No, it wasn’t in a basement. But it was hot, it was crowded, and the songs of The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and The Supremes, among others, were very much alive.
At the old place on King Street, arriving between 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. would usually get you in. I got to Club Absinthe’s new location on King William with my friends at 10:15 p.m. on Jan. 4 and waited in line for half an hour. This was opening night at the new spot, and it was packed.
By the time I got in, the floor was slick with sweat and spilled drinks. Trains of wet and warm bodies were pushing past me to get to the bar, bathroom, coat check and doors. This, of course, has always been Absinthe at its best – provided you never go sober enough to be concerned with much other than the music.
The move to 38 King William Street, which is one street north of King running east from James, was risky. Wednesday Motown nights at the old Absinthe were drawing huge weekly crowds of university-aged kids (some doing their clubbing almost exclusively at ‘Motown’) from all over the city. The move was from a major road to a more secluded one, and was mainly advertised by word of mouth.
But specially now with Club Absinthe, King William is becoming Hamilton’s new ‘it’ street. It’s got some spill-over culture from James Street North (home of the monthly art crawls), the Skydragon Centre with the Homegrown Hamilton café and a good nightlife scene, with Seventy Seven and the Dirty Dog Saloon down the street.
So be it because of the location or the loyalty of its patrons, Absinthe's new spot, in a building formerly occupied by the Pepper Jack Café, got really full really fast on its first night.
In front of the main entrance was a fenced-in patio. The bouncers stood at the gate, letting people trickle in, charging no cover. (The bold or the impatient were able to hop through the bushes on top of the short, concrete wall a few yards down from the gate.) Despite the larger capacity, a lot of people left after waiting too long in the cold.
The face of the building is glass. The dancing happens on the main floor, and washrooms are upstairs. The bar is at the back, and the coat check at the side of the room maintained a regular, slow-moving mob of people trying to drop off or retrieve their stuff.
But once you’re inside and on the floor, it’s Motown night as usual – same music, same crowd, same great vibe.