When Rob Stepic opened Tantric in Providence last year, he
wanted to give the city’s nightlife something it was
sorely lacking: an upscale lounge where one could get a good
drink at a fair price,” “have a sophisticated
conversation,” and “sit down and relax.”
It had a Buddhist theme and a lot of style. Its sleek suede
couches were custom-designed to make patrons feel at home.
Italian glass mosaic chandeliers hung above VIP tables, while
four hand-made statues of Buddha watched over the lush interior.
The music was vibe-heavy but low volume, the lighting dark
and cozy, the walls butter cream set off by blood maroon trim.
Tantric was definitely something this tidy city of 175,000
had never seen before. But Stepic soon discovered that originality
alone was not enough for success.
“It was too boring,” says Stepic, a former promoter
of Boston nightclubs.
Tantric’s target demographic, the 20-something after-work
crowd, “wanted to dance and release energy. On Friday
night, they’re stressed out from work, and they just
want to let off a little steam,” Stepic soon learned.
So Stepic, a businessman who owned trucking and embroidery
companies before launching Tantric, decided to compromise
with his customers. He allowed his DJs to stray from strictly
jazzy vibes to hip-hop, house and rock. He installed a new
lighting system to make the dancefloor more exciting. He began
holding themed nights and closed the lounge’s kitchen.
But he also held fast to the lounge’s founding theme
– a zen haven from the real world.
“There’s all these distractions in life, and you
just want to escape, and that’s the idea of Tantric.
You just come in and relax.” Stepic says. “The
first part of the evening is still laid back and chilled out.
For the first few hours, it’s still that place where
you can come in and get a good drink at a good price. Then,
as soon as midnight comes, it’s a full-on dance club.”
Lounge Plus Lighting
Turning a quiet, Orient-themed lounge into a dance party pad
without completely upending the essence of the space was a
delicate task. Stepic sought help from East Coast Lighting
& Production Services, a Warwick, R.I.-based company that
has been serving nightclubs and concert venues in the Northeast
for more than 32 years.
“A lounge has to be more comfortable,” said Derek
Iorfida, the ECLPS operations manager who handled the installation
of a new lighting system in February. “You walk into
a dance club, you are walking into a more excited environment
right off the bat. With a lounge, you have to pay a lot more
attention to the LED fixtures above the bar. Everything has
to be dimly lit. It’s more of a living room feel.”
“The biggest challenge for Tantric,” Iorfida added,
“was to keep it upscale without turning it into too
much of a dancefloor atmosphere.”
For the main dance array, Iorfida and Stepic chose Martin
Professional MX-4 scanners and Atomic 300 strobes, a major
step up from the old lighting system.
“It’s like going from a HoJo to a Four Seasons,”
Stepic said. “I could not wait to get rid of [the old
But because the dancefloor was in the middle of 5,000 square-feet
of wide open lounge space, one big challenge was minimizing
the effect that the dance lighting would have on the lounge’s
Iorfida rigged a mobile, 15’ x 6’ Trilite truss
so that it concealed the scanners and strobes and prevented
the space from looking industrial. It also isolated the more
animated lighting effects to the dancefloor.
The new system “can set the mood,” Iorfida said.
“When people start dancing, it can move. It added a
huge dimension to the club.”
For mood lighting, Iorfida strategically placed 12 Chauvet
Color Mist LED fixtures around the perimeter of the lounge.
The Chauvets can be programmed to tie in with the main light
array, but mostly provide a constant laid-back atmosphere
for the bar and seating areas.
Tantric also now features a Chauvet HZ100 hazer for smoke
effects. The entire system is run by a new Martin Professional
Exciter controller, which gave the club “the most bang
for the buck,” Iorfida said.
The new lighting system compliments a sound system that was
installed by one of Stepic’s friends. Though ECLPS will
be installing a new audio system in Tantric this summer, Stepic
added some interesting features into the current setup.
Because exposed speakers would detract from the lounge’s
Eastern escape concept, Stepic rigged the DJ booth to conceal
the club’s four Cerwin Vega EL-36 Earthquake subwoofers.
Steel pipes support the DJ’s oak-wood console and props
it well above the subs so their vibration doesn’t affect
the DJ’s ability to mix. To keep the subs from vibrating
violently against each other, Stepic applied insulating foam
between the individual enclosures.
“It doesn’t affect the mixer,” Stepic said.
“You can’t feel any vibrations.”
The DJ booth is set right next to the dancefloor to make the
space seem more personal. Inside, the DJ has a Denon DN-X500
mixer, a Denon DN-S5000 CD player and two Technics SL-1200MK2
Tantric’s sound system is powered by Crest commercial
amplifiers. Four 15-inch RCF powered monitors surround the
dancefloor, but those big guns aren’t typically used
until prime time. Earlier in the evening, when Stepic likes
to maintain a quiet lounge, 24 Klipsch surround monitors are
in use throughout the club. A few are placed in the large
VIP room, where patrons can adjust the volume.
With its new lighting system, Tantric has finally filled the
niche in Providence Stepic had identified a few years earlier.
Back then, he was running an embroidered uniform shop out
of Newport and was often in Providence for business and pleasure.
But he rarely had a good time.
“I always had to ask myself, ‘Where can I go?’”
Stepic said. “Everywhere I went, it was always, ‘Why
does my ice taste funny?’ or ‘Why are there no
seats in here?’”
After he sold his company in 2003, Stepic decided to get back
in the nightclub business and start his own in Providence.
The Buddhist theme appealed to him, though not spiritually
(“I have no religion,” he says). It was a business
decision, he says, because it’s worked elsewhere.
The Buddhist-theme may seem a little tired to those who have
seen it all, but club scenes, like politics, are local and
what’s played out in Paris can play well in Providence.
“There was nothing like that here,” he said. “Most
clubs in Providence are just a mosh-posh of shit. We wanted
a club that really reflected a theme.”
But Stepic says a key to success is the ability to make changes
within that theme.
“If something hasn’t worked, we’ve canned
it,” Stepic said bluntly. “There’s still
a huge list of things to do. I don’t ever want people
to get bored with us.”
24 - Klipsch CMS 4.1 Satellite speakers
4 - RCF ART 315A powered monitors
4 - Cerwin Vega EL-36 Earthquake subwoofers
4 - Crest CA 12 amplifiers
2 - Technics SL-1200MK2 turntables
1 - Crest CA 9 amplifiers
1 - Ashly 3102 dual 31-band equalizer
1 - Ashly crossover
1 - Denon DN-S5000 CD player
1 - Denon DN-X500 mixer
1 - Sirius Satellite Radio
12 - Chauvet COLORmist LED fixtures
8 - Martin Professional MX4 scanners
4 - Martin Professional Atomic 3000 strobes
2 - Chauvet COLORmist Panel Packs
1 - Martin Professional Exciter 512 DMX controller
1 - Chauvet HZ1000 hazer
1 - OPTI Kinetics Trilite truss
1 - NEC PLUS 1000 lumen projector
4 - Sony 12”h TVs