Bolly, by Golly!

South Asian Nightclub Brightens Mid-Market District

Patrons and staff at Club OMG sometimes don stylish traditional South Asian garb. photo: Georg Lester

by Jim Provenzano

“The newest club is opening up,” goes the old Nina Hagen song, her caustic anthem to 1980s New York nightlife.

This time, the neighborhood that was filmed to look like New York’s East Village (for the film Rent) is the locale for ‘the newest club,’ the gay-owned Club OMG!

From its robin’s egg retro blue décor to its circular dance floor and five-projector visuals, the new venue combines intimacy with a club-like ambiance.

Co-owner Rakesh Modi said that he didn’t realize how difficult the whole process would be. “Getting the alcohol license transferred, getting all the permits,” he said. “It was quite a challenge. But we’re open, finally!”

Started in early September with a few soft openings, Modi and co-owner Paresh Shah have been putting the pieces together for what he considers the first gay-owned South Asian-focused nightclub in San Francisco, if not the entire U.S.

Club OMG fans dance it up. photo: Monty Suwannukul

The club had an enthusiastic turnout even before it opened. When the bar wasn’t quite ready last month, the party was moved to a neighboring bar, where South Asian lesbians, gays and pals danced and enjoyed themselves.

Now that Club OMG is open, along with the regular evening events, Modi said they’ll be focusing on corporate events for nearby tech companies and other businesses. Some nights, they’re be open early at 5pm or 8pm, depending on the nights and bookings, or earlier Happy Hour events.

It’s at such events where new patrons can sample the club’s new signature cocktails stirred up by resident mixologist Jason O’Meara. A bar stocked with quality brands, specialty ginger and saffron martinis, margaritas and other cocktails, along with a revamped décor, make the trip to mid-Market a worthy adventure. With weekly Saturday Bollywood nights, the popular music form will get unique takes by guest and resident DJs.

“We want to have a presence in San Francisco,” said Modi, when asked about his inspiration for starting the nightclub. His business partners owned a bar in the East Bay, and wanted to bring a South Asian LGBT presence to the scene.

“We also realized there was no club that had Bollywood music,” said Modi. “We wanted to see something for ourselves. There’s a large growing LGBT South Asian presence in the city, yet there is no gay Bollywood dance club in the country. So we’re the first. It’s also popularizing the music and the culture in a fun way.

Affiliated with the South Asian LGBT group Trikone for years, “also the first organization of its kind in the country,” Modi reminded me, he’s made some of the club’s upcoming events fundraisers for the nonprofit.

Fans of the new Club OMG at a pre-opening party. photo: Monty Suwannukul

But he sees Club OMG! as extending a further aspect. “It’s also a way to integrate and assimilate the gay and non-gay south Asian communities. Ideally, we want to have Bollywood nights where everybody can enjoy themselves. That was the incentive to start. Everybody should feel welcome.”

Despite this message, some South Asian LGBTs are still cautious about being out, even in liberal San Francisco. Other local Bollywood parties, most of which take place in the South Bay, are not gay, Modi said.

Bollywood music’s blend of cultural music influences should appeal to those interested in world music and uplifting dance beats.

“Bollywood music today is more of a good mix of salsa, Arabic; a blend of cultures,” said Modi. “We also want to realize that there are people who don’t know it and we want to familiarize them.”

Bollywood dance classes on Sunday evenings are in the works. Led by SF Fitness (formerly Gold’s Gym) instructor Satish, the basic moves will be taught to newbies.

The Club OMG events add to the already popular Non-Stop Banghra dance nights held at Public Works (moved from The Rickshaw Stop after their popularity increased).

“That’s a good sign that people are going to try it,” said Modi.

Rakesh DJs at Club OMG. photo: Georg Lester

Along with the Saturday Bollywood parties, and Sunday dance lessons, Modi mentioned other events, including a grand opening weekend September 27 through 30.

Thursday’s weekly Wish, with DJ Drewbad spinning Top 40 and hip hop from 9pm to closing. September 28 is the nearby Sixth Street Art Walk, and the club will open early (3pm), with a fashion show by designer Hector Manuel, and $3 drink specials.

The weekend includes new weekly events Spicy; Friday nights with DJ SSHaaN playing Bollywood hits. He also spins at Saturday’s Jalwa Bollywood dance party.

Visit Club OMG 7 days a week, 5:30pm-2am at 43 6th Street at Market.

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