Atik: The new Park End is underwhelming

Yes, Oxford has another Tiki bar


This weekend, Park End re-opened as a multi-million pound re-vamped “new 5 room nightclub concept” called Atik.

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Waist-coated bouncers, guest lists and a rep dressed like a Virgin Atlantic air hostess greet us at the fence. 30 seconds into the night and it is clear this is no longer the notorious Park End we know and love: the carpeted, messy maze of sweat, cheese and tropical VKs.

So, what has really become of our hallowed Lava Ignite?

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First up: the infamous “cheese floor”. Atik has revamped Park End’s esteemed hangout with a luminous, Rubix-cube style dance floor, 50s block-colour diner-style booths and the fresh brand name “Vinyl”. Unsurprisingly, classics such as Mysterious Girl, Don’t Stop Me Now and Boom Boom Boom survived the re-vamp. Not much to complain about here, except that our request for No Scrubs was rejected.

What we once knew as the “RnB room” has undergone one of the slickest revamps in Atik. Now called “Curve”, it houses gold Baroque-style mirrors, shiny black surfaces and red leather booths, forming part of the club’s 18 new VIP-restricted areas. What was the DJ up to? Classics such as Shaggy and Kanye took the floor, but a slightly more dancehall-esque vibe slunk into the set later.

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But what Atik really prides itself on is its “dance room”, named also after the club itself. Well, good news for all: the disco ball is still intact. “Atik” also features a live drummer, who from an elevated stage accompanied the slightly less-EDM, and more commercial beats of artists Avicii, Martin Solveig and Swedish House Mafia. Sparse, un-furnished space filled with middle-aged lurkers awkwardly surrounds the nucleus that is Atik’s dance floor.

So, what has Atik actually introduced other than this sparkling multi-million revamp of its pre-existing rooms?

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Atik’s new Tiki bar “Lualalai”, Park End’s former VIP area, was the talk of the night. Dolled-up girls in cropped Hawaiian shirts tottered around with drinks trays, draping plastic flower garlands on anything and everything. Free cocktail tasters in shot glasses lined the bar. Bartender Michael (above) explained: “They’re trying hard to forget about Park End. They want to break away from that and have this new classy image.”

It took five minutes to get an overly elaborate, syrup-drizzled Dark ‘n’ Stormy. I asked if he was always this meticulous when guests have literally climbed over the bar to get a drink. “It doesn’t matter. We’re told to give this level of service to everyone individually. It’s about class.” The Cheeky Girls boomed in the background.

IMG_6639We asked students Lucy, Kate, and Jess how they felt about Atik’s concept of introducing “class” to Lava Ignite: “To be honest, the club’s exactly the same as before but just way more expensive. We had to pay £8 entry for this.”

The girls weren’t wrong. Equally dubious as Atik’s London-esque entry fee was having to pay an extortionate £4.80 for a Corona. Later, PPE student Jack Hampton was forced to pay £18 for four VKs. Oh, and the cloakroom fee has risen to £2 as well.

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Lucy continued, “And the girls are far bitchier than they were at Lava Ignite. They keep staring and trying to start fights.”

Well, has the Park End clientele changed? Herds of fake eyelashes, hair extensions, stilettos and body-con dresses are your answer. As Geography student Grace puts it, “less VK. More cleavage.” E&M student Oli added wistfully: “You can take the carpets out of Park End, but you can’t take the trash out of Park End”.

A guy later got bottled.

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Jamie, however, was one guest impressed by the flower garlands: “Park End was a bit of a shithole wasn’t it? I way prefer this. It’s clean now.” This is thanks to Atik’s fresh horde of mop-equipped staff in maroon polo shirts furtively scurrying around.

Atik has invested millions renovating Cantay House and hauling DJs from across the UK to play for the Oxford masses. But it’s charging exhaustive prices to make up for it and desperately create an ambience of class which its guests can’t really equal. While the pine panelling makes a refreshing switch from the vomit-stained carpets of last year, Park End’s infamous vibe awkwardly lingers on.

Lava Ignite may have evolved into a chic new hangout for locals, but provides nothing more than a rumoured promise of cheaper drinks on a Wednesday for students. We’ll be watching.