Redeye February 26 2004

All Chambers Emptied: Over the Feb. 20-21 weekend, freaks, geeks and children of the night ventured out to eulogize The Chamber, their stomping, whipping and piercing ground of the last decade. The first high-profile casualty following the operating hours rollback by City Council, The Chamber — despite its shadowy cast of characters — couldn't survive the city's shady politics.

Creeping into the Cheshire Bridge warehouse district for "Final Fetish," late-night lurkers and look-alikes from Jay and Silent Bob to the Gimp and the Mad Hatter paid up to $30 to squeeze between latex and leather, mesh and mohawks, spikes and platform shoes. Everything imaginable that has happened at The Chamber was condensed into one night.

Underneath the retrospective speaker rattle delivered by DJs Gene Carbonell and Caz10, there were flames, floggers, go-go dancers and gratuitous girdles. Being put on pins and needles took new meaning yet again as one woman had lace patterns anchored to her skin by surgical piercing. A pregnant drag queen performed a partial birth abortion, rending a pig's head from her gut to a jarring version of Sinatra's "My Way."

So do you feel safer, City Council, knowing you've put these people on the streets? Well, you haven't completely. In the aftermath, Secretroom.net moves its cyber-erotic events to Hell at the Masquerade Saturday nights.

Neighborhood Watch: Recently, I ventured out and discovered two solid neighborhood restaurants shaking up cocktail conventions. At the Inman Park Patio, asking bartenders Scott or Matthew for signature drinks results in inventive elixirs such as a pomegranate and basil mojito or a green tea and rosewater martini — both subtly herbal, surprisingly potent and equally refreshing. Apparently, many drinks are debuted and fine-tuned on Thursday nights, which the restaurant dedicates to $5 Van Gogh martinis.

While not quite a corner cantina or taqueria, Fifth Group's Virginia-Highland hacienda Sala edges toward an excellent neighborhood destination for early evening unwinding. The modernized Mexican establishment features a bottomless mini-margarita tasting for $20, currently offered from 4:30-6:30 p.m., Friday through Sunday. Basked in a honeycomb hue underneath a bevy of beehive-shaped lanterns or on the heated plastic-wrapped patio, servers circulate with the week's three scintillating salt-dusted citrus concoctions strained from steel shakers. The result: a blissful feeling both blithely numb and cheerily neighborly.

I'll certainly settle in either when I don't want to settle for a traditional libation.

Keep one RedEye open. And send all comments, questions, observations and invitations to redeye@creativeloafing.com.