Prince of the Night


What is a former law student doing running a nightclub? If you are B.G. Iradji, having the time of your life.

By Joe O’Donnell

Photo by Liesa Cole

B.G. Iradji

The sound is pounding. If you were standing on the corner of 5th and 29th in Lakeview on a Saturday night, you might get the sense that the pavement beneath your feet was rumbling, and that the brick building on the corner with the neon Aqua by the roofline would at any moment start swaying and moving in bursts of color like a cartoon of a building that really knows how to party.

It is early afternoon in the middle of the week and B.G. Iradji, dressed like the graduate student he resembles in yellow t-shirt and jeans, is talking at a glass-topped table and trying to hide his right hand from view. His fingernails are painted a liquid, nighttime black. A girl painted them while B.G. napped and he seems bemused at his predicament.

The success of the nightclub Aqua has left Iradji with about the same sense of amused wonder at the new career he has been enjoying as a nightclub owner–something he never really thought he would be. A UAB alumnus and Birmingham School of Law graduate, Iradji is now the ringmaster of a hot dance and night club that opens Thursday, Friday and Saturday night from 10:30 p.m. to about 3:30 or 4 a.m., a sexy and young slice of the Birmingham night. Iradji, along with his general manager Vimesh Patel, sometimes seems like a DJ at the turntable trying hard to get the mix of wild fun, music, alcohol and security just right. Iradji, 35, has not sat for the bar exam yet, but he says he promised his mother he would in six months. Right now, he is just enjoying the nightclub ride.

“I never wanted to own the kind of nightclub I would stumble into late at night and regret going for the rest of the week. I wanted to own something different but on a grand scale,” Iradji says. Iradji has tried to create an atmosphere that is friendly and inviting but still has the sexiness, glamour of a nightclub with a sense of security that is going to keep him and his patrons out of trouble. He attributes much of this to his general manager Vimesh Patel and his staff. Patel, a medical student at UAB, has hand-picked with Iradji a staff they feel gives AQUA an advantage over all other dance clubs in town. “We really try to hire young energetic people that our families would be happy we are associating with” Patel states. “B.G. and I have similar backgrounds in the hospitality business and that has been invaluable in making AQUA what it is today.”

Iradji was a bartender at Bottega throughout his college and post-grad years. “Both Frank and Pardis (Stitt) instilled in me a work ethic and an understanding of hospitality that has helped me find success more than any class I ever took.” Patel’s families has long owned hotels on the east coast. “Growing up in my family’s hotels, not only did I learn how to you must work hard to achieve anything in business, but I truly saw what it is like to treat your customer like a guest in your own home,” Patel says.

In this case, the guest is young and ready to party like a redneck or in a toga or PJs.

Here is a posting from Aqua’s Facebook events page:

AQUA’s 2nd Annual *COLLEGE NIGHT* REDN_CK RODEO!!!

“I cant believe FB would not let me use the word redneck… ANYHOWWWWW…..

LADIES break out your boots and cowgirl stuff.

GUYS break out any redneck outfit you want.

-FIRST 300 people dressed up get AQUA GLOW IN THE DARK VIP wristband which means you will NEVER have to wait in line again.

-COUNTRY WESTERN COVER band in our warehouse.

-DJ SPINNY in the main room playing all YOUR favorites.

-DRINK SPECIALS ALL NIGHT and we will have COWGIRLS passing out $1 shots of whiskey and Penny BUD HEAVY shots.

-DAISY DUKE CONTEST late-night MCed by hopefully NOT drunk B.G.

****AND BEST OF ALL….. ALLLLLLL STUDENTS FREE TILL 11pm****

-DONT MISS the BIGGEST PARTY IN THE SOUTH!!!!!

The week after the Thursday theme was the wear-your-sleepwear pajama party, the week after that Roman togas are required.

Teamed together, Iradji and Patel had a simple goal, to create a nightclub with an atmosphere that was not pretentious or gawdy, but inviting and most importantly, fun.

The line outside the nightclub stretches around the corner. Inside is a sea of dancing girls, a mile-long bar, sexy lighting, all the bells and whistles of a nightclub scene. A large front room dominates the building, but there is a spillover room toward the rear of the building that the owners have remodeled. On Saturday nights, for example, this gives them two party locations, one American and one Latino. Usually by the end of the night, the two groups are mixing on the main room’s dance floor. Outside, a fenced area is being eyed for a quieter space for a more professional crowd or even group business.

Iradji and Patel have a simple game plan with the club and it seems to come natural to both of them–simply put–be unorthodox. AQUA doesn’t follow your typical how to run a nightclub template. “We try to stay away from print and radio adds,” Iradji claims. “We try focus on hands-on promotions. We pick promoters that we know associate with good people and trust in them to find and invite the kind of people that we want to have fun with. I like to tell them as long as we have fun with our people; everyone will have fun.”

It sounds simple but Patel makes it clear that AQUA is successful mainly due to hard work. “All of us have put in our time, we have gone out of our way to meet people and be gracious and respectful to everyone that sets foot in AQUA’s doors, while maintaining a degree of professionalism that makes AQUA the cleanest, safest, most unique nightclub possible.”

Soft-spoken and with an air of attractive humility clinging to him, Iradji says he is trying to build a business that not only stays out of trouble, but actually helps build up the community. Whether working with City Council member Jonathan Austin to make the community more safe, partnering  with the youth leaders of The Basement Ministry or taking his staff to help tornado victims, Iradji’s focus seems to be centered around community and family.

The building AQUA inhabits is owned by Iradji’s uncle, AL Rabiee, a long-respected Birmingham restaurateur and now owner of VINO in Mountain Brook’s English Village. He claims that Iradji and his business partner Juan Esparaza have been a blessing to Lakeview and his property. “They really put AQUA and the Lakeview entertainment district community first” Rabiee says. “They are not just a nightclub but more of an entertainment facility that brings class to a business that has not always been held in a positive light. They truly are ambassadors to how clubs in Birmingham should conduct business”.

Iradji reiterates his philosophy often: “I would never have bought a nightclub if I thought it was something that my mother would not be proud of. We do everything we can to not cut corners on safety. I promised my mom this would not become your typical extreme late-night, cesspool of drugs and debauchery nightclub and I have kept that promise. We close at a decent hour and make sure everyone is always safe from the moment they park till the time they leave Lakeview. We always have cabs available and escorts for ladies who want to feel extra secure. We revoke club membership of anyone who breaks our strict rules and in the process, through diligent hard work, have created a special place that my mom is almost proud of.”

One Response to “Prince of the Night”

  1. nancy iradji says:

    very proud of bg iradji ,my big joy for bg is to be a great lawyer & can make money easier.love u bg ,mom

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