A lounge more in tune | VailDaily.com

A lounge more in tune

Laura A. Ball

VAIL – It was Nick’s, then The Bridge, a year ago it became Hypnotix. The fresh, refreshing Samana might just be the ticket.Bridge Street’s basement locale has had a rollercoaster affair with success on Vail’s main strip the past few years.But why does this prime spot on Bridge Street keep failing to find its niche?Scott Stoughton, Samana’s general manager, blames it on bad timing.”I think the Vail Valley in the last four years has been really hurt by Edwards, personally, and I know everyone feels that,” he said. “But I think, as of this year, there’s a lot more excitement coming down Bridge Street. I think that energy’s coming back.”With Stoughton’s sagaciousness and reputation of spinning potential hot spots into gold – he also manages State Bridge Lodge – he was given complete creative control.”The guy owned this place for five years, and he kept changing the concept, changing the idea and nothing worked,” he said.Stoughton’s thoughtfulness has transcended into every aspect of the after-hours sanctuary, from the name to the wine list to the burgundy interior to the friendly staff, Samana evokes intimacy and a push toward the positive.”I believe that if you’re going to do something, you can’t really fake the concept, especially in a bar atmosphere,” he said. “I believe in it. I toured with a band and spent the better part of six years on the road, and I think I have a decent sense of what people like. And the one thing that I’m good at is creating a comfortable environment, and the rest I leave to my staff.”And comfortable Samana is, retrofitted with plush couches, a velvet sofa, candles glowing from the tables, a stone fountain. Even the garb is stylish, with the men sporting suits and the women wearing cocktail attire, minus the stuffiness.”It went from dive to posh pretty much,” said Nicole Muirhead of Avon. “The couches look pretty comfy. The music is good so far. I’m looking forward to more.”It’s something that is long overdue in Vail, a hipper-than-thou place with amazing lighting where you can chill out, drink wine and listen to good music.”My overall goal is to make it really warm and inviting and to be able to have a conversation whether it’s 10 people or 100,” Stoughton said.In fact, a group of four friends vacationing from England for the week were doing just that.”It’s very similar to the Cavern Club where The Beatles used to play,” said Rob Willings of Liverpool, England. “It’s very cool. It’s definitely chilled-out.””It’s British charm crossed with Vail cool,” said Rupert Barksfield of London. “It’s brilliant.”Actually, Stoughton, the aspiring world traveler, grew up outside of New York and has pulled inspiration from funky, little bars in the city, to elements of Paris, to Amsterdam coffee houses.”I think it’s more elegant,” said Kristen Nye of Vail, who wanted to check it out in between Street Beat and dinner at La Tour. “I like the new fountain, and the couches seem very comfortable.”Nye’s friend, Adam Cumbie of Vail, said the lounge’s feel was slightly more cosmo.”It seems to be more comfortable and refined,” he said. “It’s my first time here – so good so far. It’s nicer than it was last year.”The lounge keeps the atmosphere nice and jazzy and downtempo early, and as the night progresses the underground den transforms to suit the vibe and the clientele, whether upbeat, electronic or mellow.Stoughton advises guests to put their hat on a swivel and find a place to hide out in for a while, where you can go undisturbed or gaze at the photos on the walls that he and his friends have taken on their world travels.Stoughton said the photographs act as welcome mats to people from other countries, and invite conversation pieces from all. If you guess where it’s from, Stoughton might even buy you a shot. He hopes to change the photos, and keep the lounge evolving to feed its whims.A visit to a club in Paris inspired Stoughton to move the sound system so the bartenders can mix music behind the bar.”The sound system’s hot,” said DJ Widowmaker, who comes up from Boulder Wednesdays and Saturdays to spin what he calls “deep, sexy, dangerous” sounds along with DJ Ivy. “I play seven days a week, and in Vail, there’s always a lot of energy. What Scott’s really doing is giving people a place to go.”Stoughton’s philosophy of life runs into every aspect of his business. He runs Samana with the same open-mindedness he admires in others. “It’s a very Eastern style philosophy,” he said “It’s a circle, everyone’s got input.”The lounge features a menu with the same ideas – a boutiquey wine list from small vineyards and delicious imported cheeses from Amsterdam, France, Spain, the United States, Stoughton said. Also on the menu, a dessert of the night. This week, patrons can indulge in a double fudge chocolate mousse cake with raspberry sauce.Like Samana, which means a person who leaves the herd to follow something that’s more unique, spreading equality and a positive vibe, Stoughton is more soulful and stylish than trendy.”I’ve been very impressed and pleased with the outpouring of support from the town and Bridge Street bars. Everyone’s been hanging out, coming in. I think that’s what its basically all about for this place – and life,” he said.For more information, call Samana at (970) 476-3433.Located right next to the Covered Bridge, 228 Bridge StreetCall (970) 476-3433 for more information.Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 619, or laball@vaildaily.com.Vail Colorado