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Posted October 18, 2006 by Last Call in Clubs

Whether talking about a house, a person, or a night club, the best part – nay, the entire point – of a makeover is the change in appearance. Yeah, yeah, yeah, if some schlub worked over by the Fab Five is suddenly inspired by his new outer shell to begin looking people in the eye, that’s great. But c’mon. Most of us just wanna see the before-and-after photos. Why? We’d all like to think that someday, y’know, we too will improve.

Two old haunts became brand-spankin’ new clubs last week, and they’re both marked improvements: giant (the lowercase “g” is a cutesy pun), in the old Grape Escape, downtown, and the Ozzie Rabbit Lodge, in the old Power Plant, in East Fort Worth. One makeover is subtle, the other extreme, but they both produce the desired effect: improvement.

From an interior design standpoint, not much has changed at the old Grape Escape: same kinds of tables and chairs, same sort of kitschy outdoor signage, same innocuous paint. But the place has been transformed in one significant area: vibe. Whereas the Grape Escape was a last resort on a night out, giant has the potential to be a destination. The service is excellent, the servers attractive, and the prices right. Better still is watching giant consultant Blade Haddock (ex-owner of the dearly departed Blade’s Prime Chop House) off his keister and in the kitchen. I think that on a recent visit, I saw him actually wearing a pair of chef’s pants. (giant’s menu goes into effect in about a week. Haddock will handle a majority of the cooking.)

At the site of Eric and Tom Osbakken’s new venture, there’s nary a trace of the previous hangout (save for maybe the faux red brick in the men’s room). The brothers, co-owners of Caves Lounge, right down the street, took the name of their club from the nickname of JFK’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, who during his days as a serviceman was known by fellow soldiers as the Ozzie Rabbit (for whatever reason). Why the Osbakkens decided on nodding to the deranged commie, we’re not sure, but we’re happy with the speakeasy ambiance that’s resulted. Newspaper clippings of the Oz are pinned all around, and in a decidedly semi-creepy touch, a painting of the famous photo of Jack Ruby shooting Oswald occupies one whole wall.

The Ozzie Rabbit may derive all of its power and hipster cachet from a cheap historical reference, but I doubt there’s any other joint on the seven continents like it.

The High-Life Man

Restaurateur/nightlife impresario Jarret Joslin isn’t going to be winning any Nice Guy of the Year awards anytime soon, which is why scenesters have been taking particular relish in his inability to import L.A.-style exclusivity to our little Town of Cow. You may remember Axis, the Southside rock venue that Joslin co-owned with Brian Forella (Wreck Room, Embargo, Torch). The cavernous spot was supposed to be a slice of prime Deep Ellum real estate or prime Sunset Strip in our own backyard. But bad location, bad booking, and unfulfilled promises from the city said otherwise.

Joslin could have conceded that we yokels like to dress casually and drink up rather than dress up and drink casually, but not long after Axis sold, Joslin brought his high-life-or-die! vision to the space formerly occupied by Club Vivid.

Now, I’ve spent enough time on New York City’s Upper East Side to know upscale nightclubbing when I see it, but what Joslin’s Bar Nine is offering may make me reconsider all I think I know.

In addition to a really nicely appointed bar area, Joslin is offering VIP memberships for $1,000 a year. The second most impressive benefit is the air shuttle. Say a member is hanging out at Nine and gets the itch to take his entourage to Las Vegas. Well, all he has to do is say the word, and a limo will come pick up him and his guests, and take them to the airport, where a private plane will be waiting.

That’s the second most impressive benefit. The first is more, um, down to earth. On the second floor of Nine is a huge loft-type space, with really expensive tv’s on the walls and plush seating all around. Only members have access to the area and only for private parties, like the one I crashed last week.

About 50 people showed up for an event that resembled pretty much every house party I’d ever been to as an adult, but nicer and more subdued, and all of the guests were much better attired than the vagabonds with whom I normally run.

No matter what anybody else thinks of him, I applaud Joslin for doing what he thinks is cool and simply being different, Fort Worth’s plainfolk-and-folky mentality be damned.

I agree with Joslin: It’s time to wake up and smell the Cristal, people – even if only once a month.

Contact Last Call at lastcall@fwweekly.com.


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