Sometimes, bar and nightclub owners spend months or years looking for the perfect spot for their new concept. Other times, they find it right under their nose.Antonis Karagounis, the owner of Echostage, was walking to his office on K Street NW in January when he noticed U.S. Marshals “taking everything out of [Lotus Lounge],” a subterranean nightclub near the corner of 14th and K streets. Lotus had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2014 and owed more than $1 million in back taxes, according to the Washington Business Journal, so the eviction wasn’t a surprise. But Karagounis saw an opportunity.
A rendering of Soundcheck, which replaces Lotus Lounge near 14th and K streets NW. (Image courtesy of Soundcheck)
He and his partners, who also run the nearby Josephine and Barcode, “had been looking for a smaller venue for us to be able to do the up and coming DJs – techno, deep house, DJs that are a little more underground that cannot fill up Echostage,” Karagounis says. Echostage is one of the largest venues in Washington, with room for up to 6,000 clubbers, so it’s too big for the “experimental” DJs Karagounis wants to book for sets at the long-running weekend Glow party. But the former Lotus, with room for around 300 customers, is just the right size. “So I called the landlord,” Karagounis explains, chuckling. “It was pretty easy, actually.”
After months of renovation, the new spot, dubbed Soundcheck, will open to the public on Aug. 12. Karagounis says the goal of the “minimalist” space, outfitted with LED walls and video projectors, light fixtures to project lasers over the dance floors, and a pair of giant disco balls. “I want to mix the old and the new,” he says, “the disco feel of the ’80s and ’90s when I started going clubbing.” Karagounis has a long history in D.C. nightspots, having promoted at legendary spots like the Spy Club and Zei Club in the 1990s, and worries the new generation, weaned on superclubs and day-long EDM festivals, is missing out. That, he says, is why he decided to “bring it to people who never experienced the old-school clubbing, the darker look and the crazy lights.”
(Image courtesy of Soundcheck)
In a phone interview, Karagounis keeps coming back to the state-of-the-art d&b audiotechnik Y-series speakers, installed by the same team behind Echostage’s sound system, and the system of honeycombed acoustic panels on the walls and ceiling, and the reinforced cork floor. “It was built like a recording studio,” he says. “It sounds a little technical, but everything was done to enhance the sound.”
The calendar for Soundcheck is beginning to fill up: Wednesdays will be handled by the Steez Promo, the EDM promoters who’ve organized Baltimore’s Moonrise Festival as well as shows at the 9:30 Club. Thursdays will be Glow Thursdays, a long-running event now being staged at sister nightclub Ultrabar, featuring techno and house DJs. Paris Blohm (Sept. 3) and Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano (Oct. 1) are among the names already booked; James and Marciano were among the first artists to play at Echostage back in 2012. Sunday’s Afterglow offers a chance to hear the legendary Pete Tong (Sept. 27) and deep techno whiz Paul Ritch (Sept. 20) in intimate surroundings.
Eventually, Friday night will become a Latin and international night, while Saturday will focus on hip-hop, but those details are still being worked out. Also to come is the return of College Tuesdays, an 18-and-over night previously held at Barcode and the now-closed Lima Lounge. “We’re breaking it in, little by little,” Karagounis says. “You have to ease in the crowd.”
Soundcheck, 1420 K St. NW. 202-789-5429 www.soundcheckdc.com. Opens Aug. 12.