Put out lots of freebies and cheap drinks and they will come. That's the marketing logic many restaurant-nightclub chains are employing these days to sell a few beers to folks who would otherwise be at home in front of the tube. Suburbia apparently eats these promos up, because the liquor companies are putting plenty of ducats into them.
Black Angus in Lake Forest remembers how well it did with a brewery-sponsored night last summer, says a longtime employee of the restaurant, so last week it returned with the Jammin' Island Party every Thursday night.
Sponsored by Miller beer, the TV screens flash clips from Miller-sponsored sports events, ads and the logo with the intention of influencing patrons to drink their brew. Of course it works, because it's among the night's drink specials--$1.75 Miller Genuine Draft and MGD Light, as well as Bacardi and lemonade for $2 and shooters for $1. The truly festive can sip rum and juice from a coconut for $4.75 or get a direct shot of Sex on the Beach (the cocktail) from a giant squirt gun for $1. All other beers go for $2.75 to $3.75, and wells are $3.
The sponsoring beer label also provides the bar with anything and everything beach related, with the Miller name on it, of course: beach balls, beach chairs and plenty of doughnut-like inner tubes that hang from the ceiling (are they supposed to mean something?).
To really bring in the masses, though, a club needs giveaways: passes to Wild Rivers, Snow Summit and the Improv are matched to names drawn during the evening. There is also a limbo contest, held every week at 12:20 a.m. Limbo winners will compete for two grand prizes--a seven-day, all-expenses paid voyage to beeyouteeful Jamaica, and a mountain bike--to be awarded at the end of the promotion, during the first week in October.
To get patrons into the island mood, mon , DJ Wesley R. Hull cuts reggae into the play list of Top 40 and '70s disco. Yeah, disco is back and raging at many clubs, but this is one site where it should be avoided. Many of these people look like they lived that era the first time around, so when they act out the moves to the the Village People's "YMCA," jumping up and down in nostalgic excitement, it looks more like an aerobic session.
Still, Hull, who looks more like a lifeguard than a nightclub deej, does a fine job getting the crowd pumped up. In his neon pink "Party Patrol" Tee, he leads the parade under the limbo stick and in a conga line dance at the end of the evening.
Other bar personnel don grass skirts and place flowers behind their ears in an attempt to set some kind of island mood. But the red and green bulbs and black light tubes illuminate the place too much, possibly to facilitate reading all of Miller's commercial clutter.
This is certainly middle America at its finest: lots of pastels, florals and perms, lots of regular guys. It's very much a couples scene, although a few small groups on nights-out-with-the-girls/guys still come ready to strike. And much of the crowd apparently hails from the nearby Marine base (those military haircuts give them away).
Of course, Black Angus also goes off the five other nights of the week with commercial dance music. Tuesday is country night; there's no cover, and dance lessons go from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday there's a $3.50 cover, and wells and drafts sell for $1.50. Friday and Saturday bring the "Weekend Dance Party"--cover is $3, cocktail specials bought from waitresses are $2, and the shots of the evening are $1.50.
Midori, maker of melon liqueur, will start its own promo this Friday with a weekly fashion show featuring wares for men and women, beginning at 6:30. We just can't wait.
Rose Apodaca is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition. * BLACK ANGUS
* 23221 Lake Center Drive, Lake Forest.
* (714) 837-4200.
* Open nightly, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.
* Cover: varies nightly from free to $3.50.