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April 16, 2004

Bacchus disapoints, but view from the top makes it almost worth it

Two Saturday nights ago, the strangest thing happened: A club I was at got shut down by the police. Rumor has it that Bacchus was over capacity—the police have been extra vigilant this year with enforcing crowd control (after that event where clubbers got trampled at a South Side club). Nevertheless, it was a strange occurrence, and even though it was a freak episode, there was not much else redeeming about my night at Bacchus.

I had been hearing about the club from friends for years, but I had never ventured there myself before that night. Maybe one of the reasons why is because in recent months, all I have heard has been, "I hate Bacchus." However, to give it a fair shot, the same people who hate it now weren't so critical a few years ago.

To set the record straight, Bacchus is a real club (not a lounge), and the cover is very cheap in comparison to other venues (that night it was only $5 a person). My distaste for Bacchus unfortunately began right when I entered. For one, the crowd was very mixed, and there was a pervasive sense of trashiness; underage, scantily dressed girls mixed with older men does not make for the best combination in terms of atmosphere. I actually saw a girl wearing a skirt that was literally one inch short of her butt.

That type of attire makes it very hard on someone who wants to navigate the club, but doesn't want to overexpose oneself (oops—I forgot—overexposure is not an issue at Bacchus). Nonetheless, since there are three levels of the club and the first floor is the worst place to hang out (it looks incredibly run-down and it is really cold), you must take a trip upstairs. The problem, though, is that the front staircase is an annoying wait to get upstairs. Yes, bouncers actually stand at the staircase and control who can or cannot travel upstairs.

If you can deal with the wait, the middle level is the best place to camp out. It has a pretty big bar, a dance floor, a small stage where you can dance over the crowd (a big plus), and an area where you can sit down (another big plus). However, claustrophobia becomes an issue due to the floor plan. The main dance floor begins roughly where the staircase lets people out, and it stretches to the front of the club, where there is a staircase leading to the third floor loft. Needless to say, because it is so hard to make your way through the drunken dancers, you constantly feel cramped. Again, the ventilation is a problem on this level: I was definitely breathing stale air.

However, once you do make your way to the top floor, the view from the edge of the loft is actually pretty cool. (Hint: if you do make it to Bacchus sometime, try to go up the back staircase. It is not as crowded as the front one.) You can look down at the dancing crowd and the sitting area on the middle level, and there are light displays that make everything look really banging. But be warned: aside from the view, this floor is essentially boring because it is tiny and there is nothing to do.

Early on in the night, while I was waiting in line to go to the middle level, my friend exclaimed, "It's usually not this crowded, but it is always this shitty." Even though she got a laugh for her comment, I think if I had gone to Bacchus several years ago, I would have had a better opinion of the place. Its fun sleaziness (it actually reminds me of a club that I loved back in the day) and the fact that it would have been one of my first experiences in the Chicago club scene make me think that way. Also, a huge point to consider if you are under 21: Bacchus is known as a place where the bouncers are relatively easy on IDs. It is almost fool-proof getting in, and if you want some excitement outside of the normal Hyde Park party scene, taking a trip downtown could be worth your while.