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Going Out | A NIGHT AT V2O

Long Beach goes big time

The splashy venture from Michael Viscuso is like five clubs rolled into one.

August 26, 2004|Steve Baltin | Special to The Times

He already owns the biggest dance club in San Diego, On Broadway, so when Michael Viscuso decided to expand north to the Los Angeles area, it was a no-brainer where to set up shop. "There's no competition in Long Beach," he says.

Viscuso, the CEO of Viscuso Entertainment, looks like a genius. Within three months, V2O, Viscuso's $10-million restaurant/nightclub by the water at the end of trendy Pine Avenue, is not only the hottest club in Long Beach, it's doing business that rivals that of L.A.'s biggest spots.

The club has been averaging about 2,000 people a night on weekends. Though associate manager Peter Williamson acknowledges it was a slow build in the first month, the plush 30,000-square-foot venue quickly became the destination of choice in the seaside community thanks to a little help from the KROQ-FM morning show team of Kevin and Bean, who did a live broadcast from the club.

The KROQ DJs helped get the word out, but Long Beach residents were ready for a spot like V2O. "Long Beach has been needing a serious club for a while," says Dave, a 21-year-old student at Cal State Long Beach. "This place is really like a Vegas-style, Miami-style nightclub. It's happening. Everybody's nicely dressed; they've got the best DJs around coming here."

Indeed, says Viscuso, whose club offers two rooms of music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, as well as an outdoor smoking patio with its own DJ and vibe: "This club will rival anything in Vegas."

The entrepreneur spared no expense in making sure V2O backs up his claim. His investment includes a 170,000-watt sound system, five video projectors, a platform for fans to dance just below the DJ deck in the main room and a tunnel leading to the secondary room. The main room features top-flight DJs such as Donald Glaude and DJ Dan on Fridays, with hip-hop taking over on Saturdays, when the secondary room offers house music.

Where the expertise of Viscuso and his seasoned staff, which includes general manager Alex Ciaramitaro, comes into play is the comfort level. Designed for, in Viscuso's words, "maximum flow," V2O makes all of the amenities remarkably accessible to patrons, particularly given the number of clubgoers waiting for drinks, seats and bathrooms.

However, with four bars, including a massive rectangular bar in the center, 18 bartenders, cocktail servers continuously moving about, couches in a circle in the center of the room, and VIP lounges for those who want to lay down some cash and be a player (the VIP booths sell for $200 for Friday and Saturday nights, and James Vold, VIP coordinator, says they are usually sold out by Tuesday for the upcoming weekend), fans rarely have to wait in line once they get inside.

With so many choices to keep people occupied inside, patrons don't seem to get stuck too long in one place.

On either weekend night V2O gives the impression of at least three, and sometimes four or five, different clubs. Depending on the desired vibe and choice of music, there's the more crowded hip-hop room, the outdoor smoking patio with '80s music and more conversation, the singles scene at the bar and the serious dance fans around the DJ deck.

Then there are those just there to soak up the experience, be it the go-go girls on either side of the deck or the high-end food -- served until midnight or until it "dies," according to Williamson -- including sushi and such gourmet fare as filet mignon topped with blue crab and white asparagus, or glazed Chilean sea bass.

"We've set our club up as a complete entertainment venue," says marketing director Jennifer Edwards. V2O will continue to branch out, offering live jazz early in the evening on Saturdays, and it may even expand to other nights. (Currently the restaurant handles catering and corporate events Sunday through Wednesday.)

However, the venue's reputation is established, with Long Beach residents grateful to have a spot they can call their own.

"Hollywood always has a kind of crowd, and this place attracts that type of crowd," says Elena, 25, another convert to V2O. "They know the music, and people are nice."

Adds Dave: "I don't have to drive all the way to Hollywood to go out."

*

V2O

Where: 81 Aquarium Way,

Long Beach

When: 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., Thursday through Saturday

Price: Cover varies (no cover before 9:30); 21 and older

Info: (562) 216-2060

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