Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hi there, can we join you at your... bed?

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A new nightclub opening in Winnipeg will encourage customers to go to bed -- before they go home.

As well as furnishing the club with beds instead of tables and chairs, Au Bar will also break down a gender barrier -- men and women will see and hear each other in washrooms that are partly joined.

"It's all about beds," said owner Sabino Tummillo, who has spent $750,000 renovating the nightclub that will open in about two weeks in the former Wise Guys nightclub at Rorie Street and Bannatyne Avenue.

Instead of traditional seating arrangements, patrons will stretch out on a bed with drinks beside them, he said. Patrons can also stand at the bar if they're shy or just not the laid-back type.

Some of the larger beds have translucent curtains that can be closed for a little privacy and, well, you get the picture. There'll even be a fewer larger beds for VIPs.

(A special coating over the beds means they will wipe clean and dry when drinks are spilled.)

Suitors may have to learn a few new techniques and tricks. For example, instead of asking to join someone's table, you'll have to ask if there's room on their bed.

"There's nothing like this in Winnipeg; I don't even think it exists anywhere in Canada," Tummillo said. The concept started in Miami before spreading to New York and Los Angeles. "It'll be a loungy kind of atmosphere, but it'll have energy, high energy," he said.

An equally risqué aspect of the club can be found in the men's and women's washrooms.

Instead of the usual strict separation, the opposite sexes will be able to see each other when they're washing their hands at the sinks, Tummillo said.

Each sink will have a mirror in front of it, but clear glass between the mirrors will allow for close encounters of a different kind and a look into forbidden territory.

Open air at the upper and lower ends of the glass separation means it will also be possible to eavesdrop on conversations in opposing washrooms, he said. Just imagine overhearing what your love interest really thinks.

Tummillo said neither sex will be able to see anything private and no urinals or washroom stalls will be visible.

Both washrooms will have television sets that will run commercials for local businesses. The women's washroom will be extra large, with a lounge and seating area, he said.

Is Winnipeg ready for beds, curtains and peek-a-boo washrooms in its bars?

"I think there's a lot of people here who are looking for something different," Tummillo said. "The bar business needs to stay current, to change constantly, or it starts to seem stale."

In the bar and restaurant business for 25 years, Tummillo has big plans for the downtown nightclub district.

He owns The Empire and Vertigo nightclubs in the Exchange and he's about to acquire two more.

Eventually, Tummillo said, he plans to charge one cover charge for all five bars and provide free transportation between the bars, creating a continuous circuit of activity and excitement.

He said he also plans to open a beauty shop where women can drink wine while pampering their fingernails and toenails -- something many women have long said they wanted.

"I figure I'm going to bring 5,000 people downtown every weekend," Tummillo said.

He's planning a street festival in the Exchange next month, to be followed by four next year.

Each festival, he says, will bring 100,000 people downtown. If all his plans succeed, Tummillo just might earn himself the title of Mr. Downtown Entertainment, an idea he likes.

Annitta Stenning, CEO of CentreVenture Development Corp., the city's downtown development agency, said she's thrilled with Tummillo's boldness.

"He obviously has a lot of confidence in the area and that's something we share," Stenning said.

As for his new bedroom bar, Stenning said it's the right concept for the downtown.

"It's exciting, it's new, it's different, even a little risqué," she said. "How can we not like it?"

dave.o'brien@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 12, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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