Choosing the best dance club this year was easy. There were a few strong contenders (the Oz, we tip our hats to you -- and your renovations and your post-sunrise weekend closing time), but in 2004 Velvet really shone. When Lo and Tangerine closed, you'd think the competition would be smug. Instead, the powers that be at Velvet and Rue 13, knowing that St. Louisans were unhappy, took on some of the specialty nights the dead clubs once offered, with little to no skip in the beat. And Velvet just keeps looking forward. A vital anchor on a once-fledgling Washington Avenue, the club continues to make the fancy, redone street a destination with special events like the recent tenth biannual Beat Fest. This music showcase always attracts electronic music heavy hitters to the Lou and preserves St. Louis' spot on the DJ map. So Velvet: Thanks for keeping our city on the dance-clubbing radar, and more important, thanks for keeping the music alive.