New Boston Street club has a shot at attracting happy Kampers

ON NIGHTLIFE

May 25, 2006|By SAM SESSA

It came as no surprise when Flirt, the seediest club on Boston Street, closed a few months back.

For me, one trip was enough: The place was grimy and empty, and the DJs bumped crunk hip hop and stared at my girlfriend like hungry hyenas. We bounced after a bit, just as a thugged-out crowd started trickling in. No, thanks.

When word got out that a new owner took over and gutted the place, I was really looking forward to it - especially after talking to the new manager, Warren Hemenway.

Hemenway's goal was to totally revamp the place: Clean it up and keep the old crowd from coming back. He christened it Kamp, and officially opened it last weekend. In the next couple of months, he wants to bring in live bands and sushi.

"I've got some good stuff in the works for this place," Hemenway said.

After a night there, I'll probably go back - especially if Hemenway follows through on his plans. Last Saturday had its ups and downs. Two of the biggest turnoffs came first: A $10 cover charge and an unnecessary wait outside.

A little before midnight, a dozen or so people patiently waited between a few feet of velvet rope and Kamp's stone facade. The bouncer was pulling the classic let-five-people-in-every-five-minutes ruse, which made Kamp appear slammed when it was really only comfortably full inside. Come on now - this is Canton, not New York City. But it's important to note: For any lounge's first weekend open, comfortably full is a huge success.

Finally, we made it to the front of the line, where the bouncer asked for a 10-spot per person. He also told me not to come back again wearing sandals because they're not allowed, but he would let me in anyway this once (thanks, pal). After we paid him, he scribbled the letter "K" for Kamp on our hands with a ballpoint pen. Real classy.

Since I've paid Club X Ultra Lounge's crazy $10 entry before, I anted up, expecting the same plush decor and Miami club vibe. I liked most of what I saw. Wooden squares are stacked around the support beams, and comfy furniture is scattered throughout. The bar is made of glass mosaic tiles, and cone-shaped lights with leopardlike designs on them light the area behind the bar. Though not as sharp as Club X, everything inside Kamp feels fresh - except for the ceiling. Hemenway left the white-painted wooden rafters exposed, which looks really tacky.

Bar service was fast, and drinks weren't too pricey - two vodka-tonics, a Miller Lite and a poorly made watermelon mojito cost a little more than $20. Kamp also does bottle service, where you shell out a ridiculous lump of cash to buy a bottle of liquor and all the necessary mixers.

Sharp-dressed kids made up more than half the crowd. Guys sported club shirts and pants and had short, gelled hair, and girls wore dresses. The rest of the patrons resembled people I've seen at Club X Ultra Lounge, only trashier. Two women who looked like they were in their mid-30s (one in this tight pink jumpsuit thing) hopped up on a small platform near the dance floor and started dancing and rubbing each other. They were having a goooood time.

A weathered couple also got up-up-close as the DJ spun loud, fast and bumping mixes of Coldplay's "Talk" and the Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha." I even saw a woman in her 70s getting down, which was just weird. But everyone was partying hard, and morale was high.

Hemenway's got the right atmosphere with Kamp, and if he can draw more young people to fill it, he'll have a hit lounge. One thing's clear:

"It ain't Flirt anymore," Hemenway said.

Kamp is at 2314 Boston St. Hours are 8 p.m.-2 a.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. Call 410-342-KAMP or visit kampbaltimore.com.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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