Best New Nightclub 2018 | Aura Nightclub | Nightlife | Phoenix

Opening a dance joint is a risky venture, even in a nightlife-friendly party zone like Mill Avenue. Clubgoers are fickle, tastes and trends are constantly changing, and the competition is always out to eat you alive. Despite these odds, Aura Nightclub has managed to thrive, probably because it's got a lot going for it. The 9,500-square-foot spot, which opened in April, has an excellent pedigree, as owner Narender Raju also runs popular local venue The Pressroom. And just like he transformed a shady downtown Phoenix warehouse venue into the aforementioned concert spot, he renovated and revamped the decrepit two-story space on Mill that formerly housed School of Rock into a high-tech nightlife playground. The main room boasts a 5,000-square-foot dance floor, 14 VIP tables, several 4K high-def screens, intelligent lighting, and a state-of-the-art sound system. There's also a huge stage that hosts DJs and bands brought in by general manager and talent booker Cahleb Branch, a veteran of the local hip-hop scene. An adjacent lounge area contains even more seating, a chill vibe, and enormous windows overlooking the hustle and bustle of Mill that allow you to kick back and check out the line of folks clamoring to get in.

First, the good news: You don't have to beg or even invoke the eponymous phrase of this Scottsdale hotspot to gain entry. Just be willing to wait in line, dress to impress, and make nice with security (pro tip: a strategically timed 20-spot sometimes helps). Once inside, stroll past the foyer's electric pink "Oh-la-la!!" neon sign and a golden perch-like swing (a popular backdrop for Insta photos) and enter an opulently decorated den of decadence offering an enticing mix of hot sounds and even hotter bodies. A seductively playful verve permeates the 350-person nightclub, from its sultry red lighting and sexy beats to its lingerie-clad female waitstaff. There are even a few booths equipped with stripper poles, should patrons, inebriated or otherwise, desire to make a spectacle of themselves. And if you really want to be the center of attention, Pretty Please's two hydraulic-equipped VIP booths in the center of the room can elevate you and your squad above the crowd while lasers and smoke effects shoot out from underneath. Sure, it might seem a bit ostentatious at other local nightspots, but in image-obsessed and spectacle-driven Old Town Scottsdale, it's right at home.

Matt Hennie

Charlie's is a clear staple of the local queer community because it's always been one of the best places to dance, grab a drink, or watch a drag show. RuPaul's Drag Race cast members and alumni often tear the house down, and Charlie's doesn't charge a cover for these Thursday night shows. But the best part of Charlie's is what separates it from everyone else. The delicious Taqueria Los Yaquis provides the perfect drunk munchies Thursday through Sunday, offering tacos, quesadillas, and other snacks for a few dollars via a taco truck window. On the weekends, the huge indoor dance floor opens up and the resident DJs play the best in pop music, never forgetting the gay favorites (read: Madonna, Lady Gaga, etc.).

Located in the heart of Phoenix's very own "gayborhood," Stacy's @ Melrose is reliable for a good time and fantastic drink specials. Despite the discreet exterior, the bar/nightclub is full of ambiance, from high ceilings to dim lights and gothic-inspired decor. The staff ensures that there's always something to do at Stacy's, which makes for fun programming like weekly bingo, karaoke, and DJ nights. On Tuesdays, Stacy's hosts The Queer Agenda, an alternative and inclusive drag show that's enlisted some of Phoenix's hippest queens. Stacy's also features the coolest all-gender restrooms in the Valley, which continue the gothic aesthetic found throughout the building. Established in 2013, it's a newer venue, but there's nothing else like it in metro Phoenix.

Who doesn't love an all-day happy hour? (Answer: no one.) The Cash Nightclub and Lounge offers one daily from 4 to 8 p.m. that features $3 domestic beers and well drinks, among other discounts. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, it hosts karaoke and bingo, respectively, but it's the Tuesday night two-step and line-dance lessons that make this country-themed, lesbian-slanted bar the Phoenix staple it is. But The Cash — as it lovingly has been known since it originally was named Cash Inn Country — is inclusive in more ways than one. Although the crowd is often cut from the lesbian cloth, there's always a variety of patrons who fit under the other letters of the LGBTQ+ abbreviation, and everyone is welcome. And fortunately for those who can only handle so much Americana twang, The Cash plays music that crosses genre lines, including Top 40, pop, and hip-hop.

Club VOLT's 4Some Revue recently has undergone changes, altering the original cast that has been performing at the relatively new venue for over a year. Toothpick and Joey Jay have been added to the show, joining original cast members Luna Love St. James and Gia DeMilo to bring the roof down every Friday starting at 10:30 p.m. The weekly cast is talented, bringing their own brands of fashion, comedy, and lip-syncs time and time again. But it's the rotating special guest spots (filled with some of the Valley's most interesting performers, veterans and newbies alike) that make the show truly pop. Be sure to try one of the special 4Some cocktails, which have to be the booziest $4 drinks offered in metro Phoenix.

Katie Walter

At most local bars, karaoke seems like an afterthought or off-night lark aimed at bringing in bodies when it's ordinarily dead, dead, deadski. Not so at The Grapevine in Old Town Scottsdale, where the spot's nightly singing sessions in the downstairs bar are its most popular attraction. Grapevine's proprietors fully embrace its rock-star status as a karaoke destination and offer a fun, come-as-you-are atmosphere, where a diverse crowd croons an equally diverse variety of tunes. KJs (or "karaoke jockeys" for you rookies) James, Monica, DJ Rey, and Frank are your affable hosts and can suggest something from the 400-page songbook if you can't decide. They might even join you on vocals, as will the bartenders, waitstaff, and other patrons, particularly if it's a crowd-pleaser like "Don't Stop Believin'" or "Bohemian Rhapsody." If you're eager to grab the mic and step into the spotlight, things get going at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and at 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Talent is, of course, optional, but enthusiasm is always appreciated.

Game bar Bonus Round is total geek heaven. Besides the fact that it's literally next door to a comic-book shop, the bar features signature drinks inspired by Star Wars and other nerdy subject matter (we like the fruity, potent Plasma Grenade), weekly bar trivia sessions, movie screenings, and tons of fan art dotting its walls. Oh, and Bonus Round has games. Lots of games. Like, an insane amount of games. Beyond its selection of 18 arcade titles (including the popular multiplayer title Killer Queen), there's a living room-like area outfitted with a big-screen TV equipped with a number of emulated old-school consoles. Nearby, you'll find shelves overflowing with games of the board, card, tabletop, and party variety, ranging from old favorites like Risk and Clue to more modern examples like Settlers of Catan. They don't stay shelved for too long, and frequently can be found being played at tables by groups of friends eager to pwn one another for fun. Game on!

Charles Barth

Technology and credit cards have made cash practically obsolete, but the jukebox at Gracie's Tax Bar is the perfect reason to bring some crisp green bills for a night chugging down some libations. Smooth out some Washingtons and Lincolns against the edge of the multidisc machine, and you can craft an eclectic soundtrack for your drunken evening. Filled with music selected by local businesswoman and musician Grace Perry, the jukebox allows you to dance to some Otis Redding, rock out to The Clash, or put on some Johnny Cash and cry in your beer. (Note: We never recommend crying in your beer. Ever.)

Benjamin Leatherman

Is it a saloon? An Irish pub? A dive bar? All of the above? This bar on Camelback Road has a front porch that would fit in during the days of the Old West, a name that suggests Irish heritage, and an interior that could only be described as dive-y. Still, in an era when brand is everything and most restaurants and bars rely on gimmicks to get customers in the door, you have to respect H.B. Hanratty's amazing generalness. There's alcohol. There are darts. There's billiards. There are even pinball machines and the classic arcade hunting game Big Buck Hunter. If you want more in a bar, go somewhere else.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of