Clubbin' grows up: The Exchange Nightclub and Alibi Lounge

A grand entrance to an adult experience

A grand entrance to an adult experience

When we first caught wind of the new Exchange "Adult" Nightclub in the underground level of downtown's historic Lumber Exchange Building, it was impossible to quiet our inner Grumpy Old Men. The only adult nightclub any adult would frequent would be the kind with an XXX attached to the name, and since this was the other kind of adult nightclub, then no. It would never go. 

What kind? The kind that claimed to attract people over 30, and even, they said, people over 40, who wanted to shake their groove things, party down, raise the roof, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. "Poppycock," we bellowed, "Horse pucky!" in our best Walter Matthau and Burgess Meredith voices. "Adults don't go to nightclubs — and we only buy our sock suspenders from Woolworths!"  

But after a visit, I'm not so sure. 

While I visited early on a Friday (this 40+ requires eight hours of slumber, weekend or no), the smattering of guests in attendance were indeed not Scooby Snack-swilling twentysomethings, but those fabled "young professionals" taking a load off after a grueling week of spinning files and reports into tall stacks of cool hundreds. 

The historic space has been so many things over the years, it's difficult to keep track: a barbershop, a gangster hideout, a gay bathhouse, the Rogue Nightclub, and now this. 

What's this? 

Dreamy purple jellyfish tanks separate the club from the lounge area.

Dreamy purple jellyfish tanks separate the club from the lounge area.

It feels like modern industry mashed up with Roman den of inequity, all exposed brick, vaulted doors, heavy masculine fixtures, and canoodling corners. Thoughtful touches throughout make it luxe for the serious partier: locking drawers and cabinets free you from your purse and other trappings; charging stations throughout mean you'll never miss an important selfie, an iPhone App allows you to order drinks from where you are, rather than you going to them. Is it your birthday? Sign up at their website and you'll get a complimentary bottle and a VIP seat in the birthday alcove. 

"So, not only is it your birthday, but everybody in [that section] is celebrating their birthday, so you all get to talking and it becomes its own party," says Ben Quam, general manager of the club. He said they're trying to create loyalty and offer kickbacks like VIP incentives and freebies to those who frequent the club.

And, he insists, those regulars are more often than not in the 40-and-over demographic. 

And if you're still unconvinced that your sensible 40+ wardrobe will fit into an environment like this, Exchange has got you covered in the adjacent Alibi lounge. Here, a reasonably quiet bar with comfortable furniture, perambulating jellyfish, craft cocktails, and small plates is a truly calming respite from the hustle of other nearby downtown happy hours, and it may be the best kept secret for the impending winter: zero windows means zero reminders of accumulating snowbanks, icy winds, or unendurable traffic snarls. 

I liked Alibi because it offers space for How People Really Relax, instead of awkward hi-tops or just slightly uncomfortable industrial furniture that invites you to settle in, but not for too long, because we gotta turn this table within an hour. Alibi seems to scream, "Relax, we've got all night." And the casino-style lack of daylight and clocks is an insurance policy against common anxieties. 

A list of small plates is tight and focused, with mostly seafood options including a lot of takes on oysters and shellfish, though Smith says they'll be transitioning out of cold seafood soon to match the season. Both bulgogi lettuce cups and tuna poke tostadas were excellent, especially the latter with generous portions of raw tuna and not too much accompanying sauce to muck it up — just clean and precise seafood. Both dishes are worth a look in their own right. 

That said, if they want to keep the after work-into-the-wee-hours crowd, they may have to bulk the menu up with heavier proteins and larger plates for booze-soakin'. The bar program is similarly tight, with a half dozen specialty cocktails like an interesting "Lovely Exchange," a curiosity of fresh pressed strawberry juice, agave, peach brandy, and a spritz of lavender. 

Fill the place with the crush of sweaty bodies, the slosh of drink, and the thunder of bass, and things might indeed become a little less adult. Or maybe you're the sort of adult who would like nothing more than just such an equation. In which case, there's something for all "of a certain age" in Exchange and Alibi. 

Now open

10 S. Fifth St., Minneapolis