RIGA - After nearly a week of passing by the flashy looking new dance club, Club Essential, I finally accepted the billboard's glowing invitation to "promote myself to a new essential joy!" Unfortunately for me, my self-promotion occurred on what may be the most un-happening weekend in the year- just two days after New Year's Eve. While Riga's clubbers were still recuperating from their 36-hour New Year's blur, I set foot in what was perhaps the emptiest dance club in the city.
I mention this not as a negative criticism of Club Essential, which one must remember is still in its first weeks of infancy, but as a forbearing that this particular review was conducted when a club's most "essential" ingredient - life - didn't exactly abound. Therefore, I was left with not much more than my imagination to visualize a hypothetically packed Saturday night. However, having a boundless imagination and optimistic outlook I may be biased in saying this, but I do believe the vacant club had much potential.
With the exception of people, the club had every other necessary ingredient for a good time. The dance floor was equipped with what looked like the latest in lighting, strobe and disco ball technology. The smoke machine, indifferent to the fact that there were no dancers, persistently sprayed a cloud of steam onto the dance floor every 10 minutes. A rotating giant disco ball glimmered amidst this visual chaos of lighting, strobes and smoke.
The dance floor was neither too big, nor too small. In the corner, a DJ with a thick caterpillar mustache and beanie was lost in his own world of mixing. Metal poles and dance bars lined the room, subtly lending themselves to the nights' exotic possibilities. A twirling staircase climbed through three staggered levels of posh cocktail lounges overlooking the dance floor. The overall atmosphere was an Austin Powers situation of 70s retro meets modern millennium. But it fit nicely with the club's house music.
On the third floor stretched the club's largest bar. As if there wasn't already enough visual stimulus, 24 TV screens lined the bar simultaneously showing what seems to be the latest fad in Riga's clubs and bars - Fashion TV. The horrendously ridiculous outfits strutting down the catwalk almost came close to being as horrendous as the bartenders' outfits themselves. The men wore black and orange striped polyester football referee jerseys, while the women's outfits could only exist in Giorgio Armani's nightmare. Over the same orange and black striped jerseys, they wore an ill-fitting button-down orange apron held up by cartoonlike suspenders. Fortunately the bartenders redeemed themselves with genuine smiles and upbeat dispositions.
For an alternative music environment, one needs only to pass through a soundproof glass hallway to more relaxing cocktail lounge with pillow-covered love seats surrounding a miniature dance floor. The friendly DJ informed me that this room played R&B music for a more laid-back atmosphere. A Nelly song played as I ordered my whiskey sour from a menu that revealed average club drink prices - between 3 lats (4.50 euros) - 5 lats for cocktails and 1.5 lats for a beer.
My misfortune at showing up a few nights after New Year's Eve was definitely not worth Club Essential's 5-lat cover. However, the club's energizing music, modern dance facilities, retro lounging rooms and triple bar set the stage for what could possibly be a major production in 2004. If Club Essential had been packed with people and energy, it would have been well worth the fee.
2 Skola St.., Riga
Open: Fri - Sat 10 p.m. - 6 a.m.