I sat in on a restaurant panel at theNew York Food & Wine Festival last weekend. The moderator started off the discussion by asking the collection of celebrity chefs, owners, critics and PR gurus “What’s your favorite New York spot and why?” As they each chimed in about their favorite places to eat, I thought about how I answer that question when it comes to nightlife. I realized that it is a common question with an uncommon answer.
When I tell people I own a nightlife magazine, they often ask me to name my favorite spots. My answer is never consistent. My list is long and the venues really have nothing to do with each other. While I factor in a lot of external elements like the quality of the music, service and the crowd, my favorite clubs all share something that is beyond the control of the club itself. External factors are secondary to the connections I develop when I’m there.
There is a lounge in the Upper East Side called Vudu. I’ve only been there once and I might have only been there for an hour, but it’s one of my favorite spots. I took one of my writers there and we settled in to watch gorgeous Latin women dancing salsa in every direction. After a few minutes of trying to be discreet with my ogling, I noticed that she and I were both staring at the same women. I said “You’ve got good taste.” She smiled and said “I’m a lesbian. I know what to look for.” We’ve been best friends ever since.
I love Honey even though their music comes out of an IPod, the service floats from decent to poor and the crowd is very forgettable. It’s a favorite spot because I’ve started and built several strong connections there with beautiful women. Everything else that happens there is secondary.
One of my favorite spots of all time is the Ye Olde Tripple Inn. I’m not a big fan of dive bars and calling this place a dive is a rave review. It was a hole, complete with sticky floors, lopsided tables and cigarette burns in the cheap tablecloths. But a lot of my former co-workers became my closest friends in that spot. We celebrated, vented, plotted, and laughed there almost every week for five years. Even when people left the company, they would still regularly come back to drink with us at the Tripple. The bar closed in 2003. The company we worked for fell apart a year later. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
When someone asks you to name your favorite bar or club you might throw out the name of the most popular, most exclusive model and bottle trap or the newest celebrity owned lounge. If you genuinely enjoy those spots, more power to you. If you just need to fit in, it might be time to stop worrying about where everyone else wants to go and figure out where you want to go.
What do you want to listen to? Who do you want to see and meet? How do you want to be treated? What do you need to have fun? Once you find out the answers to those questions, then you can find the best club in the city for you…