Restaurants / Bars

Houston’s Hot New Underground Nightclub is Modeled After a Billionaire’s Basement

Downtown Partying Takes on a Whole New Dimension

BY // 06.11.19

It’s about 11 pm on a humid Houston night, and men in business suits and several women — certified 10s dressed to the nines — are standing outside the Henry Henke building at 801 Congress, right by Market Square Park.

They wind their way through the red velvet ropes where a bouncer’s waiting, yes, a bouncer, outside this Downtown building after-hours.

These night owls are club-goers, ready to descend into the depths of the building. A luxe, eclectic new nightclub called Base just recently opened. And they want a piece of the action.

The bouncer holds open the door as they walk toward the elevators. On the way, a sharply dressed club promoter hands them each a flute of Champagne.

More club-goers walk in behind them, and they all make their way toward the elevator. With the simple press of a button, the doors slide open and they step into the red-tinted car. One woman, clad in a romper cut down to there, hits ‘B.’ And so it begins.

When they step out into the basement, it’s a long dark hallway with a neon pink sign above a wall — which turns out to have a door. It reads “Sshhh,” reminding them that for now, Base is one of Houston’s best-kept secrets.

A blonde in a floral red maxi dress and espadrilles pushes the door open, and they ease into Base.

“In Houston, the hospitality business, especially the bar business — it is what it is. Washington is Washington. Midtown is Midtown,” Base’s Giorgio Riccio tells PaperCity.

“Downtown’s had such a resurgence. We wanted to do something very different. The city’s changed so much.  We wanted to find something that would cater to what the city has become.”

Styled after a billionaire’s basement, Base may be underground — literally and for now, figuratively — but it’s spacious. The wide-open dance floor is flanked by six pillars, all painted black.

Overhead, ever-changing lights pulse to the music. It’s a technicolor canopy, changing with every beat of every song.

VIP sections stud the entire basement, with some surrounding the dance floor on elevated, LED-lined platforms topped with glass tables and plush banquettes. It’s a series of cushioned vignettes spread out throughout the entire basement, presenting opportunities for any kind of night.

The bar against the back wall is backlit in a soft yellow, with the bottles staggered and silhouetted. The bartenders are mainly women, decked out in black turtleneck crop tops, high-waisted hotpants and black thigh highs.

base nightclub downtown 5
There are two bars in Base’s underground world.

Against the left wall, a Dua Lipa remix plays from the two-monitor DJ booth, manned by two different DJs. An array of more secluded, private seating areas are scattered behind the booth. The backdrop?

Not what you’d expect. Unlike the other walls, which feature grids of mirrors made of split up squares or circles, this wall is a built-in bookcase, full of hardcovers — or at least facsimiles — vases, plants, round candles, a pint-sized silver giraffe sculpture.

The music shifts to trance, and a parade of Base girls stalks out onto the dance floor. In matching black bodycon halter dresses, complete with keyhole cut outs in the most opportune of places, they either dance, wave flashing LED lights — a safer alternative to the typical club’s flickering sparklers — or hoist a bottle above their heads.

By the time midnight rolls around, the dance floor has filled up and bottle service has been ordered at least four times over.

Some order vodka, soda, limes at the main bar, others drift to the smaller bar tucked away in a small nook.

The Secret Bar?

Part European rave, part speakeasy, it’s becoming clear this is a place to see and be seen. But the owners hope it’s like nothing you’ve seen before.

It’s about what lies underneath. And the owners tried to keep it that way — hidden — with limited hints on social media leading up to the grand opening a few weeks ago, with only cryptic posts here and there about something imminent.

“We wanted to do something very organically, go against the grain. The way we promoted it was word of mouth,” Riccio notes.

And it’s catching on. “It’s like a fire burning right now,” Riccio laughs. “We’re constantly getting phone calls.”

The angle is a focus on experience, creating a destination impervious to the bar-hopping itch.

“It’s so eclectic, a real modern feel down there. When people come there, they’re going to stay there. People who’ve come in the past week, they don’t leave. We built it that way. It’s comfortable,” Riccio says.

“The best I can describe it is a really, really nice house party. Hardwood floors — everything’s done top notch.”

When it comes to this new underground nightclub, no desire’s too base.

When others see a home,
We see a Work of Art
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