Aria Entertainment Complex
The Aria Entertainment Complex had been spamming me to death with Facebook ads for their new club, and having viewed their over-the-top promotional video which resembles a high-end diamond or perfume ad (or more appropriately The Simpson's Barney Gumble's epic short Pukahontas ), I couldn't resist checking them out for their opening night. Before I knew it, I was on my way to discovering the club where "the influencers play", according to their promotional messaging.
I scan my bathroom sink for cologne samples I've accumulated over the years and hesitate for a second. Is this an Axe or Armani night? With a $20 cover, and drinks priced between $6 and 7$ you might think the latter, but once the club started filling up, Axe might have been more appropriate. This isn't exactly Toronto's best-dressed crowd, but it takes a lot of bodies to fill up a space this big.
Aria is four main rooms each with their own specific Las Vegas inspired theme. There's the "Vanity" room with its laminate bowling alley meets card room vibe accented by decorative bushes and wicker balls hanging from the ceiling. It feels like the interior designer (if there even was one) stumbled upon a Bed, Bath And Beyond warehouse sale.
The main "Aria" room is pretty run of the mill for the Club District with elevated VIP quarters in each corner, bar stations and scantily clad go-go dancers. An interesting touch were bowls of candy at the bar and an unattended drum kit by the DJ booth.
Following an unmarked stairway leads to the "Haze" room, whose logo seems like a cross between the classy purple of Alizé and the exotic orient of Mandarin restaurant. The décor is a bit more interesting here, with framed pictures of porn stars in the buff and a Lucite cage / grotto lounge for bottle service tables.
The top floor is the rooftop Pure lounge, possibly Aria's one redeeming quality, with a mechanical SkyDome styled roof that opens in the summer. I really did feel like I was in a laid back Costa Rican bar, and despite dinky non-smoking signs, the ladies were puffing away. I guess when you're a hot "influencer", you can do whatever you please.
The layout is a bit of a nightmare with a series of drafty unfinished connecting corridors and dodgy industrial staircases that would clearly be a hazard to anyone wearing the pointy shoes that the district is so known for. If this were an underground warehouse rave then it would be perfectly acceptable, but I don't think that's the crowd the owners are targeting. It's like the architect was a child with a lego model of the interior, smushing pieces together to force them to fit. It's hard to believe Toronto's building safety people even passed this place.
And then there's the institutional row of unisex washrooms I encountered on the rooftop Pure patio which may seem "progressive" and "modern" for Toronto but with the crowd they are bringing in seems like more of an invitation for some rough prison sex more than anything.
With its cheap vinyl couches, potentially disastrous bottle necking in the sprawling stairways and off-kilter layouts Aria seems more like a death trap waiting to happen than a forward thinking entertainment complex. But if you're looking for a laid back night out people watching in the district where you won't have to worry much about being underdressed (required clown shoes aside) then this could be the place you've been waiting for.