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District Lounge turns an Old Towne Orange antique into a hot spot

December 20, 2007|Jess Larson

ONCE a sleepy traffic circle known for antiques, Old Towne Orange has become a prime spot for inner Orange County revelers to seek refuge from the oppressive mall climate of the Block at Orange or respite from the distant beach scene.

Somehow the area hasn't lost its charm, with venues such as the District Lounge deftly straddling the dual aesthetics of historic district and night life destination.

Credit, in part, owner Mario Marovic's vision for the space that once housed Los Vacitos, a long-enduring dive bar. "I loved the historic feel of the area and the place," Marovic says. "I just wanted to have the best neighborhood bar around."

Inside, a lone lengthy bar hugs a wall upholstered in tufted leather, and exposed brick forms arches above the expansive black booths lining the full length of the large space. Dancers spill out from the dance floor, along with the light from a neon sign adorned with a scantily clad woman, an artifact from the bar's past.

The vintage feel of the lounge and its surrounding neighborhood are a large draw for patrons like Samantha Wood. "I really like the vibe of this place and the area," she says. "It's so different than the rest."

The District set out to be a place free of pretense and full of eclectic entertainment. Wednesdays see dueling pianos rolled in, and Thursdays are for the college crowd. Tuesdays and Fridays are lively with local bands playing jazz or indie rock. Dancers rule the floor on Saturdays, with DJs spinning Top 40.

Indeed, even through the course of the day, the bar has a changeling personality. The menu, which includes ahi tuna tacos and Kobe beef burgers (with Tuesday serving as cheap taco night), makes the lounge a place to dine as well as dance. Drinks are reasonable. And large screens show the game during the days and cool noir flicks at night.

Buoyed by the success of the District Lounge in Orange, Marovic has recently opened a bar of the same name in Newport Beach and is currently renovating his family's 2J's Lounge in Fullerton and renaming it the Houston Street Lounge.

His goal? "A place that cares about the people," he says, "and the people care about the place."

-- Jess Larson



WHERE: 223 W. Chapman Ave., Orange

WHEN: 2 p.m.-2 a.m. weekdays; 10 a.m.-2 a.m. weekends

PRICE: No cover

INFO: (714) 639-7777;

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