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Surprises at Bacchus : Orange County's New Nightclub Opens With a Museum Benefit

September 28, 1993|ANN CONWAY

Beware of James Date. He may stick you in a dark elevator that zooms downward so fast it makes your eyes cross.

At the opening of his nightclub, Bacchus, in Newport Beach on Saturday night, he promises you escape via a private door on the other side of the elevator. You smile politely.

After a few minutes of spiraling downward--with hissing sound effects--it comes to a rumbling stop.

OK, that was kinda fun. You wait for the back door--which looks like it's made of dungeon rocks--to open. And you wait some more. Not. The door is stuck.

A bead of sweat begins to form above your lipstick. You recite your "I am not a claustrophobe--just get me outta here!" mantra. It's stuffy in here. And so dark. You hope the Big One doesn't hit.

And then a door opens--the same door that let you in. Is this a joke?

"The back door was jammed!" explains a guy on the outside.

Date smiles, throws up his hands. No biggie. We never left the first floor.

"Surprises--that's what's going to keep people coming to Bacchus," says Date, who helped run two clubs in London before coming to Orange County.

"It's like television. TV changes all the time. It not very good, but you still watch it. I mean, you come to a club for escapism."

And that's the whole point of Bacchus, a velvet-roped hot-spot (formerly Magic Island) that Date calls "Newport Beach's answer to Roxbury South."

There's the VIP room, a sanctum for club snobs (at dues of $750 annually).

And there's the TIP room. "For terribly important people--more important than very important," Date deadpans. It boasts a pool table and private lounge. (This is where the club owners stash there pals.)

Down the hall, behind an antique armoire that is really a door, there's a haunted formal dining room. Around the corner: a cinema room with scenes from "Casablanca" filling a wall. And there are dance floors. Public dining rooms. In all 14,000 square-feet of surprises. On Saturday night, supporters of the Laguna Art Museum were checking it out.

"Every time you come here, it will be different than the night before," managing partner Date says as he points at a glass ceiling in the main cocktail lounge.

"See up there? There will be rain hitting that ceiling and the sound of thunder and lightning--even faces peering down at you."

When? "Soon. We're having some technical difficulties," he said.

Surprise!

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