After a long night partying at Republic Reign, we awoke to a tinny buzz in our ears and a mass of jumbled notes. “White girls be twerkin'” was the final line we scribbled down. Someone must have had a good time.
Thanks to Instagram selfies from the ladies room and numerous Facebook posts from patrons, we felt we already had intimate knowledge of the glitzy space at 462 King Street. Now it was time to see the place in action. Our adventures with the new downtown bar/restaurant started with a happy hour visit to see the interior in the daylight. The hostess cheerfully invited us in while complimenting our office attire for the day, probably a big change from the scandalous clubwear she normally sees at night. Past the velvet curtain entrance, the interior was dark, lit only by dimmed chandeliers and numerous mirrors. A giant photograph of a sleeping model serves as wallpaper behind the plush blue banquette encircling the room. Two prodigious leather ottomans are in place for more seating. The space felt glittery, modern, and metropolitan — somewhere we imagined the pretty people of Charleston gathered to “pop bottles” once the sun went down. At 5 p.m. we sidled up to the bar, and the bartender gave us a rundown of happy hour specials and helpfully gave recommendations. The drink menu reflects the current craft cocktail movement with variations on classics such as the Negroni and the Sidecar. As we sipped our libation, we decided Republic Reign would be a nice place to entertain out-of-town guests before dinner. We can already hear the exclamations: “I feel like I’m in New York City!”
The bar fills the gap that Raval and Chai’s left behind, offering a good cocktail and wine list with a decent happy hour in a hip space. If you’re not usually down with trendy spots, don’t fear the cosmopolitan atmosphere. The bartenders still offer enthusiastic Southern hospitality to make you feel comfortable.
The next evening, we had a chance to check out the nightlife. We’d heard stories of long lines and crowded spaces, so we showed up fairly early (according to late-night standards) at 10:30 p.m. and were happily greeted by the hostess and bouncer. After a quick ID check, we settled into a banquette at a small round cocktail table. The waitress was quick to greet us and we decided to order a liter of Manhattans. Yes, you read correctly — Republican Reign offers cocktails on tap and they’ll give you a carafe full. This is a good idea for groups that drink quickly, as they can simply refill their own glasses. In our batch, the Chambord flavor slightly overpowered the other elements in the drink, but it was still a decent Manhattan.
The DJ experimented with some new tunes at the beginning of the night, but later played the standards guaranteed to make everyone wriggle around: “Wobble Baby,” anything by Biggie, and some DMX thrown in for good measure. We were impressed our waitress was able to maneuver through the gyrating crowds with a tray of champagne flutes. Partiers ranged from college co-eds to balding businessmen to local models. Men watched as women shimmied with each other and a brave few joined in the dancing. There wasn’t a designated area for getting down, so the entire space became a dance floor.
Republic Reign is perfect for a girls night out or bachelorette party if your friends like body-conscious dresses, tall heels, and flirting with the DJ while showing off their moves. Or, if you’re more on the shy side, the bar is perfect for people-watching.
If you’ve tired of the quaint cocktail joints or beer-heavy frat bars, then we suggest you change it up on your next night on the town and give this new spot a try. Love Best of Charleston? Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.
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