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Bars & Clubs

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Dance Clubs

Agenda Lounge
399 S. First St., San Jose (408/287-4087)
Along with numerous architectural amenities, this swank supper club leans to the sophisticated side of music: jazz, acoustic acts, swing, acid jazz, reggae and the occasional showboating movie star. Downstairs is the Cellar, a literally underground dance club where Fil Maresca sets the turntables on '80s hits on Fridays and DJ Jesse goes funky disco on Saturdays. The main floor houses a linen-tablecloth restaurant. The cover charge for the bands upstairs rarely exceeds $3. Open nightly, 5pm­2am.

The B-Hive Kafe
372 S. First St., San Jose (408/298-2529)
After being taken over by the Agenda's Jacek Rosicki and Ann Chin, the Club Formerly Known As Ajax Lounge experienced growing pains that resulted in a major format switch to cover bands. The formula has worked, with plenty of college kids downing beers and chomping on happy-hour pizza. Structurally, the B-Hive has been beautifully restored with fresh paint, improved lighting and sound, and plenty of ventilation. Stompbox, a Sunday original-rock night, offers new promise for music fans, as does a reggae night that debuts June 17 with Dub Nation.

Club Ibex
55 S. Market St., San Jose (408/971-4239)
An world-music nightclub, Club Ibex welcomes all cultures and ages. This upbeat hot spot impresses with its modernized array of neon lights, its checkerboard dance floor and its full bar with a variety of imported beers and a wide selection of liquor. Weekends bring jazz and world-beat acts. The atmosphere is welcoming without the pressure of a pickup bar. Unlike most downtown San Jose clubs, the Ibex offers free parking on weekends. Doors open at 7:30pm.

Club Vertigo
175 N. San Pedro St., San Jose (408/298-9283)
Two stages, Wild-107 DJ Jose Melendez and sweaty, seminaked bodies are the main attraction here. The action starts Thursdays at 9:30pm when the bikini-clad U.S. Playmates take the stage for their almost-naked dance revue. They're followed by U.S. Manpower, Fabio look-alikes with postage stamps covering the family jewels. During the Playmates, the women file to the back patio for Zima and light beer. When U.S. Manpower comes on, it's their time to ooh and aah, and the guys take a turn nursing drinks. After the dance revues get the house in a lather, the sexes reunite on the dance floor to bump and grind, slip and slide under disco lights. On Fridays, the Styles Nightclub presents R&B and dance music, 8pm­2am; dress fashionably.

The Edge
260 California Ave., Palo Alto (415/324-EDGE)
If it weren't for the Edge, many touring national bands would probably skip the South Bay completely (or overwhelm San Jose clubs, we're not sure). The Edge fills up regularly for dance nights (18 and up) and live shows (all ages). The Edge lends an especially sympathetic ear to heavy-metal retreads (Loudness, Dio, Thin Lizzy). The notoriously loud mix and flashing lights set this club firmly in an '80s context, even though futuristic acts like Nine Inch Nails have played here. Cover and showtimes vary.

Fanny and Alexander
412 Emerson St., Palo Alto, (415/326-7183
"People get fired up!" says one fellow outside the intractably trendy Fanny and Alexander, which lures an energetic, youthful and very large crowd to its airy outdoor patio and indoor dance floor. That crowd is somewhat homogeneous--mostly of students and younger techies--but varies too: from the Teva-wearing Bermuda-shorts set to dazed-looking Silicon Valley engineers and pretty women in minidresses and oh-so-'90s Friends haircuts. Part wild frat party, part upscale, alfresco cocktail reception, Fanny's is cigar-friendly (on the patio) and excellent for people-watching and -meeting.

French Quarter
193 S. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale. (408/773-8700)
New Orleanaise cuisine--blackened redfish and red beans and rice--is served for quiet lunches and dinners. This small club on the end of Sunnyvale's downtown strip, built as a classic '70s-era disco, opens for live blues and jazz on Wednesday nights; a TGIF crowd comes by after work to watch the major sporting events on one of the five TVs around the club. DJ Ebonite spins "adult contemporary" tunes for late-night dancing Thursday through Saturday. Some Sunday nights feature KBLX oldies dancing. The dress code is enforced Saturday after 8pm and Sunday after 7pm.

Greg's Ballroom
551 W. Julian St., San Jose (408/286-4388)
Once known primarily for its leather-clad denizens, Greg's Ballroom now plays host to a wide variety of gay men and women. Everyone from drag divas to college boys cuts a rug to megadance mixes. The club boasts bare-chested bartenders who serve powerful cocktails, along with a full bar featuring many premium alcohols, hand-poured shots, wines by the glass, small-batch bourbons and single-malt scotches. Sunday afternoons feature a barbecue on the patio, and a drag show with "Greg's Girls" at 9pm. Live DJ, dance floor, jukebox, video games, free parking, handicapped access--the works. Open daily noon­2am, with happy hour noon­7pm.

Hamburger Mary's
170 W. St. John St., San Jose (408/947-1667)
At night, Hamburger Mary's transforms itself from a friendly eatery into a full-on power station for all persuasions. Frequented by much of the gay/lesbian local social, Mary's roils with a mix of popular dance theme nights--mostly house, techno, tribal, funk, old-school classics and, on Tuesdays, C&W. Well-groomed men and women stomp on two dance floors, one inside and the other under the stars on the patio. The bar is open 9am­2am daily.

Mountain Charley's
15 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos (408/395-8880)
Tuesdays through Saturdays, rowdy and unpretentious cover bands Milk, Funibone and Goofy Foot motivate the Los Gatos 'tweeners (too young for Carry Nation's and too old for the Los Gatos Teen Center). Laid out in classic '60s saloon style, Mountain Charley's shares steps with the Los Gatos Bar & Grill, although the two bars might as well be worlds apart in philosophy. At Mountain Charley's, the motto is like that Men Without Hats song: If your friends don't dance, then they're no friends of mine.

The Palace
146 S. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale (408/739-5179)
This ornate nightclub for well-dressed dance devotees has received acclaim for its attention to architectural detail and its first-rate chef, Joey Altman. The sophisticated surroundings conjure up memories of glamorous Hollywood sets of the '30s. Like the supper clubs of yore, the Palace features live entertainment--Indigo Swing, Superbooty and Bud E. Luv, among others. Jazz trios entertain the after-work noshers during the week, and a DJ spins a disco-techno-funk mix on Fridays and Saturdays starting at 10pm.

PJ Mulligan's
19979 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino (408/255-0588)
The waitresses love to show off their purple hooters. No wonder the place is packed on weeknights. 'Course, it could be the live rock & roll DJ Thursdays through Saturdays, the dance floor, the Tuesday-night karaoke, the 4­7pm happy hour or the large-screen TV. There are booths and tall tables for conversation over hamburgers (specialty of the chef), but once the music starts, shouting is the best way to communicate. By the way, purple hooters are made of vodka, raspberry liqueur and sweet and sour.

Q Cafe Billiards
529 Alma St., Palo Alto, (415/322-3311)
Spacious, well-designed, elegant and energetic--with its own Web page, even--Q Cafe Billiards is totally '90s. As such, it accommodates a healthy range of customers: from dance-crazed youth to well-turned yuppies. This is a clean and classy club, sans grunge, smoke and long bathroom lines. A split-level dance floor and funk, house and techno music encourage groove-thangs to shake, while a separate billiards area with regulation-size tables allows for subtle flirtation and relaxed conversation. Most men wear jeans with nice shirts, while some men--and most of the women--come tricked out in their finest threads.

San Jose Live!
150 S. First St., San Jose (408/294-5483)
Get here early--the line of sporty guys and gals starts to grow alarmingly around 9:30pm. San Jose Live! houses plenty of jock-related entertainment: video games, pool tables, darts, basketball hoop, foosball, round-the-clock sports programming on numerous TVs. It's a veritable Chuck E. Cheese for adults. The venue has undergone a little restructuring in the past year. A new '70s dance club, Flashbaxx, services all the folks who don't want to dance in the boxing ring. L'il Ditties, the bawdy piano bar, manages to "Lucille" many prospective brides into submission.

Sh Boom
975 De Anza Blvd., San Jose (408/725-1600)
Sh Boom is in the enviable position of being the only nightclub in the area playing oldies to a devoted following. Despite dire predictions, it is still swinging strong with mixes that span the decades. Although the club's staple clientele is middle-aged and above, there are plenty of younger people swinging pretty hard on the dance floor. The decor conveys a certain swing-era elegance. Cover varies. Open Wednesday­Saturday, 6pm­2am.

St. James Infirmary
Super Survivor: The Wonder Woman statue has stood tall for decades at St. James Infirmary.

St. James Infirmary
390 Moffett Blvd., Mountain View (415/969-0806)
Beer and barbecue, nectar and manna. More than 100 flavors of one and not enough words in Roget's to praise the other. Quirky place, this, with big-screen TV, pool tables and extraordinary junk hanging from the ceiling. A 25-foot Wonder Woman and a giant fish head gaze down on masticating Silicon Valleyites at their checkered troughs during lunch-time. Fridays and Saturdays at 9pm, the tables move aside so that the more energetic can dance to '70s, '80s and '90s music until 2am. Happy hour Monday­Friday, 5­9pm.

Stardust Lounge
1183 W. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale (408/732-5570)
Smart and stylish, the Stardust offers its well-dressed adult clientele sophisticated dance music on weekend nights and, for a smallish club, a good-sized dance floor. On dance nights, there's usually a slight cover. As a lounge, the place offers kind and knowledgeable bartenders, good drinks at a fair price and an enthusiastic cocktail waitress. A moderate dress code is always in force, and this reviewer applauds the hose ban on cell phones.

Starlite Ballroom
1160 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Sunnyvale (408/745-7827)
Gotta dance? It's more fun than going to the gym, and easier to forget it's good exercise, too. Everyone, and they do mean everyone, is welcome to imitate Rogers and Astaire. Beginners can practice at the drop-in practice sessions held before dance parties. Those who need even more time before braving public scrutiny can sign up for four-week classes at any level. Dancers should come on a full stomach; the activity can be strenuous, and the Starlite serves only snacks and nonalcoholic drinks. Dance parties Thursdays­Sunday; classes Monday­Thursday. $7 cover charge; no smoking.

A Tinker's Damn
46 N. Saratoga Ave., Santa Clara (408/243-4595)
This cruisey little bar off Stevens Creek provides a warm and friendly atmosphere in which boys can drink, dance and mingle with other boys. On Fridays, the place fills up with a hopping crowd of young professionals and aging Gen-Xers--definitely worth the $2 cover. The full bar features premium tequila, wine and nonalcoholic drinks. Doors open at 3pm on weekdays (1pm on weekends) and close at 2am. Amenities include jukebox, live DJ, dance floor, big-screen TV, pool tables, free parking, video games and darts, but don't bother with credit cards--it's cash only here.

Toon's
52 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose (408/292-7464)
The area's most prolific cover bands attract a steady stream of guys in Quiksilver shirts and baggy shorts and women in copycat Express dresses and Nine West flats. The Gents, Floyd's Ordeal, Uncle Melvin, the Joint Chiefs and In D'Nile perform weekly. It's been tough to park in that area, but a new lot just opened next door. Bands begin playing promptly at 9pm; come earlier and save the $4 cover charge. Dollar drafts and well drinks until 10pm.

The Usual
400 S. First St., San Jose (408/535-0330)
The former site of F/X has been embellished with tall wood pillars, mirror enhancements, a level dance floor and an improved sound and light system. The cavernous home of the valley's most popular Wednesday dance party, the Groove, the venue has been somewhat staid in the booking department lately but has still managed a few stunners: Dick Dale, Spearhead, Luscious Jackson. The rest of the week is dedicated to swing, house, modern rock and hip-hop. The front bar is the closest thing to day care for punk rockers. Where is that flaky drummer who blew off practice? Check here. Cover varies.

Waves Saloon
65 Post St., San Jose (408/885-9283)
Waves' rebirth in downtown San Jose has quickly racked up many plusses. Finally resurrected after toiling in obscurity in Los Gatos, the reggae club has added sumptuous barbecue to the positive vibrations. The food here is delicious, and three daily sauces linger on the tongue for hours after. Waves has ditched the "surfer dude" embellishments and outfitted itself in California cowboy­style decor. A rooftop patio is open for star watchers and cigar smokers, and the bar area houses a tiny stage where reggae bands play Thursdays through Saturdays. Doors open at 11am.

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From the June 12-18, 1997 issue of Metro.

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