Upon immediate impression, one may not be able to detect the characteristics that make the Sharab Lounge unique among nightclub-type bars in downtown Gainesville. It only after the first few minutes and first few interactions with the lounge that these factors reveal themselves.
It will be very difficult to believe when I say it here, but it’s true: the doormen/women are actually very polite at Sharab. Certainly, there are exceptions (especially in regard to problem customers), but on the whole you’ll find the door staff there to be well dressed and well mannered—they will even open the door and offer a warm, “Welcome to Sharab.” And that’s the first clue that this is not a filthy dance club.
My first time there, I ordered a gin and tonic. I named my gin—Hendrix—because it’s the best gin on earth: the label even says so. The bartender delightfully started away making my drink. He scooped a heap of ice into the glass; he turned to reach for the gin, then stopped, turned back to me and asked, “Hendrix is great, but have you tried Magellan.” I had tried it, and I stuck with my original choice, but this interaction revealed a great bartending virtue which has become rather endangered: the bartender recommendation. The point of a bartender’s recommendation is to improve the patron’s drink experience: to enrich the flavor of the drink and to enliven the entire experience at the bar. It’s something that any worthwhile home bartender would do: if a guest ordered a drink and the bartender had a better (or unique or novel) selection, of course he or she would make the recommendation. However, it is not something that happens often in commercial bars where bartenders are trained not to be as hospitable as possible focusing on the customer’s experience, but rather are trained for speed and efficiency with the purpose of brining in more money and more tips. I have tested the bartenders at Sharab on several occasions: they are generally fantastic at suggesting new drinks and new liquor to try, and this helps tremendously when choosing from one of the 50 or so different scotches available. Actually, Sharab boasts a well-constructed and well-executed (i.e., the drinks are properly made when ordered) specialty drink menu. My only strike against the bar there is that they are not perfect at building classic cocktails. In the Manhattan: too much bitters; in the “very dry” martini: too much vermouth. I recommend ordering a scotch, staying with a bartender suggestion, or selecting from the drink menu.
Human taste is 80% influenced by the sense of smell. Drinks taste better at Sharab because there is a glorious lack of vomit-and-stale-cigarette-smoke stench whith which many clubs identify themselves. It’s true: there’s no smoking in Sharab (the floor’s aren’t sticky either!). There is however plenty of smoking in the outdoor hookah lounge: complete with soft cushions on which to rest while enjoying in-house-blended (and very tasty) tobacco smoked out of ornate hookahs. The outdoor section has access to the second story as well.
One of the many superpowers that Sharab boasts is its ability to contain 3 completely different atmospheres: lounging downstairs, dancing upstairs, hookah smoking outside. Simply walking up or down the stairs (or stepping outside) transports one into an entirely different venue.
There are always promotions and special events (e.g., Gainesville Fashion Week, art shows, scotch tastings) happening to be sure to have a look at their website or friend them on facebook. Sharab Lounge is located at 109 S. Main Street in downtown Gainesville.