Hospitality Industry: DC New gay nightclub Town

DC Smokers will find relief, too, in a planned, outdoor “smoking garden.”

Lizard Lounge latest victim of deepening recession
December 12, 2008
A slowing economy has slain the Lizard Lounge, resulting in the closing of the weekly Sunday night party held at Lima. The final party, called the Great Recession Closing Night Party, is set for Dec. 14 at 8 p.m.
“Because of the sudden and rapid deterioration of the economy, we just saw very direct and dramatic repercussions on people’s spending habits and social activities,” said Mark Lee, the event’s promoter.
“When we sat down and realized that things weren’t going to get better any time soon — and things were likely to get much worse before they get better — we had to come to the difficult decision that it was no longer viable for us to continue.”
Lizard Lounge celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. The weekly party began in 1998 at Eleventh Hour, and moved in October 2002 to MCCXXIII. After the smoking ban went into effect in D.C., the party closed for two years before reopening eight months ago at Lima.
Lee said that on holiday weekends and for special events, the multi-level venue was “packed to the rafters,” and that crowds ranged from 400 to 1,000 people.
“Bars and clubs are the places we come together to socialize and meet friends,” he said. “The significant downturn in the economy regrettably provides less opportunity for people to make those connections and feel like they’re a part of our community.”

A Lizard Last
Lee says Lizard Lounge latest victim of current economy

by Will O’Bryan
December 11, 2008
Mark Lee, host of the Sunday night institution, Lizard Lounge, has announced that he will discontinue the weekly dance party, with Sunday, Dec. 14, serving as the final installment. Lee has dubbed the last dance the “Great Recession Closing Night Party.”
“The sudden and rapid financial meltdown has had an incredibly negative impact on almost everyone, but particularly the hospitality industry,” says Lee. “The hardest thing is so many of our guests have been very gracious and articulate in expressing their appreciation for our reopening [and] being open the better part of this year.”
Following about seven years of Lizard Lounge Sunday events, produced by Atlas Events, Lee last ended the run in 2006 in the wake of the District’s mandatory smoking ban in bars and clubs. But an arrangement with Lima at 14th and K Streets NW, allowing for a lounge space with smoking, brought Lizard Lounge back in May.
“It’s disappointing that we can’t continue, but it’s a difficult business environment,” says Lee. “It’s a tough time and a tough town. It doesn’t make smart business sense to continue.”
While a recession is no reason to celebrate, Lee promises that the Dec. 14 party will be as festive as its predecessors: “It’ll be a fun night. We expect a big crowd. It should be a kind of blowout.”
The final party at Lima, 1401 K St. NW, begins at 8 p.m. No cover charge, 21 and older only.


Washington, D.C.
November 13, 2008
[ Excerpt ]
” . . . Hearsay’s super-excited about this weekend. Why? Because it’s time for Lizard Lounge’s Grand Reopening, Part 4. In a decade of providing free, fabulous fun on Sunday nights — minus a [two-]year-long hiatus — Mark ‘Put That In Your Pipe’ Lee’s party started at its third location just six months ago. But the club, Lima Lounge, decided it was time for an upgrade. Are your ready? Closed the past two Sundays, the Lizard starts squirming again this Sunday at its ‘Renovation Re-Opening Celebration.’ Lee promises ‘fun, new elements.’ The club’s owner, Masoud ‘We Built This City’ Aboughaddareh, who also owned Lizard’s original home, Eleventh Hour, at 14th and Church where Garden District is now, spent over $600,000 renovating Lima, at 14th and K. Improvements include an expanded dance floor and bar area in the basement, with new lighting and sound, and totally new private bathrooms big enough to double as their own lounges.
“Lee raved about the club’s new ‘specially made water feature,’ built as part of a new glass-paneled center staircase. How exciting is it? ‘It’s not as exciting as the New Jersey councilman who urinated off the balcony at the 9:30 Club,’ Lee conceded in jest, referring to last Friday night’s arrest of a Jersey City councilman who peed on the crowd down below. Lima’s water feature is more of a peaceful (urine-free) waterfall, trickling down from the top-floor restaurant level to the basement dance floor. No one will get wet, Lee promises. But they can still get lit — and light up. The outdoor patio will still serve as a prominent and preeminent smoking lounge. Puff, the magic lizard. And DJ Kostas is still the resident DJ, rotating with Luke ‘Like Sunday Morning’ Easley. If it ain’t broke…”

Change is coming: Lizard Lounge gets a new look at Lima; lesbian club Lace set to open
November 07, 2008
An extensive renovation at Lizard Lounge’s host location, and a new lesbian bar opening in Northeast are bringing change to the city’s gay nightlife scene.
Lizard Lounge is a gay Sunday night party featuring drink specials, house music and a popular lounge area where smoking is permitted. The event is held at the Lima Lounge at 1401 K Street, N.W.
Lima has been undergoing a $650,000, two-week renovation project that will give the lounge a new look, all new, high-end bathrooms, bar and lounge expansions and a new light, sound and video system throughout its three-floor space.
Lizard Lounge is organized and hosted by Mark Lee, the longtime gay nightlife promoter, and has been held at Lima since May.
Walking through the gutted building, it seems the changes to come will give the lounge an earthy but dramatic flare, while maintaining its intimate and sophisticated appeal.
A glass-walled staircase with wood accents will provide access to the upstairs restaurant space as well as the basement dance area, elongated bar and modern, minimalist-style bathrooms.
Trickling down the glass paneling of the stairwell will be a waterfall feature that will flow to the bottom floor pool area lined with river rock.
The basement area’s aesthetic changes will include high backed, leather-lined seating banquettes that will curve up to form the ceiling to the left of the dance floor accompanied by cocktail tables. The basement bar will be finished in a translucent material lit from underneath to give it an orange glow.
Downstairs bathrooms will have more capacity than the former design and feature futuristic-style decor with mirrors backed by pale-cerulean ambient lighting and concealed hand dryers underneath.
“It’s always fun when a girl gets a new makeover,” Lee says expressing his excitement about the renovation project. ‘We’ve had the great privilege of being the Sunday night destination for pretty much our entire run and we’re excited to have the opportunity to continue to be in the forefront of offering exciting and fresh new environments.”
LINDA McALLISTER, A local lesbian, is also helping to bring change to the city’s gay scene. McAllister is opening Lace, a lesbian club and restaurant at 2214 Rhode Island Ave., N.E., next weekend.
Her vision for Lace is that it will serve as a bar, club, restaurant and community center that is focused on women.
“There ought to be a place that’s upscale and nice and appreciates the value of women,” she says. ” want to address the needs of women across their life spans, so there will be a variety of different events that women of all ages would enjoy.”
The space holds about 88 people and has a main level and a basement dance and lounge area.
The furniture is made of sleek metals with gentle curves and is lined with plush pink cushions. Floral silver and hot pink wall coverings give it an urban edge while maintaining a feminine vibe. The lounge area is lit by black, elegantly beaded chandeliers draped in white lace.
McAllister realizes the risk in starting a small business now with the economy in a recession. She says, however, “f you have a need, people will support what you give them to meet that need, and I feel deeply that I’m meeting a need.”
Lee feels similarly calm about the impact of the economy on nightlife businesses.
“We’re hoping that the slump will be a temporary reaction to all the news and that people will continue to make an extra effort to support local small businesses for their survival,” he said.
The re-opening party for Lizard Lounge will be Nov. 16 at 8 p.m., upon completion of the renovations. Lace is scheduled to open Nov. 15.

Gay activist heads Dupont Circle citizens group
Members say they want to avoid Adams Morgan-like congestion
June 13, 2008
Long-time residents and business owners in the Dupont Circle area looked on with interest last month when members of the highly influential Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) elected a gay activist and former Capitol Hill staffer as the group’s new president.
Owners and patrons of gay bars and restaurants in Dupont Circle, especially those located along the popular business strip on 17th Street, N.W., have often joined non-gay businesses in accusing the DCCA of being hostile to nightlife activity and prone to promoting excessive restrictions on how the businesses operate.
“We don’t want a Bourbon Street, but we want a vibrant street,” said Joel Lawson, who has vowed to work hard to build bridges between residents and business owners.
DCCA members, many of whom are gay, have argued that their intention is to maintain a balance between the businesses and Dupont Circle’s residential neighborhoods, which include a large collection of Victorian townhouses on tree-lined streets in areas designated as historic preservation zones.
Regulation is needed, DCCA members have argued, to preserve the residential character of their neighborhoods and to prevent commercial strips like 17th Street from becoming another Adams Morgan, which they view as chaotic due to the number of bars and nightclubs.
Lawson, 42, said he hopes to improve relations between the businesses and residents, saying he’s convinced that the majority of the residents welcome the businesses and enjoy patronizing the sidewalk cafes and restaurants for which Dupont Circle has become known.
His election as head of DCCA came at the end of a heated dispute over the license renewal of Jack’s Restaurant, a popular gay-owned business on 17th Street with an outdoor patio that some nearby residents say has been the cause of excessive noise at night.
Last year, 27 nearby residents filed a protest against Jack’s license renewal, setting in motion a regulatory process run by the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration that nightlife advocates say is stacked against small business owners. Jack’s co-owner, Latif Guler, said the protest lasted more than a year and cost him thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees to present his case on behalf of renewing his license.
The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration is expected to approve the renewal of Jack’s license later this month after Guler signed a cooperative agreement with the protestants, along with DCCA and the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC), that imposes restrictions on Jack’s operations. The agreement prevents him from installing windows on his building that open onto the patio and requires that the patio close at 11 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday and close at midnight Wednesday through Saturday.
The city’s liquor law allows restaurant patios to remain open until 2 a.m. on weeknights and 3 a.m. on weekends. But the Dupont Circle ANC more than a decade ago established its own policy calling for patios to close at 11 a.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends, said ANC member Victor Wexler, who helped arrange for the Jack’s agreement with the protestants.
He said the ANC and the DCCA joined the protest to give them legal standing to negotiate an agreement with Jack’s, with the intention of helping to moderate the demands of some of the citizen protestants. Under the city’s liquor law, five or more citizens who live near a liquor-serving establishment have the legal right to protest the licenses of such establishments on grounds that they are affected by noise or other possible negative effects of alcohol-serving businesses.
Gay business owner and nightlife advocate Mark Lee has argued that the “protest” process is unfair and enables citizens to “highjack” the regulatory process and impose agreements on businesses that Lee calls a form of blackmail.
“They know they can force these small, neighborhood businesses to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees to fight the protests, which can drag on for years,” Lee said. “The process can literally bankrupt a business, so the business usually caves in and signs these so-called voluntary agreements.”
In Jack’s case, the agreement allows Jack’s to increase the number of seats for dining in the patio from its current limit of 28 to 34. Jack’s had applied for the increase as part of a “substantial change” request required under the license renewal process.
Guler praised DCCA and ANC members for helping to broker the agreement. But he said he feels the agreement was forced on him by the 27 residents, whom he believes unfairly blamed him for noise on a street lined with restaurants and bars.
Lawson is not the first gay man to serve as president of the DCCA, but he is believed to be the first gay activist to head the group and the first known DCCA leader to have worked in the past on a campaign to oppose a city regulatory action against businesses.
In 1997, Lawson, then a public relations consultant, helped the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance develop an ad campaign opposing an effort by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to penalize gay bars and clubs for distributing condoms. A city inspector at the time argued that condoms indicated a bar or club was a “sexually oriented” business, which violated zoning rules. City officials later overruled the inspector and allowed the clubs to continue distributing condoms as a means of combating the spread of AIDS.

Patio Politics
Jack’s faces overcrowding charge for 2007 High Heel Race
by Will O’Bryan
Published on May 29, 2008
As the maxim has it, when it rains, it pours. Alan Goodwill and Latif Guler, the owners of Jack’s Restaurant and Bar, would likely tell you that the same holds when it comes to the local bureaucracy.
Guler says he applied May 5 for a “one day substantial change” to Jack’s liquor license, allowing the venue to accommodate extra patio patrons during the Capital Pride Parade, which will pass in front of Jack’s June 14. On May 7, Guler signed a “cooperative agreement,” as part of seeking a liquor-license renewal, between Jack’s, the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA), the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) and independent residents’ groups. The same day, Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board Chairperson Peter B. Feather was signing off on a “notice of status hearing and show cause hearing” for Jack’s, set for June 26 and July 17, respectively, to examine a charge that the restaurant’s patio exceeded its licensed capacity, 28 patrons, on Oct. 30, the evening of the annual High Heel Race.
“We had two guards to make sure no one left with a drink, to check IDs,” says Guler, adding that he and Goodwill, his partner, have owned the venue for about two years. “We have table service, but what happens at one point is it just gets impossible with people standing to watch the parade or the race.”
As far as Goodwill and Guler know, they’re also the only venue to have been cited for High Heel Race overcrowding, a time when this stretch of 17th Street from Church to Q Streets, roughly, is standing room only.
According to the charge, “At approximately 7:16 p.m. [the ABC investigator] returned to the establishment and counted approximately 60 patrons on the sidewalk caf?. [The investigator’s] photograph shows approximately 58-60 patrons on the sidewalk caf?, at least 30-32 patrons over the Certificate of Occupancy.”
Goodwill and Guler maintain that they’ve done their best to keep order and follow the law, but that it would take a about a dozen police officers guarding their patio rail to insulate the space from the High Heel Race chaos.
When it comes to High Heel Race order, Dave Perruzza, general manager of JR.’s gay bar at 1519 17th St. NW and the de facto facilitator of this 21-year-old annual tradition that is officially sponsored by no one, knows the rules. He knows the ins and outs of the “one day substantial change” permits, knows his neighbors, knows the ABC Board and knows which hoops to jump through to allow JR.’s adjacent beer tent during the race. But while he says that the licensing protocols involved with pulling off the High Heel Race or the Capital Pride Parade — gay-themed events that essentially close down this stretch of 17th Street, one of the District’s most gay-identified neighborhoods — are not overwhelming, he grants that the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), of which the ABC Board is part, appeared to be taking a greater-than-usual interest in the last High Heel Race.
“This is the first time we’ve ever had a problem,” says Perruzza. “They actually gave us a hard time at the beer tent, which they’d never done before. They were much stricter [in 2007]. This is the first time I’ve seen them around for the High Heel Race.”
While this stretch of 17th Street is recognized for its gay identity, it is also recognized as an area that has seen contention between its businesses — gay-owned or otherwise — and residents — also gay or otherwise. For example, in Jack’s May 7 “cooperative agreement,” also known as a “voluntary agreement,” 27 individuals signed-on as protestants to the renewal. That’s in addition to ANC 2B and the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA).
In hammering out the agreement, which is awaiting expected approval from the ABC Board, Guler says, “The DCCA and the ANC were awesome. It was just difficult to resolve some issues with the neighbors.”
Without hesitation, Joel Lawson, who is gay and recently became DCCA president, grants that the mood between businesses and residents in this neighborhood has been contentious.
“There’s a lot of bad blood on 17th Street between businesses and residents,” says Lawson, adding that he has not fielded any complaints about Jack’s. “I’m determined to bring people together. We have to bring cooperative voices together. It’s my No. 1 priority.”
In the end, he says he hopes that rather than some troubling, empty storefronts, his work for DCCA will ensure a “fun and thriving 17th Street.”
Mark Lee, whose Atlas Events produces the gay-oriented Lizard Lounge parties and who is recognized as perhaps the District’s most engaged nightlife proponent, has been speaking with Goodwill and Guler about the High Heel charge, which he says is endemic to a system that greatly favors even the most frivolous complaints by residents against legitimate businesses.
“The current system is built on the premise that every business is guilty until proven otherwise,” Lee says, adding that while Lawson’s outreach to the business community is encouraging, what’s at stake is a matter of policy, not personality.
“Roving bands of neighborhood dictators can have veto power over the regulations that affect these small businesses, essentially changing the law.”
The local Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) has publicly stated a position not too far from Lee’s, suggesting that ABRA record the names of people who file complaints against venues, rather than the purely anonymous system that exists now.
“Persons with a record of frequent complaints not sustained by the evidence should have their subsequent complaints flagged as suspicious, should receive a warning, and should be fined if their abuse of the system continues,” reads a GLAA statement from 2005, in part, which is posted on the group’s Web site.
In the meantime, Goodwill and Guler say they cannot help but feel persecuted.
“I want to say ‘discrimination,’ because obviously someone hates us,” Goodwill says matter-of-factly, pointing to a 90-day period between April and June 2007, when, he says, Jack’s was inspected by ABRA on 60 occasions, leading to charges of overcrowding aside from the High Heel Race charge. Goodwill says that of the few times an inspector spotted the capacity limit being breached, it was never by more than five people. Neither Goodwill nor Guler says he has any idea who may be calling in the complaints that initiate inspections.
While Metro Weekly was unable to secure an official comment from ABRA by deadline, Guler insists he and Goodwill have been making every attempt to toe the ABRA line.
“I’m getting the idea that they’re picking on us, first because we’re gay, second because we have accents,” says Guler, a native of Turkey. “I am a man of the rules. We have all these rules, but we’re following them. We do everything by the book.”
Ultimately, that will be up to the ABC Board to decide sometime this summer. Guler says he and Goodwill will be contesting the High Heel Race charge at the June 26 hearing, which will automatically continue the case to a “show cause hearing” Thursday, July 17, at 1:30 p.m. before the board.

Re-Opening of Sunday Night Destination: Lizard Lounge”
“It was just hot watching a lot of smokin’bodies engaging in provocative poses.”
— EDGE Publications, Nationwide and Online, Nightlife News, May 2008
Lizard Lounge is Back: An Interview with D.C. Promoter Mark Lee
“The re-creation of a feeling that has been missing in the nightlife scene … There is a certain sense of pride here.”

The Return of the Lizard
Two years after calling it quits, Mark Lee brings Lizard Lounge back to Sundays
Interview by Sean Bugg
Photography by Todd Franson
April 24, 2008

Mark Lee knows how to make an impression.
There was the success of his first Sunday night party in Adams Morgan during the late 1980s. Then his Atlas parties became an indispensable part of any holiday weekend.
Then there was Lizard Lounge, the Sunday night mainstay that charted out new gay territory on 14th Street — making the neighborhood a cool spot years before the rise of condos and specialty stores. Lizard’s growth and popularity led to a couple of venue changes, finally landing downtown on Connecticut Avenue.
At the same time, Lee was making just as big a political impression as an impassioned promoter and defender of nightlife businesses, advocating against undue regulation and overly burdensome operating agreements thrust upon bars and clubs by small neighborhood groups.
But his battle against the D.C. smoking ban gained him his greatest prominence — some would say notoriety — as a nightlife advocate. And when that battle was lost as the city passed and implemented the ban on smoking in bars and clubs, Lee announced that Lizard Lounge would be no more.
Two years later, the nightlife landscape has seen significant change — a number of new ventures have opened, while others have closed their doors for good.
Time, it would seem, for the return of the Lizard Lounge.
Just as it did in the past, Lizard Lounge will take its perch on Sunday nights — this time at Lima, an already popular nightclub located at 14th and K Streets downtown — beginning with a re-opening party on May 4.
What’s changed at Lizard Lounge? Why return now?
Those are answers Mark Lee is happy to give you.
METRO WEEKLY: When we last interviewed, about the closing of Lizard Lounge, you said, ”This is the end,” that you wouldn’t be able to sustain the economic impact of the city’s smoking ban. So what’s changed in the two years since we last talked about Lizard Lounge?
MARK LEE: In many ways, I think our mothers were right: You don’t really miss something until you don’t have it anymore. And for me, it’s something I certainly miss. Somewhat to my astonishment and to my great appreciation, I think it’s something that a lot of people in the community really miss. So the opportunity to re-engage is not something I sought out, really — it’s actually something that has literally happened in the last month.
When Lizard Lounge launched in the summer of 1998, a lot of people thought I had lost my mind moving over to 14th St. at 11th Hour. [11th Hour operator] Masoud and I had known each other as colleagues and acquaintances over the years, and he had invited me to consider doing Sunday night there — that was how Lizard Lounge started.
Masoud is now the sole owner of Lima, and he contacted me recently. It was something that was really unanticipated on my part in some ways. But it’s a great opportunity — [and] it’s a unique venue in that it’s the right size at the right place at the right time.
My great fortune has been for the whole 20 years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve had the great luck to be standing in the right place at the right time and it felt good to do this. It also has the unique opportunity to continue to offer as broad a range of hospitality and accommodation to all of our guests as we possibly can because: Lima has an alcohol license, smoking is permitted [in the] very plush and comfortable lounge area. And that makes it possible to continue not only to treat all of our guests with respect and offer their level of accommodation and hospitality, which I think has become our signature over the years.
MW: Given your high profile in fighting the D.C. smoking ban and working on nightlife issues such as the involvement of advisory neighborhood commissions (ANCs), are you afraid that your political work may drive a wedge between you and potential customers?
LEE: Absolutely not. First, the notion that people are obsessed about dictating or governing other peoples’ personal preferences has never been a popular notion in our community. In many ways, that’s why so many people in our community, and certainly among the patrons of nightlife establishments, were not in support of a mandatory smoking ban, whether they smoked or didn’t smoke.
Secondly, let’s call it for what it is. I think that most people understand that this is a prohibition campaign by very well funded special interest groups whose goal is not to protect people from keeling over dead while having a drink, but to attempt to make it practically impossible and socially unacceptable to smoke. The people who go out and are our guests and our patrons, and in many ways the public at large, they understand that. And they’re not worried about the exaggerated claims of health peril of second-hand smoke. I think people understand that it’s forced social engineering and that’s never been something that our community has embraced and for good reason.
MW: How is the smoking lounge at Lima going to work?
LEE: It’s a climate-controlled outdoor lounge area, and it has the distinction of having lounge seating, plush sort of comfortable lounge seating. It’s not necessary to leave the premises to go to the outdoor lounge. Because it’s really about the comfort and enjoyment of our guests. And our goal is to offer as civilized an environment as we can to our valued patrons in what has, unfortunately, become a rather uncivilized world.
MW: Lizard Lounge was a big Sunday night staple for years, but there have been a lot of changes in nightlife venues and options over the past couple of years. Is that something you’re concerned about as you re-start Lizard?
LEE: I’m excited and delighted to have the opportunity to renew my commitment to making a contribution to the social life of our community. I’ve been a special event and nightclub producer for 20 years — my first event was on Dec. 6, 1987, at the former Dakota nightclub in Adams Morgan. Before that I was a consumer, when I moved here to Washington as a young child. [Laughs.] I always remember what it’s like to be a consumer and so I always take it from that point of view.
Now there are fewer venues than ever before, accommodating fewer people than ever before. There are a lot of reasons for that. If you talk to people on the street, the number one off-the-cuff response will be the Internet, that it’s the iPod culture where we’re more isolated. Or that we’re in a serious town like Washington where we work hard, to the extent that we don’t necessarily always have the chance to play hard.
In our business, things are changing all the time. We’re a more diverse population, we’re more spread out geographically, we have less time to enjoy ourselves in many ways, especially in this economy and in this town. But high among the reasons that there has been a decline in patronage and a loss of revenue [for nightlife businesses] is because of the mandatory smoking ban.
It’s a tough town to do business in. Sometimes it feels like the members of the D.C. Council lay awake at night dreaming up new schemes or new ways to over-burden, over-regulate, over-tax and do us in. There’s sort of an odd taking-for-granted of the contribution, not only to the social life and the cultural identity of the city, but to the tax base. The hospitality industry in its entirety is the largest taxpayer to the city’s coffers, accounting for about 17 or 18 percent of the total local taxes that the city collects. We helped to finance the convention center through a special tax, which the industry gladly agreed to.
But it’s tough running a small business in the nightlife or hospitality segment in this town because we’re disrespected and disregarded a lot. We’re thrown out on the street in Southeast where they built the new stadium and the Council turns its back on its commitment to realistically assist or make possible those businesses to relocate. They give a lot of lip service to appreciating and supporting the golden goose of this town but yet at the same time we face displacement. Small bands of nightlife opponents are able to delay or prevent licensing easily for 18 months, or to restrict the operation or hours in such a way that businesses can’t be successful. It’s always said that nightlife opponents and small neighborhood groups only get angry when a business is successful.
MW: Is the location of Lima downtown and away from residential areas something that’s attractive to you?
LEE: It wasn’t the reason that we went there, but it’s certainly a benefit. It’s a convenient location. It’s just below Logan Circle, near Thomas Circle. It’s sort of an easy walk from a shifting location of our community’s population. There’s lots of available on-street parking on Sundays. It’s a convenient central location where people know how to get there and can get there easily.
MW: When people go to Lizard Lounge, are they going to think, ”I’m back at Lizard Lounge and it’s bringing back what we miss about the first one”? Or are they going to say, ”Oh, this is a different Lizard Lounge”?
LEE: What’s exciting about it for me is that resident DJ Kostas will be returning as the primary DJ, and local DJ Luke Easley, who had played a couple of times for Lizard Lounge in the past, will be sharing the performance schedule in a limited way. Kostas has been a source of inspiration both personally and musically, and he is justifiably well appreciated by our patrons and the community for the product he produces.
Will it be the same? Well, we’ve set the stage for it to be the same in the ways that we think that people have always loved and appreciated. I have to tell you that since we closed, people have always been very encouraging for me to find a way that we could accommodate our full range of guests and re-open because people really missed it and appreciated it. That’s very humbling and I’m very grateful for that. And even since the announcement that we are going to re-open, it’s been overwhelming, the outpouring of enthusiasm and positive feedback that we’ve gotten.
But really, at Lizard Lounge we set the stage. We try to create a place where everybody feels comfortable and can relax. One of our distinguishing characteristics was that it was one of the few places in Washington where a lot of different types of people in our community could come together. In a way, I think it was giving people permission to socialize together and that’s something we’ve been very proud of. So all of that will stay the same.
But the character of Lizard Lounge is also largely what our guests bring to it. You can dance, you can lounge, you can do pretty much whatever you want, including smoking, so the experience you have at Lizard Lounge — I think that this has always been true — is what you want your experience at Lizard Lounge to be. And at the same time, everybody who is there makes a contribution to the ambiance and collegiality of the experience.
MW: I have to ask — do you ever plan to stop smoking yourself?
LEE: There are two misconceptions I think that some people have about that. First, my advocacy against a mandatory smoking ban was not for my personal convenience. It was for other reasons. I think most people understand that. Second, I also have no investment in whether people smoke or not. I don’t benefit from it. I’m not promoting smoking. I certainly want to be clear about that.
So I really think in that context it’s not an issue. Whether I choose to smoke or not, or whether I still smoke or not. How do you know whether I do or not? It’s an assumption on your part that I still do.
MW: Do you?
LEE: I was trying to get a little mysterious to give a close to that.
MW: It would be funnier if I asked if you have one on you.
LEE: [Laughs.] I don’t mind the question, but really, my position on the smoking ban in the past was not informed by whether I smoked or not. It was about a larger issue. I think the marketplace was evolving according to preferences and there are mixed opportunities on both sides for serving guests. And there should be options and choices. Unfortunately, options and choices have been taken away and as that trickles down to the effect it has on businesses, it hurts.
Having said that, I want people to understand that I didn’t walk away in a huff, I didn’t walk away mad when we lost. It really was a genuine business decision based on the fact that the gay and lesbian community smokes at nearly double the rate of the general adult population, [so the ban] is going to have a bigger impact on us. It’s a complicated issue in how it impacts businesses, but it impacts businesses in our community quite strongly and for small business establishments it has a greater impact. So it has had an impact.
But at the same time as saying all that, I don’t want to continue to debate this. The really refreshing thing and the feedback I’m getting is that people are just plain excited that Lizard Lounge is re-opening and they’re looking forward to it. So that battle is over. We’re really excited about doing something that we love, and that I’ve had the great privilege of offering our community for a long period of time. You know, it’s a tough town sometimes to have fun in, and we’re eager to get back out and make a contribution so that people can enjoy their life in Washington.
Lizard Lounge will be open Sunday evenings beginning at 8 p.m. at Lima, 1401 K St. NW. (Re)Opening night is Sunday, May 4. For more information visit or call 202-331-4422.

Let Yourself Go at New Club in Shaw
By Fritz Hahn
Special to The Washington Post
December 14, 2007
Where: Town Danceboutique, 2009 Eighth St. NW; 202-234-8696.
The scene: Town, a new nightspot in Shaw, is “what Washington needed,” say owners Ed Bailey and John Guggenmos. And what, exactly, have we been lacking? A surprisingly cozy 20,000-square-foot club with a stage custom-built for nightly drag shows, where the focus will be on big production numbers, and two large dance floors that throb until 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
“Sometime in the last decade, night life got so serious,” Bailey says. “It’s supposed to be about having fun and letting go.” Many of Washington’s newer clubs offer multiple rooms and experiences, but that’s the opposite of what Bailey and Guggenmos wanted. Both floors have a large central space where music is the focus. That way, Bailey says, the dance floor can provide “a big unifying experience. That big, happy moment when you’re all rallying together and you feel, ‘I’m not alone. I’m standing with thousands of people, and I’m feeling the same thing that they are.’ ” Both levels have alcoves and raised areas with couches and seating. The speakers are focused enough that you can have conversations, especially in the narrow, nearly soundproof room that runs the length of the club on the second floor.
In your glass: The emphasis is on basic drinks: bottled beer, flavored vodka-and-mixer.
On the dance floor: The long-running Velvet party at Nation, which Bailey and Guggenmos were involved with, had a reputation for bringing in the biggest names on the gay party circuit, but after years of what he calls “thump, thump, thump” DJs, “the music got a little out there for a general audience,” says Bailey, who’s known on the East Coast for his own DJ skills. At Town, he says, “we definitely wanted to be more accessible musically than we had a reputation for being at Nation.”
Friday’s 18-and-older Downtown party features straight-up retro downstairs, including Deee-Lite and Boy George, while the second floor features a mix of new electro tunes and driving remixes of pop songs. Saturday, meanwhile, is 21-and-older, and the music is closer to what was heard at Nation: tribal and house but less dark, with more vocals and remixes of popular tunes. Both nights feature plenty of scantily clad go-go boys gyrating on raised platforms.
Need to know: There are two 45-minute drag shows each night. The dance floor is covered with tables and chairs, but there’s plenty of room for standing, too. Miss Lena Lett hosts on Friday, while Ella Fitzgerald, the famed host at Ziegfeld’s, is the emcee on Saturday. Performances begin at 9:30 and 11. The upstairs dance floor gets going at 11 both nights.
Nice to know: Come as yourself, whether that means in a button-down shirt and jeans or a T-shirt that you’re going to whip off on the dance floor, because Town doesn’t have a dress code.
Town has a designated smoking area in the rear of the club, but waits can be really long. Bailey says the number of smoking customers is much higher than they anticipated. Don’t try to go out front, either: To avoid disturbing the neighbors, anyone who walks out the front door has to wait in line and pay again to get back in.
Price points: Admission is $10 on Friday and $12 on Saturday. Parking in the club’s secure lot is $15. The coat check charges $3 per item. Drinks are about $8 each.
What people are saying: “When I read the description [on Town’s Web site,], I expected a diverse mix of danceable music . . . but what I found was nothing out of the ordinary,” says transportation planner Michael Eichler, 34. “The first song I heard . . . was a remix of a Whitney Houston song, so I proceeded upstairs, where I was greeted by a Britney [Spears] song. At that point, I realized that neither of the floors was going to play the electro-pop-rock advertised on the site.”

‘D.C. Gay Nightclub Plans Interior Smoking Area’
Opening Night at Town
November 23, 2007
By Zack Rosen
Town, the much-anticipated new club by nightlife entrepreneurs Ed Bailey and John Guggenmos, had a successful opening on Saturday, Nov. 17, according to Bailey. The club filled to its 692-person capacity and had patrons waiting in a block-long line to see the two-story nightspot at the corner of 8th and Florida, NW.
“It was fantastic, the response was phenomenal and the numbers were tremendous,” says Bailey.
Downstairs features a large open area with a cabaret stage at the back, a bar in front and two elevated lounges where patrons can watch the action. Another large dance floor and a quiet room, closed off from the music, can be found upstairs.
Though the opening went smoothly, the club is not completely finished. Bailey still has features he would like to complete and perfect, such as the inclusion of an interior smoking area and getting the air conditioning just right. Besides a comment from a customer who found the bar’s large video screens projecting nature images to be boring, Bailey has not heard many complaints.
“I’ve worked with this audience for a long time and this is not a shy community. If something doesn’t seem right, they will tell you.”

Welcome to Town
Your exclusive first look inside Ed Bailey and John Guggenmos’s new gay nightclub

November 15, 2007
By Will O’Bryan

It’s late October and the effort to create the latest addition to D.C.’s gay nightlife is in the home stretch. While on the outside it may seem like time has stood still — banners from the previous club at this Eighth Street and Florida Avenue NW spot, Kili’s Caf? & Lounge, still hang, as does a poster urging Washingtonians to vote “Vincent Orange for Mayor” — the interior offers a different world entirely.

“Everything is an earth palette,” explains local nightlife entrepreneur Ed Bailey, standing in the foyer of his new enterprise. He’s surrounded by walls in brown and blue, amid ATMs and beer coolers, all still in their shipping crates. “The whole concept is very natural,” he says. “There’s wood. There’s stone. All the colors are picked based on that.”

Indeed, a tour of the two-story space confirms that Town’s club kids will be treated to an organic, eco-chic setting befitting the greening edge of style. Tables are cypress stumps, the first-floor DJ booth and several columns are wrapped in wood planks.

“Is this a green building? No,” admits Bailey, adding that he and business partner John Guggenmos had explored the notion of converting the massive space into an environmentally low-impact venue. “Unfortunately, that’s not something we were able to achieve.”

They have, however, achieved a look and feel that marries the fantasy of A Midsummer’s Night Dream with the sensibility of Scan Design. The mood is underscored by projections on giant video screens that will continually delight visual senses with an organic parade of natural vistas.

“It’s not going to be like Britney Spears videos,” says Bailey. “It’s landscapes, sky-scapes, underwater — let’s call them ‘floating paintings.’ It’s an animated art piece.”

While the fantasyland Bailey and his team are constructing is impressive, Bailey seems most impressed by the first-floor stage, a drag-dedicated showpiece.

“We created an actual performance space for drag shows, which has not existed in this city before,” observes Bailey. “There was Ziegfeld’s, of course, but it was never an actual cabaret space. This is a stage built just for this.”

Donnell Robinson, a.k.a. Ella Fitzgerald — who has been treating D.C. audiences to drag performances for more than 30 years — says the four steps up to Town’s drag stage are a welcome relief from the 18 steps she traversed twice nightly during years of performing at Ziegfeld’s, a victim of the city’s Southeast eminent-domain development for the Washington National’s baseball stadium.

“Four steps and I’m onstage. I like this a lot,” says Robinson, who will host Town’s Saturday night drag show. “This is going to be very interesting. Very cabaret, with a twist. I really think this venture is going to be great for the younger generation. It’s going to offer a lot for different types of clientele. Hopefully some of the Southeast crowd will come.”

The first floor will offer two drag shows each Friday and Saturday on the first floor. Meanwhile, the upstairs space will offer a flavor more akin to Bailey’s dance club days, which he began at Tracks nearly 20 years ago with current business partner Guggenmos, most recently embodied at Nation. The center of the high-ceilinged space is a large dance floor, allowing for the flow of Town crowds to circumnavigate the floor rather than cross it, should they not want to trip the light fantastic.

To counter the boom-boom, Bailey and company have built a quiet space into the second-floor layout. A room running along the front of the building offers an oasis for those seeking some downtime. Smokers will find relief, too, in a planned, outdoor “smoking garden.

While the two floors will differ, so will the mood on Fridays and Saturdays, the only nights Town will be open, at least for now. The 18-and-older Friday affairs, “Downtown,” will cater to an audience that Bailey describes as a bit edgier than their other gay peers, those avoiding the mainstream. On Saturdays, it’s “Uptown,” the tried and true, 21-plus, “classic, gay-boy dance party.”

With all the parts coming together, Bailey confesses a “tingly” sensation of excitement as he inspects the new nightspot’s progress. Certainly some of that thrill must come from simply knowing that all this hard work will soon be complete.

“This has taken up an enormous amount of time. My personal life is a little complicated by dating someone who lives in New York. I’ve tried to get away, but I’m here all day, every day, for construction. Then the marketing, the Web site, everything else kind of after hours. I’m exhausted right now, so the excitement doesn’t show. But it’s all coming together, and it’s so thrilling to see that.

“I want to be here,” he continues. “I wouldn’t have gotten into it if I thought it was something I could build and walk away from. This is what I love to do.”

And the only thing better than doing it, says Bailey, is doing it with people he respects and trusts, such as Jim Boyle, who was the general manager at Nation, and is joining Bailey and Guggenmos as a Town owner; “Shaggy,” the sound and technical director at Nation; Jesse Wily, the lighting guru from Tracks; general manager Andy Phan; and Nation dance troupe X-Faction, to name a few.

“What’s here is a culmination of everything that John and I have done [over the years], which is a lot,” says Bailey, adding work at Cobalt, Ozone and Trumpets to the mix. “This is going to be a culmination of all those experiences, pulling together all the best aspects of what we’ve learned over the years — and the best people we’ve met over the years.”

— Town is located at 2009 Eighth St. NW and opens this Saturday, November 17, 2007. Cover charges are $10 on Fridays and $12 on Saturdays. Doors open at 9 p.m. Drag shows at 9:30 and 11 p.m. 18+ on Fridays. 21+ on Saturdays. On premise parking available. For alerts regarding Town’s official opening, register at For more information, call 202-234-TOWN.
?”Town Danceboutique is the first new gay
? danceclub to open in Washington DC in decades.
? It is a combination of a cabaret performance
? space, a plush lounge, and a high energy
? danceclub. There are two floors, multiple
? rooms, an outside smoking area, an
? amazing video installation, state of the art
? LED lighting, and multiple dancefloors.”
???????? — Town Danceboutique Website Homepage
? “Smokers will find relief [at the new gay
?? danceclub named Town opening this
?? weekend in Washington] in a planned,
?? outdoor ‘smoking garden.'”
???????????????????????? — Metro Weekly, Cover Feature,
???????????????????????? November 15, 2007


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