- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2007

Eric Clay sits on a folding chair inside the entrance of a black-marble-faced, 30,000-square-foot warehouse off North Capitol Street and New York Avenue in Northeast. Around him are stacked boxes of tile, pieces of plastic-wrapped furniture, discarded water bottles, hard hats and heavy-duty orange extension cords that slither out of the room through doorways and crevasses. Wire fingers reach toward him from the walls.

The sound of drills, saws and the occasional construction worker hawking a loogie echo through the cavernous space, and the air hangs heavy with drywall particles, sawdust and oppressive 90-degree heat.

It may be rough, ragged and raw today, but just one week from now, this place will be utterly transformed. That’s when it opens its doors as Ibiza, the District’s brand-spanking-new $6 million nightclub — and, according to Mr. Clay and the rest of its co-owners, that’s when people might start taking this city’s entertainment scene more seriously.

The entrepreneurs behind this project — Mr. Clay, Jon Han, Adam Needham, Allah Tung and Aldo Vuong — have never owned a venue like this before, although they believe their collective business acumen, industry contacts and vision will spell megasuccess for the megaclub.

They want to bring patrons a luxurious dance club, lounge and bar environment, the likes of which one might find at high-profile out-of-town spots such as Pure in Las Vegas, Skybar in Miami and, of course, venues in the club’s Spanish namesake.

“We want to bring a huge celebrity element to D.C. that hasn’t been done before,” says in-house booking agent Adimu Colon, something of a local TV and radio celebrity himself.

With its laundry list of amenities, Ibiza certainly stands to attract a little A-list attention for what most folks consider a B-list clubbing town; upon completion, the venue is slated to feature a full-service restaurant and Starbucks coffee bar, a Japanese-inspired room with a waterfall, a rooftop terrace with moss-covered wall, a 2,000-person main room with a rare $1 million Martin sound system, seven bars, 30 flat-screen plasma TVs, $500,000 worth of lighting and media technologies, performances from world renowned DJs and bands, and some sort of identification system that sounds an awful lot like what Las Vegas casinos use.

One week out, however, the question ringing in Mr. Clay’s ears isn’t about the valet parking or the $20 cover charge; it’s, “So, are you guys really going to be ready?”

The answer, after two years of preparation, is a resounding “yes” — and the guys have the invitation order and opening-night DJ booking to prove it (or perhaps to motivate them). Even so, there have been and will likely continue to be some dicey moments until those glass doors finally swing open.

“Like yesterday morning,” says Mr. Colon.

“Yeah, this morning, too,” says Mr. Clay.

“The electricity.”

“Which part?”

Building Ibiza, like any large-scale eatery or entertainment outpost, has been a case study in making plans and revising them. The club’s restaurant, for example, will have to open in late July. Security, particularly outside, may need constant re-evaluation, given the problems that have plagued other businesses along this corridor (including Love and Smarta/Broadway). Other elements have been scrapped altogether due to logistics, including an indoor koi pond and a hydraulic DJ booth.

Still other concepts that started simply have necessarily become more elaborate as the club’s owners became more educated on the issues at hand — like the lighting.

Lighting designer Scott Chmielewski, owner of Digital Media Designs, recalls that when he was hired two months ago, he had to talk the Ibiza crew out of “basically cheesy lighting” they’d already bought and into a set of components he describes as comparable to the ones used on the largest concert tours. This includes around 2,500 LED nodes that are capable of producing some 16.4 million shades of color — just in case a corporate client needs a specific shade of cerulean or apricot.

The sound system was settled on with a bit more time to spare, yet came with its own set of challenges (and a hefty price tag).

Bill McClure, a principal at Innovative Transducer Implementation who was enlisted by the nightspot, explains that in order to let his clients test-drive several concert PA systems in the space — still under construction and not yet wired to power this kind of gear — he had to install additional steel beams in the ceiling to support the speakers, bring in a generator, and truck in the stereo equipment via 18-wheeler down Patterson Street, a narrow one-way that leads to the nightclub Fur.

“There was a go-go going on at Fur when we happened to be loading out,” says Mr. McClure. “That makes for an interesting situation: trying to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in PA equipment back on the truck in the middle of all that.”

Ultimately, he sold Ibiza a system that’s impressed even the launch-party guest artist, DJ Cassidy, who’s used to spinning gigs for hosts such as Naomi Campbell, Diddy and Oprah.

“There’s a tendency to think that nightclubs all over have great sound systems, but that’s actually not the case,” says the DJ. “Many clubs have subpar systems, [including] many clubs that hire me and other big DJs or bands.”

As some 60 workers push Ibiza’s cruder construction to a close, crews have just begun stitching the lighting and sound elements into the venue.

Mr. Chmielewski and his team of 12 to 14 men only started their installation on Tuesday. “We’re going to work a lot of sleepless nights,” he says.

“I think that’s the norm,” says DJ Cassidy. “Every time I’ve done a grand opening, it’s always last-minute. I think they all know what they’re doing; it’s a last-minute industry, just like the fashion world.”

When Ibiza opens June 29, its owners are hoping that no seams show besides the ones on the fashionably dressed crowds it’s hoping to attract.

“So far, getting people in here seems like the easiest part,” says marketing director Marquis Perkins. “People are always looking for something new.”

Opening night at Ibiza (1222 First St. NE) a week from today is invitation-only. DJ AM spins the club’s public opening July 6. www.ibizadc.com.

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