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Ultra Hate


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IN THE CONSTANTLY evolving landscape of downtown San Jose, yet more changes are in the works. The spot that used to be Katie Bloom's has finally found a new tenant, Tandoori 3 Restaurant, which, gauging by the blueprints, looks to be pretty slick.

On another front, just in time for summer, the proprietors of Mission Ale House are set to open a new retro-tiki bar called Smoke in the old Kleidon's building at Post and San Pedro. On one hand, they're destroying the dive bar history of the place—before Kleidon's, it was Cat's Alley, the Dugout, a dive hotel, a liquor store and a few card rooms dating back to the 1930s. The joint promises to be a unique place with hand-carved tiki statues, a full-blown patio outside and drinks served in pineapples, just like the Tonga Room in San Francisco, but hopefully not as cheesy. And, best of all, they claim it will not be another ridiculous "ultra lounge."

Speaking of "ultra lounges," one of these nauseating establishments just happens to pick and choose who they admit to the club under the guise of saying you must wear a "collared shirt" to get in. Yes, that's what the chaps at the front door said after refusing me admittance. Did it matter that half of the folks inside the place weren't wearing collared shirts? Or course not. I understand that an upscale place would enforce a dress code to filter out the riff raff, but a "collared shirt?" I mean, doesn't every shirt have a collar? That's where your freakin' neck goes through, doesn't it?

To be honest, these places are a scab on downtown San Jose and they only add to the class war that's already going on among the clubs. You have the dive bars, the counterculture folks, the live music venues—the unique places—butting heads against the current infestation of shiny homogeneous lounges. So I have something to suggest to potential owners of any new said "ultra lounge" that won't let me in. In my 17 years of experience living and/or hanging out downtown, I can say this: If there exists a mass clientele who desire an "ultra lounge," they'll go to the Vault. It's a classy place that's already there. They beat you guys to the whole idea, you freakin' nincompoops. Give it up! Get lost!

And then you have the SoFA district. What was once home to the rockingest scene in all of the South Bay—before high rents and property owners with different agendas destroyed it all—will now feature a new club where F/X, the Usual and Spy used to be. What's the venue going to be next? You guessed it: An ultra lounge. Ugh.

In the circles of club owners who build these plastic dungeons, you always hear horrendous marketing strategies like, "We're going to bring a little bit of L.A. and South Beach to San Jose." Well, guess what, pal? A significant portion of downtown folks hate L.A. and South Beach. If transparent pseudo-hipster meatheads want to pay seven bucks for a Heineken, they should move to the Sunset Strip or Miami and do it. Such a ludicrous attitude is antithetical to everything downtown San Jose should aspire to be.

As always, I don't speak for everyone, but I remember the time when the alternative music scene single-handedly led to the next phase of downtown revitalization and nobody anywhere cared about multistory dance clubs, thumping disco atrocities, fake boobs and ultra lounges.

Maybe I'm just old and jaded and I can't accept the changing times. That's a fair criticism. Touché. But when this particular ultra lounge wouldn't let me in over a "collared shirt" fantasy, it just spoke volumes. Hey—I was hanging out downtown before most of these cologne-soaked clods could spell the words "ultra lounge."

In fact, these pseudo-upscale dumps should really be called Über Lounges, as many local bartenders have put it. Zieg Heil!

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From the June 1-7, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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