The place wasn’t easy to find. If you didn’t know precisely where it was, you’d never find it. Down this street, then that alley. Enter through an industrial-looking building. No sign, no street-facing windows.
The Autocratic Lizard: the most sought-after cocktail lounge in the city.
If anyone called asking for an address, they’d give you directions to O’Grady’s on Parkview Drive. Or they’d send you down a dead-end street in the dodgy end of town, where you’d find the cellar of a burnt-out house or a drug deal in progress.
You couldn’t get in unless someone took you there. And even if someone did take you there, it wasn’t a sure thing. The doormen would barely flick a glance at you, so you didn’t need to worry about them. As long as you were with someone who was “in”, you could at least get in past the gatekeepers.
No, it was the owner you had to watch out for. Liz Ardouin. She was the one who controlled the clientele. She’d never talk to you. Oh, no, not a word. She’d just stand behind the bar, pretending to be absorbed in polishing the glasses or straightening the bottles. But she’d be watching you.
Nobody ever knew what criteria she used. Was it the way you signalled the wait staff? The drink you ordered? Your request for a slice of lemon? Your clothes? Your hair? Nobody knew.
But Liz knew. And once she decided, she’d glance at the doormen, who sat around a table by the entrance playing cards. Then she’d nod in your direction. And you were done. The doormen would have you halfway dragged across the floor before the others at your table registered that you’d just been yanked out of your chair.
Out the door you went. Don’t ever come back, they’d say.
All the other patrons would carry on, as if you’d never existed. Even those at your table—the very people who brought you—would soon resume their conversation, laughing over their drinks as if they’d never heard of you.
They were alright, you see. They’d been here before. It was only the first visit you had to worry about. If Liz didn’t have you expulsed during your first visit, you were fine. You could return to The Autocratic Lizard any time.
A bit odd, that. The food wasn’t much good at the Lizard. The drinks were overpriced. The service slow as snails. And the music—my god it was awful. Don’t even get me started about the lavatories.
No, the patrons at The Autocratic Lizard went there for one reason, and one reason only. For the pure pleasure and smug satisfaction of being “in.”