- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 30, 2000

The Bethesda office of DC One magazine sits a few feet from the Shark Club, one of the Maryland city's swingin' haunts.

The magazine's heart, though, beats for the thump-thump-thump of the District of Columbia's club scene, where internationally renowned disc jockeys fuel a growing night life at hot spots such as Nation, the Saint and Five.

The magazine's editor in chief, Bryan Davis, sees his monthly publication as a support system for this thriving lifestyle.

Mr. Davis insists his product offers more than just a hip, slickly packaged read, though. Flip through an issue, and you'll find sharper-than-expected photographs, the kind that might jump out at you from a Vanity Fair double-page spread. Its stories go beyond the dance floor, too, reflecting trends such as the mad dash for Palm Pilots and the latest electronic gaming gear.

"We didn't want to be this cookie-cutter magazine," Mr. Davis says. "We wanted a mature magazine that people over 30 would pick up."

Each issue serves up a complement of lifestyle features, from restaurant profiles to columns on the homosexual population in the District. Printed on thick, glossy paper, the magazine looks as if it would appear right at home in a chic salon or hotel.

The pressures of living in the capital of the country mean D.C. denizens endure stressors other cities don't have to fear, Mr. Davis says.

"D.C. is full of taboos [such as] wearing the wrong tie to a meeting. We throw all that to the wind," he says. "This is not political; it's entertainment-driven. It's for your free time."

Mr. Davis sees the magazine reaching out to an 18-to-40-year-old audience or anyone with leisure on the brain.

The publication sprang to life in January 1999 as a brochure of sorts, a pocket-size guide to the city's club and dining fare.

The publisher, who goes by Masoud A., also owns the Saint nightclub in Northwest and is part-owner of Sole restaurant in Georgetown. He had the magazine's concept in mind for about two years before its launch, Mr. Davis says. Mr. Davis was part of a local cable show called "Club D.C." but relished the chance to write about the city's night life.

The first few issues were a struggle, as with any fledgling publication.

"It was a grass-roots thing," Mr. Davis says of days when he and his colleagues labored to establish the magazine's sensibilities and audience.

Nearly a year later, the magazine expanded to its current size, larger than the average newsstand glossy rag.

"The cost of the magazine shot up, and we weren't gaining that much in advertising," Mr. Davis says, refusing to grant specifics on the financial impact of producing such a polished product, which sells for $3. The jump in size did give in-house designers a better chance to explore layout possibilities.

"As soon as we went to the larger size, we learned what a magazine should look like," Mr. Davis says.

About six full-time staffers, combined with free-lance contributors, create each issue, which arrives at newsstands about the 15th of each month. Its print circulation is 34,000, Mr. Davis says, but reader surveys have shown that the magazine is passed around at a higher rate than the industry standard of 2.2 readers, he says.

Mr. Davis compares the magazine to Ocean Drive, a Miami-based publication that covers that city's well-publicized night life.

DC One does more than simply highlight the best of the city's night life. It organizes periodic events to spark the burgeoning club scene.

One of its splashier spectacles occurred Nov. 22, when it sponsored noted DJ Danny Tenaglia's visit to Nation in Southeast. Mr. Tenaglia, well-known in club circles, previously worked with Grace Jones and the Pet Shop Boys and carries a sterling reputation in New York City and beyond.

The magazine's efforts, both publishing and promotional, would go unnoticed had the city not been enjoying a recreational rebirth.

Fabio Beggiato, owner of Sesto Senso on 18th Street NW, says the city's night scene "has grown dramatically in the last three years."

"Five years ago, the city was going down," says Mr. Beggiato, whose restaurant contains a club, Andalu, within its walls. Then entrepreneurs began stacking up new clubs in the same parts of town.

"People started realizing if you put one place next to another, it helps. It gives people a variety," he says. Rather than competing for patrons, the newer clubs gave more reasons for people to park and check out all the locales.

As for DC One, Mr. Beggiato says it's a solid way for clubs to reach out to their audiences as opposed to passing out fliers or using other low-tech publicity methods.

The publisher "had a good idea" in forming the magazine, Mr. Beggiato says. "He saw different cities doing it."

Mr. Davis and company say they think DC One will have a better fate than another local publication, Capital Style, which expired in May.

"People saw that as a much more market-worthy publication," he says, relishing the challenge to keep his own magazine afloat.

Those seeking D.C. nightlife these days should look no further than a trio of trendy strips, says Mr. Davis, who quickly adds that his choices represent but a portion of the recreational stops in the area. In Northwest, revelers can park around the 18th Street and Connecticut Avenue corridor or along 14th Street "above the circle" (Thomas Circle) for a bounty of good spots. The streets where the Studio and Woolly Mammoth theaters stand also pulse with life.

Mr. Davis might not seem to be the perfect symbol for DC One at first glance. His boyish face belies his 32 years of age, and he admits that he doesn't smoke, rarely drinks and abstains from drugs. He does, however, visit many of the city's hottest spots, and he speaks of the city's life line as if it were inextricably linked with his own.

"Everybody talks like the grass is greener [in other cities], but we have elements of all those places here. You don't have to leave. We tell you where to go.

"We think D.C. is a beautiful city, architecturally, culturally… . Every nation is represented here."

For all the talk of clubbing, night life and other lighthearted fare, Mr. Davis plans to bring a grittier, more sophisticated panache to future issues.

"We want the magazine to mature, to evolve, to be more challenging in its content," he says.

Just don't bet that the string of glamorous models strutting across its glossy pages will dry up any time soon.

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