Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bounce Deuce, Home, Guesthouse and Der Schwarze Kolner

The New York Nights Club Report for July 30, 2009
Complied by
Gamal Hennessy

Der Schwarze Kolner
Brooklyn gets a new beer garden to quench our thirsts

Bounce Deuce
(New York Magazine)
An East Village sports bar fails to make the cut.

Home/ Guest House
(Good Night Mr. Lewis)
A pillar of Outer Chelsea collapses under the weight of gentrification.

Have fun.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New York: Good for Singles, Not So Good for Nightlife?

By Gamal Hennessy

When tourists, graduates and other people choose where to visit or live, there are a lot of factors that they can take into account. Forbes, a well known financial magazine offers advice on this subject in the form of its annual list of Best Cities for Singles. The good news is that New York has risen to the top of this chart for 2009. The bad news is that our overall gains seem to come at the price of a weakened nightlife environment. Is NY nightlife really weaker than it was a year ago or does our nightlife have qualities that can’t be measured?

The Forbes Best List for Singles compares U.S. cities across seven different categories including culture, nightlife, number of singles and cost of living. Last year, NYC ranked 8th best city for singles beaten out by cities like Dallas, Seattle and Boston. The reason we barely made it into the top ten was because our cost of living is so high compared to other cities. Our nightlife was ranked number 1, even when compared to nightlife cities like Las Vegas, Miami and Atlanta because the number of venues in New York when compared to the number of singles was the highest in the country.

This year, New York is the top city for single people. Driving this determination is the fact that our cost of living, compared to the average salary for single people for New Yorkers has leveled during the recession. It is still expensive to live here, but you don’t need to be a millionaire to have your own place. The bad news is that the number of venues per capita has decreased from our 2008 numbers according to AOL City Guide.

The basic problem with the Forbes list is the same one that existed when we last covered the story. The methodology focuses on quantity as opposed to quality. It’s fine to count the number of single people or the number of bars in certain cities and rank them based on density, but it doesn’t really take quality or variety into account. Does each city have the same range of nationalities, education levels and backgrounds for singles to choose from when they go looking for a date? Is a bar in Charlotte count just as much as a bar in Vegas because they both serve beer? Is the experience the same when you can walk to fifteen bars in a five block radius instead of driving for 20 minutes just to get to one? If you think about single life by only tracking the numbers, you miss something substantial.

The Forbes study does point out a fact that New York and the nightlife industry needs to focus on. The recession,
the SLA backlog and the NIMBY push have led to a consolidation of the industry. We are losing more venues than we are gaining. That means the city as a whole is losing more jobs, more revenue, more taxes and more potential for cultural growth. Our reputation as a nightlife capital can fade away if operators and patrons stand idle.

The Forbes List is not the last word on the health of nightlife in New York City, but consider this; Milwaukee and Portland came in with higher nightlife scores than New York. If tourists and college graduates look for a city to flock to and somehow come to the conclusion that nightlife in those cities can somehow be compared to ours we are going to lose the energy and the passion that those new people bring. Lists like this are not definitive pronouncements, but they are warnings to anyone who enjoys nightlife.

Have fun.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The War of Noise

By Gamal Hennessy

Certain members of local community boards have been fighting to suppress and limit New York nightlife for years. Their latest offensive is heating up on East 5th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. Instead of looking for a way to peacefully co-exist with operators, some residents have called for an end to all new liquor licenses in the area threatening the economics and prosperity of the city as a whole.

Community boards and liquor licenses

Community Board 3 covers the Lower East Side and Chinatown. Like several CBs with a high nightlife presence, there is a vocal group of residents in the community who feel that nightlife venues are magnets for negative elements in their communities. Their main grievance is the noise coming from the areas around clubs and bars. They also report coming out of their buildings in the morning to find urine, vomit, used condoms or even unconscious people in their doorways. They feel their neighborhoods have two personalities. During the day they are the envy of urban living. At night they become almost unlivable.

CBs affect change in local government based on the power that their recommendations hold. . In 1993, the Beverage Control Law (BCL) was modified to require increased public input for the granting of liquor licenses. The requirements state that if an operator planned to have a bar within
500 feet of three other established bars, clubs and lounges they had to consult with the CB and attend a mandatory public hearing to determine if the establishment serves the public interest. If you think about how dense New York City is, you quickly realize that almost every new bar needs a public hearing. This is how the community boards wield influence over the licensing process. They have a large say in whether or not a new bar ‘serves the public interest’ and whether is gets a liquor license or not. A bar without a liquor license won’t be opened for long, so when a CB is against a particular venue or venues in general, they have significant pull about whether that venue survives or not.

Club noise, street noise and the smoking ban

Disturbed residents often complain about ‘club noise’. They usually do not make any distinction to the type of noise in question. To them the definition is straight forward; some sound coming from the general direction of the club woke them up and they want it to stop. What they fail to understand is that it is one thing to complain about sounds coming from the club that the club can control and sounds coming from the streets adjacent to the club that it can’t control.

Operators have a certain degree of control over what is referred to in acoustics as sound transmission or the way that sound passes through solid objects like walls, doors and windows. But when you start to look at sound generated outside the four walls of the venue, the control of operators diminishes to almost zero. Bouncers and club security have no legal authority over activity that takes place on a public street outside their venue. If a person insists on smoking and talking loudly in front of a bar, if a cab illegally double-parks forcing other cars to blow their horns, if someone is removed from an establishment or refused entry and decides to remain on the street causing problems, bouncers are powerless beyond asking repeatedly for the person to stop. This type of disturbance, which is what many club noise complaints are about are not instances of club noise at all. This is street noise. But even though the noise is not generated or controlled by the club, the club is punished for the noise by local residents.

The street noise issue is exacerbated when the effects of the smoking ban are taken into account. When patrons go into a bar, they grab a drink, and begin interacting with each other. The volume of the music played in the venue and the increased levels of intoxication naturally raises the volume of the patrons when they are inside. They are screaming, laughing and shouting at each other. Then a few of them go outside to grab a smoke because it is against the law to smoke inside. As they open the door, noise from the dance floor and the DJ booth spill out into the street. When the patrons get outside, they are still intoxicated. Some of them, especially the
amateurs and fanatics, are still screaming, laughing and shouting at each other. The only difference is now they are yelling beneath the window of someone who is trying to sleep. Now they are awake. They get frustrated. They call 311. And the club gets a fine and a threat to their liquor license because they conformed to the smoking ban.

Common Ground

We are not saying that the residents of CB 3 don’t have the right to enjoy their living space. The people who live in areas that include nightlife venues have legitimate concerns that need to be addressed if the industry is going to reach its full potential. But the answer to this issue is not a blanket ban on liquor licenses. The answer is not to simply go after every operator with the same broad brush and blame them for noise they can’t legally control. Closing lounges, restaurants and clubs isn’t the answer. It will only lead to higher taxes, economic depression and higher crime in the area.

Club owners can’t control street noise, but there is a group of people in the city who can; the NYPD. The proper level of police presence in and around nightlife concentrated areas could greatly reduce the problems that take place between nightlife and its neighbors. Instead of using the police as a weapon to close clubs, CB’s could proactively work with the NYPD and the clubs to prevent problems before they arise.

If noise and safety are the major concerns for CB’s, then it would be in their best interest to support operators in their attempts to convince the NYPD to allow Paid Detail or regular police patrols in the areas outside the venues that need and want it. With an increase uniformed police presence in certain areas, noise, vandalism and potential outbreaks of crime can be reduced or even eliminated. If the NYPD is concerned about a direct connection between the venues and the Paid Detail because of pre-existing corruption issues, the CBs can be used as a buffer to protect the integrity of both parties. The CB could hire the Paid Detail to patrol the streets at night and the operators in the area could contribute to a fund that the CBs would use for the exclusive purpose of funding this Paid Detail. Under this proposal, the CB would get an increased quality of life, the operators would have the ability to solve the noise and crime issues that are so detrimental to the maintenance of their liquor license and the NYPD could keep crime rates down without any direct association with the venues themselves.

Constructive solutions to CB problems makes more sense than knee jerk ‘not in my backyard’ reactions from vocal CB residents. Working together to solve a legitimate problem can create a situation that is better for everyone involved, instead of deepening the divisions and prolonging the war.

Have fun.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Empire Room, Studio B and SLA Fines

Compiled by Gamal Hennessy

Studio B
The Greenpoint rooftop bar succumbs to community pressure.

SLA Fines
(Village Voice)
Several venues are fined for allegedly filling top shelf bottles with well liquor.

Coming Soon
The Empire Room
The Empire State Building will soon have its own upscale cocktail lounge.

Have fun

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cellar 58, Marquee and Lounge Poker

The New York Nights Club Report for July 9, 2009
Compiled by Gamal Hennessy

Cellar 58
A haven for rare wine opens in NoHo.

(Village Voice)
The iconic club has been linked to a sexual assault…

Lounge Poker
(Black Book)
The speakeasy trend is bringing back more than specialty cocktails. Card games are breaking out all over the city…

Beer Cocktails
(New York Times)
If you can never decide between a beer and a cocktail, now you can have both…

If you’re looking for a better quality of pole dancer, look no further…

Have fun.