no time. Fail to stand out, and the place is a future liquor store.
All the competition gives a city like San Diego — with particularly fickle nightclub tastes — an endless variety of nightclubs and amenity arrangements. Andrea Ebbing, marketing director for BEACH at the W Hotel, has watched the Gaslamp nightlife scene boom over the years.
"As the new venues would pop up, the culture would adjust," says Ebbing. " These days, there are so many options in San Diego that there is something for everyone, but no one venue has to be that something for everyone. Each venue has its own personality, its own strengths, and its own feel."
Although the ultra-short shelf life of many clubs might seem terribly cutthroat, Ebbing sees it driving San Diego nightlife to increasingly higher standards, which means more pie for everyone. "It's always exciting to hear what each venue has going on throughout the week because the more entertainment options we offer collectively, the more we as a group drive tourism, and in turn more revenue we capture as a city," she says.
Ebbing speaks from a lofty place. Not only is BEACH one of Downtown's most endearing and successful nightlife spots, it's also one of the tallest. Atop the W San diego hotel, BEACH found success creating a new experience for patrons.
"BEACH was the first rooftop lounge in San Diego," says Ebbing. "We paved the way for the entire rooftop bar nightclub scene in the city."
BEACH is more than just a bar; it's also a pool and a sandy beach with 3 tons of sand mixed in with tables, lounge couches and fire pits. Perfect for San Diegans, it brings trendy nightlife and beach vibes together into one very unique little lounge. It features a bargain-beater happy hour for afternoon crowds and live music, first-rate DJs, and even movie premieres at nights. And of course, plenty of cocktails and food. For more information, visit Thewsandiegohotel.com/Beach.
Discover these other San Diego nighttime hot spots to indulge some debauchery.
AC Lounge in University Heights
In an unassuming building in University Heights sits the Airconditioned Lounge. Away from the hustle and bustle of the Gaslamp Quarter, it's a neighbourhood lounge that doubles as a nightlife hotspot for those in the know — part dive bar and part dance club, stitched together with stripper poles and vinyl-covered love. Pretension is one thing scarcely found here. There's an incredibly casual atmosphere that draws in equal numbers of hipsters, upscale urbanites and neighbourhood drunks; somehow AC makes it all work. What's more, it's an awfully busy little place. Every night of the week there's something going on, including comedy, industry night, live DNB, disco punk and more. Its V.I.P. room is colored electric blue and called the Freon Room. Here you can find that handy dance pole. They can also do bottle service and all that other "fancy" stuff. It's a fun atmosphere well worth going off the beaten path to find. Plus, the drinks and food are especially easy on the wallet. For more information, visit Airconditionedbar.com.
Bar Fly in La Jolla
Occupying possibly the farthest end of the spectrum from the AC Lounge is La Jolla's Bar Fly. Its shtick is twofold: combine a sports bar with a nightclub, and create an upscale joint worthy of La Jolla's lustre. Thus, they spare no expense. There's a red-carpet entry, business leans heavily towards V.I.P. and bottle service, and they have a reputation for being quite picky at the front door. Get inside though and there's plenty to keep patrons busy. The place has a chic Euro-interior, outdoor patios and fire pits where patrons can take in the ocean breeze. They've spent a mint on a state-of-the-art DJ booth and multimedia system that includes video mixing and dynamic lighting. Everything about the place says, "Wow, so this is how they party in La Jolla." To learn more, visit barflylajolla.com.
Club Sevilla in the Gaslamp Quarter
A unique, lush atmosphere, authentic Spanish tapas and vibrant music have made Club Sevilla the premiere Latin dance club in the Gaslamp and a mainstay in San Diego for more than 20 years. Sevilla also doubles as a salsa and merengue dance studio on choice nights for those who wish to brush up on their break steps. Theme nights include Tropical Tuesdays with live bachata and merengue music, not to mention $5 mojitos. Wednesdays are no cover and Thursdays feature both a DJ and a live salsa band for extra flavor. Sevilla has an upscale dress code, table and bottle service, and is available to rent for special functions. Get there early to avoid lines. For more information, visit Sevillanightclub.com.
Noble Experiment in East Village
There's probably no place in San Diego that gets more hype-per-square-foot than The Noble Experiment. Noble Experiment is San Diego's token "secret bar." But owner Arsalun Tafazoli's pulled it off in spades, creating one of the most unique bars ever established this side of the Mississippi. Everything about the place is mysterious: The website has only a cryptic Victorian-era emblem with contact information beneath; the entrance to the bar is through a secret door disguised as a set of kegs. They only take reservations by text message and there's virtually no chance of getting in without reserving at least a week out. Inside the door is a tiny 800-square-foot lounge adorned with golden skulls, perfectly square sculpted ice blocks chipped with spoons and Victorian portraits mixed in with digital picture frames that subtly morph throughout the evening. Noble Experiment prides itself in weird and obscure cocktails to go with its unique ice, chosen from their "handwritten" menus. Overall, a marvellously unique experience: It's the sort of place one would expect the bad guys from a Dan Brown novel to hang out at. For more information, visit Nobleexperimentsd.com.
Sway at Keating Hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter
It's motto is ever true: "Italian design, Soho style, California chic."The Keating Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel nestled between Croce's and the Hard Rock Cafe on F Street. At the basement level resides Sway, in a previous life known as Minus 1. Sway has a unique design that matches the hotel above it. Deep red lights, candelabra tables and chiseled brick walls give the place the feel of a European chic lounge (much like the hotel itself). Sway's tapas are Italian and they throw in some desserts for good measure. Along with a champagne bar, they also assign a personalized concierge to each guest that enters. For more details, visit Thekeating.com.
Altitude Sky Lounge in the Gaslamp Quarter
Altitude Sky Lounge, which year after year towers literally over all other San Diego nightclubs. Perched 22 stories atop the Gaslamp Marriott Hotel, Altitude patrons are treated to a view to remember of Petco Park, Coronado Island, the city proper and all the bustling nightlife hundreds of feet below. There's no place else in Southern California where you can see what you see here. Altitude accentuates the view with stunning service; it's the sort of place that the words "best downtown bar" are often used to describe it. Tables and couches are interspersed with fire pits and heat lamps (when needs arise) under coloured canopies and lushly lit walls. DJs create further ambiance with live music and projection video screens, and the smallish dance area quickly packs up. The combination of amazing view and no cover means the place gets crazy busy during peak hours, yet it still feels refreshing out in the open air. Take out-of-towners here to really drop some jaws. For more information, visit Altitudeskylounge.com.
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