Unfortunately, there aren't similarly cool places within spontaneous road-tripping distance from KC. But we still managed to catch a whiff of Swingers-esque Vegas sensibility in town recently. We found it at the Copa Room, the new bar that took the place of gay Aqua -- which, for those keeping score at home, was straight Aqua before that. Anyway, it's now a Rat Pack-inspired martini and cigar lounge that has dramatically changed from all-blue to brown, with an olive-khaki exterior and varying shades of brown Crayola colors inside. "I hate to say it, but there's a Cigar Box vibe with a shinier renovation," said Research Assistant John.
We happened to be there the first night it was open to the public, and though there wasn't a drink limit, there probably should have been for our party. John's dirty martini tasted like saltwater -- a highly alcoholic, drinkable version, that is. Our Dreamcicle martini (Smirnoff orange, white crème de cacao, orange juice and "rich cream") was like a melted Push-Up with a kick. We weren't sure whether the stiff martinis were an opening-night aberration, but we had no complaints, and after a few each, the dimly lighted room seemed to get a bit blurrier and darker.
The setup of the room is the same as gay/straight Aqua, with plush bench seating against one wall, where we sat, and an intimate, quasi-enclosed area up front. "Later on, I'm expecting them to close the curtains and bring in the girls," said our friend Chuong, whose party was sitting up there. Naturally, a composite portrait of Rat Pack members dominated one wall. The shiny metal gate in the middle of the bar blocking access to the flight of stairs was an incongruous touch, but we liked it. "It looks like a rodeo gate," said RA Nadia. "There'll be a bull charging up from the basement at 2 a.m. to get people out."
But around 11, there wasn't much need for rushing people out. A more substantial crowd had tapered off, and the Copa Room had settled into a comfortable place to take in a drink and hang out as Sinatra and Dean Martin crooned in the background. Of course, we still indulged in people-watching, which was entertaining as usual, despite the small numbers. One waitress was pregnant, which made us feel bad whenever she lifted as much as a glass. "The drinks are so good, they'll make you pregnant," quipped RA Nathan. Patting his stomach, he added, "I'm already four months along myself." A flock of spiky-haired guys in short-sleeved, silky shirts migrated past us, their cologne a calling card to what appeared to be a testosterrific evening. "Do you smell that cologne?" asked RA Annie. "I think you do."
We decided to approach a Boys Night Out group with the opening line "Hey, wanna do shots?" Anthony, Brady and Kit, who were all in their early twenties, were excited at the prospect of drinking on the Pitch, even though Anthony's cousin owned the bar. (Hey, shouldn't you be buying us shots?) "We also like the Cigar Box and Kabal," Anthony said. "And Diamond Joe's," Brady added. Then he offered the quote we get from all interviewees at every bar: "We like the ambience and atmosphere here." We've made an executive decision to ban this insipid (and redundant) quote from future columns. Especially when a place is brand-new and the atmosphere is still nebulous.
While we were schmoozing the guys, our RAs were doing car bombs, which explained why some members of our party did the abrupt "I have to go home." One RA later admitted to remembering nothing that went on at a subsequent stop for drinks. We could at least tell him this: Fortunately, we had no drunken discussion on how fuckin' cool it would be to road trip to, say, Topeka. The only trip we could manage that night was back to our beds.