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Get on the list at The Warren 

On any given night, it's not uncommon to see people crowded outside of the Dark Horse Tavern in Virginia-Highland. Between the bar itself, and its downstairs music venue, 10 High, traffic is heavy and often unbearable. But if it suits you, you can bypass the crowd at the Dark Horse's side door and walk right up the stairs to The Warren.

Billed as "a refuge in the Highlands," The Warren has been open for a few months and is the first venture of its kind for owner Kristi Warren. What's unusual about the place is that it's a members-only establishment.

Members-only clubs have been around for ages and are still popular in cities like Miami, New York and Los Angeles. But, until now, exclusive venues have not been part of the Atlanta nightlife scene. To become a member of The Warren, you must pay yearly dues that provide you with guaranteed access to the club as well as other benefits including invitations to exclusive parties. Membership is not all-inclusive, however. You still will be dishing out for food and drinks.

Warren says she wants her guests to feel like they are at "the coolest cocktail party in town." She created The Warren as a haven for people to gather in an intimate setting without having to worry about flying drinks or a bar brawl. As she envisioned, there is definitely an air of maturity at the upscale joint.

On a recent weeknight, the crowd was mellow, though not subdued. A mix of suits, restaurant industry-folk and girls with impeccably straight hair and high heels sat around the bar and took over the big cushy chairs and tables as they sipped cocktails. Weekend nights feature DJs, and Wednesdays from 6-9 p.m. is "Martinis and Manicures," where members can sip cocktails while getting the preferential spa treatment.

The interior of The Warren is impressive and reminiscent of a living room in a well-furnished New York loft. The beamed ceiling and quirky art, which is for sale, give it an edgy feel. The fireplace and oversized chairs lend to the living room atmosphere. The bar itself is a large and modern granite surface with smaller tables and stools surrounding it. The Warren also boasts a decent-sized deck that sits high above the raucous crowds on the streets below.

The Warren is a great space with tasty food and cocktails sure to be served strong and in sturdy glasses. And, so far, there seems to be a decent response to Warren's vision of a hip cocktail bash. The only question is: How much is exclusivity worth?

The Warren, Thurs.-Sun., 4 p.m.-3 a.m. 818 N. Highland Ave. 404-475-1991.

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