Defining the Three Nightlife Operators. Type 3: The Rebel

By Gamal Hennessy

On Realists, Rebels and Retros (Part 3)

Click here to read Part 1: The Retro
Click here to read Part 2: The Realist

On one side you have the retro who pines for the past era of nightlife culture. On the other side you have the realist who sees nightlife as a prudent business decision. In the center you find the rebel. He is the one who understands that enhancing the culture of nightlife is good business. He knows that the business of nightlife is the only thing that can support the culture. To put it simply; he wants to have a good time and make some money doing it. You might think that every club owner and manager wants to have a profitable party, but the rebel goes beyond this surface explanation.

She understands what nightlife used to be, but she isn’t willing to abandon the industry just because things have changed. When external forces threaten the bars and clubs, the rebel is there. She is at public hearings arguing against laws that would shut clubs down early. She is fighting for fair treatment by various government agencies. She is debating with, working with and in many cases joining the local community boards to ensure clubs aren’t completely pushed out of the city. It can be argued that the nightlife we have left exists because of the work that rebels do.

At the same time, rebels push against the internal forces that push nightlife towards uninspired and clichéd models. They don’t want their club to look like the last ten major venues. They want something different. They don’t want their DJs to play the same 15 songs that are playing in every other lounge. The want to open up their venue for both the forgotten classics and inventive new music. The rebel wants famous artists and celebrities in their club, but they are more interested in having them perform rather just than stand around flossing. The rebel wants to create a unique experience, a memorable party that patrons will want to return to again and again instead of something they’ll get tired of in six months before they move on to the next big thing.

The realist doesn’t see the need to change anything because they have found a way to benefit from the current situation. The retro doesn’t see the need to change anything because he doesn’t see anything worth changing. The rebel is about change.

This is not to say that rebels are somehow the saints of nightlife who are supporting the industry out of some sense of self-sacrifice. The rebel wants to be successful, just like any other business person. The struggles they engage in protect their business interests as well as the interests of other operators. The unique direction that they take their venues in are, on a certain level, an attempt to create a point of difference that will attract patrons who are tired of the average venue. For the most part, these are not overly romantic idealists when it comes to nightlife. They simply see the need for change and are willing to make that change happen.

Defining operators as retro, realist or rebel is not an attempt to call anyone out or cast dispersions on any one group to benefit another. I’m not saying that one type is better than another or that all operators should be one type instead of another. Nightlife probably needs all three types. Many successful venues from Studio 54 to Marquee and 1OAK had or have a combination of operators running the show. The point of this piece is to show that among operators there is a diversity that is just as varied as the difference between different types of patrons and various types of venues. Knowing which operators run which kind of venues will make it easier for you to decide where to go out and have an experience that is good for you. And in the end, having a good time is what nightlife is all about.

Have fun.