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Warning: Contents Are Hot

Sugars coffee shop proves that Freud may just have been right about some things

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NEED A LITTLE jiggle with your java? A little dress show with your espresso? A little overamped house music with your hot cup? Try strutting your butt down to Sugars coffee bar, where curvaceous femmes fatales of the East sling coffee, soda and bra straps.

Biter infiltrated the place last weekend after receiving a press release coated with sugary references to the splendor of sexy coffee waitresses. The hook worked--we couldn't help but wonder what the hell this was all about. The intersection of 22nd and Santa Clara streets wasn't our ideal resort locale for a Saturday night, but as soon as our entourage set foot in the establishment, we were able to kick back and relax. In fact, the press release was faxed to us from "Womenkickinit" and claimed that Sugars is "the future of coffee entertainment."

Black and maroon are the two dominating colors inside the joint. Chinese and Vietnamese artifacts adorn the walls. House music blasts from the stereo so loud you can't even hear yourself think. Sugars just opened, so we can't hurl any generalizations yet, but we'll go on record and say that the place does indeed provide a sensory experience: thumping music cranked up to 11, customers clad in black, huge televisions flaunting stylish hip-hop videos, characters in dark suits overseeing the action and a scrumptious coffee waitress with the word "Vietnam" tattooed on her back. Being half-Asian ourselves, Biter won't even get into stereotypes about subservient Asian females. No, we will not go there.

"We wanted to create a cafe that's kind of like a nightclub," said Tony Nunez, one of the heavyweights behind Sugars. "We're planning live entertainment, singers, bands, belly dancers and things like that. We're an entertainment coffee shop."

We ground our mental gears and contemplated all this over a $3.50 glass of iced black coffee. The marketing strategy behind Pacific Asian American temptresses slinging java at 10pm at 22nd and Santa Clara streets puzzled us, to say the least. What customer base is Sugars trying to attract? What gives?

Nunez told us that it all began with Vietnamese coffee shops, which usually cater only to the Vietnamese. "But we wanted to make it for everybody," he said. "We wanted to create a place where anyone can come in and feel comfortable. And having the pretty ladies there helps, too."

So since Sugars could possible be seen as the Hooters of coffee shops, Biter asked if they served java with breast milk. Nunez told us no. Nevertheless, we tried to order a lactation latte. No go. We chickened out when it came to our plan to ask how many mammograms of caffeine were in the espresso.

Sugars' next venture into coffee entertainment begins with weekly lingerie shows on Saturdays. So while your hands are already jittery from the coffee, you can gawk at stylish babes in their underwear for a few hours. "Not skimpy lingerie," Nunez cautions. "Just very sexy. Very classy. We don't want to become like a strip joint. We want it to be very sexy. Very appealing."

When it comes down to it, all that really matters is whether or not the coffee is good, and at Sugars it is. Hey, they even give you a free glass of tea on your arrival.

So for the first time since the 1970s, Biter will use the word "sweetness" to describe something. Go get wired at Sugars and stare at the women. It's good for you. It's what they want.


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From the February 27-March 5, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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