The Beatdown

Wasting away in Hookah-ville.

Note to all would-be entrepreneurs with more dollars than sense: Cowtown needs another nightclub like East Colfax needs another hooker.

Since this past summer, a half-dozen dance clubs -- Rise, Beyond, Garibaldi, Roxx, Avalon and Club Ra-- have debuted in the metro area. Soon they'll be joined by Serengeti (assuming it ever gets finished) and the resurrected Vinyl. Now, I'm no card-carrying member of Mensa, but it doesn't take a brain capable of splitting atoms to deduce that the number of potential club-goers in this town is disproportionate to the number of options. So it's a safe bet that more than a few rooms will be toe-tagged by spring.

Still, the same sort of logic that inspires teenage knuckleheads to mimic the shit they see on Jackass will convince the wannabe nightclub dons that they must join the battle for Denver's nightlife.

Those adamant about getting into the game -- regardless of how many Banana Joe's-like cadavers they must step over in the process -- should pay some attention to Michael Tadevossian, the man behind Club Ra and the Pharaoh's Lounge(in the space at 1111 Lincoln Street that was formerly occupied by the Starline Lounge). It takes elephantiasis of the nuts to open a club so close to The Church, the crown jewel of the Regas Christou empire. To even think that you can succeed in the Golden Triangle -- a part of town that Christou basically owns -- is like bitch-slapping Don Corleone and thinking you'll be offered an olive branch. Tadevossian, who's bankrolled a couple of joints in L.A. but never owned or operated a club in Denver, either has some serious stones or just had no idea what he was getting into. Either way, he's adapted well.

Since opening Ra and the Pharaoh's Lounge a little over a month ago, Tadevossian has proven to be decisive, strategic and audacious. After someone threw a brick through the window -- apparently angry at being ejected -- it became evident that neither Tuesday's eighteen-and-over Top 40 night nor the club's planned after-hours would work, and he pulled the plug on both those ideas. But rather than bank on collecting the Church's overflow, Tadevossian is aggressively pursuing the beautiful people with innovative ploys like never charging the ladies a cover -- ever. That's right: Residents of Venus -- even the ugly ones -- get a free pass. Martians, on the other hand, can expect to pay $10 each if they're not swift enough to arrive before 10 p.m.

And the Church isn't the only space that should be checking its rearview mirror. While Ra is catering to the electronic crowd, the adjacent Pharaoh's Lounge is in direct competition with La Rumba, just four blocks away. Tadevossian has commissioned DJ Tatiana and Rocky Aparicio to drop Latin music several nights a week, spinning everything from salsa, merengue and cumbia to Euro-styled Ibiza tracks.

While most spots in town take all comers, Club Ra and Pharaoh's Lounge have standards that Tadevossian says they're sticking to. So don't even think about high-steppin' here unless you're dressed to impress. (I have no idea what the hell that means, because I haven't tried to impress anyone since the eighth grade, but I'm pretty sure that if you dress like me -- more construction worker, less L.A. chic -- you don't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting in.) And even if you're rolling like my man Diddy, waving around dead presidents and name-dropping like no other, you'll have to wait in line like everybody else, as one Bentley-driving baller and his posse recently discovered. According to Tadevossian, when the unnamed players -- presumably pro athletes, because no one else around here has the kind of jack these fellas were flashing -- tried to buy their way into the club, they were sent to the back of the line. (Most places in town would be licking the boots of those jersey-sportin' pretty boys.)

A few weeks ago, I did manage to get through the doors for opening night at the sun-centric, Egyptian-themed space. It's not the biggest or the poshest joint in the Triangle; in fact, it looked like it was attempting to pull off a pair of themed rooms on a single room's budget, with a couple of cheesy Sphinx-inspired murals and some random hieroglyphics slapped on the walls for good measure. But none of that mattered once I started wasting away in hookah-ville. Tadevossian's equipped his club with gigantic, prehistoric, H.R. Giger-looking pipes meant for smoking wacky tabacky -- flavored tobacco, and lots of it. There are twenty blends to indulge in at $10 a pop, and the ones I tried tasted damned good. After five minutes, I was like Smokey from Friday: "Puff, puff, give. You're fucking up the rotation, Craig."

But once the novelty of the hookah pipe wore off, through the smoke I could see the little man behind the curtain pushing the buttons. The music from the two rooms -- salsa on one side, breakbeats on the other -- crashed in the middle, creating a cacophony that induced a serious case of sonic claustrophobia. So after about ten minutes of trying to summon my waitress -- decked out in what I think was meant to be a go-go-dancer outfit that looked more like Hooters meets Cleopatra -- I asked for my tab and thought I was out of there. But it took another twenty minutes before I could pay my bill. Problems with the machine, they said. And then, when they couldn't give me a receipt, they offered to handwrite one.

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