A no-holds-barred dance battle has broken out between two guys on the small dance floor at Zeppelin Video Lounge (3101 San Jacinto). It may be the greatest/worst dance battle the world has ever seen.
Afterward, the winner speaks. "That was the most intense thing I've ever done," says Reed Daugherty, daytime construction superintendent of three years and now unofficial Dance Battle Champion of 2007, "and I was in a goddamn war." Daugherty later admitted he was never actually in a war, but "came really close to being deployed."
Zeppelin has been open since November, but officially celebrated its arrival December 20. The club is housed in the same building as the now-infamous Eden, which closed following HPD's undercover October sting that tallied 49 arrests. Apparently the police frown on slangin' dope and serving alcohol without a valid license. Who knew?
Revamped with a near $500,000 budget, Zeppelin now sports eight plasma TVs, three bars, a spacious second-story veranda, imported European furniture, reservable booth space and a highly professional, non-drug-trafficking staff. Given its toys, the club has already serviced several recognizable names, including Kid Rock and Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. Rumors could not be confirmed that, on his way to the restroom, the injury-prone QB brushed up against a fellow patron and dislocated his shoulder.
"We're not trying to reinvent the wheel here. We're just trying to do a better party," says Zeppelin general manager and former Crome (2815 S. Shepherd) head honcho Carlos Palomo. "I don't want to make this a 'Hey, come look at celebrities at Zeppelin' place. [If] celebrities come, that's cool, but I don't want snooty people here. If you treat anyone like a piece of shit, then you're gone. But even the bouncers are going to be respectful about it."
Nice bouncers? Patrick Swayze and the Double Deuce would be proud, sir.
Thursdays through Sundays at Zeppelin, you'll see either DJ Red, Bizz or Penetrate, accompanied by video DJ Raw, spinning a house-heavy Top 40 mix for a crowd consisting mostly of guys clad in sport coats and print tees with clever slogans on them, and, of course, women in typically tiny club attire.
Thus far, Zeppelin has successfully appealed to its target demographic of fashionable 25-to-40-year-olds. "Basically, I think it's one of Houston's hottest nightclubs," says self-proclaimed nightlife connoisseur Lory Ortiz, who faithfully documents her after-dark exploits at www.houstonsocialbutterfly.wordpress.com.
"The hostess is always accommodating, the waitresses are very attentive and the bartenders make the drinks up to par," offers Ortiz. "It's my fourth time at Zeppelin, and definitely not my last."
Not everyone sings Zeppelin's praises, however. In a club that most weekend nights already almost approaches its capacity of 600, somebody is bound to end up pissed off about something. Enter Sugar Land native Le-Nguyen Tran, who alleges that on December 15, his party was knowingly double-billed a 20 percent gratuity on their $1,000 bar tab, and charged for drinks they didn't order on a separate tab.
"Maybe we were a little too drunk and they thought they could get over on us — I don't know, but it wasn't right," says Tran, adding that several days later, his party was offered a complimentary bottle to smooth things over but declined. "I just plan to never go back."
"They were never charged for drinks they didn't order," replies Zeppelin GM Palomo, clearly irritated with the question but seemingly genuine in his response. "[The tip] was a miscommunication. They didn't know the gratuity was already added to the bill, so they added it themselves. I had [VIP manager] Jami [Weed] call them and ask if they'd like a bottle comped [price: $250] the next time they came. They declined, so I'm like, 'That's cool, we'll give them their money back.'
"As of today [December 22], I haven't heard back from them."
Tip miscommunication notwithstanding, Zeppelin's newness momentarily helps it surpass established nearby haunts like Bond Lounge (2700 Milam) and Rocbar (530 Texas, in Bayou Place), but like every other nightspot these days, it's still playing catch-up to the Drake (1802 Washington).Last Call
Your drink order says a lot about what type of person you are, so Zeppelin's own stellar bartender Travis Secor offers four solid, scientific facts about the drinks he serves:
1. If you order a Four Horsemen, you might as well wear a sign around your neck that reads, "Hi, I'm a douche. Please like me."
2. All real badasses drink Crown and water. Period.
3. It doesn't matter how loudly you order your Belvedere pressed (girls) or Scotch neat (guys), you don't sound smart.
4. What drink does everyone absolutely need to know how to order? "Water — before they make an ass out of themselves."
Practice that ordering etiquette at these well-heeled downtown locales: Char Bar (305 Travis) — dress code? Nope. Alcohol? Yep. On my way...Cotton Exchange (202 Travis) — Fridays are ideal for peering down your nose at people pretending to enjoy the old-school mix of music. State Bar (307 Travis) — you just might sit in the same seat, imported from the historic Capitol Club, that President Kennedy did in 1963.