Changing Places

Suffering from the requisite Cleveland boredom that presents itself on those harrowing cold spring days that precede the never-soon-enough arrival of summer, I decided to cut my losses in May. Heading west to San Diego, I eagerly anticipated a few days of ocean-gazing and nights of touring the city’s vibrant bar and nightclub scene.

Quaffing a few drinks at dusk one evening, my friend and I decided to head to FLUXX, a club that’s been on NCB’s radar since it won Nightclub & FluxxBar’s 2011 New Club of the Year award.

The club’s exterior resembles other bars in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, but the line of people outside suggests appearances can be deceiving. True to its name, FLUXX relies on transformation, which starts as soon as we walked through the doors, morphing from a seemingly regular-looking bar into a high-end nightclub.

The rotating-theme concept — each theme lasts eight weeks — is alluring to out-of-town revelers but, more importantly, keeps the interest of its regulars piqued, driving traffic and sales.

“When we first opened, we envisioned running a theme for four weeks, then taking a couple weeks off then doing another,” explains Dave Renzella, a partner with RMD Group, which owns and operates FLUXX. He notes that the comprehensive theming and patron response prompted management to extend the duration of each theme. “What we found is that when we had a theme roll out, we would transform the club in a really interesting way. The most recent theme ran for a full eight weeks and got really positive feedback from our [out-of-town] customers and our regulars.”

When I visited, FLUXX was nearing the end of its ’70s-inspired FLUXX*ADELIC theme, which had the club decorated in psychedelic décor. Passing through a tunnel leading from the street into the club, we were surrounded by mannequins decked out in Afros, bandannas and sunglasses. Once inside, giant butterflies were hanging throughout, and mirrored domes with LEDs were bouncing lights off of the main bar, illuminating the whole 7,000-square-foot space.

It didn’t end there. The main attraction is what Renzella calls a “cool, organic-looking 15-foot rope chandelier” hanging above the dance floor. A Fluxxadelic5-foot-long curtain is draped on a steel ring that surrounds the chandelier’s perimeter; the chandelier then is placed in the middle of the dance floor. Using four projectors, this fixture creates “a funky lighting effect throughout the night” of random shapes and lights, Renzella explains.
Inside, the club is an exotic Eden. The circular space has three sections, including a spherical dance floor flanked by stages where go-go dancers not only perform but also embark on high-flying acrobatics on trapeze-like equipment. Fourteen VIP tables border the dance floor; a few steps above is another section of eight more VIP tables that give guests a bird’s eye view of the club from all angles. Three bars are located throughout the club.

“You’re never far from a bar if you need a drink,” Renzella quips.

No matter where you are or what you’re doing — buying a drink, dancing or chatting — every section of the club is visible, giving off a voyeuristic vibe. This is all part of the plan.

“What we wanted to create with FLUXX is this big open space, so the entire club is VIP,” Renzella explains. “You can go anywhere. There’s no restricted area.”

On this particular night, the FLUXX staff paused to commemorate resident DJ Sid Vicious’ birthday. Staff members and go-go dancers were wearing “I [Heart] Sid Vicious” T-shirts, and before he took his place behind the turntables, he was presented with Champagne and a birthday shout out.

When a special celebration is not on the calendar, the highlight of the night, as Renzella explains, is “a two-minute routine by the go-go dancers. They open the night around 11:30 p.m.” That evening, a dancer, wearing wings and a giant Afro, was carried across the dance floor, seemingly floating in front of the crowd, until she landed on a large mushroom, and performed a routine with three other dancers.

This was the only time during the night that the vibe slowed, momentarily halting to take in the ’70s-themed spectacle before shifting once again into high gear.

On July 8, Renzella and his team debuted FLUXX Aquatic, an underwater theme featuring a large aquarium filled with 800 gallons of water. “Mermaids” swim around the tank while another performs on an overhead trapeze.

The ongoing evolution ensures FLUXX takes patrons on a pulsating, chaotic journey without losing any of its momentum, ultimately transcending San Diego’s laid-back atmosphere. In fact, FLUXX, for all its focus on change, is consistent in one thing: creating a multifaceted, ever-evolving environment perfect for a raucous night out in America’s Finest City. NCB

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