- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2006

It’s Friday night, the workweek is over and it’s time to let loose in the District. You don your favorite red pumps, shimmy into the little black dress and splash on the Chanel No. 5. Or perhaps you gel your hair back, shrug on a tan sport coat and spray the Calvin Klein cologne you break out only for the big nights out.

But where to go? Like many major cities, Washington is buzzing with so much activity that the task of sifting through parties, restaurant promotions and clubs that seem to open and close weekly can be daunting. But, unlike other major cities, the District has a swiftly growing free resource that has become a one-stop night-life guide for as many as 2,000 revelers each weekend.

Founded in 2001 by promoter Jean-Pierre “Billy” Sargologo, the Billyfone hot line is a free hookup that gives callers a comprehensive rundown of each night’s events in 18 different scenes ranging from “karaoke” and “Asian scene” to “lesbian scene” and “jazz.” The Web site version, www.billyfone.com, was launched in 2003 and gets about 3,000 new hits each month, says Mr. Sargologo, 35.

A phone call to 202/263-7363 informs older customers about “International Oldies” at Bambule restaurant, antsy college students about “Flavor Fridays” at Diva Night Club and salsa lovers about “Latin central” at Cafe Citron. And if those red pumps are being slipped onto size 10 male feet, there’s even a drag queen show at Club Chaos.

Not only does the hot line list daily parties, but it also lets customers RSVP to events, order bottle service in advance and put themselves on guest lists.

Helpful tidbits like “become friends with the bartenders and get a free drink or two on the house” or “dress is really trendy” are an added bonus.

“People are really lost in the city,” says Mr. Sargologo. “They have no idea what’s happening at night. Every venue is marketing strictly itself. And sometimes the best events are not the ones that are listed.”

Mr. Sargologo, who lives in the District and works as a business broker by day, started the hot line when he grew tired of fielding questions from disgruntled partiers who didn’t know which promoter to believe. He says the secret to his success is that people aren’t looking for a specific club, but rather a “scene.”

“If I get Euro trash, I know exactly what they want — they want a bottle and table,” he says.

Each Wednesday, Mr. Sargologo calls the owners of 106 different District establishments to get the lowdown on the standard weekly parties as well as special events.

With its six-person staff, his Web site and hot line bring the clubs a bigger crowd, drawing heavily from out-of-towners and those who are new to the city. In return, the clubs advertise and sponsor his editorial content.

Tim Sherman, owner of five nightclubs in Dupont Circle, says he uses all of Mr. Sargologo’s services — the Web site, hot line, e-mail notification system and guest list function.

“I think he brings us a different clientele than we normally have,” Mr. Sherman, 31, says. “More of an older, luxury-hotel and restaurant-style clientele. We normally get clubbers and people like that. He gets us the out-of-towners.”

Inspired by Billyfone’s success, Mr. Sargologo is expanding the service to nine new cities, including New York, Chicago, Miami and Baltimore. Hot lines in those cities should open by January, he says.

But for now, Mr. Sargologo is happy running the nation’s only free night-life information and reservation hot line.

“I’m kind of like the Yellow Pages of Washington [night life],” he says.

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