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Aug 31, 2014
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Sugar’s long on looks, short on booze
By Matt Berkley • Photo by Josh Monken
Posted On: 08/01/2008   

Visiting trendy urban clubs usually rates about as high on my to-do list as scheduling intense dental surgery or attending an ex-girlfriend’s wedding. Maybe it’s that I can’t stand techno reverberating through my very soul as I wait in an obscene line for the bathroom, or maybe it’s that my wardrobe is completely devoid of a $250 pair of jeans; I really can’t decide.

Regardless, this month I decided to roll the dice and pop my head into Sugar Lounge, Washington Avenue’s newest wake-up call to downtown’s insomniac club-going crowd. The results were mixed, but overall, Sugar (formerly KYO) proved a solid host on a late Saturday night.

Actually, our party pulled up to Sugar shortly before
11 p.m., still early by club-hopping standards. But lame timing did ensure waving the $5 cover (charged from
11 p.m. on – unless you’re a lady and it’s ladies’ night) and a chance to get a good look at the bar before it got slammed. The real crowd didn’t start to file in until after 1. Before then, it was pretty much our group and the bartenders – extremely chatty, extremely nice, extremely cute; I only wish one of them knew how to mix a vodka martini that didn’t taste quite so dull. There’s a good high-end selection of spirits, but no real signature drinks, which was somewhat disappointing given the place’s name – seems like someone is missing out on a great opportunity there. As the night got moving I decided to upgrade to a Bourbontini (aka Jim Beam on the rocks) mixed in between bottles of domestics.

The actual bars, two negligible, short little cubby holes shoved in opposite corners of the club, aren’t the joint’s main focus, but that barely matters. What’s really striking is the layout and décor. Though it’s two stories high, Sugar achieves a level of gratifying intimacy without a hint of feeling cramped. As the night rolls on you realize the size (half of KYO) is perfect. Décor is very Miami: lots of leather; lots of blue, ambient lighting. All things are white: the walls, the doors, the chairs that look like ottomans, the curtains on plush lounges. On the upper level, patrons can gaze down from the balcony rail to Sugar’s dance floor below, flanked on either side by 10 or so whitewashed booths and bottle-service tables tucked into the walls – reservations start around $160. Side note: Surprisingly enough, this is a very smoker-friendly establishment, so smoke ’em if you got ’em.

From a glass booth above all the action, Sugar’s resident DJ spins a mix of what you’d expect from a sleek downtown club: pop remixes, techno crank, house jams. The decibel level isn’t too invasive though, which is always appreciated. The dance floor is pretty decent; dim lighting underscores the dressy-casual crowd oozing its way in from lofts on Wash. Ave. The booths are packed with trios of girlfriends twirling their vodka tonic straws, whispering in each other’s ears, flirty eyes darting across the room. Across from them, in the bottle-service tables, attendants lay out slick glassware, chunks of ice and chilled bottles of Grey Goose for the thirtysomething wannabe real estate mogul types and their entourages. The majority of the crowd, though, is down-to-earth post-college types out for a good time. Dressing up is encouraged – for the guys, a tie wouldn’t be the worst idea.

It would be misleading to say I have a sort of love-hate relationship with Sugar; it’s actually more of a like-hate thing we’ve got going on. It’s a unique venue, dressed up perfectly and presented with class, and unpretentious class at that. Unfortunately, the booze factor leaves a lot to be desired, both in quality and selection.

Check it: Supercool lounges.
Hipster or Hoosier: Club-hoppers, Wash. Ave. loft dwellers, twentysomething kids on the prowl.
Suds or tinis: Watered-down cocktails.
Where: Sugar Lounge, 1405 Washington Ave., St. Louis, 314.621.9946
When: Fri. and Sat. – 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.

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