Seven heaven


POSTED: Friday, February 06, 2009

Ask the Super Bowl XLIII champion Pittsburgh Steelers, the Hawaii State Legislature's Democratic majority or that tipsy guy at your neighborhood bar who thinks its okay to get punchy when he's sitting at a table with friends, and they'll agree: There's strength in numbers.





        Location: 1349 Kapiolani Blvd.
Hours: 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. daily
Call: 955-2640


That phrase immediately comes to mind when you walk into Bar Seven, the latest incarnation of first-floor nightclub/bar space on the outskirts of Ala Moana Center that previously housed Venus Nightclub and Venus Lounge.

Government records show no change in ownership, but a revised business plan has elevated a hui of local promoters to management roles at the establishment.

Members of Moguls Entertainment, the Architechs, Evol Entity, Tantriq Entertainment and the Vertical Junkies have joined a former Xyloh bartender and DJ Paul Brandon to individually rent serving space, resulting in what one of the promoters described as a “;mall food court, except we serve alcohol.”;

That's really the best way to categorize Bar Seven, since not much has changed except for signage outside.

One of the more visible changes is a lack of burly bouncers at the main entrance. That's not to say security is lacking; converting a nightclub into a neighborhood bar allowed management to reassign staff inside, since there isn't a need for customers to wear wristbands (underage patrons are not allowed entry) or deal with a cashier (there's no cover charge Sunday through Friday).

The biggest decision you'll need to make upon entering is figuring out which bar to drink at. If you're a regular on the import scene, chances are you'll recognize plenty of faces here.

Otherwise, take a seat at the first bar on your right to hang out with the Tantriq crew, or head for the former Venus VIP lounge to have a few with mutual friends of Moguls and Evol Entity. Xyloh regulars should recognize people at the bar next to a walkway leading to the V Lounge (more about that room later), while Paul Brandon has the space closest to the bathrooms.

Each bar is designed essentially the same, with newly constructed wood backbars and flat screen televisions embedded inside. Five brown and white couches are separated by a dancefloor/performance space in the center of the room, with a handful of tables on the Diamond Head side for those who prefer a little privacy.

Keep in mind, however, that Bar Seven doesn't employ a single cocktail waitress. You'll have to hustle your own drinks and still tip your bartender, which might be a sticking point for some. And while a dancefloor and DJ booth remain, forget about requesting your favorite song.

Except for an acoustic music night on Mondays and special guest DJs at “;WTF Wednesdays,”; an iPod is responsible for the majority of music played here. The only other exception is Saturdays, which is still gay night here—no matter what the sign outside says!

  THE SCENE is a little different inside the V Lounge, which should be called the Vertical Junkies Lounge when you consider it has become home base for the promoters who also host events at The Shack Waikiki.

Like the rest of Bar Seven, the V Lounge has received the wood treatment, except nearly all the surfaces on this side have been completely refinished. It feels much more classy, while still retaining the cozy vibe that's popular among the post-2 a.m. crowd.

The bar also maintains an active roster of parties seven days a week, providing sorely needed options on weeknights as competing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday weeklies have called it quits in recent months. Early favorites include “;Wasted”; every Thursday with DJ Eskae spinning rock tracks and Pabst Blue Ribbon on special all night, and Monday's “;Switch”; industry night, with promoter Flash Hansen and the Vertical Junkies' Russ Inouye taking over behind the bar to serve $3 drinks.

Despite attempts to draw an early crowd, the V Lounge continues to be a late-night stop for people who don't want to go home after last call at other watering holes. In recent weeks, the bar has been completely dead at midnight, yet packed to capacity by the time doors close at 4 a.m.

  IF BAR SEVEN is going to make it, more customers need to embrace their new neighborhood bar mentality instead of reserving it for the last stop of the night. And more importantly, some of the promoters-turned-managers need to take a closer look at the outward appearances of their individual areas.

As long as security at Ala Moana will allow it, parking is plentiful at the mall across the street, making it pretty easy to stop here for some pregame fun before a night on the town. Drink specials and $3 domestic bottles before midnight also keep things affordable for those on a budget.

Another nice touch is the bar menu, which is now available until nearly 3 a.m. Prices are reasonable, with staples like soybeans ($6) and french fries ($7) alongside favorites like spicy chicken wings ($10), bacon-wrapped shrimp ($12) and pork chops ($15).

But when all six bars in a room look exactly the same, something needs to change in order to keep customers interested.

All the TVs might be located in the same spot behind each bar, but do they all need to be tuned to the same station? And why aren't there more positioned throughout the room?

If there's no live entertainment and no DJs, why not give customers a few more TVs to watch? This place would be great to visit for mixed martial arts pay-per-views, except for the lack of screens.

I'd also like to see each bar take its decor to the next level. Why not work with different styles of lighting, or temporary barriers to create a sense of exclusivity? Each bar should feel like it has a distinct attitude and style, but instead they feel like carbon copies of one another.

If those running the show at Bar Seven give each bar the freedom to make cosmetic changes, I can see this place becoming an even bigger favorite among a 20-something crowd who doesn't feel like dressing up and hitting the clubs.

Otherwise, I'll probably stick to only patronizing the V Lounge, where drinks are relatively cheap and the DJs do a great job keeping me entertained after another long night covering Clubland.