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Sip Social Lounge: A sleek, sexy spin on the ultra lounge

Bar patrons take advantage of the early drink specials at Sip Social Lounge in downtown St. Petersburg.
Luis Santana/tbt*

Bar patrons take advantage of the early drink specials at Sip Social Lounge in downtown St. Petersburg. Luis Santana/tbt*

'Ultra lounge" is a polarizing phrase. Those who fall outside of that format's target demographic often characterize such places as a vapid, artless venues best suited for people who laughed with — and not at — the cast of the Jersey Shore. Fans of ultra lounges, however, see them as perfect upscale destinations for a classy and fun party night out.

The truth falls somewhere between extremes. The concept of the ultra lounge is certainly overused in St. Pete, and promises of celebrity sightings and a truly refined, high-class environment are often overstated. But many ultra lounges do provide a hard-to-beat option for local crowds looking to get a party started without crossing the bridge to Tampa, and with the Honda Grand Prix coming this weekend, this crowd is sure to be a heck of a lot bigger than usual.

I'd wager that a lot of this weekend's post-race foot traffic ends up at Sip Social Lounge. Sip is St. Pete's newest ultra lounge, complete with a website that makes several promises sure to get cynics' eyes rolling, such as a claim to being the "first true upscale lounge in downtown St. Petersburg," and an oddly-specific "23- to 45-year old" designated target demographic.

But despite some questionable copy, Sip actually makes good on its promise of high-end aesthetics and atmosphere. Simply put, it looks great. The floor space is used wisely, the furniture and other decor is modern and not gaudy, the sound is pro-quality, the interior is spotless, and the staff is friendly and attentive.

Rather than complicate the interior with private rooms, hidden VIP areas, separate bars and cluttered floor space, Sip opts for a simple, single-room approach, giving the club a roomy, open feel that works really well with the vibe that they're shooting for — a slick, European-style lounge that's as much about partying and dancing as it is about kicking back on a plush sofa and sipping a glass of champagne. Eye level-to-ceiling mirrors behind the bar amplify the effect.

The color scheme is a consistent blue-green and off-white throughout, from large, globe-shaped lanterns above the long, winding granite bar to the silver-hued padded sofas stretching along the opposite wall, illuminated from below by green rope lights. Ornate chandeliers hang above each VIP seating area, while a massive, ultra-modern glass fixture hangs from the middle of the room, right above the dance floor. And really, there is no dance floor, per se. The entire floor of the club is wide open, punctuated only by two, pillow-covered island benches in the center and a DJ booth between the end of the bar and VIP seating area. On busy nights, the whole place might as well be a dance floor.

As with most clubs, the bar is not the primary feature. However, there is a lot of seating at the bar, and the seats are really cool, adjustable stools with backs that I'd imagine become pretty premium real estate once the club fills up. The drinks are standard. Bottle service is a big feature here, and while some martini-style house cocktails are reasonable enough, I expect that most people will stick with either a bottle of beer or a simple liquor-and-mixer cocktail.

People will travel to check out the Grand Prix. Some will want to experience local flavor. Others are going to want to party on a larger scale, and that's where classy, chic and modern places like Sip Social Lounge come in. To the people who don't dismiss ultra lounges on principle alone, that's worth something.

Sip Social Lounge

179 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 631-4048,

The vibe: A roomy, well-polished ultra lounge and nightclub.

Booze: Beer, $4-$5; wine, $6; liquor, $6-$10. Specials change nightly, from $5 drinks on Tuesdays to $10 sink-or-swim on Thursdays. Bottle service is available for $125 and up, depending on the night.

Specialty: Sip has five house cocktails, including the Strawberry Dream, made from muddled fresh strawberries, Stoli Strasberi, triple sec, lime juice and a splash of champagne; and a Cucumber Martini featuring muddled mint, cucumber vodka, lime juice, and soda. Bottle service is big here, and the selection is extensive, with nearly 20 bottles of vodka, whiskey, rum, gin, tequila and champagne to choose from, with a wide range of available mixers. If you're looking to party on the cheap, inquire about the daily special, which usually land in the $5 price range.

Hours: 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Tuesday-Saturday, closed Sunday-Monday.

Sip Social Lounge: A sleek, sexy spin on the ultra lounge 03/21/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 21, 2013 12:31am]
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