NEWARK — If you are a mysterious tech firm spy or having a steamy illicit affair — or both — then the WXYZ Lounge should be your next meeting place.
Relax, I’m not saying I’ve seen either nefarious activity at the hip but comfortable bar, which recently reopened on the ground floor of the Aloft Silicon Valley hotel. But scenes from a glossy Hollywood film about such a tangled, steamy web would fit perfectly in this roomy, inviting watering hole on the western edge of Newark.
It looks like a big-budget movie set, for one, and what other Tri-City-area hot spot can say that?
The bar space was smaller and darker when it was part of the W Hotel. But late last year, Triyar Hospitality purchased the hotel and bar and gave them a face-lift. The bar was given a new name and a multimillion-dollar renovation before reopening in March.
The space, which was always pleasant and welcoming, received a face-lift that kept the alluring vibe but added more than a dash of glamour. Lounge seating was added, as were several dining tables and chairs. Now, three flat-screen TVs face patrons at the long bar, which has 17 seats — more than double the previous figure. Soft techno music and obscure R&B tunes played softly on the speakers, slicing up hipness and practically serving it on a tray.
“We’ve opened the space up a little bit and given it a more modern look and feel,” said Ben Malmquist, the hotel’s general manager.
The hotel, which offers 172 spacious loft-like rooms, is in an out-of-the-way — almost rural — location. But that only adds to its intrigue. It’s on the western edge of town, tucked between the hiking trails of the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge and the Pacific Research Center, a 1.4 million-square-foot office park that houses Logitech and other Silicon Valley companies.
I stopped by the bar one recent evening, as a dozen tech employees rolled in for either a nightcap or just a dinner-and-drinks break amid a very long workday. The eye-catching hotel lobby has a multicolored stock ticker for business travelers — the hotel’s bread and butter — to eyeball as they head to their next meeting.
A huge TV screen divided into four panels hung on the lobby wall, showing a beachside sunset with occasional stop-motion video. It was the kind of thing a pre-rehab Dennis Hopper might have spent hours staring at. I was instantly impressed with the upscale bar’s new decor, featuring long dinner tables, armless chairs, circular ottomans, and cushioned booths built into the back wall, most of which were covered with brightly colored pillows. (To be fair, the idea of a poorly dressed, ink-stained, middle-aged slob like myself judging anyone’s decorating choices is a joke in search of a punch line.)
Its clientele was predominantly men, most of whom were clad in golf shirts and jeans or khakis. There also were a few women, giving us a glimpse, perhaps, of the next Marissa Mayer or Meg Whitman. As noted techie Frank Sinatra once said: “I like intelligent women. When you go out, it shouldn’t be a staring contest.”
One 30-something man sat alone with his laptop at the bar, listening to music through ear buds, bobbing his head while staring at spreadsheets. Leave the office for a good time? At the WXYZ Lounge, they’re bringing the office to the fun.
Aloft Silicon Valley is just a few minutes from the Dumbarton Bridge, which connects Fremont/Newark with Menlo Park, the home of Facebook. That means any Aloft guest can drive to the famous tech campus, give a presentation, and be back at the hotel bar within an hour, sipping appletinis and bragging to the boss via Skype of how he wowed Zuck in the conference room.
“This being Silicon Valley, there are a lot of people connected to work here, but they can also entertain and enjoy a meal,” Malmquist said. “We’re kind of a blend of all those things: You can be productive but enjoy yourself while doing it, and not feel you’re in the rat race, so to speak.”
Bartender Miguel Garcia, of Union City, delivered an old-school, unpretentious East Bay vibe, greeting each guest warmly and making a point to remember their names. On one end of the bar, Garcia patiently answered one guest’s many questions about the cocktail menu. On the other end, he offered a list of wine and beer to a young couple.
“A vodka list would be great,” a customer said, chuckling.
Next to the bar is Plus, a restaurant featuring a menu of healthy choices and local ingredients, ranging from salads and edamame to dish
es with long-winded names like “Grilled Sustainable Scottish Salmon” and “Snake River Farms Kobe Beef Sliders.”
The menu isn’t inexpensive. But by mid-July, WXYZ Lounge will offer a happy hour with a wider range of prices, Malmquist said. Happy hour will be from 4 to 6 p.m. nightly, featuring beer, wine and signature cocktails for $5, as well as $5 food dishes.
As I got ready to go, I nursed the last bit of a Stella Artois and thought, “Good for Newark.”
This proud town of 42,500 good folks could use a splash of glamour, a touch of tony swagger. And Aloft Silicon Valley, along with its restaurant and bar, deliver that and then some.
Out & About is a monthly column that highlights the wildly underrated entertainment scene in the Tri-City and greater Hayward areas.