Based on its name, we expected Korruption — the new West Bottoms watering hole — to be a Soviet-themed, “workers of the world, unite!” sort of place. After all, its bright-red MySpace page seemed to dictate that thirsty patrons needed a valid worker ID to enter. Plus, its logo is a hammer crossed with a star-embossed martini glass — commierific!
We checked with our scouts, who reported that no such Red Star tendencies existed at the bar. But that didn’t stop the Night Ranger from donning her Russian faux-fur hat and heading over to West Ninth Street with Research Assistants John, Lexie and Cece the weekend before May Day for some Western-style decadence. Speaking of which, rumors abounded that Korruption had operated as an after-hours speakeasy just prior to its opening and that a hot tub was going to be installed on the second floor. Well, nothing says commune more than a Real World-style hot tub — the collective that bathes together stays together.
Little did we suspect that “Western-style” really meant the Old West. Located in the space that used to house the Spitfire and Wild West bars as well as the Fahrenheit Gallery (is there any place in the West Bottoms that hasn’t been the Fahrenheit?), the bar still bears the decorating marks from the Wild West era. The brick-red tin ceiling, the multicolored mosaic tile floor and an enormously long bar added saloonlike touches. A ledge that ran the length of the front wall provided space for a diorama that contained red, snow-capped papier-mâché mountains against a blue sky.
We sidled up to the wood bar and ordered a $3 Boulevard Lunar Ale on tap. We kind of hoped that Korruption would stick to its manifesto and offer one flat rate for drinks. “I’d love to do it that way, but no,” said Gary, 36, the affable owner. Oh, well. He explained that he’ll eventually theme-up the décor and add couches. The inspiration for a Soviet-type place stemmed from his formative years at the tail end of the Cold War, along with the abundance of the color red in the space itself.
“There are two options for a red bar: firehouse or communist bar,” he said. “I’ve thought about hiring a big, mean, scary lady to stand at the ladies’ room door and hand out two pieces of toilet paper. I probably wouldn’t stay in business long, though.”
We sat at one of the numerous Formica-topped tables and took note of the crowd. Though it was somewhat scarce, it was rife with B-boys and scenester types. Apparently, we had stumbled in for Dance Fever, a soon-to-be-regular Saturday-night feature that blends dance music and old-school hip-hop. For our visit, DJ Shad did the honors. According to the promoter, Dance Fever will feature other local DJs and artists, too.
By midnight, the vast space contained a mixed group. Three guys were breakdancing on the wood floor while two women in hot tops — i.e., a tube top with a tank top laced across the bosom — played pool at the front of the bar and shimmied along to the music. The women were soon joined by a guy; during a break in their game, we went over to meet Shawn, his friend Jessica and his other friend Jessica. Both Jessicas went to Wakefield High School in Kansas together, and 28-year-olds Shawn and Jessica No. 2 have mutual friends. Newhart references aside, we asked if they had tales of being corrupted or corrupting someone.
“I’m a good girl — besides getting speeding tickets,” said Jessica No. 2.
“I was corrupted in college,” admitted 26-year-old Jessica No. 1, of the tube top. She declined to share any specific stories. She would say only that she was footloose and fancy-free as a student. “Don’t give a shit what people think about you,” she advised of one’s footloose years.
Shawn had an idea of whom he wanted to corrupt, and he pointed to Jessica No. 2. “It wouldn’t work. I’m a good girl,” she reiterated.
We moved on and spotted a woman in a short pink skirt, a white tank top and cute knee-high tube socks paired with heels. Caroline, 31, was sitting at a table by the dance floor, watching 27-year-old Leo on the dance floor. They met through the bar circuit of the Record Bar and the downtown Peanut. “I corrupted him,” Caroline said. “He’s younger than me.”
Leo had a different take on the nature of greed and corruption. Some of his friends are into a lot of thievery, as he deemed it, and he has benefited from his friends’ loot in the form of DVDs, music and games. “I know this stuff gets back to you. I know it’s wrong, but I can’t stop,” he said.
Over by the pool table, we found 23-year-old John with a group that included a few older folks. He was with his parents, who had taken the family out for dinner and drinks as a bribe to secure garden help.
“I had nothing else to do. It was their idea to come here,” the 23-year-old explained. Apparently, his parents — who looked really cool — are friends with some Crossroads gallery owners who frequent Korruption. Well, bribery is integral in corruption, and John could name more instances of that.
“I bribe people with food all the time: ‘I’ll cook dinner if you buy drinks tonight,'” he said. He worked in the kitchen of a popular midtown restaurant for two months but hated it and quit. Bribery of beer for help in moving is high on his list, too.
There’s no need to bribe us to come back to this bar. We’ll buy the drinks, as long as there’s a stockpile of toilet paper.