On average, it rains about 10 percent of the year in San Diego. It’s bad enough driving in this city when it’s dry and sunny, but when it rains everyone forgets how to turn on their headlights and decides to play bumper cars. San Diego has a great nightlife among its various neighborhoods, but as soon as the slightest precipitation rears its ugly head many become indifferent and the city comes to a complete halt. Recently, I had a chance to visit the new-ish Pussycat Dolls Dollhouse and luck would have it, the night I choose to visit, it rains. But from my experience, the energy would have told you otherwise.
Founded in Los Angeles by Robin Antin in 1995, The Pussycat Dolls began as a burlesque troupe and moved their way up into a record deal with Interscope Records in 2003. Rising in fame with their hit success “Don’t Cha,” The Dolls continued as a recording group until 2009. In 2005, The Pussycat Dolls Lounge opened in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas – now closed since 2010 – and it wasn’t until August 2012 that Antin decided to expand the brand to San Diego with the Pussycat Dolls Dollhouse.
According to inside sources working closely with the club, Robin chose San Diego for its cool beach town vibe; she figured it’d be a change of pace from the big cities of Las Vegas and Los Angeles. San Diego is far smaller than the aforementioned monster cities, but it’s a nice change of pace for this city.
The Pussycat Dolls brand is fairly well-known, and may seem a bit intimidating to some San Diegans. Rest assured, though their attire and over-the-top antics are not typical of nightclubs found in San Diego, the PCD Dollhosue is quite intimate and very inviting.
For this review, I stopped by twice, once on a Tuesday – industry night with DJ Flesch – and again Friday, with DJ Slowhand, to get an impression on how the club moves on the weekend. Tuesdays are not their busiest, it began to pick up around 11–11:30 pm. (It is something they are working on.)
For a nightclub, it is calmer than you’d expect, yet it owns a certain energy that keeps the mood high and vibrant. The music ranges from remixes of current hits and old favorites, EDM, and house music. It’s loud enough for those who want to dance can, but low enough so you don’t have to shout at the person next to you.
The club itself is very minimalistic; it is also a lot smaller than what pictures may lead you to believe. The decor is very simple, yet playful with brick walls and fancy framed art. “We are going with a stimulatingly sexy burlesque feel that appeals to men and women. We believe the design isn’t too girly for men, but has its feminine touches for women to bring out their inner Doll,” states the source.
Men thinking they will find an actual burlesque show where women fully strip down can search elsewhere, it’s not that kind of burlesque. The club manager, Corey Donahue, insists that the attendance majority is women curious as to what the PCD Dollhouse is all about. I found the place to be very loose and any women should find it rather comfortable than threatening if they choose to stop by.
Once underground, you are greeted to a wide-open area with the bar to your left and a small one-foot high, lit platform stage on the right. Along with sections for VIP seating and bottle service, the PCD Dollhouse has two separate areas for private parties. A photo booth is also free to use that many guests take advantage of – their pictures are put on Facebook. There’s also a swing, pole, stationary merry-go-round pony, and bathtub for guests to play on.
As for the Dolls themselves, they are quite lovely to look at. But if you unintimidated by looks, I suggest going up and talking to the Dolls. They are very warm to strangers and creating a welcoming atmosphere to the club. The Dolls are not your typical go-go dancers and they try to interact with guests as much as possible. They encourage many of the female guests to go on stage with them to dance and release their inhibitions.
Not one Doll is built from the same mold. There are girls with tattoos and one that favors cat ears. They all seem to create their own identity. Their dress mostly includes lace and fishnets, some in leather, while others choose corsets and typical burlesque garments. All of their clothing has an alternative edge though.
I was told that most of the ladies are from all over California; some originally from Las Vegas, Chicago, and Cincinnati. They put together their own routines, each of them contributing to the nightly choreography with rehearsals every Saturday. Corey says that many of the girls specialized in dancing at some point in their lives, but the Dollhouse is open to any woman with natural talent, an outgoing personality, and a unique sex appeal.
I assumed they put on dance routines quite frequently, but this is not the case. From both times I visited, I would say they put on choreographed dances every other hour or more. The rest of the time they are either dancing by themselves, walking the floor, behind the bar – all bartenders are trained to the dance routines – or serving guests.
My second visit during the weekend was anything but boring. And despite the slight drizzle, there were still many San Diegans out and eager to find a good time. Claims of more women than men wasn’t very apparent – the ratio was about 60-40 with more men than women – but that could have been due to the weather. (The manager did say that the attendance was lower than normal.) But from the energy of the Dolls, the positive attitude from the crowd, and the good music, one would never have guessed that it had been raining.
The Dollhouse upholds great service to their guests and the Dolls are quite fun, but if they are looking to set themselves apart from the other clubs, the Dolls should be seen dancing more often. For many, it may be their first time visiting, and if they come to check out the club for just a moment they may not be presented with a dance routine they were expecting to find.
If you’re sick of the average club scene and want to take a more adventurous route, the PCD Dollhouse can be that escape. Their well stocked bar is affordable compared to some of the more popular venues around, but don’t expect to have a frugal night; it’s still a classy joint. A dress code is enforced, so come dressed to impress. If you’re going out on a night on the town, why would you wear cargo shorts and flip-flops anyways? Go to Pacific Beach if that’s what you like.
The PCD Dollhouse expects to continue to bring sexy all through 2013 with a unique experience for all to explore. They have different events monthly, they recently held a pole dancing competition. A Perfect 10 lingerie contest with $2,500 in cash prizes is Tuesday, April 9. Since this will be their first year experiencing the sensation of Comic-Con, Corey stated that the Dollhouse will have something very special in-mind when the convention comes around July.
By industry standards, the PCD Dollhouse is still fairly new. Nightclubs come and go in a blink of an eye. If they can push their efforts and persuade San Diego to embrace their out of the ordinary club fare, then I believe the Dollhouse will be able to standout for quite some time. There have been a few guest celebrity appearances, which always helps build credibility, including the likes of Sara Jean Underwood, Joanna Krupa, and Audrina Patridge. I expect a lot more to come once the weather warms up. Sexy never left San Diego, and the Dollhouse is here to make sure it doesn’t.
The Pussycat Dolls Dollhouse is regularly open Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 9pm-2am and is located underneath the Keating Hotel at 432 F Street, San Diego, CA, 92101.