The Cool Girl's Guide to RVA Nightlife

I recently conducted a simple, informal survey amongst my peers. I wanted to know where VCU undergrads go to have a fun night out on the town when they’ve outgrown frat parties and are ready to trade that red solo cup of jungle juice for something more mature like a professionally made cocktail. 

The results were not what I expected for such a diverse student body located in such an eclectic location; It seems that most students I know go to the same two equally pretentious and overrated bars - Taphouse and District 5. Ironically, these bars are owned by the same company, and their management is pretty shady. Taphouse charges a ridiculous cover on Friday and Saturday nights, sometimes as much as $20. Why waste a crisp 20 dollars when there are countless other fun bars in Richmond that will cost you nothing to step inside? District 5 has a notorious reputation of turning people away at the door on the basis of an inconsistent and unclear dress code policy. if you read through their Google reviews, you’ll see that this issue seems to be racially charged - yikes. If you’re like me and you prefer not to look like a stripper when you go out on the weekend, avoid both of these bars. District 5 once turned me away because I was wearing mom jeans and Vans! Some of us like to look cute, not sexy and stay comfortable when we go out and that’s totally okay. If you’re one of those people, you’re in luck, because The Fan has plenty of cool but casual lesser-known spots for experiencing RVA nightlife!

  1. 1. Best Dance Floor - F.W. Sullivan's

    Commonly known as “Sully’s,” this Main Street spot is located just a block up from Sticky Rice, and is by far my favorite location when I’m in the mood to groove. The DJ always plays a wide array of songs, old and new. Even when I go there twice on the same weekend, which is more often than I’d like to admit, I never hear the same song twice! 

  2. 2. Best Patio - Baja Bean Co.

    Baja is an underground bar that’s only a few blocks from campus. And by underground I mean literally underground - it’s in the basement. The exposed brick walls give it a sort of dungeon vibe that may not be for everyone, but the outdoor section is sure to please anyone. They have a spacious patio that takes up their whole corner of the block and is even equipped with its own full-service bar. There’s no better end to a warm summer night bar crawl than sipping on a Tom Collins at the Baja patio!

  3. 3. Best Karaoke - City Beach

    Baja also does karaoke, but I’ve found that City Beach is more accepting of all genres and skill levels. You’ll never have to worry about getting boo’ed off stage for screeching out your best Stevie Nicks impression. Trust me, I know this from personal experience. I’ve noticed City Beach tends to harbor a slightly older crowd, so maybe that’s why the audience is more jovial than critical. Someone in their late twenties is likely to be more seasoned in the art of tolerating awful karaoke.

  4. 4. Best Ambiance - My Noodle & Bar

    Okay, I know this category is pretty subjective, but I think this place is just the coolest. The first time I went there I was mesmerized by the rustic wood, the red glowing paper lanterns and the garden of foliage hanging from the ceiling. I’ve never been to a bar, or even a restaurant, that so heavily incorporates plants into the decor and I really dig it. The atmosphere is refreshingly earthy and sultry, so you completely forget that you're in the basement. An added bonus is there’s an absolutely stunning mural of a Geisha on the wall of the women’s restroom! Who doesn’t want to appreciate some beautiful artwork while they pee?

  5. 5. Honorable mentions: Helen's, Postbellum, and Pearl Raw Bar

    Helen’s has a casual, tacky charm that gives it that quaint ‘hometown/neighborhood bar’ vibe. The interior is decked out with strings of multicolored lights, so it always feels like the holiday season at Helen’s! Plus, that overall reddish pink glow is a flattering aesthetic for anyone!

    Postbellum and Pearl are a bit fancier than the other locations on my list, but they still fall within the parameters of traditional Fan standards. Meaning, you won’t be turned away for wearing mom jeans and sneakers.

This article is dedicated to the loss and memory of Pik Nik, one of my favorite Fan bars, which closed down recently. Gone, but not forgotten. I’ll always pour one out for you, homie. 

Imagine credit: Richmond Free Press