Nightlife, Next Exit

Tonight we're gonna party Maplewood-style

Whoever's behind Myth, there certainly appears to be no expense spared. Ogren isn't available for an interview, I'm told, but a general manager, Derek Bunnell, happily gives me a tour of the place. Upon arriving, I'm greeted by a rather militant doorman, thick in the neck and shoulders, with a blond buzzcut and a radio device in his ear. While he pages Bunnell through a lavaliere mic, I take note of the signs explaining the dress code.

"Minnesota's premier nite club needs sexy customers to match," it begins. "Sexy ensembles for the ladies are appreciated and handsome attire for the fellas." It goes on to list a number of apparel items "discouraged," including baggy pants, flip-flops, sweatshirts, baseball hats, and T-shirts. "Dress to impress," it concludes.

Though it's just after 9:00 p.m., early evening in clubland, there's a host of Ramsey County Sheriff vehicles in the vast parking lot outside the entrance, some with dog patrols. (Myth hires the off-duty cops to the tune of $1,300 a night; the Quest, by contrast, will spend $600 on a night where tight security is needed.) Early birds are greeted by metal detectors and bag searches as they pay a $10 cover.

Inside, Bunnell, a cherubic 36-year-old dressed in a black suit with a black dress shirt and a tie, points out the DJ booth. It's equipped with satellite access for instant video downloads. There are three sleek bars, lit from the inside, on the main floor, and roughly 15 flat-screen televisions mounted throughout the club. They're all showing a vintage video by Kool & the Gang. Bunnell notes that the dance floor holds "800-plus adults," and there's seating for 500 or more patrons on the lower level alone—all this in a three-floor venue with a stated capacity of 4,400. By contrast, Escape Ultra Lounge, the upscale dance club located on downtown Minneapolis's Block E, has room for 1,000 people in 12,000 square feet. The stated capacity of Quest, with 20,000 square feet, is 2,200. In short, Myth, with some 36,000 square feet of space, is huge.

"What we're proud of is that no matter what size your wallet is, we've got a place for you here," Bunnell says.

We head to the backstage area, which has a door that opens to a back lot with five slips for touring and production buses. (Acts that come to the Quest and First Avenue, by contrast, have to settle for permits that allow parking on the street.) The hallway winds toward two state-of-the-art dressing rooms, complete with leather chairs and couches, two bathrooms each, two flat-screen TVs, and internet/fax hook-ups. Bunnell talks about recent shows by the Time and Tommy Lee, the Mötley Crüe drummer who did a DJ tour. He then points to racks of hanging bras, slips, and dresses—the accoutrements of the "Vegas-style interactive dance show" that's slated to run at 11:30. Bunnell promises that it's like nothing else in the country.

I ask Bunnell, who's been in the bar business with Ogren for years, if he could imagine opening such a space in this location just a few years ago. "Probably not, but there's an audience now," he says. "Where else but out here are you going to find 36,000 square feet and four acres of parking?"

We're joined mid-tour by another manager, Jeff Kehr. Kehr is also 36 and portly, and dressed much the same as Bunnell. "Seven or eight years ago, the whole nightclub scene changed," Kehr says, adding that he and the rest of the Myth brain trust spent two years scouting nightspots across the nation. "It's all about Vegas and Miami, where they've moved from going family-oriented back to adult-oriented. We're just modeling ourselves after the major nightclubs and casinos." Myth employs 125 people, and has 60 bartenders, waitresses, and security guards working on a night like tonight.

The tour then moves upstairs to the second level, which holds a bar and balcony overlooking the dance floor. Up here, there is a VIP section that requires a bottle purchase. On the third floor, there is a "white room" resembling something out of an Austin Powers movie—white leather couches and chairs with DayGlo-green pillows right out of the swingin' '60s—that's reserved for private parties and includes an outdoor terrace overlooking that four-acre parking lot.

Kehr will only say that "millions and millions of dollars" went into the place, and declines to say what kind of revenue and expenses Myth has each week. But he estimates that the place sees 5,000 customers a week; some club scene insiders estimate that Myth clears $150,000 net on a month with no live acts—just on regular business. Some figure that Myth can't make money back with those kinds of numbers, but Kehr assures me that the business is "absolutely sustainable."

Around the corner is another private bar, adjoined in turn by three private suites that look out on the dance floor. Each suite has a theme: the Elvis, with couches and pillows done in white and gold; the Boss, named after Springsteen, with denim decor; and the Prince, done up in the inevitable purple. The suites, according to Kehr, can go for anywhere from $500 to $7,500 a night, with a four-bottle minimum. Bottles available include Jim Beam ($180), Grey Goose ($240), and Cristal ($580). I wonder aloud who would spend such money, and ask Kehr if they've been catering to NBA players. "Not yet," he says earnestly.

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