News Article | 6/25/2006

Mr. Dallas: Ghostbar conjures VIPs and wannabes

To misappropriate the famous phrase of the Victory Park developer’s dad, the giant sucking sound you’ll be hearing for the next many weeks will be hipsters and wannabes whooshing through the doors of the W Dallas-Victory Hotel.

Boxsters and Beamers that never negotiated the winding course of Cedar Springs or slipped down Houston to make the tip-off at American Airlines Center will be bumper-to-bumper in pursuit of the internationally renowned, full-immersion cool of the W.

The purveyors of cool at the W return the compliment. “It’s got sizzle, culture, style,” says Scott DeGraff about Dallas. With Michael Morton, he’s the co-owner of Ghostbar, a sparkling aerie of stainless steel, glass and whimsy (the “marble” columns being columns inset with iridescent marbles) on the 33rd floor. It’s bound to become the literal and figurative apex of nightlife here when it opens next weekend. In the short term, other fashionable nightspots will feel a dip, certainly at the VIP lounges but also on the middlebrow patios along McKinney Avenue. The W opening isn’t likely to sink anybody, though.

“We wouldn’t do business in a town like that,” says Mr. DeGraff, magnanimous and talkative, in trendy-casual black and gray, a bulbous Panerai watch bouncing with every wave of his hand.

For one thing, Victory doesn’t have the density yet that could swamp other nightlife areas. The ramp-up of restaurants and clubs in the adjacent Victory Plaza begins this fall and continues next year. For now, there are Ghostbar up top and the Living Room lounge off the lobby.

For another, Victory is a destination, not an easy in and out. Dallas scenesters are notoriously averse to hassles. Parking, valet parking and congestion on game nights may blunt the appeal until there’s more there to do.

And in the longer run, buzz begets buzz. Run-off from the W – the well-heeled hotel guests and condo owners, visiting glitterati – will radiate out from Victory to downtown and points along McKinney and Cedar Springs, to Knox-Henderson and beyond. It’s the trickle-down theory of fabulousness.

Ghostbar is the immediate sensation – 12,500 square feet of silver, gray, white and green chic. The balcony boasts a sweeping downtown view and a 26-by-7-foot wedge of glass flooring for vertigo lovers to mill around on. Acrophobics are more likely to appreciate the 8-foot-high sneeze guard erected against the sky.

The first Ghostbar opened above Mr. Morton and Mr. DeGraff’s N9NE Steakhouse in Chicago in 2000. But the next, which debuted in 2001 at the Palms in Las Vegas, is the one everybody knows, thanks to MTV’s The Real World and a continuing irrigation of celebrities from Los Angeles.

“You have to have a good time to sell it” is the philosophy, says Mr. DeGraff.

This third Ghostbar, and the other N9NE Group properties that will follow it, are landing at Victory through connections with developer Ross Perot Jr. and his associate, Jonas Woods, big fans of the Las Vegas club.

The ground-level Living Room is less frenetic and attitude-fragrant, but still posh and whimsical. Twenty-five-foot chandeliers rain down. Clusters of settees and low tables create conversation areas awash with the W’s trademark lounge sounds. Starchy hedonists might blink twice at the waitresses’ summer gear of white tank tops and black short shorts, more Hooters than high-end hotel.

On Thursday, its second day of operation, the Living Room was buzzing pleasantly with guests and locals checking it out after work. The patio, shielded from Houston Street by stands of bamboo, looks to be a mid-evening magnet.