November 22 2004, 7:36 AM
Saturday night was one of those epic nights. It's amazing what you can squeeze into an evening, even when you don't start until 8:30 p.m. After a stress-inducing day spent Christmas shopping around town, (I'll only see my family at Thanksgiving this year, so I'm loading up the presents this week.) I was more than ready for cocktailing at Rioja's opening preview event. Stress levels reduced but still thirsty, we wandered over to Cap Grille for more cocktails. Our group split up afterwards as I headed off to check out the new Velvet Underground club -- formerly the Blue Mule, downstairs at 16th & Market. Funkiphino rocked the house with their 10-person horn heavy ensemble squeezed onto the smallish stage. I've been known to dig some Gloria Gaynor sometimes, and their rendition of "I Will Survive" brought all the ladies (and half the horn section) out onto the dance floor. The club itself hasn't changed in any major way; owner Jeff Arnold added some slick new booths, ordered some snazzier furniture (low tables toward the stage, tall cocktail tables in the rear) and two new VIP rooms are decked out in dark blue velvet curtains -- hence the club's name. Overall, it's going to be a great place to go if you like disco, funk, soul, and classic rock cover bands. ...one step removed from karaoke, maybe. Seems like it's tailor-made for a slightly more, ahem, mature crowd than many downtown clubs. But then again, disco never really did die, did it? There are plenty of youngsters shakin' their groove thang at Polly Esthers on any given weekend, so we'll see how this one develops. The next stop: the Union Room, the latest incarnation of Citrus/Rox/Flatpenny's in Union Station. Highly disappointing, because the "sneak preview" of the new club was nonexistent. The sign still says Rox, the room still looks like Rox, the cocktails are still infused vodka - yep, you guessed it - just like Rox. We'll hit that again in a few weeks and see if anything changes. Finally came the post-midnight party crash. Homeward bound from Lodo, I decided to pop into the hi-dive's birthday bash, and was met with a packed crowd full of friends. Dressy Bessy was amazing, keeping the crowd entranced and bopping to their signature quirky pop. Owners Matt and Allison LaBarge were happily sloshy, and sent out several rounds of Red Snapper shots (don't quote me on this, but I think it's Crown, cranberry, and Amaretto. Yum.) I happily obliged, but at this point, the combo factor started to kill me. We're talking red wine at Rioja, Stoli Doli's at Cap Grille, cocktails at Velvet Underground (we opted not to stick around Rox) and then the aforementioned shots at hi-dive. Hey, at least I wasn't driving. Not surprisingly, Sunday morning started off slow. Good thing I'm more of a night owl, huh?