Full Circle: Boom into Bust into Boom

I awoke to the sound of CNN blaring great economic news to my Martinez Brothers-blown ears. Cielo is winding down its summer programming, and as reported earlier will close August 1 until September by court order. The Martinez Brothers are no longer the new kids on the block and seem destined to become legends before they reach 21 years of age. As I write this, the good people over at Pacha are awaiting a decision by Judge Joan Madden regarding the fate of the last mega-house club this town can boast. I have heard unsubstantiated rumors of economic troubles over at M2, and to me, Webster Hell is not a consideration. Home and Guesthouse just shuttered under the weight of enforcement, and the question “who’s next?” looms large. Is it a coincidence this latest round of crackdowns by the powers that be is happening just as an economic recovery is waking me and the whole country up?

“The GDP lost a meager 1%!” screamed the talking head as I wrote this piece, and that’s way better than expected. It was just a few months ago that the sky was absolutely falling and half the town was looking for club jobs. Now those jobs are easier to get. Traditionally this is one of the worst times of year to get a club gig, yet I have gotten foul-weather friends some pretty nice jobs lately. In years past no one opened a joint in the summer, and no one quit a job before the fall season. Come September, all the best club staffers return to grab their old jobs back, so hanging on to the job you have is a great idea.

In September the club economy traditionally slows. Although September brings people back from the Hamptons and other retreats, they are short on cash after months of partying. September brings the flu, baseball season winding down (those important games), the end of tourist season, back to school for the college kids, and some short-term dedication to studies for the students coming in. September brings rain and cold, and much money is spent on new clothes and paying bills before holiday shopping. It gets dark early, and people are depressed thinking of the winter ahead. Fashion Week and some new club openings help a bit, but things generally don’t get better until Halloween.

Yet Andrew Cuomo tells me as I eat my morning bagel with my old friend the New York Times that last year in the worst recession since World War II, Wall Street gave 5,000 people bonuses of $1 million or more. Nationwide, the financial community got $20 billion in bonuses. With the coming boom, will bottle service be revisited? For the A-list clubs, it never fully went away. Clubs have learned to do business the old-fashioned way over the last year-plus. As the bankers and brokers buying bottles for and from models business plan disintegrated, clubs were forced to be more inclusive and more inventive. Avenue sells cute skewered food in little boxes and hawks table service instead of bottle service. Specialty cocktails at especially high prices get the buck from the chump almost as fast as the Goose drop. With the Dow on the way up and optimism bringing sunshine on cloudy days, things are looking too good to be true. The club world has gotten better during the bust; the music not having to cater to the frat-boy big spenders is more eclectic. The downtown sensibility is everywhere. Even Avenue has Paul Sevigny and crew on Tuesdays, and for many its the most habitable night. I’m getting calls daily from people about to open a spot and in need of a designer. I’m also getting calls from operators looking for a new spot to open. There isn’t much available. Nobody is selling what they have. Everyone is seeing the money coming and gearing up to take it. They’re building new or refurbishing old spider webs, anticipating an explosion of flies.

The kicker is the police/city crackdown. The boom makes the real estate valuable once again. Developers will invariably eye the properties occupied as clubs and want to make them condos, or they will covet the property down the block. The thought of blaring taxi horns, drunken fools, flyer litter and lower classes wandering through their neighborhood is abhorrent. It could get even worse — the club may put in an “urban night” and their property values would surely plummet. This is the mindset of the community boards and the politicos that listen to them. The boom may bring bust as cops and other officials are unleashed on the club community. Round 1 is this week as we await the Pacha verdict. Even if Pacha wins and is allowed to operate, it seems the city will never sleep in its quest to turn the city that never sleeps into a bedroom community.

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