S@mpling The Party Potential
If it’s one thing I know about the gays, it’s that they like to party.
When I say ‘party,’ I am not referring to the act of casually going out and engaging in mindless small talk while sipping on a weak cocktail and secretly wishing to be curled up in bed catching up on the last few episodes of True Blood. No, when I say party I mean balls to the wall like the year is 1999 and the DJ is always playing your favorite song.
In my day, I’ve seen the gays throw down. I’ve seen otherwise responsible adults transform into reckless animals once they hit the club.
We’re talking about margarita chugging contests, taking shots of tequila until it starts dripping out of your nose, and dancing so hard that you don’t even realize that the person next to you has vomited and your dance moves are splashing regurgitation on everybody’s leather pants.
So naturally, when I get invited to a gay-themed party I get extremely excited. Chances are, it’s been way too long since I’ve watched other adults check their self-respect at the door in exchange for some good old fashioned drunken antics.
The event was titled “Trample at S@mple.” The S@mple was provided by the venue of the same name which just opened in the old Sprout building on N. Morrison less than a month ago.
The trample, I hoped, would be provided by the gay attendees who would surely party until confetti uncontrollably catapulted from all orifices.
To say I had high expectations was an understatement. A brand new bar attempting to make a name for themselves and begin to carve a niche within the drinking community was throwing a party catered to the gay community? This was going to be better than watching Rosie O’Donnell get into a cat fight over the last buttered roll at Golden Corral.
I threw on my deepest V, tossed my inhibitions out the window and attempted to mentally prepare myself for the fact that an otherwise boring Wednesday night was about to get wild. Because according to the mental images swimming around in my head, I was about to walk into a party that was sure to knock me on my ass quicker than you can say “Chris Brown did it.”
I envisioned one of those parties you read about in Vanity Fair. The kind of party that you walk into and instantly teleport to a Narnia-esque never-never land where the tequila is poured into your mouth straight from the bottle and responsibility is an afterthought that you’ll pay attention to during hangover brunch at noon o’clock tomorrow. Gorgeous men and women scantily clad, dancing on the bar as if Kanye was spinning on the ones and twos. A light show that would be better suited for a Daft Punk show at Madison Square Garden. Colors, patterns and fashion that would make Prince do a double take. Streamers. Strobe lights. Certainly the shindig that I was about to walk into would walk a fine line that is one penetration station away from being the very definition of a public orgy.
I’m not sure who failed to contribute to their portion of the assembly line but somewhere along the way, Trample for S@mple never happened. Somebody forgot to send out the Facebook event to somebody that was going to roll in 30 twinks deep. The room was done up nice, the lights were dimmed low and the bartender admitted that the see-through shirt currently not covering her twins was worn in anticipation of the lesbians.
Everything was set for the party except for the actual party itself.
And as I looked around at this new tech-friendly bar that used to be a hipster safe haven, I saw something that may end up being better than an out of control Wednesday night party.
I saw potential.
Since Sprout closed its doors on September 5th of last year, S@mple owner Adam Bell has been hard at work behind the scenes. Walls were torn down. The bar was replaced with a glossy-topped, curvy island that perfectly reflects panels of rotating colored lights. Fancy TVs were placed on the walls to display a varied array of movies and slim flat screens hung above dining tables, allowing patrons to browse the Internet at will. iPads that can be rented hourly for less than your average McDonald’s combo are scattered about, visible from any vantage point. And somewhere along the way, Bell transformed the building formerly known as Sprout into an entirely new experience for Richmond. If you didn’t know any better it could easily be mistaken for a trendy New York hotspot.
Despite expecting to attend a party that inevitably never happened, I decided to spend my night trying out cocktails that were magically placed in front of me and drooling over the menu with sadness after discovering that the kitchen closed at 11.
Using Netflix instant watch, the two friendly bartenders took turns streaming ridiculous programming that ranged from music videos to continuous episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba on the large flat screen behind the bar. The few people that had wandered into this gem were either playing with the Internet-ready electronic toys or nodding their head to the iPod-fueled playlist that so desperately wanted nothing more than to be enjoyed by dance hungry party goers.
At its core, S@mple is a breath of fresh air in an often stale Richmond bar scene. It has character, it has class, it has more gadgets than a Steve Jobs’ bachelor party. Combine that with a delicious-sounding menu that will undoubtedly soak up the booze and you’ve got what could potentially be your new favorite weeknight watering hole.
Carytown has Babe’s. The Museum District has Nations. The folks past Belvidere have their choice of Barcode or Godfrey’s. Shockoe can dance until last call at Mars Bar. But strangely enough, the VCU campus that harvests a plethora of college kids desperate to take their alternative lifestyle for a spin lacks a gay-friendly bar from which they can easily stumble back to the dorms.
I’m hoping that S@mple fills that void. I’m hoping it becomes the place that throws a Lady Gaga dance party on Wednesday nights and the empty dining area that I was anchored in last night is eventually full of sweaty twenty-somethings grinding on each other. I’m hoping that it won’t take long for the gorgeous interior of this space to be matched by the beautiful patrons that will tightly occupy it.
But most of all, I’m crossing my fingers that this fancy hole in the wall will finally live up to its true potential.
If the nasty hangover I was sporting this morning is any indication, I have high hopes that it will happen sooner rather than later.
Chad Brown is a straight male living in Richmond. He enjoys bourbon on the rocks and appreciates a firm ass. Male or female.
“We can’t understand our present and plan effectively for the future without knowing where we came from.”September 30, 2016
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