It's opening night at Venom, and in the VIP room a guy with bleached-white spiky hair stands in the middle of a low, blocky table, shaking his ass. Two nights from now, it will cost $1,000 to do, probably, whatever you want on this table; right now, it's free. People are enjoying the hell out of sprawling on the Very Important Upholstery (black, slightly ribbed for your nonslip seating pleasure, indistinguishable from that of the rest of the club) and watching the dance floor (crowded, green laser lights, occasional airborne events of fog). The view is afforded by a set of portals screened with the same metal mesh that keeps sparks from flying out of a certain era of fireplace.

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This room, it's rumored, is where the cops hung out and broke their own laws during the days of Club Medusa. The remodel isn't quite finished; wires hang down in one corner, and a hole in the wall appears to be awaiting a sconce. For now, it's got the inconclusive, simulated feeling of a model home. One of the current Quasi-Very-Important occupants shouts at another, "DUDE, WE'RE STEALING YOUR WOMEN—THEY'RE COMING WITH US!"

Back out in the club at large, a girl vigorously rides a guy's leg on the dance floor. In a raised maze of squared-off seating areas, many photos are being taken with mobile phones, and a lot of text messaging is happening. In the future, these playpens for players will require a reservation, a fee, and bottle service ($300 for Jägermeister, $400 for Cristal, et cetera; "Your poison not listed? Please ask your server").

A random patron pronounces the club's new look "less tired." The floor plan has been opened up; it's like a hybrid of Contour and Ibiza, with the darker aesthetic of the former and the sweeping vistas, cavernously high ceilings, and transparent drapes of the latter.

The patron's friend proves, improbably, to be a veteran of the '80s Seattle club scene; he embarks upon an exegesis of the entire big-dance-club phenomenon. He's mad he missed disco, but opines that even the ridiculous '80s were more fun than the formless present. Clubgoers in Seattle don't like to pay the cover charge at places like Venom, he says; they'll go once or twice, then head elsewhere. This is depressing news; we live in a city where the hedonists are cheapskates. He's contextualizing like crazy—clubs here, in other American cities, in Vancouver—and there's speculation about the big club going the way of the dinosaur or, alternately, signaling the collapse of civilization. The latter seems imminent. Cocktail waitresses wear leather (or possibly pleather) halter-tops with plunging necklines and strained-looking cleavage; a go-go dancer calmly gyrates on a catwalk beyond the DJ.

It's not so different from Cowgirls, Inc., someone says (and indeed, it's the same ownership), just without the mechanical bull. "It's all just a huge excuse to act stupid." recommended

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Venom ("Once bitten, always smitten") is located at 2218 Western Ave, 448-4888.

bethany@thestranger.com