A Review of The Outland on Liberty

The Outland (at least I thought it was the Outland) has re-opened and I went on Saturday night to check it out. We were wrapping up our night at the HighBall and our friends were scattering to different bars/clubs. As several opportunities opened up, John turned to me and said, “Let’s go to the Outland.” I repeated, “Let’s go to the Outland.”

Here is the history of the Outland via Columbus Alive.
  • Circa 1994: Capuano's brother Chuck buys Outland, a struggling gay nightclub located at 1034 Perry St. in Harrison West
  • Sept. 2004: The bar closes after the property is sold to the Wagenbrenner Company, which turns surrounding land into an upscale housing development
  • 2005: The bar reopens in an old Big Bear on Harrisburg Pike on the South Side
  • April 2008: The bar closes after a charter school moves into the shopping center
  • Oct. 2009: Outland reopens in the former location of Metropolitan, a French bistro and lounge. An Eiffel Tower replica still welcomes bar-goers at the building's front entrance.
The newest version of the Outland is now located on Liberty Street in German Village. As a matter of fact, and I assume due to pending lawsuits with competing Goth bar interests, it is called The Outland on Liberty. The Eiffel Tower replica that is still out front is either on National Registry of Historic Places or just too damn expensive to remove.

Before I continue, I should build a small glossary of terms so that we will all be on the same page with the words I am about to use:

Freaky Freaks: A term of endearment. The standard attendee of the Outland… Goths, industrials, warlocks and witches. Wears black, tattooed, some make-up. A small percentage of these like to get their torture on.

Tourists: They stand out, but try to fit in. They are not in the Goth community, but enjoy the music and the atmosphere. They respect the Goth culture, except for the bit where they call them Freaky Freaks. It’s me. I am a tourist.

Popsicles: People who go to the Outland to see if what they heard was true. Little respect for the culture. They point and laugh. They only go once and that’s enough.

Torture: The area of Outland where people sign-up to get whipped or shocked or humiliated in front of everyone.

Get Your Dance On: Dance, anyway you want, without repercussions or judgment.

We arrived in separate cars and were able to take advantage of the ample German Village parking. As I waited for John to park, I watched many of the costumed people walk by, heading for the entrance. I would expect people to be “dressed up” entering The Outland on Liberty, as that’s what the Freaky Freaks do, but not as Sarah Palin or a bumblebee.

John and Bekah arrived and we headed up to the entrance.

There was something really wrong. As we walked up, there was an undeniable thump of poppy, generic club music dry heaving out the front door. This was not at all normal or actually was too normal if this were a standard club. Bland. As we stood in line, I could see the outside smoking area and it seemed like there was a mix of the standard Goths along with people dressed up in Halloween costumes. So we knew we were at the right place.

It was $5 to get in. We got in.

Inside, the same clubby music dismayed. Not that I am against club music in other clubs… I was just expecting a bit more brooding. There is a raised dance area on the left and a bar on the right. I went right. Back at the old Outland, you could order a rum and diet and they would pull out a generic bottle of rum and a 2-liter of Diet Big-K Cola. The two would negotiate real estate in the large plastic cup and usually rum would win about 85% of the cup. The Outland on Liberty did not disappoint. Generic rum was still available, but Big-K has been replaced by the fountain bar gun. The drink is still outrageously potent and cheap.

Potent potable

We looked around and got our bearings. Dance floor. Bar. Girl in leather dancing on bar. Bathrooms. This could not be it. There had to be more.

There! A double hallway leading back…somewhere.

On the other end of the hallway was a bit more of what I was expecting. Another raised dance area, but this time with industrial music. Though some miracle of architecture, the teeny-bopper club music from the other side of the building did not bleed into the Goth side.

There were couches and a DJ along with the dance area. Some pool tables that looked like that had made the journey from the Perry Street were stuck in the far back. And down a small, dark hallway was the torture area. It was currently populated by some dude getting whipped by a chick. He seemed to be enjoying it. Around the corner from the secluded whipping area was a few seats and some dude was shocking/ tickling/ pleasuring a chick with electricity. It was oddly stimulating to watch.

Back out on the main floor, the three of us took it all in. And sadly, it was a bit disappointing.

For one, there is way too much light. The Outland deserves to be dark. The place was lit up like a Christmas tree and I can say that with authority because there were Christmas lights strung up everywhere. I only want to be able to see about ten feet in front of me. There is comfort in the dark.

Now because it wasn’t dark, I couldn’t help but notice the chick in the extremely skimpy bikini walking around with shots. Yes, I am a big fan of the flesh, but it just seemed out of place for the Outland to have a worker strutting around in a bikini. Same goes for the very nice girl dancing on the bar in the club area. Sure she was hot and enticing, but I never saw the Outland as a place that paid people to be entertainment. It wasn’t necessary.

My biggest issue is that I don’t like all the Popsicles busting in while I’m getting my dance on. It is one thing when a few outsiders would show up at the Outland and either assimilate or leave. But when there is an entire club of them twenty feet away, it’s hard not to have a revolving door of lookie-loos checking out the brightly lit Goths. I was there on Halloween, so everyone was playing the role of someone else and it seemed like people were getting along, but I just don’t like to mix my mediums. I want dance with the freaky freaks and not have to think that I am being checked out every five minutes by a couple of Popsicles.

Two-Sack gets his dance on

I understand the need for club owners to please a larger crowd and to create a varied atmosphere for diverse patrons. But I really think that something has been lost. I’ve never seen the Outland books, so I do know if a customer base solely made up of Goths can keep a club open or not. Perhaps the owners have done this out of necessity. For a club so large, I can see where they need to pack as many people in there as possible. Perhaps Goths and Popsicles can learn to live and dance in peace. But I don’t think so and I don’t like it.

If the rumors are true that a second Goth bar will be opening in German Village and it caters to just the Goth crowd, I can all ready see a line of brooding, leather and black dressed patrons heading for a smaller, darker and accepting venue. And I’ll be right behind them.


Sally said...

Halloween, right? Yeah, I'm actually in that picture. I miss the old place, too. This place is waaaay to brightly lit.

HolyJuan said...

I assume a smaller, more Outland-esque club will open up and we will meander to it instead.

Anonymous said...

I understand that the new Outland is not as like the previous ones. However given the location and expected tourists a more brightly lit club will be more inviting. As for the girl in the bikini selling shots, she was wearing the bikini as part of the Halloween theme, where she climbed the tower with a guy in a gorilla suit. Speaking of the tower out front, it is not there because "is either on National Registry of Historic Places or just too damn expensive to remove." It simply was kept because it is unique and looks nice.

HolyJuan said...

Thanks for your input. You seem to have a vested interest in the club. I wish you the best, but I can tell you that by placating to the center, you will lose the audience on either end.

I'll give your club another go and see how things are going.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I used to DJ @ City Club in Detroit, and when visiting friends in Columbus, always went to Outland during it's many incarnations. I was always impressed, even preferring it to my own club at times (Mainly the Perry St.). Harrisburg pike was interesting, but had it's issues. The new location just rubs me the wrong way, which is sad considering the effort that's gone into it. I can understand it having financial limitations only catering to one crowd, and catering to multiples makes sense ... just don't cater to both simultaneously.
Doug, being a Freaky Freak myself, I'd say your review was spot on ;)

Kyndell Elaine* said...

I agree and I disagree with this whole post. The old outlands were a little well, more than trashy, and not in a good way. But i did appreciate the lighting much better.

With the new one yes it is bright, but that is so much more inviting, and I like that because people who are curious or newer in the culture can feel more welcome if they can actually see, and see that there are real people there. Not just "freaky freaks".

And I will say that we do not appreciate the labels. So what if I wear vinyl or a corset and I dye my hair hot pink? Does that make me weird? No, its creative and refreshing.

I personally like being able to freely express myself, and the new outlad lets me do so. With the terrible lighting, and more classy venue they are attracting many new people. Which is wonderful!!!I love epople of all shapes, sizes, and styles. And now you see everyone wearing things from business suits to leather and lace. It is perfect.

And something this post left out, in between the double hallway is a small area lined with booths and a sort of dedication to Marilyn Monroe. It is all blacklight lighting and its great for anyone who enjoys pin ups.

And calling someone a popsicle really isnt being welcoming and open minded as most of the people who go to outland are. Its being judgemental, and I don't think you deserve to go there if you are there just to judge people. You're just as bad as the "looky loo's" you're describing.

HolyJuan said...

Thanks for commenting Kyndell Elaine*. I have still not been back and really need to check it out.

I can now see the error in making fun of people who make fun of people. By judging those who I think are judgmental, I too, am in the same boat as the popsicles.

Before I solidify my opinion, I do need to go back for another visit. Thanks for your input.