I tried Philly's first ice bar, at Clubhouse Sports Lounge, so you don't have to

You know that wistful feeling when you find yourself yearning for just a few more days of bone-chilling, sniffle-inducing, face-numbing February weather?

No? Me either.

Yet, somehow, on one of the first temperate weekends in spring, I found myself within a space that is being marketed as an “ice lounge,” but that you or I might better understand as a walk-in freezer, albeit one stocked with a narrow bar hewn from ice blocks and adorned with ice sculptures featuring morsels of Philadelphiana — a Rocky statuette, a bust of Ben Franklin — frozen right into them. More confusing, I paid $25 for the privilege, which also includes soggy communal mittens, a borrowed faux fur coat, and two shots served in a tumbler made of ice.

 

This is one of several experiences on offer at Clubhouse Sports Lounge, the city’s newest and swankiest sports bar, a subterranean space in Center City that offers a luxurious setting to take in a game — plush sofas face a wall of sharp flat-screens offering every imaginable sporting event in crisp resolution — but that apparently could not be content to leave it at that. It also packs in two escape rooms, several pool tables, a handful of arcade games, and that inexplicable ice lounge.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH
A group of real estate professionals — some wearing borrowed faux fur coats — at a networking event relax in the Ice Room at Clubhouse Sports Lounge.

“We wanted to bring in the corporate, business demographic,” said general manager Shane Hort, who also ran the place when it was a nightclub called 1925. The owners also run Rumor a few blocks away.

I have to visit on two consecutive evenings to take it all in. First, behind door number one: a Titanic-theme escape room. (It’s $30 per person if you bring four people, but it can hold two to six. Reservations are required.) It took some doing, but I persuaded a small group to join me on a Thursday night. “That sounds horrible. I can’t wait,” my friend Jan texted back.

It’s Philadelphia’s only escape room in a bar, perhaps for good reason. “We tried letting people bring drinks in. That did not end well,” Marcus Line, the droll game master, tells us. Then he escorts us to a vaultlike entrance, peppering us with instructions and spot-on Titanic jokes like, “There’s no drawing each other nude with the Heart of the Ocean.” The immersive brainteaser within is playful, filled with subtle hints and special effects. We escape without much drama, with nine minutes to spare. Warning: The make-believe engine room involves shoveling real coal, which ruins my friend’s new white sneakers and leaves him embittered about the whole experience.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
The Lynch family of North Wales poses for a photo by the game master, after getting out with twenty minutes to spare, from the Titanic-theme escape room.

Those of us without simmering resentment return on a Friday evening for the ice lounge. We have to wait half an hour, during which time a man is dragged out, struggling and shouting, “Keep your hands off me! I’m a lawyer!”

We kill the time sitting at the sticky, black-enameled bar and sampling the cocktails: white sangria ($10), which is served in a pint glass and tastes like peach schnapps on the rocks, and the equally sugary hurricane ($12), a hot-pink rum drink with a radioactive-red maraschino cherry. Finally, we’re ushered into a room where six other people are already standing around in the 14-degree chill, and the bartender, who’s stamping his feet to stay warm, is unwrapping new ice glasses. It’s a sociable crowd, so I ask a couple sipping Red Bull and vodka what the appeal is. It turns out this was a birthday present and, having paid their $50, they are making the best of it.

Maybe part of the draw is an endurance test. If so, I can’t hack it. After 20 minutes, I escape this room as well. This time, it really is a relief.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Keith and Valerie Tripler of Ridley Park celebrate his 37th birthday at Clubhouse Sports Lounge.

Clubhouse Sports Lounge

111 S. 17th St.,  215-564-1515, clubhousephilly.com

When to go: During games, when the 32 sharp screens offer plenty of variety, and the sofa areas, suitable for groups of 10 to 20, provide all the comforts of home. (You have to reserve in advance and spend at least $50 per person.) Clubhouse is open 5 p.m.-2 a.m. weekdays, and noon-2 a.m. on weekends. Happy hour, with half-off beers, is 5-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Bring: Your coworkers, for team-building purposes. Fellow sports fans.

Order: Beer’s your best bet here. Unfortunately, local drafts like Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale and Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA ring in at $8 a pint. The house-smoked wings ($14 for a dozen) are popular and come with an array of dipping sauces.

Bathroom situation: Single-stall, unisex, and clean enough for your purposes.

Sounds like: A low-key 87 decibels allows for quiet conversation. The mix inexplicably ranges from a-ha to Biggie Smalls to Dua Lipa, though TouchTunes may be to blame.