Thursday, December 17, 2009

USL: Union Square Steps in a New Direction

Nightlife in Union Square is generally geared towards dating. It is tucked between the college atmosphere of NYU and the East Village and the high profile scenes of Meatpacking, Flatiron and Chelsea. It is an area rich with cozy restaurants and tiny wine bars. It is a good place for a couple to spend some time getting to know each other, strolling through the park and dodging the skaters.

But hidden from the main strip of venues on Park Avenue South, beneath the landmark Coffee Shop, a club is growing. Run by Michael Gogel, a veteran of Lotus, Double Seven, Bijoux and Merkato 55, the Union Square Lounge (USL) has the potential to become a fixture in New York nightlife for several years to come.

A flight of black steps leads you down into a dark cave. The main room manages to be spacious and intimate at the same time. The deep brown interior and furniture suck in the minute light given off by the fireplace and sparsely distributed candles. This means that you need to make sure the person you’re talking to is cute before you go downstairs. It’s probably too dark to tell once you’re inside.USL has a tapas menu that offers unique and subtle flavors borrowed from various parts of the world. The music drifts through various forms of house that plays well to the nightlife native, multi ethnic crowd. The staff is laid back and professional but they do strike me as a little jaded. I attribute that to the fact that they are probably veteran operators who have just served one fanatic too many.
The space has definite potential as either a lounge or a club. As it exists now, USL is more informal and relaxed than Olive’s and other union square spots. It is more upscale than Bar 13. Anyone looking for a good alternative to Underbar and Flute would to well to check out USL any week night. What can set this underground venue apart is the adjacent ballroom space. It is a huge separate venue that can accommodate 400-500 dancing, drinking and carousing patrons. While the ballroom space is currently being offered for weddings and corporate events, there are plans to offer nightlife events in 2010.

Whether you need a new place to take a date or you need to hear some house music, USL is worth visiting for a drink or three. If you get there and there is a huge line of dancers standing outside, then you’ll know that Union Square has moved beyond the date scene to emerge as a viable new club area.

Have fun.

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