The Shattuck Down Low
Berkeley, CA


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.

Stalker #1
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.

Stalker #2
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 . . .

Stalker #3
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.

Copyright 2003 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2003 TESTA Communications