| A speakeasy for the
West Coast collegiate.
If you live and party in San Francisco’s East Bay, then
you have spent much time at Shattuck Down Low nightclub. After
only a few years, the Down Low’s reputation has expanded
beyond the borders of Berkeley, and is now known as one of the
première places to catch rising DJ talent, host record
promotion parties, or just chill. The Down-Low hosts and promotes
parties for everything: Karaoke nights, live salsa parties,
and/or the ubiquitous hip-hop, reggae, and dance DJs. It’s
an eclectic mix of bookings to be sure, but one that works for
the eclectic mix of people that reside in this college town.
The Shattuck Down Low’s entrance takes patrons down a
spiral staircase, complete with crystal chandelier hanging above,
but the entrance is meant to increase the venue’s underground,
speakeasy vibe. Once inside, patrons are met with quick access
to either of the two bars and a centralized 20- by 40-foot parquet
dance floor. The room is large enough to accommodate a few hundred,
but there is often little space left if you head in past midnight
on a weekend eve. The fore mentioned dance space is crowned
with a combination stage/DJ area that shifts the focus to performance
if need be. The club also boasts of a pool table and separate
VIP seating areas, and there are numerous other seating areas
partitioned by gauzy, loose drapes; a contrast to the velvet
curtains of the “exclusive” city clubs.
We sent in our west coast nightstalkers in to see if there is
real juice beyond the hype.
There is a definite buzz around Berkeley about the Down Low.
Word is that this club is very upscale and has a tight door.
In fact, all flyers say that on Friday and Saturday nights you
must, “dress to impress.” I chose to throw on some
not so over-the-top parachute pants and a cute military jacket.
Most of the other chicks were dressed in a nice pair of jeans
or pants with heels. The guys had masculine versions of the
same gear. Throw on a Kangol cap and you get the point. This
worked just fine. I found the doorstaff very accommodating,
polite, and quick to keep the line moving. Yes, there was quite
a line, about 25 men and women, going by 11pm.
The Down Low might be posh compared to other clubs in the East
Bay. However, I found it cozy and comfortable with a good mix
of co-eds and music fans. The club was clean and there are plenty
of places to sit if you want to take a break from dancing. The
draped fabric placed on walls and between rooms is slightly
close to cheesy. But the décor still works well. This
particular night featured an excellent four turntable set from
a local DJ duo. If I had to make a complaint it would be this:
the bartenders are too damn busy. There is often a wait at both
of the bars and they rush to make your drink. As a result, my
mixed drink was all alcohol and no fruity flavor. But, I did
think the price was right on at $4.50.
The Down Low is willing to accommodate whoever they can. On
the night I went, I saw a live rock band, a retro R&B DJ
(who needs to work on his skills a bit), and a tight hip-hop
DJ, in that order. It may seem like a lot to take, but somehow,
despite what I would usually think, the mix worked for me. I
noticed a pool table somewhere off in the distance. People weren’t
playing pool on it, but were having a good time mingling around
it and using it as some sort of large meeting place. In fact,
one thing to note about this club is that people seem to have
a good time just hanging out with each other: dancing, drinking,
talking, whatever. This is something that I noticed missing
in San Francisco clubs where people are more into being seen
than enjoying themselves.
I was slightly concerned about the line in the bathroom. It
never seemed to disappear no matter how many times I went back
to check on it. In fact, if you are heading into the Down Low,
be prepared to stand in lines. There’s a line to get in,
a line at the bar, a line to use the toilet . . .
Yes, everyone in Berkeley knows about the Down Low. You have
to know about it if you want to pretend like you have any sort
of social life. It is one of only a handful of places to go
if you want to stay out past 9PM. And the only place that isn’t
loaded down with drunken frat boys. I give props to the club
owners for give us a nice space to look at. Especially since
they don’t really have to worry about content due to the
lack of competition mentioned before. My problem is with the
clientele they seem to attract. If you like fake dreadlocked,
ENYCE wearing, business majors or nerdy girls who are afraid
to take of their cardigans, head there any night of the week.
I’ll choose to keep my visits less frequent.