Reminiscing behind Door 44 

Midtown club rebirths the cool

It was the late '90s. The city poured till 4, Buckhead bar traffic was packed in bumper to bumper, but the coolest club in Atlanta sat at 12th and Crescent.

Nomenclature was the place. Along with Leopard Lounge and Crescent Room, it pioneered what became the city's nightlife district. Like a lighthouse, it safely guided the migrating masses to Midtown after the death of Buckhead.

The living room of the converted house served as a tiny dance floor. The family room harbored couches with a wall projector playing Elvis movies intercut with porn. The basement was an off-limits office, unless you were a stripper or had coke. Or were the rare stripper who actually had her own coke.

The place made it OK for hip kids to venture away from Ponce de Leon and Flat Shoals Avenue. Nomenclature eventually closed its doors thanks to the rising property value as a result of the scene it started.

After a few failed attempts by other ventures, the location sat idle for a couple years. But a recent near-million-dollar renovation has given birth to Door 44. In the spirit of its predecessor, the new Midtown club offers a safe haven from the likes of neighboring Twisted Taco, in an upscale Opera fashion, with a twist of East Atlanta's indie rock vibe. Let that soak in.

From head to toe, no detail was left undone. In a nod toward Amsterdam's Red Light District, burlesque outfitted cocktail servers earn double takes. At first, the risqué get-ups arouse a bit of discomfort – in the Hooters waitress kind of way – but it doesn't take long to adjust. Just maintain eye contact and try to be a gentleman.

Aesthetically, the small space is stunning. Barely recognizable, the main level opens up to a legitimate-sized dance floor and bar. But the basement is the most impressive, with red spray-painted chandeliers and graffiti roses tagged onto the brick walls. It meshes perfectly with a tucked-away VIP area protected by velvet rope. Coked-out strippers will sing praises.

The rose theme continues with glorious bar tops that encase hundreds upon thousands of actual roses. After a few drinks, you can't help but envision American Beauty breasts floating out from the petals.

But the acclaim doesn't come without flaws. Silly things, like the upstairs VIP section, get in the way. It conspicuously juts out into the club like a VILook-at-Me. And the Saturday night playlist is an enigma. After all the effort, you'd think the format would push the envelope. "Why do I want to come here to hear 95.5 The Beat?" a confused young lady asked. Hopefully the kinks will get reworked in due time.

Missing Nomenclature is easy. Refurbishing its former home in a way that pays tribute while making progress is hard. But Door 44 pulls it off.

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