Reimagining the Urban Jungle

jungle-2013

Sleek. Stylish. Sexy.

Those are some of the words that come to mind when looking at the newly renovated space at one of gay Atlanta’s biggest clubs. Club goers have seen the changes at Jungle over the past several months as the club has continued to bring in some of the hottest DJs and entertaining programming in the city.

Starting with a relocated entrance, the entire layout of Jungle feels drastically different than it did a year ago. The entire club is covered in black, with elements of gray and silver popping out in various areas. New bars populate the space. Smokers are now relegated to one side of the club, away from the stage and dance floor. Multiple VIP spaces allow for groups to have their own space in the club. The former entrance and exit now serves as a new space, the Jungle Room, which will host many of the club’s new programming events.

Jungle is also going back to being an 18-and-up club. As they welcome back 18-20 year olds, though, they’re warning about attempts at underage drinking. “We absolutely, positively will not tolerate underage drinking,” says Cherskov. “We have a very strict policy with IDs. You must have an ID to get in the door. If you’re 18-20, your hands will be marked, and we’re going to be very, very closely monitoring how people buy drinks and who they’re passing drinks to, that kind of thing.”

As for the decision to relegate smokers to a single wall of the bar, Cherskov admits that it’s the middle ground between two competing ideas. “It was a compromise between saying ‘No smoking at all’ and making people go outside to smoke. We don’t have a patio here. I think it’s awkward to send people out to the front to smoke. We have an exhaust fan in the area [of the wall], and it made sense that, if we were going to have a smoking area, that it’s where it would be. Smokers can still have a drink at the bar, but it keeps the heavy smoke away from the rest of the club.”

Among the most drastic changes, though, is a full-service restaurant that will open later this month. Jungle starts opening at earlier hours throughout the week for dinner specials and a brunch buffet on Sundays to help cure those hangovers from weekend partying.

“We’re holding so many different types of events now, and we just think food is one of the next logical conclusions,” says Jungle owner Richard Cherskov. “As we’re doing these earlier events, people are going to be coming in around dinnertime. They can order an appetizer. We’ll have some nice entrees. They can have a bite to eat, they can have a drink, and participate in a sing-along with Ruby Redd.

“We’re looking to do more dinner theatre and cabaret-type shows, so we definitely needed the facilities to do that. And having a kitchen lets us open and sell liquor on Sundays, which keeps us open seven days [a week] and gives people a reason to come outside of dancing and drinks.”

Cherskov says that the menu will consist of standard bar staples, but with recipes that he hopes will make Jungle’s food stand out amidst the competition. “For instance, chicken tenders – every bar that serves food is going to have chicken tenders. We’re serving chicken tenders that we’re going to bread and fry ourselves, as opposed to buying ones that are already breaded. Little touches like that.”

Along with the food comes an expanded lineup of entertainment. From drag legends like Bubba D. Licious and Lily White to the raucous Ruby Redd and Edie Cheezburger, plus some choice non-drag programming like Barry Brandon’s Sing for Your Life competition, every day of the week features at least one weekly programmed event.

When asked about the shift to programmed entertainment, Cherskov says, “I think it’s giving people a little bit of structure to entertainment, as opposed to just opening the doors and hoping people show up and drink. We’re giving people a reason to come out, and giving different demographics a reason to come out.

He elaborates, “I mean, is everybody going to come to Ruby Redd and find that they like a loud, randy atmosphere with Ruby Redd yelling over the microphone? No. But will they like Sing for Your Life, a singing competition that’s totally different? Or do they want to see a drag show with established local talent maybe trying something new? The point to having different nights of entertainment programmed is so we can appeal to more people. It’s easy to open the doors, put in a DJ and turn the lights off. The next step from that is to think about what you’re programming and have people hopefully enjoy something that’s more unique.”

Jungle’s audience can also expect a new theme party each month. This monthly series kicks off on January 26 with the Warhol Experience, which will include art installations throughout the club. Separately, Jungle also plans to bring in superstar DJs at least once a month, starting on January 12 with Alex Acosta.

“We’ve got a full calendar, and we’re going to pull it off every month,” says Cherskov.

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