As I walked through the crowd at Johann Sfaellos' new club last Thursday, the first thing that caught my attention was the half-naked guy laid out on a table with sushi covering his sculpted chest. Hard to miss.

In Japan, the tradition of body sushi usually calls for a woman. Sfaellos thought it would be more fun with a man. After 15 years in the downtown Minneapolis club scene, Sfaellos still likes to do things a little differently.

The club, 400 Soundbar, is actually a sequel to his 414 Soundbar, which closed in November. It is twice the size, which means he has twice the space to fill with his idiosyncratic tendencies.

Vases hold Siamese fighting fish in the VIP booths. The walls are filled with original pieces of art (a portrait of a nude redhead is priced at $2,500). No food will be served here, but there's a glass dining-room table sitting right off the dance floor. I guess it's all in the details (no matter how peculiar).

In the past five years, Sfaellos, 44, originally from Greece, has been involved with three clubs on this block, which sits across the street from Target Field. After selling the Lounge in 2005, he helped open Visage here. He left soon afterward, and opened his own club, 414 Soundbar, a couple of doors down. In the fall of 2010, his landlord took Sfaellos to court for unpaid rent. A lot of finger-pointing followed, and the club closed. Five months later, Sfaellos and partner Enrique Delgado are back on the block, having remodeled the defunct Visage space.

A couple of days after the opening-night party, I caught up with Sfaellos as he sat at that dining table. It was the club's first Saturday in operation, and still early in the night. He leaned back in his chair and surveyed what he had created -- red columns with stencil art outlined the dance floor, glistening chandeliers hung overhead, heavy drapery everywhere.

"This is sexy," he said in his thick Greek accent.

A server interrupted us with a message for Sfaellos: "I'm supposed to tell you your fish died."

Apparently, a nightclub is no place for fighting fish.

"People put drinks in my fishbowl," Sfaellos said, bemused.

Toasting Ivan the Terrible

To create some intimacy in the club's 10,000 square feet, he's cut Soundbar into three distinct rooms, two of which feature Russian and Asian themes.

"I call it the Silk Crossroads," Sfaellos said, referring to the network of trade routes that crisscrossed the Asian continent centuries ago.

The walls of the Russian room have been painted lime-green and covered with gaudy portraits of European aristocracy, Russian czars and pets. It makes no sense. Sfaellos told me that's exactly what he was going for: "I want it to be cartoony!"

As we talked, he repositioned the gold frames that had become slightly tilted on the walls. "The bass keeps moving them," he said, referring to the booming music being produced by the DJ in the next room.

He's especially proud of a canvas print he had made of Ivan the Terrible.

"I'm going back to more of a lounge feel so people can talk in the club," Sfaellos said. "And if the conversation is boring, you have things to look at."

Soundbar's other small room basks in a red glow and is discernibly Asian, if only for its lanterns and lone Buddha statue.

Both areas seem like good respites from the main room, where clubbers will spend most of their time. Like the old Visage, the dance floor is outlined with large VIP booths -- eight in all -- for those desiring bottle service. One booth is so massive that I counted 25 leopard-print pillows just waiting to have $200 bottles of vodka spilled on them.

Members only

Why only have a DJ, when you can have a violinist, a sax player, an aerialist and a belly dancer, too? That's Sfaellos' thinking, as he promises to have some or all of these performers every weekend at Soundbar.

"Diversity is my thing!" he said.

While many downtown clubs are looking like twentysomething meat markets these days, Sfaellos routinely brings in an eclectic crowd. His audience zigzags across racial lines, and includes gay and straight, young and old.

Sfaellos is hoping he can persuade his regulars to go one step further than simply showing up at the club. He wants to start a social club within Soundbar, in which paid members would get invites and access to special parties. Members could charge their drinks to their house account, like a hotel. Other Minneapolis clubs have tried rewards programs, but the members-only approach is more in tune with clubs in New York. If anyone could get clubgoers to bite at this concept here, it might be Sfaellos.

Beyond those poor fish and the human sushi platter, I'll make one other observation of 400 Soundbar. All the chandeliers hanging in the club's largest VIP area have been lowered to chest level for no apparent reason other than Sfaellos' amusement. The crystal will literally hit you in the face. Sfaellos laughed at my comment, before adding:

"Isn't it awesome?"