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A look at Purgatory, the grid’s newest restaurant-lounge

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When Mark Twain advised, “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company,” he could have been talking about the newest hotspot coming to J Street in Midtown: Purgatory.

The restaurant-by-day, dance-club-by night venue is nearing completion, according to operations manager Mark Garcia, and, when it opens its doors at the end of August, Garcia promises it will have a lot to offer.

“Purgatory is the place between Heaven and Hell and that’s where people will enter our place,” Garcia said. “Once they’re here, they can choose what to experience.”

The concept behind Purgatory, Garcia said, is to combine two contrasting themes – heaven, hell, sinners, saints – into one venue. There are two large clubs to visit within Purgatory: a restaurant with a light ambiance on the first floor, and an edgier club in the underground basement.

The restaurant is still under construction, but the new sign went up over the weekend, drawing attention to the boarded up former Azukar Lounge site at 1616 J St. that will soon be ready to welcome guests. Garcia granted Sac Press an impromptu, no-photos preview of the multifaceted club Tuesday, but the doors won’t open to the public until everything is in place, he said.

The front of the venue will be a full coffee bar open mornings in what Garcia referred to as their “Garden of Eden”: an open-air, covered patio area with tall tables and chairs and stone fixtures.

From Eden, patrons can go to the upper level “Heaven” or descend the stairwell to “Hell.”

The “Heaven” level of the restaurant/club is a large ballroom with light Tiffany Blue walls and cloud-white and silver accents. Spacious open booths with contemporary, curved white lounges and ottomans will line the walls of the elevated VIP section, overlooking the floor and its linen-clad tables.

An unusual feature of Heaven will be a one-piece, opaque film that covers light fixtures around the circumference of the room, creating a lightbox effect. Garcia said this European-style feature is lightweight and designed to diffuse light from LEDs behind it.

The center of the ceiling will showcase a unique three-chandelier fixture with dangling crystals at the end of fiber-optic lines, creating yet another unusual lighting effect for the room.

Garcia said lunch and dinner will be served at the restaurant until about 9 p.m. every day. After that – “Heaven” turns into a nightclub with dancing, cocktails and appetizers.

But what’s Heaven without a corresponding Hell? Purgatory has it, Garcia said.

A short trip down a side staircase takes visitors to the lower-level club that offers a distinctly different climate than its lighter, upper-level neighbor.

Downstairs, visitors are greeted by a darker, more intense color palette of reds, black, and gunmetal grey. The 98-foot-long granite top bar sits atop art-deco square glass bricks lit from behind with LEDs.

The intimate VIP booths in Hell are decked out with black leather, high-back chairs and low drink tables, and sit tucked in along the walls next to the dance floor. Some booths curve around and behind a small stage area with a dancer’s pole and spotlights; other booths sit next to a dancer’s cage and swing.

A DJ and a sound and light technician in booths at the far end of the room control music and videos appearing on flat-screen TVs on walls and columns throughout the lower level.

Garcia said the music in the lower-level nightclub will be a mix of electronic dance music and trance, while upstairs DJs will play pop, top 40, alternative and dance tunes.

Purgatory hosted an open call for servers, bartenders and other staff last week, and the turnout was overwhelming, Garcia said.

“We had about 300 people show up,” he said. “Every seat in the house was full, and people were left standing, too. It was incredible.”

Garcia said about 30 people will be on staff for day and night shifts at Purgatory.

Stay tuned for more details about the opening as they become available.

Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

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