By Gamal Hennessy
Things change. What worked yesterday might not work today and the stars of today will be the relics of tomorrow. Talking to people in nightlife recently I’m getting the sense that the industry is in a state of flux. It’s like we’re in a transition period between the bottle service trend and whatever comes next. The problem is that no one is sure what comes next, or if they do know, they’re not telling me.The demise of Home and Guesthouse last week prompted Steven Lewis to initiate a Facebook discussion on the future of the industry. There was a consensus among the random participants that many clubs and lounges won’t be able to thrive by simply selling bottles. The operators that survive are going to give their venues personality. Whether it come from the music that they offer, the entertainment the provide, or the unique people that they cater to, the next wave of nightlife is going to have to be known for something more than just the ability to stand in a generic room, listening to generic music and drinking generic expensive liquor. The mere illusion of exclusivity just doesn’t cut it in the post recession world.
Real exclusivity in nightlife is taking tips from previous trends.Prohibition type speakeasies are a staple of New York City lounges now, with everything from fake phone booths in hot dog stands to secret keys, passwords and other shenanigans. At the same time, ‘secret parties’ have begun to emerge as a natural response to oppressive gentrification and the general anti-nightlife stance of local government. Neither of these trends have a clear future. The secrecy and strict rules of some speakeasies give it the veneer of high end exclusivity, but the inherent drama involved with just getting a drink sucks much of the fun out of the experience. And in an age of text messaging, Twitter and social media, nothing stays secret for very long, especially a secret party.
I don’t know what the next major trend in nightlife is going to be. I’m not that smart. I do think more spots like Home and Guesthouse will close as the bottle service market continues to shrink. I hope that personality will replace table service as the major selling point. And I also hope that we don’t have to hide from the rest of the world just to have a good time. Nightlife needs to evolve like everything else. If we recognize the industry as an asset, it can thrive instead of going into hiding.