Flamingo shakes its tail feather: Ottawa’s new gay club

Flamingo recently strutted its way onto the city’s gay scene, calling itself “Ottawa’s newest destination for the gay and fabulous.”

But for my friends and I who like to dance, it comes down to whether the new club can compete with the Edge, another Ottawa gay club. That one is basically a big dance floor in a basement at Bank and Sparks where they play catchy, mainly top-40 music remixed with a heavier beat. The floor is usually packed. You can dance all night.

The Edge feels slightly animalistic. Open signs of what we can euphemistically call affection are on high display. And surrounding the dance floor, there is usually a ring of men who just watch the dancers.

Flamingo is billing itself as something a little classier. For instance, on Friday nights it’s offering live acoustic jazz and blues. Its website asks: “Looking for more class and less sass?”

But on Saturday nights, Flamingo is going head to head with the Edge on the dance floor, bringing in DJ’s from out of town.

So last night, my friend Jessie and I decided to check out the new place. On the music menu was B’UGO, a Montreal DJ who spins house.

Flamingo’s cover charge was $10, compared to $7 at the Edge on a Saturday night.

What we got for those three extra dollars:

— Service! Everyone at Flamingo was very friendly and welcoming, from the man who checked our ID outside to the women who sold us our ticket and ran the coat check. Jessie said afterward that she got called “sweetheart” on her way in and on her way out. For some reason, I didn’t get called that. I’ll never know why…

It was like night and day compared to the Edge, where staff are sometimes friendly, sometimes not, and mainly just indifferent.

— Gogo Dancers. At Flamingo, around midnight, four or five men sprung up onto platforms above the dance floor wearing just briefs and sneakers and began gyrating. Some of them had on a tie as well.

Of course, as Jessie mentioned, at the Edge, “you get that show for free.” She’s referring to the antics and shirtless men that are a common sight on that club’s dance floor.

— Wallpaper. The Flamingo is broken up into three areas: a bar, a dance floor, and a lounge-y area. In the lounge, there are big comfy chairs and a sofa, and the walls are covered in a black and white wallpaper patterned with lush tropical vegetation and exotic birds. From the arm chairs, you can take a break, sit back and watch other peoples’ dance moves.

As for the dance floor, it’s much smaller than the Edge’s, which will be a real problem if it gets any busier than it was when we were there. We were already being jostled left, right and centre. I think part of the problem is that many people, particularly after a few drinks, have a different concept of “personal bubble” than Jessie and I.

But the Flamingo dance floor is raised up on a wooden deck-like surface about three or four feet above the bar. As we danced we could feel every beat pulsating in the wood floor beneath us. It was a very cool effect.

So despite (or because of?) the go-go dancers, the Flamingo was indeed classier than the Edge. There was art on the walls, a slightly older crowd, and no shattered beer bottles underneath our feet.

B’UGO churned out great beats. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And there was an excitement to feeling a professional DJ guiding you as you danced.

Jessie could have used a few more melodies – and I agree – B’UGO stuck mainly to various forms of electronic drum beats. Throwing in a song here and there would have made it seem less repetitive.

The dance floor was small and crowded.

I welcome the Flamingo to Ottawa’s gay scene, just like its staff welcomed me so warmly last night. I think I’ll go back. But I don’t think it will keep me away from the giant dance floor, top 40 hits, and sheer rawness of the Edge.

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