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Soju, the Asian fusion restaurant that opened a year ago on Atlantic Avenue, has come out of the closet - as the Dragon Lounge, Brooklyn Heights’s new upscale, gay-friendly bar.

The expanded space is now decorated with dashing swaths of red and chocolate, polished wood, hanging lanterns and wraparound banquettes piled with jaunty cushions.

Owners Diane and Joe DiMeo wanted to get just the right atmosphere.

"Joe did all the major construction," says Diane. "I made the cushions and pillows. You can feel the homey, warm, sensual quality."

There’s also a garden seating area, weather permitting.

The DiMeos, who are connected to the Gay-Lesbian-Bi-Transsexual community through family members, felt that there was "a need of an environment that is not seedy" for gays in the neighborhood. Three weeks after reopening as Dragon Lounge, the response has exceeded their expectations.

"I can’t believe how many people are coming in here," boasts Joe. "Soju’s food got high ratings," he added, "but there wasn’t the foot traffic."

"[This stretch of Atlantic Avenue] is known more for the bars in the vicinity," says Diane. "If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em."

Traces of Soju live on in the form of the house-made spicy peanut snacks; meanwhile, chef Diane has poured her creativity into a unique drink menu. Offerings include the almond jelly martini, a blend of almond liqueur, vodka and almond jelly; the sake mojito, made with the Japanese rice wine, basil and fresh lime juice; or the "Zen martini," a concoction of green tea and vodka.

Weekly events include happy-hour-all-night on Tuesdays, for students with ID, and "lady lovers" night on Wednesdays; and contestants are now being sought for "Dragon Idol," an upcoming talent contest the DiMeos are planning. In another month, they’ll also offer bloody mary brunches on weekends.

Weekend nights feature guest DJs and dancing.

The Dragon Lounge is located at 145 Atlantic Ave. between Clinton and Henry streets in Brooklyn Heights. Well drinks and beer are $4-$6; specialty cocktails are $8-$10. The lounge is open daily at 5 pm, with $1-off happy hour till 9 pm. For information about upcoming events, call (718) 624-7658, or visit

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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