H20 Martini Bar bills itself as a classy experience, a new approach in Portland nightlife. My worldly friend Josie found a more apt description for the new downtown bar a few Saturdays ago: "The absolute worst of L.A. meets Vegas." Two levels of tall metal walls continuously flow with water. Teeny sharks stalk through huge aquariums. Thick velvet curtains muffle the revelers' shrieks.
The nightspot boasts more than 200 wines and champagnes ($7-$20 a glass) plus a $200 Hennessy shot, but the line to score a libation upstairs protrudes a good 5 feet onto the dance floor. That's where a sweaty crush of people bounce up and down while mouthing the words to "Hey Ya." From the pillow-festooned caves behind the dance floor to the napkin-littered bar tables downstairs, the club is packed subway-tight. One question: Who are these people?
The crowd's a cocktail of glammed-up marketing reps and party people in their late 20s and early 30s, as if a native Oregonian's silliest stereotype of a Californian was molded out of money and cloned 250 times. Which makes H20 like a cross between walking a catwalk and playing hockey--in hell. Too loud to carry on a conversation, too expensive to drink and eat, and harboring a Suburban crowd of beautiful, cold people. After only 45 minutes, I have to leave.
I hit a roadblock as I attempt to retrieve my coat from where I've stashed it behind a suede couch (dress code, but no coat check). "Can't sit here," slurs the large bleach-blond Monday Night Football extra lounging on the sofa. Suddenly, a giggling woman lurches over the arm of the couch across from us. A spiky-haired man shuffles up behind her, grasps her hips, grinds his crotch against her behind, and gives her a drawn-out double-pump as he leers at the couch hog. What's the drink special tonight, roofies 'n' Red Bull?
Scarred psyche firmly in hand, I squeeze my way through the surging mass of bodies to the club's entryway, only to run chest-first into a spray-tanned mannequin hottie in a sparkly wide-knit poncho. "Smile," she says with a sneer. "It's a fucking party."
Then strobe-lit burst of understanding hits me. She's right: This is a party. Not an indie bands-, Pabst-, depression-filled Portland party, but a rager that a capacity crowd of 300 boozed-out, drugged-up, decked-out dumbasses seem to consider only a Cuervo shot away from MTV Beach House, Spring Break 1997.
Truth: I hope H20 makes tons of money. People who dig shiny objects and pedestrian jams--please go hang out there. Stay far, far away from my lovably dirty, smoky drinking holes. I see this as a way to conserve Portland's most precious natural resource: our bars. And who knows, one fine night a water main might burst in the middle of one of H20's Hennessy-fueled fantasies and wash the whole ark of fools back to California.
Now that's cause for a fucking party, honey.
0 Martini Bar, 204 SW Yamhill St., 478-7670. 21+.