NYC: The Bunker Club, the Best New Nightlife Discovery

What a rush last night was! I’m not sure how long it’s been since I’ve been able to say that and mean it. To spend the morning glowing despite my hangover (thanks for that, Kanon Organic Vodka). Sure, it’s Fashion Week and everyone is buzzing about yet another shift in New York nightlife. Don Hill’s, The Darby, and Lavo have been touted as “game-changers” by our own Steve Lewis, and these varied new options have people going out in droves. But the shift really was palpable last night.

I was already succumbing to a mid-week slump, ready to retreat to bed early. But the evening’s itinerary was too enticing: The Last Magazine was throwing a party at a new spot called the Bunker Club, below Bill’s Bar & Burger, and Dossier decided to throw their party (with Kate Lanphear) at the buzzy Nolita taqueria Tacombi. The venues were not obvious choices, but, as I would soon find out, “game changers” themselves. I rolled up to a mass of fizzy downtown partiers smelling of beer and tacos on Elizabeth Street, and immediately felt that inner nightlife switch flip on.

image Stella Artois is happy about this photo.

Kate was, per usual, the sharply dressed belle of the ball, hosting a post-Proenza show, which included, as she put it, “sorta anti-fashion cocktails for my homey and hero Dan Martensen.” He had set up a space next door to Tacombi, and was working with Dossier to take portraits of guests for a photo book, a “time capsule of fashion/art/film,” Lanphear explained. The crowd, so wonderfully varied, was eventually herded into Tacombi without protest. When was the last time you went to a party that was void of those entitled assholes who refuse to wait in line? There was no such madness amongst the mannered pals of Lanphear and Elle Creative Director Joe Zee. I’m dreading the fact that I might sound like another scene-whoring asshole myself, but the politeness put me at ease. Steve Lewis dropped by and was swayed towards staying in his neighborhood instead of moving to Williamsburg, like he thought he was going to do. Katie Gallagher, a designer whose show was styled by Lanphear this week, was clad in her signature geometric threads with her—dare I say—visionary graphic artist boyfriend Nikolay Saveliev. The couple is great to look at, but their soft-spoken manner and easy disposition make them lovely to chat with as well. The crowd was dotted with downtowners, fashion and anti-fashion folks alike. The sort of unfinished, raw restaurant looked like the perfect backdrop—a pseudo-outdoor camping party.

image Billy from Billy’s Antiques image Katie and Nikolay

I was reluctant to leave the party early, but there’s something about the Meatpacking that seems to make my pals skittish. “We should go now, or else we’re going to be waiting forever to get in,” one of them said. Indeed, a line had already formed outside of Bill’s Burgers, but it was a line that stood out like a sore thumb amidst the suits and tarts scampering around the nabe. Femme-bots, feathered caps, pirate tramps, and other artsy-looking mischief-makers weren’t waiting as patiently as the patrons of the former party, but the vampy Bettie Page-ish doorwoman was just doing her job (and doing it well). Former BlackBook chick Briana Rasinski was somehow involved with the basement bar. I texted her a wary, “I think I am heading over to your place?” Briana is an incredibly keyed-in nightlifer. She somehow knows everyone and, along with her brother Brett (who is tapped into the Waverly Inn crowd) and Matt Abramcyk of Beatrice notoriety, the team seems to have isolated that missing link in nightlife, and recreated it.

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After bounding down the silent staircase, we were met with a blast of bass as soon as we opened the door. The space—a former wartime bunker—is big, but filled with nooks and secret spots. The layout is conducive to spending your whole evening at one bar. The main bar area is a sunken living room, with cozy furniture and weathered rugs, perfect for pre-gaming and catching up with friends. Once you’re suitably tipsy, the dancefloor is a few steps up, perched on a higher tier, surrounded by more tables and comfortable chairs. When you first descend the staircase, excitement builds because you have the full view of the entire place. DJ Maia Wojcik, careful not to use the old “this is the new Beatrice” adage, simply noted: “This is the closest thing I’ve seen to the Beatrice.” Indeed, the crowd was similar: artsy, good looking, successful, and more importantly, varied. Andre Balazs, mixed in with Alexander Wang and Alex Richards. Top models (not “B” models, as Steve Lewis says) like Anouck Lepere and Maryna Linchukhung were out in their best MOD looks. Of course, it was fashion week, and it was The Last Magazine. But this place seems like it has enough passionate people behind it to really light up the scene. Are the crowds going to be similar, even after fashion week has left the building? “Yes! Brett has the Waverly crowd, Matt has the Beatrice crowd, so it will be that familiar cross section of both—the prestigious and the party crowd,” she said. “How happy are we that we have a place to go out again?”

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It seems a few select industry players have finally been able to pinpoint that intangible thing we’ve been missing in nightlife, that element of nostalgia—a shred of the familiar, house parties, living rooms—mixed with a jolt of innovation. New openings come and go, and those commercial “hotspots” that are produced en mass, for the masses, are void of feeling, and are likewise consumed without feeling. Excitement wanes, and the place, which was only superficially great, fades. But it seems places like the Darby, Don Hill’s, and, as I found out last night, Tacombi and Bunker are living up to the buzz they’re generating, largely because the people behind the new spots are more passionate, and more attune to their crowds. I have a feeling there will be a lot more to write about in nightlife this fall.

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