DupleX seeks to win back local customers

The Wenceslas Square club has new owners and is turning a new leaf

People who have lived in Prague a long time might be reluctant to visit DupleX, the rooftop venue, cocktail bar and restaurant halfway down Wenceslas Square. It is under new management, and the owners would like to get the word out that everything including the décor, food and overall vibe has changed.

All that remains the same is the view, and even that has changed with the renovation of the National Museum.

The club reopened in July after being totally renovated.

“It has a history from years ago. We want to try and change that. Basically most people you meet who come here tell you, 'Oh, last time I was here was 10 or 15 years ago.' And 10 or 15 years ago this place had a reputation for being a complete ripoff, which it was, and for having lots of hookers and [pole] dancers,” Frank Haughton, one of three owners, said. All of the owners have decades of experience with pubs in Prague, but a club like DupleX is a new chapter for them.

The era of being a tourist trap is in the past.“We are working very hard to see the customer is correctly treated. And that when they come here they can expect to come out having had a good time and a good deal,” he said.

“If I look back then, in the archives, a vodka was Kč 300, whereas now we are Kč 89 for a vodka,” he said.

The new outlook is aimed at widening the customer base.

“We want the tourist business but we want the Czech business also,” he said. “We want Czechs to know DupleX is a place for them. It is an absolute disgrace that you have this terrace out here with some fantastic views, and local people don't use it,” he said. “It's kind of a shame.”

“If you go out there and look at some of the buildings every day you discover something new. The views out there are spectacular. If you look down Vodičkova and there is a tram coming up and you've got the towers in the background, you have a real Prague street scene,” he added.

This year the club will be doing a lot to re-establish the brand, both as a dance club and as a bar and restaurant. “Right now it is a work in progress,” Haughton said.

On the club side, big names will be coming about once a month including Fatboy Slim on May 24. This is an addition to resident and guest DJs.

DupleX, as its name implies has two levels, with the club and a patio bar on the top, and a restaurant, terrace and cocktail bar on the sixth floor.

For Fatboy Slim and other big names that will sell out the club level, there will be a camera on the DJ and screens on the lower level so people can dance down there as well.

On other club nights, the lower level has an area that will serve a chillout zone, and there is often a different DJ or live music.

There will still be dancers, but aimed at a different audience than previously. “Dancers with more elegance. Stylish and respectable. A little bit of theater but definitely not sleaze,” he said.

The club is also expanding into live comedy, with nights in English, Czech and Russian.

The views that the club offers make it unique in Prague. “We probably have the only club in Prague where you can see out. The vast majority of nightclubs are in cellars. We have big windows where you are looking out over Wenceslas Square. It is quite a unique place. And the view backs up to the National Museum after the renovation is fantastic,” he said.

The restaurant will soon have a new menu. The plan is to attract a lunch crowd from the local offices, as well as people who just want a small snack while they enjoy the view.

Well-known local chef Roman Vaněk is a consultant in the menus.

The emphasis is on the quality and origin of the food. “We make everything ourselves.

All our dips and sauces are made in house. Nothing we serve is ready-made,” Haughton said.

“Most people now are looking to eat really well in a more casual environment and in a more casual way. It might be a simple dish, but we know where it has come from,” he added. “It will be in the direction of sharing the food. It's family eating, user-friendly food.”

Rebuilding the lunch trade will take some work. “Basically we just have to get out there and let people who work in Czech offices know. DupleX was on their blacklist. And there is only one way to change it, and that is by giving good food, good value, and good service. That is the target,” he said.

People are also reluctant to take he ride up the elevator for just one drink, but people who just want to relax for a few minutes and take in the view are welcome.

“You don't need to commit to a big meal. Obviously, it is quite a decision to look into a small entrance and see two lifts. And you wonder should I or shouldn't I,” he said, adding that there is a staff member seated in front of the elevators who can explain the options and prices in advance.

“We can show we have good value and that you don't have to come up here for a full meal. You can have something small, come and have one drink and leave. Come up and have a look at the view if you wish, we won't kick you out. We want to make it easy for people to make a decision to come up here,” he said.

The sixth-floor area comprises several sections, and some can be broken off for private parties, or the whole club can be booked for corporate or private events. The central location and the view make it an attractive option.

“People want to get away from sterile hotel event halls and into a more vibrant interesting environment,” he said.

A small side area now called the Library has table shuffleboard, a game that was long popular in pubs in the US. The table is the first of its kind in a Czech establishment, according to Haughton. The side area is ideal for a small group of friends to get away from Weneceslas Square and have some fun in a secluded space.

The Library is one of several spaces that will evolve over time, as the venue develops.
The terrace currently is open and has zippered plastic igloos. Next winter, there will be more durable wooden structures. The main season on the terrace picks up in March or April and goes to October.

“We'll have different atmospheres and different events in the summertime on the terrace. Flamenco, Mexican, Texas barbecue, for example. Probably weekly, there will be some special attraction out on the terrace with live music and so on,” he said.

While Haughton and his partners mainly have experience with pubs that were more oriented toward beer, DupleX is a place for cocktails. “This was always going to be a cocktail venue. A high percentage of people want to drink cocktails on the patio,” he added.

Right now the tap beers include a small range from the local small brewer Únětický pivovar plus Pilsner Urquell and Heineken. In the future some bottled beers will be added, in particular, to meet the demand for IPAs.

Longtime residents may remember the club as the place Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones celebrated his 60th birthday on July 27, 2003. “The generation we are looking for [to come to the club nights] probably don't remember. Obviously in the daytime [for the bar, restaurant and terrace] we welcome all business,” he said.

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