Alright, as this marks the very first of the Metro Jacksonville nightlife reviews, and we are debuting several new features there are a few things that need explaining.
We will be rating and reviewing nightclubs based on professional and subjective categories that will be figured using a mathematical formula.
The Club Rating Formula:
There are six categories that our obstreperous reviewers rate:
S = Service
This is pretty self explanatory: Is it sufficiently staffed with trained well disposed people? Is service prompt and professional? Are the employees competent and attentive?
D = Drinks
This is a pretty subjective category. In liquor bars, it's a measure of the quality of liquors available, as well as whether the bartenders actually know what they are doing. We give extra points for showmanship during mixing, as well as how well constructed the drink is. Beer and Wine Bars get an automatic rating of 3, but we give extra points for great selections.
CZ = Crowd Size
This has everything to do with people per square feet, not total number of people. If a small club is crowded with 50 people in it, they will get a 5. If a huge club looks deserted with 300 people in it, they will get a 1. Clubbing is about socializing. If people are so spread out that you cant mix, then its sort of self defeating isnt it?
CF = Crowd Friendliness
Is the crowd itself friendly? Can a person meet and/or get introduced to others reasonably easily? Is it cliquish and not open to outsiders? Is it clear that a barfight is possible from the minute one walks into the room? Should one mind one's Ps and Qs?
FMS= Friendliness To Metro Jacksonville Staff
Lets face it, if their staff isnt going to be friendly to an honest to god reviewer, who are they going to be friendly to?
B = Bonus Points
Totally random. Anything that sticks out of the ordinary, whether positive or negative.
In the first five categories, we give a rating between Zero and Five. Zero being god awful. A rating of Five is excellent.
The sixth category is for Bonus Points, however and can earn a rating of -5 through +5, depending on the reason and importance of the bonus cause.
The entire amount is then divided by 5, which gives you our rating.
Now. it is important to notice that we do not rate based on the kind of music or the clientele that the clubs cater to. Nor do we give a fig's leaf about the size or age of the club, and are not impressed by cheap marketing ploys. We don't rate a club on the basis of the age of the clientele or whether it serves full liquor or beer and wine. The ratings reflect what any person walking into the club for the first time would notice.
And yes. We include the bathrooms. People should not have to consult with the EPA before using them.
Meet Jennifer Browning, who is making her debut as our first Club Reviewer:
Which brings us to the second part of the review: The Club Crawl Narrative. This is the story behind what happened with the reviews. We will be organizing the club reviews according to area of town and night of the week in the format of a Club Crawl. Lots of photos, observations and anecdotes about the people, things, music and workers in clubland.
Saturday, September 2009.
Nightlife editor Stephen Dare readied notes and served as the home base of operations for the Downtown Club Crawl. This means he will serve as phone contact for cub reporter Jennifer Browning and assistants as they party the night recklessly away. Well, it will not be the first time that hes been dialed all night long by people tippling across the downtown.
He was a little amused at the fact that the crawl wasnt technically downtown, as it included Shantytown in springfield and Jackrabbit's in San Marco, but at least the entire thing was to be in the City Core.
And of course there was the detail that not all the downtown clubs were represented. Notable ommisions included Ivey Club, Poppy Loves Smoke, The Sinclair, and any number of establishments that he feels certain are at the Landing.
But still, its enough of a list to make an interesting beginning, one which can be expanded upon later.
Browning and Company seem to have some ideas about the night, and so they set off into the evening to produce the following collection of impressions and reviews.
Downtown, Saturday Night.
First Stop: Shanty Town Pub, 6th St W. Off Main St. in Springfield. 8:10pm-9:25pm
When I walked into Shantytown, I knew I had found a genuine local favorite. The actual bar is tiny, at least the inside part is, and there is a very intimate atmosphere. Unsurprisingly, everyone seemed to know each other, and we got introduced around with no effort at all. I really liked the funky urban decor in Shantytown: beer bottles lining the walls, local original art and giant grafitti work both inside and on the back patio as well.
They don't sell any liquor at Shantytown but they carry 120 different beers and about 15 different wines. The bartenders are quick to serve your favorite beer or wine and have great attitudes.
I tried a new beer: Young's Luxury Double Chocolate Stout. Amazing. It was quite rich with a chocolate flavor, yum! You can smoke inside or out back on the patio. Luckily, it doesn't get too smoky because the front and back doors are open, and the back patio is actually outside.
Unfortunately, there isnt any air conditioning inside Shantytown and it got quite hot while the Metro Jacksonville review team was there. (sadly that cost bonus points. It's hard for a girl to be glamorous when she is a. sweating profusely while b. fully clothed.) They do have the fans turned on and a huge back patio area where people can sit and talk, drink or just have a good time. Which we did. On the patio. Out of the heat.
On the patio, gathered around picnic tables, deploying occasional volunteers inside for new rounds of drinks, We ran into veteran club lizard Roland David. The adorable member of the band Eugene not only proved very entertaining, but also confided to this cub reporter that he likes Shantytown because of "the community, the bar, and the bartenders' good attitudes." which you have to admit, are legitimate reasons to like a place even if they are a bit vague and mysterious.
We ran into another Shanty Town newbie named Brian Cordova who came for the first time that night and said he would be back. After ruminating over these two profound insights, your chocolate beer refreshed club review team went forth into the early night towards the opposite side of the river.
Shanty Town Rating
S(4) + CZ(3) + CF(5) + FMS(4) + D(3) + Bonus(-2 for no air conditioning)
London Bridge 9:30pm-10:11pm
Realizing that arriving at 9:30 is hardly a fair time to expect a busy bar, the establishment had been open for hours when we arrived. When you walk into the London Bridge, you feel like youve found a little slice of Europe--the slice with large screen tvs and old bar chairs featuring flip flopped locals with sunglasses and frequent jowls. There are various signs, beer logos, pictures, and dollar bills on the walls.
Shortly after making an entrance, we were told that if you havent been to the bathroom in the London Bridge, you should--- because there's a safe in there! This begs the question as to why a bar would be inordinately proud of its bathrooms that a random club reviewing stranger would be immediately steered towards it, and I had a moment of nervousness that maybe there was some tell tale sign that I personally needed to go to one. I wondered if 'safe' was a codeword for something more embarrassing. I went. Posthaste.
There was a safe. The mirror betrayed no other reason that I should be there. I considered the surprisingly well advertised bathroom lock box.
I've been told that its been there for a long time and no one wants to find out whats inside. WTH?
Is there some mystery behind it? Why wouldnt anyone want to know, I wondered. Normally I'm not in the business of caring what is in random safes belonging to other people, and especially not in a bathroom, but the sheer fact that there are so many apparently who lack curiousity make me immediately want to know. Then I came back to reality. What the hell is wrong with people? To hell with them and their random safes. I'd rather watch Chris Farley eat a rare steak in 3D than spend another minute even thinking about it.
There is a nice sized stage area and a pool table in the back as well as many places to sit and talk with friends. You cant smoke inside the London Bridge, but there are tables with adequate seating outside. The London Bridge serves 60 different beers priced from @2.25 to $4.75 and 6 different wines that are moderately priced as well.
Thomas said, " I've been a regular since 2005 and I come out here for the neighborhood feel."
Cameron said, "I've been coming here for 4 years because all my friends are here, the staff and people are friendly.
I said. "You boys are sweet!" and left for Jackrabbit's, with no further thoughts of that ridiculous safe in the bathroom.
S(4) + CZ(1) + CF(3) + FMS(5) + D(3) + Bonus(3. bartender gave us a needed clipboard)
Jack Rabbits 10:25pm- 12:30am
When I got to the venue, Hello Danger was about to perform and their show was really fantastic. I decided to like Hello Danger just a little bit more than I already do because they manage to sound very much the same live like they do on their album, Shark Attack Party.
The crowd was singing and dancing along with the lyrics and got as close to the stage as physically possible without flirting with criminal trespass charges. There were a couple of guys so close on me, that I could have sued them for Breach of Promise at the very least afterwards.
I suppose by now the reader has gathered that the venue was packed. In order to move around, I had to wade through the masses, which is easier said than done.
Most of the time you can smoke inside the venue and it does get really smoky inside when that happens. This was one of those times. It was like one of those science fiction moments where you wonder if the Earthling girl really can grow smoke gills and survive on the alien planet.
I must say that its terribly disappointing that theres only one bathroom each for the ladies and gentlemen. There can be a line for the bathroom at times. There was on this night. Nothing like girls pretending to be nice to each other while their makeup streams off of their faces and their bladders begin to demand voting rights. It is situations like this one that you suddenly become aware of the many uncrossable rules involved with waiting in a line. Minor infractions can result in bleeding. With public approval.
At least the bartender was a) cute. b) extremely fast and c) able to guess by looking at me which was my favorite beer.
That goes a long long way.
S(4) + CZ(4) + CF(5) + FMS(3) + D(3) + Bonus(3 great band)
Cafe 331 12:45am-1:00am
Cafe 331 is likeable because it manages to be spacious and yet maintain an intimate atmosphere.
After chatting pleasantly with the bar staff and the DJ, I tried a Cherry Bomb. Sadly they used Red Bull instead of Monster for the drink. While this is the correct recipe: http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink11361.html I prefer the local version. I guess they could tell that I hated it from the subtle clues I was giving: I choked and loudly complained in as irrational a way as I could manage.
The bartender managed to pass the unreasonable college girl test. Instead, he poured me an Oatmeal Cookie shot. Smart boy. It was actually the best one I've ever tasted, and it's a specialty at Cafe 331.
Their beers are reasonably priced: $7 pitchers of Yuengling, $2 domestic drafts and well drinks for Happy Hour 2pm-7pm. $5 anything you want on Friday and Saturday nights. $5 dollar Long Island Iced Teas.
Angelina says, "I come here often to support DJ Beau Damion because it's a good place and a good crowd." Ashley says, " I live at the Metropolitan Lofts which is close by and for the staff and the people who come here are like family as well as the lighting and atmosphere."
I suspect from the haphazard grouping of things she likes, that Angelina had also had a couple of the Oatmeal Shots.
Another two of them, and I would have had family and lighting on the same basis myself.
While I was here there was a Birthday Bash going on. They ended up having a food fight with the cake and I narrowly missed getting smacked with cake while I was onstage taking photos.
The DJ was spinning awesome music to go along with the awesome neon green lighting and people spinning glowsticks.
But the night had other charms, and it was time for me to be on my way. After spending two crucial hours in the teenage heaven of Jackrabbits, it was already 1 in the morning. Less than an hour to fit in the remaining three clubs on the agenda.
Luckily they are all next door to each other.
S(4) + CZ(4) + CF(3) + FMS(4) + D(3) + Bonus(none given)
Marks 1:15am - 2:00 am
Marks is tastefully well decorated and lit with nice chandeliers. At one fifteen in the morning, the decent sized venue on Bay Street was also a packed house. In front of the club, there is always a big crowd of well dressed people sitting on the patio section.
At Mark's this is where all the most interesting action happens for singles. After staring meaningfully at each other at the bars and on the dance floor, people will slip their dates or groups and head outside to either make plans for later on, or decide whether or not to make them.
Lots of beautiful people in the 20-40 year old age range and a pretty strange crowd dynamic. There are some extremely hot guys in their 20s there that I call the Cougar Hunters. And there are some well heeled older men looking for arm candy. There are also a good number of very hot older women who are looking to accommodate a young cougar hunter as well as the usual upscale assortment of people and groups out on dates, and sorority girls out for a night on the town. There are as many people dressed in business dress as there are in upscale club ensembles, and all in all it is a vibrant fun place to be.
Because it is right down from both TSI and The Ivey Club, there are also bands of college students who invade the place for cheap shots at the bar. Indie kids from TSI, and well muscled meatheads from Ivey.
I settled in with the smoking hot bartender named Steven and ordered an Oatmeal Cookie shot from him. It was decent, but not the skirt lifting experience that I got at 331.
I also ordered a Cherry Bomb, but they also used Red Bull and I don't like them made that way at all.
I had four people approach me to talk: Very friendly place. Any newcomer would love it, because people are really out there to meet others and have a good time.
Tish said, "This is my first time coming here and it serves any type. I have an issue with how they run it because the music is categorized with mainstream music and no diversity, and the drinks are expensive."
Andrea said, "I've been coming to Marks for 3 years now. Mark is a nice guy and I patronize his bars, Marks and Dive Bar, because of that. The bartenders know what they're doing and give professional service with a smile."
I listened and wrote, and tried not to stare too obviously at the bartender.
S(5) + CZ(4) + CF(4) + FMS(5) + D(4) + Bonus(2 for bathroom condition)
When one walks into Dive Bar, the first thing one will notice is the eccentric décor.
Oversized chairs and couches sit on in various conversational arrangements.
My favorite area is the so called Cone of Privacy. It is a circle-shaped area near the bar with black-lighting and neon paint and pictures of bands and musicians inside. There is a table in the middle of it, and a curtain that, when drawn, gives enough privacy that one could easily end up in a wedding where one's father is brandishing 'just in case' fire arms if a girl isn't careful.
Theres a good sized dance floor and a large bar with an array of bartenders. The Dive Bar is always packed, and this friday night was no exception. The music is great and danceable, and while there are definitely hook up prospects, it's not anywhere near as serious a consideration as Marks. One supposes that when people have gone through pre club grooming and dressed expensively that a certain grim minded intensity is sure to be involved. Not so much Dive bar. It's a dancey kind of place, and a whole lot more diverse and integrated than the other bars on Bay. Very good vibology.
Although it is also owned by Mark Hemphill, it is way more laid back than Mark's. People come to the Dive Bar wearing whatever, some people are dressed up, some people are in jeans and nice t-shirts. The crowd was mostly people in their twenties to early thirties.
The door guys are really nice and easy to talk to, and many people think that they are one of the big draws of the club. You can smoke inside the Dive Bar, which is a contrast to Marks.
The bathrooms are very clean.
Our experience at the bar was meh. The bartender doesn't really like doing layered shots, and we watched politely as he ruined a couple of pretty expensive candy shots.
But on the other hand, they poured Long Island Teas strong enough to strip paint off the floor, and grow chest hair on the statue of Venus De Milo.
There was some vague crazy bi-otch drama going on while we were there, and we went on to TSI, promising to come back to the fun little club.
S(4) + CZ(5) + CF(4) + FMS(5) + D(2) + Bonus(2 cute doormen)
club TSI Discotheque 2:00am-3:00am
TSI is like being a rockstar. The kind of rockstar that stays in your own hometown, and doesnt get treated all that special, and might still get their ass put in line if they are too much of a dickweed.
In fact there are rockstars at TSI all the time. Local rockstars. Black Kids, SunBears, and all the visiting royalty.
Like an ironic rockstar, you can order bottles of champagne for $12, or you can order a small beer or large boot as well.
You can hang out with the beautiful people, including the Ford Model behind the bar (Veronica Dame) and the artists (very long list) in the tunnel underneath Tommy Armageddon originals, or you can cold up ignore everyone in the ironically placed privacy seating right by the front door.
One thing TSI does well is music. Nick Fresh and breaking talent deejays.
We ended up with the raspberry lambic and a bottle of bubbly hanging out at the end of the bar.
Then we vaguely remember the place closing, and people telling us we needed to get off the dance floor.
Lovely, lovely way to end the evening.
It seems as though there were tacos somehow.
This was DJ L'NDN's first night as resident DJ for Saturday nights.
DJ LN'DN said, "I'm psyched to be the Resident DJ for TSI on Saturday nights!"
DJ B-Midnight was also keeping the dance floor pumping with dance favorites. I really enjoyed the music that the DJ's were playing!
Errett said, "TSI has the most progressive music scene in Jacksonville, I love the bar staff because they're beautiful and funny. The crowd here is wanting to learn more about the music scene and beautiful people come here [to dance and have fun]."
Im pretty sure I said extra jalapenos on the soft taco.
S(5) + CZ(4) + CF(4) + FMS(5) + D(3) + Bonus(3 for tacos)
By Jennifer Browning and Stephen Dare.