Night Life

Are You Hot Enough for Citizen Lounge?

Ever had a doorman tell you and your friends, "Sorry, guys, the club is full? " Well, we hate to be the ones to tell you this, but that's just a nice way of saying, "You're not quite hot enough to get in here." Yep. It sucks.

It's occupational code-speak, ­doorman-ese if you will, and a good one can recite it at the drop of a dime, with only the slightest hint of condescension in his voice. A great doorman, however, like Citizen Lounge's (4606 Washington) Louis Cavazos, can say it with the unassuming confidence of a seasoned grifter, blatantly mocking a guy right in his less-than-Clooney-esque face and making him think — for just a second — "Hmmm...You know what, maybe the club is full."

Cavazos effortlessly spouts all the typical doorman rhetoric, but with his defined jaw line and totally dreamy gray-green eyes, he's slick enough to do so in a manner that makes you briefly forget you just wasted $8 on valet parking.

"You're not in compliance with the dress code," "Are you here with a party?" and "Try coming back after midnight" are among his most trusted phrases, and in the few short weeks the lounge has been open, he's used them all, doing his part to ensure that Citizen Lounge establishes itself as one of the more selective Heights haunts.

"We've turned away more people than we've let in," confirms bar manager Lamar Wilkinson between serving 16-year-old Macallan Scotches ($12) and Raz-Me shots ($10). "We're trying to attract an upscale crowd, people that don't flinch when you tell them drink prices."

Moneyed clientele aside, what of the early whispers that Citizen Lounge only allows the pretty people inside?

"[We] don't do it as blatantly as other places," says owner Bobby Rodriguez, "but sometimes you gotta play the part and turn people away. But you know what happens? Those same people come back again, and next time they're dressed better."

So then you let them in?


Built from the ground up, Citizen is the newest venture offered up by Bobby and his brother, general manager Aaron Rodriguez. Most recently of Hue (202 Tuam) fame, the duo has more than 15 years of experience in the nightclub business, spanning five different lounges, and are now applying their successful Midtown mantra of "Spend big early, sell bigger later" to the Heights's fertile nightlife soil.

"The clubs in Midtown don't like each other, really," says Bobby. "There's 12 clubs in just six blocks or something. It's very competitive and becoming redundant. This area is going to be the new Midtown, nightlifewise."

Rodriguez definitely knows whereof he speaks, as Citizen Lounge is replete with all kinds of custom-made doohickeys. The stone walls, leather lounge furniture, large plank patio, wooden trim work and huge 1960s-mod-style chandeliers were all made specifically for the dimly lit ­dwelling.

It seems the only things that weren't custom-made were the bar's Web site and sign, but only because neither exists. So far Citizen has been relying on word-of-mouth to attract its coveted Young Professional demographic, and it's worked. Since its soft opening January 20 and official launch February 8, DJs Jason Hilbert and Seduction have spun their house-y, hip-hop-free, feel-good sounds for packed houses.

"It's a good pre-club drinking place to meet up with a group of people," believes former Houston Texans defensive end Bryce Wyatt. Still in impressive football shape, Wyatt now works in the heavy industrial equipment industry ­— lifting it, we presume.

Considering a majority of the floor space is taken up by reservable tables (minimum purchase of one $200-$300 bottle required), two elevated VIP booths (minimum two bottles) and a lengthy bar, Citizen is intent on being the kid at the prom too cool to do anything but act like he's not acting cool. So should you show up expecting not to worry about being awesome or, heavens to Betsy, dance, you can expect about the same reception Kevin Bacon got from the townsfolk in Footloose.

"Too many places call themselves a lounge, and then you go there and everyone is dancing around," says Bobby. "This is an actual lounge. People can come in, socialize, network and hang out with some professional people in a warm, inviting atmosphere."

That is, if they can get in.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Shea Serrano