By Gamal Hennessy
Nightlife is an environment that revolves around sexuality. It is, in fact, a metaphor for sexuality on a city wide scale. You can understand the energy and flow of a New York night by examining it through the lens of a single sexual encounter. Looking at the night this way can help you figure out where, when and how you want to fit in.
Flirting: 4 - 7 p.m.
A typical New York night starts here, with office workers moving directly from their boardrooms and cubicles to booths and barstools. Drinks are normally cheaper during this period, and the nightlife population skews to an older out of town set. Most bars and some lounges are open, but the clubs will still be closed. Corporate events often start during this period, since it is relatively easy to get commuters to stop in for a few drinks before they need to catch the train home. Everyone here gets to play a little without doing anything that might make them feel guilty.
Foreplay: 7 - 10 p.m.
As the drink specials end, many venues develop a vibe that is more about entertainment than social interaction. People park themselves in front of huge flat screens and watch different sports depending on the time of year. The musically inclined can catch live shows in every style of music in venues ranging from tiny piano bars to huge clubs. The late night oriented patrons often start their night here as well, eating, grabbing the first few drinks of the night and scoping out potential playmates.
Intercourse: 10 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Lounges are often in full swing now. You’ll find couples there who have transitioned their dinner date into drinks. Post-game and post-concert crowds will be basking in the afterglow of their respective events. People start to loosen up as the drinks flow and the energy increases. Many clubs open their doors at 10 p.m., but the spaces are often empty for the first couple of hours, especially on the weekends. This is the time when serious dancers get the floor to themselves while hustlers and operators settle in for a night’s work.
Climax: midnight – 2 a.m.
If the promoter, doorman, DJ, bartenders and other operators have done their jobs, then the venue is full by 12:30. This is the period when the population of the nightlife environment is at its height. You can see it inside the clubs and in front of many venues as people smoke and stand on line trying to get in. Whether the main activity of the night is dancing, drinking, flashing cash, flirting, hooking up or just watching, it’s happening now or it might not happen at all. This is the period of release that often makes the whole experience worthwhile. The sexual energy of the city is on full display here, stripping away any illusions about why we go out.
After play 2 a.m. – 4 a.m.
At a certain point in the evening, the energy starts to ebb. While many spots are still in full swing, a large number of patrons start to make their way for the exits. Maybe it’s because the Red Bull starts to wear off. Maybe it’s because her feet are killing her from dancing in four inch stilettos all night. Maybe he’s too drunk to stand up. Maybe it’s because questionable sexual decisions are being made through the haze of beer goggles. Maybe it’s because 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. are the periods when venues are required to close according to the terms of their liquor license. Whatever the reason, the message is clear; you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. Warning: This can be a clumsy, awkward and ugly time if you don’t really know what you are doing.
Separation: 4 a.m. – 8 a.m.
Nightlife fragments in the early morning hours. For those who still need to party, this is the time to hit the after-hours spot. For those who have a long commute back home, this is the time to make your way back to the outer boroughs and adjacent states. For operators and the very hungry, it’s time to hit the diner. For anyone who left the club with someone they shouldn’t have, it’s time for the walk of shame. By the time this period is over most, but not all, nightlife people have given the city back to the working world. The night is over and it’s time to head back to reality.
Extension: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The rising sun doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the party. Brunch, day drinking and lunch parties are the new nightlife in New York. Whether you are just getting started after a good night’s sleep or you are still out from the night before, you can find breakfast, bloody marys, music and mimosas. At this point, extensions are not universal. Many people allow trivial things like sleep, work and normal life to intrude on what would otherwise be a 24 party. But if you don’t have to work, you might as well keep playing.
What Time is Your Time?
Of course, these are guidelines not rules. Some people start the pre-game drinking at noon. Some people are doing the walk of shame at 9 p.m. As with actual sex, some people leave out some steps. But the majority of nightlife flows in this pattern. A nightlife native can jump in or out at any point of the night on any night of the week. She could even engage in the 24 hour marathon that is New York’s continuous nightlife cycle, but this isn’t recommended for most of us. Nightlife is a metaphor for sex and sex can be amazing all the time, but we all need our beauty sleep.