By Susan Gosine
The vibe at the Underground Lounge is still as infectious as the day it opened. Sultry ladies, handsome hunks, exotic drinks and music. Need a better reason to visit Queens?
The stone counter looks like it rose up from the ground. Prehistoric fossils are carved into its ragged walls. The pastel yellow surface, a slab of concrete with winding edges, is sculpted from tons of cement and fashioned into a smooth finish. The stony structure appears to have been filched from the Flintstones movie set. It’s deliberate.
The decor, a blend of earthy hues, is in keeping with the theme of Queens newest night spot- Underground Lounge: a cosy nook sunken ten feet beneath ground level at 104-09 123rd Street, Richmond Hill. The basement alcove is even equipped with a wheel-chair lift for physically challenged patrons who may be desirous of unwinding in a congenial ambience. Other features include a semi-circular VIP section which accommodates 15 people, and a disc jockey booth.
Owner and manager, Joshua Singh, 25, formally opened the lounge on Thursday November 20, 2008. Business hours are from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. Thursday to Sunday. Special events are scheduled for each night and there are occasional giveaways.
The Underground Lounge is situated in prime commercial territory off Liberty Avenue in a stately building that houses a hair salon; Lystra’s Magic Touch, owned by Singh’s mother. She selected the lounge’s furniture and his father, Russel Basdeo Singh made the tiles from natural slate.
Singh, a graduate of the New York Bartending School Inc., is certified in Bartending, Mixology, Hospitality and Wine selection. He also holds a Certificate in Food Protection from the City of New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“Safety is precedence,” he says, adding that “from ceiling to foundation the building is completely fire proof. Once in the confines of the lounge, everyone is safe.” In addition to his concern for patron safety, he notes that there’s a lot of high tech equipment in the lounge, for instance, the music system, a state of the art BOSE powerhouse, the fixtures in the bar and wall treatments. “We secure and protect everything and everyone on the premises.”
On the question of the lounge’s proximity to residences, Singh says, he has considered his neighbours’ wellbeing from the initial stage. “The lounge is sound proof. Patrons will enjoy a blend of music but it will be played within acceptable decibels principles. There will be no loud music or wild parties to disrupt the prevailing stability of the community.”
He stresses that the lounge will cater to an elite crowd. “Our target is the working professional, the type that hankers for a suitable place to unwind after work, not a raunchy noisy spot, but a classy place, where one can sit and sip exotic drinks and eat finger foods with rhythmic background music, take in some of the latest music videos or watch sports.” He points to seven LCD flat screen television sets mounted at various points in the lounge. “These are visible from every angle no matter where one may sit.”
Management at the nifty nook enforces a strict dress code; no sneakers, slippers, T-shirts, hooded sweaters and cut up jeans. Dress is casual, semi casual, corporate casual and corporate. Its patrons fall within the 21 and above age bracket. “No one under that age will be allowed to enter. Certified security personnel will engage in strict patron screening. False IDs will be seized and reported to the relevant authority,” he says.
Chef Li Pu Guang, 52, a migrant from China, prepares the delectable hors d’ oeuvres. He has 30 years experience in Asian Cuisine. Before the Underground, he worked at Ocean View Restaurant at Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn and Ban Thai at Austin Street, Forest Hills. His menu includes; shrimp wonton, shrimp tempura, fried calamari, buffalo wings, chicken tempura, shrimp roll, coconut shrimp, grilled shrimp and french fries.
Patrons can dine on the tasty treats, savour fine wine and sink their fannies into the posh royal blue and purple ottomans placed around the knee-high tables or opt to sit in the high back chairs hugging the bar. They have a choice of any label from the stacked copper formica bottle display stand.
“Here the emphasis is on hygiene. Three sinks have been installed in the bar, one to wash, another to rinse and the last to sanitise. Of high priority are cleanliness, hygiene and service,” Singh notes. “The workers are trained in hospitality; service is courteous and cordial. Our motto is to please those who frequent here. The place is designed to encourage repeat visits.”
A ring of soft lights line the walls. Candles glow warmly in glass jars on the tables. Reflections from two huge mirrors, framed by a multitude of tiny slate tiles fixed to the back wall, emphasise the images and add a new element to the decor. A mosaic of hand crafted floor tiles running in analogous patches of mocha, caramel and taupe accentuates the theme. A series of LED lights create a recurrent wave of primary colour hues across the entire lounge.
At the entrance, lights from the ceiling shine on the ground. Two words are reflected there: Underground Lounge. Step across it and you’re inside. The ambience is engaging. Everything seems to have a rhythm of its own, carefully chosen to reflect the lounge’s distinctness. The vibe is truly infectious.