Goodnight Mr. Lewis: Nightlife Thrives Now, But an Inevitable Crackdown Nears

House of Yes (Photography: Audrey Penmen)

We find ourselves in a more resilient era. January saw the closing of mega club Pacha after a 10-year-run. In past eras, the loss of such an iconic joint might have devastated the scene, but other joints stepped up and absorbed the crowds. In Manhattan, Stage 48 seemed to benefit the most from the closing, but a recent check bounce to promoter Kayvon Zand has me wondering about the viability of that venue. Space has survived, but it’s at best a lukewarm club still searching for an identity that will probably be found without the current regime.

Santos Party House is now suddenly closed, although I see that space being revived with a new concept brand. Santos had some wonderful nights and some great parties, but it was always plagued by confused management. It closed with a sigh, not a cry and their scene shifted mostly to Brooklyn.

Brooklyn, once a bedroom community, has clearly taken the reigns as the epicenter of NYC nightlife. When one of the mainstays of that borough Verboten was shuttered recently due to legal problems, folks were worried if a crackdown similar to the one that closed much of the scene in West Chelsea was in the works. Then Mayor Giuliani had designated certain derelict neighborhoods of Manhattan as cabaret zones. The Meatpacking District was one of these zones and clubs grew like magic mushrooms where cattle and other innocents were slaughtered. Although there isn’t much there besides the Standard Hotel and Cielo below it, the area does attract hordes of revelers. To be fair, Catch, Provocateur, 1OAK, Avenue and Tao are still keen. Luxury high rises have only been allowed on the fringes of this nightlife mecca.

Another zone was the West Chelsea club district. As real estate interests eyed the area, police found all sorts of violations in the existing clubs. Places like Home, Guesthouse, Bed, Quo, Mansion, Cain, Suzie Wongs, Spirit, Bungalow 8 and many more suddenly seemed to be operated by bad, bad people or were unable to survive the changing climate and neighborhood. It was amazing to see all those luxury high rises rise from the ashes. Some think it wasn’t a coincidence that the clubs couldn’t survive and coincide.

Texts to a Verboten owner have only yielded a “there’s two sides to every story”-type response. When dealing with cops and the city there always is. Yet Verboten’s re-opening seems to be forbidden—for now. Still, nightlife thrives as good as ever with House of Yes, 2 Wyckoff. Originally thought of as a performance club, it is now absorbing the best of what Brooklyn offers. I was to attend an event there last night and I will continue to go and support what I consider the best place in town. Cityfox has stepped up bigtime with the opening of The Brooklyn Mirage, 140 Stewart Avenue. This mega venue holds thousands and could be the all things to all people type of nightlife experience that the old folks always complain is lacking. There is nothing lacking. There is also Good Room although very rarely more than an okay room, it still offers an outlet for those not willing to pay the $50 plus entry to Mirage, or are intimidated by the fabulousness of House of Yes.

The development of the waterfronts of Williamsburg and Greenpoint continues. Everywhere you look, cranes bring steel and concrete to dormitories for trust fund kids, commuting slaves and Manhattan refuges. The artists and creative types seem to be making a last stand in Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. The loss of the L Train may stay the inevitable, but rest assured in the war between condos and nightlife the condos always win. Eventually the glory of those artists and cool cheap nightlife that brought in the new inhabitants in the first place will be exiled to another hood as by then the baby carriages, Duane Reade’s and $80 brunches will have displaced the edge.

Yet out of all my gloom I hear of another mega-club. These folks of whom I will not speak of now will bring that edge to Johnson and Starr as soon as all the I’s are dotted on the legal stuff and the paint dries. Here’s a couple of raw shots of the place which is being built for dancing and dreams:


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