Because It’s New York City: The Nightlife Culture Interview with Amanda Bantug

 

It is common knowledge that online marketing and digital distribution gives artists and musicians the ability to create and release music from any where on the planet. The cliché of coming to New York with your guitar to make a name for yourself isn’t as universal as it once was. But even in the era of iTunes Youtube and Reverbnation there are still many artists yearning to perform in the City. In the first interview of its kind, NCI talked to Amanda Bantug an alternative musician from Georgia who is planning her New York debut.  

NCI: When you imagine playing your music live in New York, what do you see in your mind’s eye? What do you think that first experience will be like?

AB: Since I’m not from New York, of course I imagine thousands of people singing my songs back to me a MSG, but realistically, that is not going to happen right off the bat. I know I’ll probably be at a more intimate venue, which is wonderful because I really get to interact with the audience. I hope the audience will give me a lot of their attention and really get to know me through my music. It’ll be really exciting for me because I love New York so much and it’ll be a dream come true to even play up there. Even if it’s just me and a guitar.  

NCI: Tell me about the last song you wrote. What inspired it, how did you develop that idea and what kind of emotions did it bring out of you when you knew it was done?

AB: I literally just a wrote a song yesterday. I have a very close friend who actually inspires me to write a ton of songs. They’re just in the phase of doing anything they want to do and take anything they are handed. It sucks because they have such a great talent that could take them wherever they want, but their heart just isn’t in the right place. So that is what the song is kind of about. After writing it, I just feel like a weight lifted off of me, because sometimes I can’t express myself best verbally, so I put in song. But songs can’t fix things, so the emotions I still feel towards my friend haven’t changed.  

NCI: What inspiration do you think you will get from being in New York City to perform? 

AB: I’ve read somewhere that being in different surroundings can help your mind open up to creating different ideas and what not compared to what someone would usually create in their day to day setting. With that being said, I would definitely be inspired to write about different concepts with a different type of genre. I am always up for experimenting with sounds, lyrics, and structure.

NCI: Why do think a lot of musicians still want to come to New York to perform? In an era of digital distribution and independent music, what still draws artists like you to want to perform here?

AB: Cause it’s New York City! What else is there to say? There are only a few cities in the US that are as diverse as NYC. I feel like you can always run into someone up there who can pull a couple of strings for you. Because of all this digital distribution, there is so much going on, it’s hard to listen to all of the bands that deserve a chance. That is why us artists need to play live in so many places, including New York :)

Links

Facebook: http://www.reverbnation.com/amandabantug#!/artist/bio/artist_1700888

Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/amandabantug#!/artist/bio/artist_1700888

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/amandabantug

YouTube: Amanda Bantug Videos

The Social Side of Nightlife Culture

By Gamal Hennessy

When you walk past the bouncer and into a lively bar, it might feel as if you’ve submerged yourself into a chaotic mess. Various sized clusters of people are interspersed with floaters, stragglers and spectators. Some are laughing, some are dancing, some are yelling, some are oddly silent and a few of them are chasing each other around the room with phone cameras.

There is a certain amount of random shenanigans going on here, but if you sit back and observe them you can see that there are various types of communication, interaction and connection that going on in any bar or club. Being able to understand what is going on will give you a stronger appreciation for the social dynamic in nightlife culture. The following examples are not meant to be exhaustive or exclusive. Many of these interactions can happen simultaneously and even a conversation within a group can ebb and flow from one to the other. But these examples will give you a sense of the complex dynamic going on in any crowded bar.

Elements of Social Interaction in Nightlife Culture

Sexual: The most obvious type of connection in nightlife is the sexual one. Nightlife is sex and sexual energy is sublimated in to every aspect of the nightlife experience. We present ourselves in ways that we hope will attract potential partners. We tease and flirt to test the waters. We play games of attraction and seduction to capture their imaginations and then we go where that connection leads us. Whether you are talking about pick up artists in a meat market or a quiet date at a martini bar, a one night stand or happily ever after, modern courtship happens in the nightlife space. Without it, a major link in the sexual selection process would be gone.

Business: There is an saying about never mixing business with pleasure but anyone familiar with nightlife knows this mixing goes on every night. Nightlife is integral to many business practices and many deals, business connections and meetings would not happen absent a night of drinking. I’ve spent time with people in the advertising, legal and media industries. Going out to “events” for or with the client is just as important (if not more important) than the work that goes on from nine to five. I’ve seen upscale lounges sectioned off for so many private parties of investment banks and insurance companies that the place looked less like a bar and more like a convention at the Javits Center. I’ve been on both ends of the buying and selling process in several cities around the world and one thing remains constant; if a deal is going to get done, someone has to take someone out for some drinks. It could be a few pints at the pub. It could be bottle service at the newest lounge. It could be lap dances in the champagne room of a strip club. The concept is the same. If there is no pleasure, there probably won’t be any business.

Bonding: Our experiences are not limited to picking up strangers or selling something to our clients. A lot of our time is spent with people we already know and actually want to spend time with outside of work. Friends, family, couples who are dating, all use nightlife to reconnect and enhance the bonds they already have. How common is it to email friends you haven’t seen in a while and find out where they’ll be on Friday night so you can all hang out and have some fun? What is a date if not a couple spending time together? If family members come in from out of town and they are not too young or too old to go out, isn’t it normal to bring them to some bar? You could get together for conversation, carousing or just to catch up. The bar or lounge are prime places to do that.

Celebration: Venues often market themselves as having the best parties in the city. We use events and occasions both large and small as the reasons to get together and enjoy ourselves. A few close friends might take you out to celebrate your birthday with you. Perhaps you attend a release party for an artist’s album or gallery opening. Maybe it’s an after party for an awards show, closed deal or concert. Or it could be a huge holiday celebration for Thanksgiving Eve or New Year’s Eve. We mark some of the significant events in our lives with a celebration and very often that celebration happens in a club.

Exhibition: The most subtle type of social communication is the exhibition. Many of us engage in a constant struggle to raise our social standing and rank relative to similar people in our surroundings or our peer group. To achieve this, we show the people around us our value through some type of display.

  • Men will order bottle service to show that they have money to spend.
  • Clubbers will throw themselves onto the dance floor to show that the skill they have with their bodies.
  • Women will compare themselves to the size, shape, attractiveness and style of other women in the room.
  • Social butterflies will move through the room collecting handshakes and kisses to show how much people love them.
  • Drinkers will knock back beers as fast as they can to show their superior tolerance for alcohol.  

Each display is meant to send a signal, build reputation and ultimately value. The struggle to climb the social ladder is not unique to nightlife, but the exhibitions that can be found here are often different than what you might find in the daylight hours.

Communication as culture

It is easy to see how music, food and fashion play a role in nightlife culture and by extension influence society as a whole. But culture is not only the artistic and aesthetic components of a society. How people communicate with each other is also an important factor. Nightlife is, at its heart, a social interaction. We go out to connect with friends, lovers and strangers on one level or another. Our social interaction is part of our lifestyle and lifestyle is part of culture.

Have fun

Gamal

Mad46: A Good Reason to Miss the Train


By Gamal Hennessy

One of the major trends in New York venues over the past few years is the roof top lounge. It has evolved from a unique type of venue to a sub genre in its own right. It draws out patrons looking for an open air party during the warmer months. The most recent entries into this niche market also come with heat and retractable roofs to provide year round entertainment. Parties above the city streets are now common in Meatpacking District, LES and Midtown West.

Mad46 is entering its third year in this category but you might not have heard about it yet. It is perched on top of the Roosevelt Hotel on Madison Avenue and 46th Street, just a block away from Grand Central Station. Walking into the back of the hotel, you are quickly met by a security guard who ushers you through what looks like a service entrance into a dark corridor. You won’t go three steps before you see another guard holding open an elevator to whisk you upstairs. The speakeasy mood continues when you exit the elevator and peer around a corner into an indoor space lined with lounge chairs and small groups of two and three hovering over glasses and laughing. Your search for the bar will lead out outside onto a hedge lined terrace and a wide open view of the midtown skyline. The center of the terrace will reveal the bar. From here you’ll have a chance to take in the mixed aged crowd relaxing in cabanas and the view while you wait for your drink. A stroll to the opposite end of the terrace will reveal a second room with red walls and thin red columns that looks like a good place to run if the rain starts to fall. It will only take you a few sips of your mojito before you decide that this is a good place to go if you ever miss your Metro North train after work.

The venue has a lot of potential upside beyond its appeal to Connecticut commuters. It’s location makes it a natural spot for advertising, marketing and PR professionals who work up and down Madison Avenue (and before all you downtown hustlers write this place off consider this question; what better place to make connections than a room full of PR pros sipping margaritas?). Unlike other rooftop venues, there is no drama getting in, although it pays to have a reservation on the weekend. The staff is friendly and professional. The management limits the amount of space reserved for bottle service which leaves more space for you and me. Management also takes steps to keep the vibe unique by offering DJ parties on the weekends, special events for men (think professional cigar rolling and drinks), women (think professional manicures and drinks) and themed parties for events like the Kentucky Derby (think big hats and drinks)

For all its upside, the space does face some challenges. The terrace is not heated or covered although the two separate indoor rooms provide more than enough space during the colder months to keep the party going. The hours of operation end fairly early compared to other New York venues because of its connection to the hotel, so while you can start your party here you’ll have to end it somewhere else if you plan to party all night. Finally, Mad46 is fairly isolated from other marquee venues. If you want to continue to party, you’ll have to venture east to Lexington Avenue, west to Times Square or grab a cab downtown. But considering that more midtown venues are being planned even as we drink it might not be long before Mad46 become the centerpiece for a midtown nightlife expansion.

For more information about Mad46 you can check out their website at http://mad46.com/ or follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mad46

Have fun
G

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Built to Fail (Four Ingredients for an Unsuccessful Nightclub)



By Gamal Hennessy

I’m not an operator. I have never owned or managed a club. The jobs that I have had in nightlife have been minor and temporary. So, I don’t presume that I can tell professionals how to run their businesses better. I don’t pretend to have answers based on years of work in the trenches. All my observations and ideas ultimately come from the patron’s side of the bar. The ideas I recommend or pass on are offered from the perspective of a nightlife native obsessed with going out. Now that I have offered that disclaimer, I can share my observations about how NOT to open a new venue.

There are a lot of different ways to jump into the New York market and establish a new spot. Once you figure out how you are going to fill up your room with people and how you are going to make more money than you spend to keep them there, your options are only limited by your imagination and your resources. But while there might be a lot of right ways to do it, there is a recipe for the wrong way to do it. Here are the ingredients:

Your venue has no hook: Patrons have a lot of choices when it comes to where they party in New York. If you give them a reason to come to your place, then you stand out from the competition. Maybe you offer a distinct style of music. Maybe you cater to a specific type of crowd. Maybe you have celebrities showing up. Maybe you are just convenient to get to for a quick drink. Any reason helps. But if all you can offer people is a liquor license and a dark room, then you probably won’t last long.

The music is too loud to lounge and programmed to prevent dancing: As an operator, you can use music in the same way a golfer uses clubs. A golfer picks his the club based on what kind of shot he wants to make. You pick the music based on what kind of crowd you want to draw and what you want that crowd to do when they arrive. If you want them to do more dancing and less talking, you can play house or hip hop loud enough to get girls on the dance floor. If you want drinking and conversation, you play jazz, top 40 or whatever so it is just loud enough to be pleasant background noise. What you can’t do is play music that literally clears the dance floor and play it so loud that people couldn’t talk to each other even if they resorted to licking each other’s ears. A musical combination like that will shank your crowd right into the sand trap.

Your gender ratio is way off: At the risk of sounding preferential towards women, I firmly believe that a successful venue needs to have a crowd that contains more women than men. Men go out and spend money at places where they know (or at least hope) women will be. Women don’t feel comfortable in a room overwhelmed by hordes of drunk and horny men. If the ratio between men and women is even or favors the ladies, then you will avoid potential fights and keep the sexual energy high enough in the room to encourage people to stay. If you look out onto your dance floor and there are 30 guys trying to dance with 4 girls then your doorman let in too many guys. That will lead to trouble. Please note that in a gay bar this rule does not apply because many straight girls that I have talked to love to be in a room overwhelmed by drunk and horny gay men.

Your bottle service system kills your revenue: Some people think that the bottle service trend in New York is over. Some people think that it is just as prevalent as it ever was. I don’t know which statement is true. I do know that if your promoter gets comp bottles and then everyone in the spot goes over to the promoters table to drink for free, then you have just eliminated your major revenue stream. If you have no cover and no one is actually paying for liquor, how are you making money? And if you are not making money, how are you going to stay opened?

There are probably quite a few other ingredients that go into this formula that my operator friends will tell me about later. There are issues like complaints from neighbors, internal theft, poor service from your staff and bad publicity that can be just as bad for the long term success of a venue. But when I’m in a new place that has no hook, bad music, not enough women and too many people drinking from the comp bottles I start to wonder how long this place will last and who is going to come in and do a better job.

Have fun
G

Patrons: The Missing Link in Nightlife Politics



By Gamal Hennessy

Last week, local politicians organized a
nightlife town hall meeting so different elements of the community could speak to and ask questions of members of the New York State Liquor Authority. A variety of different groups showed up. Some, like the bar owners and other local businesses, were in favor of protecting nightlife. Others, like local block associations and community board members, were in favor of curtailing nightlife. Each group voiced their concerns about a variety of issues that touched the industry, including the land zoning, noise ordinances, police presence and the smoking ban. Each group showed that they have an established organization and are looking to increase their influence in this aspect of the city.

But there was no one there to speak on behalf of nightlife patrons.

The Sound of Silence
This is ironic because most of the issues in nightlife are ultimately about patrons. When residents complain about noise, pollution and traffic congestion they are referring to the actions of patrons, not the operators or the bars themselves. Operators want to remain in certain areas because patrons will come to those areas. They want to serve liquor because patrons won’t show up if there is no liquor. Store owners want to serve patrons who are out at night. Police and EMS largely have to deal with patrons when they venture into nightlife. But even though this is all about the presence and actions of patrons, there is no constant voice speaking for us.

Isn’t that normal? Aren’t we just in it for the wine, women and song? Do any of us really care about smoking bans, anti-dancing laws, crime, violence and the cost of having fun? Do we want to have a say in which venues stay opened and which ones close? Isn’t it easier to leave politics for the politicians?

Image and Influence
Nightlife politics is important to patrons for reasons of influence and image. Nightlife is one of the reasons that many patrons move to New York in the first place. Our lifestyle, our entertainment and our hustles revolve around this environment. Among certain elements of club patrons, there is dissatisfaction with the way things are. These elements desire to see change and improvement in the industry. But if we don’t use our ability to influence a part of our life that is important to us, then how can we complain about the problems it has? How can things get better if we don’t speak up and define what “better” means and how we can go about improving the situation?

Other interested groups have the chance to express different elements within their large groups. Operators constantly differentiate good operators (who work with residents when problems arise) from bad ones (who abuse their position). Residents get to explain that they are not all NIMBYs and can focus on specific concerns that they have. If no one speaks for patrons, it is easy to lump us all together in the same group of loud, drunken and sloppy fanatics. We become the villain in the story, something to be contained, controlled or removed.

But our reality is not that offensive. Hundreds of thousands of patrons visit nightlife every week. The vast majority of us participate in nightlife without incident. There are tens of millions of nightlife patrons who move through the city every year. If we were nothing more than an unruly mob, New York would be an apocalyptic wasteland by now. Yes, there are fanatics who roam among us creating all sorts of problems at night, but they are a minority. The rest of us cannot be defined by their actions. But if we don’t speak up how will anyone know?

Finding a Voice
It isn’t easy for a diverse group to speak with one voice. The things that the wine bar crowd wants will be different than what the club kids are looking for which will be different from what the bottle crowd, the gay crowd or the live music fans need. But every large political group contains different subgroups. Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Conservatives and every other interest group find a niche within the larger organization. Nightlife patrons are no different. It’s not an issue of creating one universal patron position. It is an issue of patrons voicing any position at all.

An interested patron doesn’t have to go out and start a political action group to get involved. There are already organizations in place where you can make your opinions known. You could get involved with the Nightlife Preservation Community that is designed for patron involvement in nightlife. You can get involved with your local community board, since that is a forum where many nightlife issues are debated on a regular basis. Or you could just step up to the microphone at the next Town Hall meeting and provide a voice for the largest group within the nightlife industry.

Have fun
G

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Su Casa: Is the Speakeasy Being Silenced?


By Gamal Hennessy

Over the past five years, speakeasies have become well established in New York nightlife. Venues like Milk and Honey, PDT, Little Branch, and Flatiron Lounge combine fresh ingredients, exotic recipes and a reserved atmosphere to create an experience reminiscent of Prohibition era nightlife.

The mood and the service in a speakeasy are different than other bars, clubs or lounges. The music is often subdued so conversation is the dominant sound. The dress code is sometimes more formal. Reservations are encouraged, if not required. The bartender, or mixologist if you will, creates cocktails using precise measurements. He or she can often explain the drinks, their origins and their ingredients in detail. They take their time with their creations, often engaging in conversation with the customers to educate and expose them to drinking experiences that might be new to them. Although some of them can be dry and pretentious, an evening in a speakeasy with an attractive woman is a great way to spend an evening after work.

A new speakeasy recently opened up in the Village on Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street. At first glance, Su Casa has all the outward trappings of a modern speakeasy. The cocktail menu is unique, leaning heavily on tequila and various Mexican flavors. The bartenders are veterans of well known venues like Milk and Honey. It’s perched above the street, with huge windows that allow you to gaze down at the scurrying students and commuters while you drink the night away. Halfway through your first Paloma, you’ll feel like the speakeasy trend is alive and well.

But then you’ll realize something isn’t right. Su Casa opens itself up for college parties. Su Casa offers bottle service on the weekends. The DJ booth and flat screen TVs discourage conversation. The veteran mixologist spends more time stuffing lime into Corona bottles than he does muddling haberanos and he doesn’t look to happy about it. These are not the hallmarks of a speakeasy. Once the crowd fills up the room it’s hard to distinguish Su Casa from Mixx Lounge, Fat Black Pussycat or other Village lounge.

It could be that the speakeasy trend has run its course in New York City. New venues might feel the need to offer specialty cocktails without the other semi-exclusive trappings that decrease potential revenue. Su Casa might represent the tail end of a movement, but if you go there do yourself a favor. Skip the Corona and ask the bartender to make you something special. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Have fun.
Gamal

14 Tips for a Good Club Night



By Gamal Hennessy

The article I published last week with
tips for ladies to keep themselves safe in clubs got a lot of positive feedback. This week I’m going to be more inclusive and less ominous. I’m offering 14 tips to increase your pleasure and decrease your hassles no matter what type of bar, club or lounge you plan to visit.

Every social situation has a set of guidelines to help things run smoothly. The dinner table, the classroom, the office and the locker room each has its own customs to keep people from throwing food, throwing a tantrum or crossing swords.

People who know the rules often get ahead, even if they don’t always follow them. People who don’t know the rules often suffer. The nightclub is no different than any other social environment. There is a certain way to do things. Common sense will make most of these rules obvious, but fanatics have proven that common sense isn’t that common, so I’ve developed a few tips to help people along.



Before you hit the club, it pays to be prepared

1. Decide where you’re going and have a couple of back up options. Going online and doing a little research will help a lot.

2.
Find out how you need to dress to get in and respond accordingly. You don’t want to be turned away because of your clothing. You can figure this out from online reviews, word of mouth, or just looking on the venues website.
3. Figure out how you’re getting in whether it’s reservations, personal connections, using a promoter, standing in line or just walking in. Do not stand in line unless it is a short wait and you can stay relatively warm and dry. Nightlife does not have to lead to pneumonia.

4. Don’t travel with people who are going to sabotage your fun. That means leave the fanatics at home unless you plan to take responsibility for them.

5. Decide if you’re buying bottle service (and who is paying for it) before you get there. Standing at the door, in the cold, with a promoter in your face and a girl standing next to you that you’re trying to impress might not be the time to make a $1,000 decision.

6. Be realistic about how much money you’re spending. If you go to a high end spot on a Saturday night and order 10 shots of premium tequila to ‘get the party started’ you can easily spend $100. If you do this 4 times…you get the idea. It is pointless to throw a drunken tantrum when your bill comes at the end of the night. I’m not suggesting that you don’t drink when you go out. I’m just saying that if you know you’re going to spend that much, accept it in the beginning of the night and stop worrying about it.

7. When you get there be nice to the bouncer whether you are on the list, ordered bottle service or just standing on line. Giving them a hard time won’t get you in faster. It might prevent you from getting in at all.


Once you’re inside the main goal is having fun.

8. You can have a good time without giving the club staff a hard time. You can be cordial (or at least diplomatic) to them even if they don’t return the favor. It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.

9. Unless your express goal is
getting a hangover, it is always wise to drink and do something else while you’re there (dance, flirt, eat, talk, whatever).
10. The key to meeting people is helping them feel good about themselves while you’re around, not using them to help you feel better about yourself. This doesn’t apply just to your romantic interests. The people who bump into you on the dance floor, or stand next to you at a concert are not your enemies or your targets. They want to have a good time just like you do.

11. You don’t have to get drunk just because you drink.


When its time to go make sure things end well

12. If you can catch the attention of the staff that served you without getting in the way, thank them on the way out. They don’t get much of that and some of them will remember you if you come back. This can lead to a better time the next time.

13. If you leave with your people, make sure everyone gets to their chosen transportation. For guys, this means putting ladies in cabs before you jump into one (unless they are going home with you). Nightlife is a relatively safe environment, but even one Imette St. Gullien is too much, especially if it’s your friend.

14. Before you pass out on the short road to hangover (assuming you ignored concepts 8 and 10), try to make sure your people actually got home. Again, New York is safer than it has been in decades, but it shows you care. You don’t have to have a conversation. Just ask them for a quick ‘I’m alive’ text when they get in the door.

None of these ideas are designed to kill your mood or discourage you from clubbing. They are designed to make a good night better. If you give a little thought to your night out in the beginning, you’ll be in good shape to go out again on the following night.

Have fun.
G

Nightlife as a Political Issue


by Gamal Hennessy


"Those who do not do politics will be done in by politics."
French Proverb

Politics is the peaceful struggle for control over resources that people want. It is also the way we establish the predominant ideology that defines a particular group or area. Politics exist on a variety of levels but the mechanism that is used to make decisions is constant. Like minded individuals form alliances, to represent their interests. Relative power is determined, positions are defined, meetings are held, and negotiations are made. Control and influence over whatever resource is at issue shifts from one side to another. The process is the same whether you’re talking about who is going to take out the garbage to how many nuclear bombs each country has.

Now what does any of that have to do with grabbing a drink with your friends, chatting up a girl for her phone number or dancing like no one is watching? Don’t we use nightlife to escape the struggles of daily life? Why would we want to inject politics into an area of life that represents pleasure and release? Why not sit back, have a good time, and leave politics for the politicians?

Ignoring nightlife politics is a dangerous choice because if we choose to not see nightlife as a political issue, we place ourselves at the mercy of those groups who are willing to exert influence on the resources that nightlife needs; physical space and the ability to make money. Almost every bar, club and lounge in the city has a fixed location which immediately places it in potential contention with other interests in general area. If a real estate group wants that location for development, there is a struggle. If adjacent residents want their neighborhood to have certain features that the venue doesn’t support, there is a struggle. Various voices weigh in on what they want in relation to nightlife and each one has a certain level of organization and influence that give it the power to realize its agenda. While each group acknowledges the need for some sort of nightlife in the city, the issue often revolves around where and how much nightlife is desirable.

At this point the only major nightlife group that does not have a seat at the table to push its agenda is us. Nightlife patrons do not have an organization that directly represents their needs or even defines what those needs are. The other groups recognize that we exist. Depending on their position we are seen as a benefit or a detriment (or a combination of both) but not as a political force in our own right. If we don’t organize, then our voice cannot be heard on issues that are important to us. Our views on how many clubs there are in the city, where the clubs are, what the clubs offer, and a multitude of other factors are decided by other groups that are focusing on their own needs, not necessarily what we need or want.

That situation is changing. A group called the

Nightlife Preservation Community
(NPC) recently formed to give nightlife patrons the chance to become informed and vote on nightlife issues. Their first major project is the New York City primary race. The NPC has endorsed certain candidates who have expressed a pro-nightlife agenda. They are encouraging club patrons and operators to vote for these candidates in next week’s primary and give nightlife more of a voice in city politics.

This is not a militant call for nightlife to become a single issue party like Green Party or Right to Life. It is a recognition that nightlife is a political issue. Nightlife brings jobs and revenue to the city. It is a source of culture and it defines New York as a city. It is time that the industry and the patrons who support it translate their economic power into political influence.


Have fun
G

Alcohol Use vs. Alcohol Abuse


By Gamal Hennessy

Reuters published a story this week about the surprising levels of binge drinking among older adults. A recent study found that while binging is often considered a problem among young adults it often goes unnoticed in other sectors of society. While it is clear that drinking is a basic part of our society, it is also clear that responsible indulgence is a practice that we can learn in nightlife and take with us into our later years.

Consumption Patterns

Before we can understand the benefits of responsible indulgence, we need to get an idea of what our consumption patterns are when it comes to alcohol. In 2001, the United States Department of Health and Human Services conducted a survey called the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) which included a set of questions on consumption of alcoholic beverages. This study is helpful in understanding how we drink.

The NHSDA established three levels of drinking frequency. Current use was defined as at least one drink in the past 30 days. Binge use was defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion at least once in the past 30 days. Heavy use was defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion at least five times in the past 30 days.

The NHSDA found that 48.3% of people aged 12 or older reported being current drinkers of alcohol. This translates to an estimated 109 million people across the country. In addition 20.5% of people aged 12 or older participated in binge drinking in the same time period. Heavy drinking was reported by 5.7% of the population over the age of 12. Binge drinking was most prevalent among people age 18 to 25, with the peak rate occurring at age 21. Binge and heavy alcohol use rates decreased faster with increasing age than did rates current past month alcohol use.

But according to a more recent study, binge drinking is also prevalent among older Americans. Researchers have concluded that up to 23% percent of people between 50 and 64 binge drink and 14% of adults age 65 and older overindulge in alcohol. Anti-nightlife proponents might imagine that frat boys, B&T amateurs and other fanatics are alcohol’s main abusers, but it seems the AARP set has liquor issues of their own.

Risk and Reward

Cultural and scientific thought both accept and advocate the use of alcohol. Studies have been done to show the health benefits of moderate drinking. Because liquor reduces blood clotting, drinking can reduce the chances of heart attack or strokes. It can also increase levels of good (HDL) cholesterol. Alcohol is a social lubricant that can calm, relive inhibitions and bring people together. It is also a distinct component of human culture, religion and social systems. There are quite a few positives that come from liquor, so I’m not advocating the elimination of alcohol consumption by any stretch of the imagination.

But because the over consumption of liquor has inherent physical, social and economic effects, there are merits to avoiding alcohol abuse at any age. I’m not talking about alcoholism here, which is a topic unto itself. Alcohol abuse differs from full blown alcoholism in that it does not include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control, or physical dependence. Alcohol abuse is also less likely than alcoholism to include tolerance. But it can lead to detrimental effects including failure to fulfill personal responsibilities, drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, recurring alcohol-related legal or relationship problems. Even if you’re not addicted to alcohol in the technical sense, limiting the amount you drink can mean the difference between use and abuse.

Responsible Indulgence

While every person handles liquor differently, there are some guidelines available for responsible use. The DOH makes the conservative recommendation that women have no more than one drink per day and men have no more than two. As a nightlife native you have a better understanding of your body and what it can handle, so you can use the DOH limit as a guideline rather than a rule. For instance, if you are going to have more than one drink when you go out (and realistically speaking it’s hard to go out and have just one) it helps if you pace yourself by having no more than one drink per hour and eating or drinking water while you drink, which can lessen the detrimental effects to your health and the people around you.

Binge drinking is not an activity reserved for teenagers who sneak into clubs. Binge drinking is not a product of age. You can be irresponsible with liquor at 18, 38, 58, and beyond. The underlying problem is that many people in the United States have a schizophrenic relationship with drinking in particular and pleasure in general. We’re not really comfortable with the concept of moderation. We either want nothing or everything. Many of us either abstain from alcohol or we get drunk out of our minds. Binge drinking is a by product of our culture as Americans and can be considered one of the negative impacts of liquor as an aspect of nightlife culture. Responsible indulgence gives us the ability to enjoy the benefits of liquor without succumbing to its negative effects.

Have fun.
G

The Changing Face of New York Nightlife



By
Gamal Hennessy

Nightlife isn’t static. There are trends and changes in the industry in the same way that fashion, art and other cultural institutions change. Economy and personal taste are having a major impact on some new venues while others try to ride out the downturn and stick with a formula that has worked in the past. This article looks at some of the major trends that have taken hold over the last two years to help you navigate the shifting waters.

Low Key Spots

The economy is just beginning to recover from a severe economic recession. Many people who used to be willing to buy bottles are now happy just to have a cold PBR. Several operators have responded to this desire by creating low cost, low key venues that are diametrically opposed to the velvet rope spots of Meatpacking and West Chelsea. Spots like 675 Bar in Meatpacking, Super Dive in the East Village are the most prominent examples of this trend. Even larger venues that feature A-List talent like Santos Party House can be considered part of the low key movement because of the emphasis on dancing instead of posturing.

Speakeasies

At the same time that the low key bar gains traction, the low profile venue has also become a fixture in New York nightlife. These lounges take their cue from Prohibition Era speakeasies. Most of them are characterized by a semi secret mystique instead of leaning on promoters. They also have specialized cocktails that run in the $13-$25 dollar range instead of reliance on bottles to generate revenue. Milk and Honey, and Flatiron Lounge led the quiet charge here, but they have been joined by Little Branch, Ella, PDT, Mayuhuel, the Eldridge and other spots so secret that they don’t actually have names.

Rooftop Bars

Speakeasies took New York parties into basements and behind closed doors. Rooftop bars put them above the whole city. Taking advantage of the cities spectacular skyline, and the ability to keep the roof heated all year, these venues use the open air motif and impressive views as a refreshing change from the closed in feeling of a normal club. While the smoking ban is less of a factor in these spots, noise bleed from the venue to the neighbors can lead to problems in the future. 230 Fifth and Ava Lounge have been in place for a few years now and they’ve been joined in the last few months by the Empire Rooftop, Above Allen and Hudson Terrace.

Fighting the Trend

If you’re the type who liked the lounges and clubs that have dominated the nightlife scene for the past few years, don’t despair. There are still new venues opening that cater to you. While they are appearing with less frequency than they have in the past, these venues still offer models, bottles and the occasional celebrity sighting. While the economy has hit this type of business hard, there will always be people who prefer the experience that venues like The Gates, The Grand Ballroom, Citrine and Greenhouse offer, so those spots will always be with us.

One of the strengths of New York nightlife is the diversity we have. It doesn’t matter what type of venue, music, drinks or people you want to hang out with. You can find your niche here. All you have to do is look for it. The latest trends may or may not become staples in the nightlife scene but the ones that fail will be replaced with new concepts and new options for all of us.

Have fun.


Stonewall: Nightlife as a Social Movement



By Gamal Hennessy

There is an important benefit that nightlife brings to society. In many ways, nightlife is the grease that keeps the wheels of society turning. Several groups who have been marginalized in ‘normal’ society have found refuge in bars and clubs. These same groups have used the connections they create to organize, spread their message and alter the perception of their cause within the general public. As the Stonewall riots celebrate their 40th anniversary, we all have a chance to see this event as a clear example of how nightlife culture can alter all of American culture.

Background:

Homosexuals in America were shunned, rejected and maligned through most of the history of this country. They were lumped together with anarchists, communists, and other people deemed subversive as late as the 1960’s. During the paranoia of the McCarthy Era, homosexuals were considered threats to national security.

During the 1960’s, many homosexuals sought refuge in the counterculture of places like Greenwich Village. Social movements of all types were growing during this period and homosexuals often found like minded souls within the Civil Rights Movement and the antiwar demonstrations. The underground mentality of nightlife left over from the Prohibition speakeasies gave homosexuals a refuge in an otherwise hostile environment.

Local government attempted to remove gay element from the cities using the police and the liquor authority. Robert Wagner, the mayor of New York in the 1960’s, revoked liquor licenses of bars that served gays and used undercover police to entrap homosexual men. The gay bars that did survive were frequently raided. Men in drag were arrested during the raids and women who were not wearing three pieces of feminine clothing were also subject to arrest. It was this backdrop that set the stage for the events of June 28, 1969.

Nightlife Impact:

The actual incident seems to have come about through a combination of isolated defiance, police miscalculations and a general anti establishment mood that coalesced into a riot. Forty years later, it is still unclear why events unfolded the way that they did at Stonewall, when four other gay clubs including the Checkerboard and the Tele-Star were raided on the same night.

The Stonewall Inn was a dive bar owned by organized crime figures and frequented by gays, transvestites, homeless youth and hustlers. According to published accounts, a group of male and female undercover officers went into the bar to collect “evidence” that would justify a raid. At a given signal, uniformed policemen entered the venue and began rounding up the patrons.

Standard procedure was to line up the patrons and check their identification. Female police officers would check people dressed as women to determine what gender they actually were. Although many of the patrons had experience with raids before, on this night some of them simply refused to follow the female officers into the bathroom to have their genitals inspected. This defiance gave courage to the other patrons. Many of them began to refuse to offer their identification. So the police decided to arrest everyone in the bar,

When they tried to move everyone outside, the police suddenly realized that they didn’t have enough officers to arrest 150 people. As the crowd grew outside the bar, people who weren’t in Stonewall began to join the group against the police. The officers became more and more aggressive in response to the overwhelming odds. Their aggression angered the mob and soon police vehicles were being attacked, bottles, bricks and coins were being thrown and the police were trapped inside until reinforcements arrived to disperse the crowd. It was the first prominent case of homosexuals fighting back against police.

Over the next few nights the riots spread around Greenwich Village with Stonewall as its epicenter. Riots broke out on Christopher Street when gays were joined by street gangs, bystanders and other police provocateurs. Running battles continued for the next several nights involving hundreds of police and thousands of protesters. At the same time, Village residents quickly organized into groups to establishing better places for homosexuals to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.

Outcome:

The Stonewall riots brought national attention to the discrimination of homosexuals. Six months after the riots, two activist organizations and three newspapers were formed in New York to promote rights for gays and lesbians. One year later, the first Gay Pride marches took place in New York City and Los Angeles, commemorating the anniversary of the riots. In 1994, 1.1 million people participated in the Stonewall 25 march through Manhattan. In 1999 the U.S. Department of the Interior designated Stonewall as a National Historical Landmark, the first significant site of its type for homosexuals. Today Gay Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark the occasion.

The riots spawned from a bar raid became a literal example of gays and lesbians fighting back, and a symbolic call to arms for many people. In the same way that Rosa Parks, Kent State, and Tiananmen Square focused public awareness on social issues and united people around a cause, Stonewall became a rallying point that organized resistance and ultimately changed the cultural identity of a marginalized group. Stonewall hasn’t ended discrimination based on sexual preference any more than that lone protester staring down a tank brought democracy to China, but it has altered American culture in ways that might not have happened but for the role that bars like Stonewall played.

I reached out to several people within the LGBT community to try and determine what patrons today think of events that occurred 40 years ago. Thomas Shevlin is a member of the Stonewall Democratic Club an organization that advocates equality and fairness for the LGBT community in New York City and Lynn Dukette is an attorney and organizer of the Proposition parties here in New York.

GH: What do you think is the most significant change that came about after the riots?


TS: I think the most significant change that came after the riots was a sense of empowerment in the LGBT community. Until then, the community just seemed to take for granted that the police would raid their bars and arrest them. There was no sense that anything could be done about it. The scene of members of our community visibly fighting back, and having this getting into the mainstream media, gave people the feeling that there was something we could do. Raising these issues was a way to change public perception and ultimately the laws.

LD: Prior to the riots, members of the LGBT community were forced to live in a perpetual state of fear of being harassed, turned away from business, and brutalized by the police. The riots brought this abuse into the public eye and encouraged the community, particularly the youth, to fight back. Overnight, the riots sparked the gay rights movement, which has spread throughout the world. Forty years later, perhaps the most significant the legacy of the riots has been the enabling of members of LGBT, individually and collectively, to live - out, loud and proud.
GH: Do you feel that the current generation of LGBT people see nightlife as fundamental to their lifestyle or have they found other arenas to express themselves?

TS: I believe that nightlife is absolutely critical to the LGBT community, because there are so few institutions that brings us together and provides us with support. Many in our community are still rejected by their families and churches and feel they need to be closeted at work. LGBT nightlife venues are really the only place we can go to be surrounded by our own kind. Working in finance, I am surrounded by straight colleagues whom I like and respect very much, but at the end of the day I really want to be somewhere where people understand me in a way that they just cannot. Being in a gay club or bar gives me a feeling of safety and liberation that you just can't get anywhere else. The internet has definitely changed things, because now it is possible to meet people online, but nightlife remains extremely important to our community.

LD: Many youth today are might be unaware of the historical significance of the Stonewall riots, and the affect of the event on the liberation of the community. Fortunately, today’s youth do not face the conditions that pre-dated the riots. However, the current generation of LGBT is continuing the Stonewall legacy. They won’t settle for mere tolerance. They are pushing for full equality.

Have fun.
Gamal

The Story of Claire and Imette


By Gamal Hennessy

Imagine this; you and your friend go out for drinks. You both succeed in getting very drunk. At 3:30 the two of you leave the bar. But she isn’t ready to go home. She wants to hit another spot. You playfully argue with her in the loud, slurred tones that drunks argue in and neighbors complain about. Finally you agree to disagree and separate. You get into a cab and watch her stumble down the street towards the next bar. You shake your head and laugh at her. You go home, go to sleep and wake up with a hangover.

A few days later, you find out that your friend was abducted, beaten, raped, murdered and dumped on the side of a road in Brooklyn. Your friend is dead and the image of her walking away haunts you for years.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an imaginary story. Imette St. Guillen was murdered in 2006 after she left a bar called the Falls. When the trial of the suspected killer started this week, her friend Claire testified to watching Imette walk away after failing to convince her to get into the cab. It was the last time she saw her friend alive.

This tragedy raises a question for natives; what can we do and how far can we go to keep our friends safe?

I tend to overanalyze things, so there are principles I follow when I go out with a girl. When it’s time for me to go home I do one of four things; I put her in a cab heading to her place, I leave her with her friends, I take her to her place or take her to mine. If I don’t go home with her, I ask her to call or text me when she gets home to let me know she’s OK. I feel like if I follow this principal, the young lady won’t spend the night tied up. (Now if she likes being tied up, that’s different. I can do that for her, but that is another story and not the point of this post.)

The problem is that my principal does not guarantee her safety. She can get out of the cab or walk away from her friends. She might meet Justin Timberlake at the bar and will actively get rid of me to prevent inadvertent cockblocking. We must remember that nightlife is a playground for adults. As an adult, she is free to go where she wants to go, even if she’s blind drunk. Our playground has potential dangers, just like any other playground. There is no guarantee that she or any of us will live to see another bar. My principal reduces the risk, but it doesn’t eliminate it. Nothing can.

Twenty four million people go out in New York every year and violent crime and death are extremely rare. Ms. St. Guillen fell victim to an isolated but fatal combination of insanity, oversight and error. Her death isn’t something we would wish on anyone, but her circumstances were not that uncommon. How many times have you lost track of your friends after they were amazingly intoxicated?

Everything turns out fine most of the time. There is no realistic way to force someone to do what they don’t want to do. There are no neat answers on how to protect our people. Having said that, I still think it helps to at least try and keep an eye on our friends when we’re out at night. We’re all big boys and girls, but the extra effort is worth it. I don’t want to pick up the phone and get the call Claire got.

Have fun.
G

The Social Side of Nightlife



By
Gamal Hennessy

An excerpt from the upcoming book
Seize the Night

Communication as culture

When you walk past the bouncer and into a lively bar, it might feel as if you’ve submerged yourself into a chaotic mess. Various sized clusters of people are interspersed with floaters, stragglers and spectators. Some are laughing, some are dancing, some are yelling, some are oddly silent and a few of them are chasing each other around the room with digital cameras.

There is a certain amount of random shenanigans going on here, but if you sit back and observed them you can see that there are various types of communication, interaction and connection that going on in the room. Being able to understand what is going on will give you a stronger appreciation for the social dynamic in nightlife. The following examples are not meant to be exhaustive or exclusive. Many of these interactions can happen simultaneously and even a conversation within a group can ebb and flow from one to the other. But these examples will give you a sense of the complex dynamic going on in any crowded bar.

Sexual: The most obvious type of connection in nightlife is the sexual one. Nightlife is sex and sexual energy is sublimated in to every aspect of the nightlife experience. We present ourselves in ways that we hope will attract potential partners. We tease and flirt to test the waters. We play games of attraction and seduction to capture their imaginations and then we go where that connection leads us. Whether you are talking about pick up artists in a meat market or a quiet date at a martini bar, a one night stand or happily ever after, modern courtship happens in the nightlife space. Without it, a major link in the sexual selection process would be gone.

Business: While there is an axiom of never mixing business with pleasure, anyone familiar with the nightlife knows this combination occurs every night. Nightlife is integral to many business practices and many deals, business connections and meetings would not happen absent a night of drinking. I’ve spent time with people in the advertising, legal and media industries. Going out to “events” for or with the client is just as important (if not more important) than the work that goes on from nine to seven. I’ve seen upscale lounges sectioned off for so many private parties of investment banks and insurance companies that the place looked less like a bar and more like a convention at the Javits Center. I’ve been on both ends of the buying and selling process in several cities around the world and one thing remains constant; if a deal is going to get done, someone has to take someone out for some drinks. It could be a few pints at the pub. It could be bottle service at the newest lounge. It could be lap dances in the champagne room of a strip club. The concept is the same. If there is no pleasure, there probably won’t be any business.

Bonding: Our experiences are not limited to picking up strangers or selling something to our clients. A lot of our time is spent with people we already know and actually want to spend time with outside of work. Friends, family, couples who are dating, all use nightlife to reconnect and enhance the bonds they already have. How common is it to email friends you haven’t seen in a while and find out where they’ll be on Friday night so you can all hang out and have some fun? What is a date if it’s not a couple spending time together? If family members come in from out of town and they are not too young or too old to go out, isn’t it normal to bring them to some bar? You could get together for conversation, carousing or just to catch up. The bar or lounge are prime places to do that.

Celebration: Venues often market themselves as having the best parties in the city. We use events and occasions both large and small as the reasons to get together and enjoy ourselves. A few close friends might take you out to celebrate your birthday with you. Perhaps you attend a release party for an artist’s album or gallery opening. Maybe it’s an after party for an awards show, closed deal or concert. Or it could be a huge holiday celebration for Thanksgiving Eve or New Year’s Eve. We mark some of the significant events in our lives with a celebration and very often that celebration happens in a club.

Exhibition: The most subtle type of social communication is the exhibition. Many of us engage in a constant struggle to raise our social standing and rank relative to similar people in our surroundings or our peer group. To achieve this, we show the people around us our value through some type of display. Men will order bottle service to show that they have money to spend. Clubbers will throw themselves onto the dance floor to show that the skill they have with their bodies. Women will compare themselves to the size, shape, attractiveness and style of other women in the room. Social butterflies will move through the room collecting handshakes and kisses to show how much people love them. Drinkers will knock back beers as fast as they can to show their superior tolerance for alcohol. Each display is meant to send a signal, build reputation and ultimately value. The struggle to climb the social ladder is not unique to nightlife, but the exhibitions that can be found here are often different than what you might find in the daylight hours.

It is easy to see how music, food and architecture play a role in nightlife culture and by extension influence society as a whole. But culture is not only the artistic and aesthetic components of a society. How people communicate with each other is also an important factor. Nightlife is at its heart, social interaction. We go out to connect with friends, lovers and strangers on one level or another. Our social interaction is part of our lifestyle and lifestyle is part of culture.

Have fun.

If Nightlife is Dead, then You Killed It


By Gamal Hennessy

If you read the nightlife blogs on a regular basis, you’ll often find reader comments about how New York nightlife is dead, how all the clubs suck, how all promoters suck, how (insert the name of a random city here) has a much better nightlife scene, how things aren’t as good as they were in the old days and other cultural critiques ad nauseam. This commentary isn’t isolated to online chatter. It isn’t hard to find people willing to bemoan the current state of affairs and pine away for the good old days (even if they weren’t around during the good old days)

What do people mean when they say our nightlife is dead? They can’t mean that no one is going out anymore. Clubs in New York currently register more than 64 million entries every year, which by some accounts is more than every major local sports team and Broadway show combined. They can’t mean that nightlife doesn’t generate any money. Clubs are responsible for 9 billion dollars in annual spending which is a lot of money for a dead industry. They can’t mean that no one is working in nightlife. The unofficial count right now is that there are at least 30,000 operators in the city. They can’t mean that the environment is stagnant. At least a dozen spots open up every week. So what are they talking about?

I think what they are really saying when they say ‘New York nightlife is dead’ is “my personal experience in New York nightlife is not meeting my expectations and therefore I have decided that the entire industry is somehow deficient.” If that’s your opinion you can’t be wrong. That’s the way you feel and no amount of statistics or data will change that. Your level of satisfaction with the nightlife climate is a subjective and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but if you can’t consistently find a party you like in New York then you might want to consider changing your game instead of bitching.

Option 1: Look around
The sheer size of New York nightlife negates the idea that you can’t find your sweet spot. There are literally more than 1,100 nightlife venues that have a valid liquor license (I would never send you somewhere that had no liquor) and there are thousands of parties going on every single week. There might be tens of thousands of parties but I’m too lazy to sit here and count them all. I’m not talking about parties just on the weekend. There are events every single night. I’m not just talking about bottle service and Top 40 hip hop either. Almost any variation and combination of qualities you might be looking for happens here. You want reggae music in an outdoor garden on the East Side? Done. You want an interracial swinger party in Midtown? Not a problem. You can have loud or quiet, cheap or expensive, basement or rooftop…whatever. You can find it. All you have to do is look for it. Besides, that’s why God made the internet, so you can find stuff like that.

Option 2: DIY nightlife
Now let’s assume that you’re selective. You’ve searched and searched for a party that has the right combination of people, music, and atmosphere that you’re looking for but can’t find anything. That means NY nightlife is dead, right?

Wrong. If you can’t find what you’re looking for you can make it yourself. A prominent promoter that I recently interviewed told me that the only thing you really need to throw a party in New York is a Crackberry. A few phone calls, a couple of handshakes, an invite on Facebook and Going and you’re in business. You won’t be running Saturday night at Pink Elephant, but if you wanted that, you wouldn’t need to throw your own party. If it’s your party and you can pick the setting, the crowd, the music, the theme and all the other factors that you feel are missing from nightlife now, how can you not enjoy it?

Some people simply enjoy complaining. The ‘lack’ of nightlife in New York just gives them another reason to bitch. Some people are intimidated and complain as a defense mechanism because even if there was some ‘perfect, ultimate party’ to attend, they wouldn’t go. It is easier to wait around for some amazing party to walk up and smack them in the face than actually look for it or create it. But that probably won’t happen. Don’t let the complainers discourage you from going out and having a good time. Life is short. There is a lot of drinking, dancing and general carousing to do before we’re done. We don’t have time for a lot of bitching.

Have fun.
G

The Best Jobs for Dating in 2009


By Gamal Hennessy

In certain circles, the job you have has a direct effect on how successful you will be at dating. Certain jobs are seen as more attractive than others and the people who have those jobs can parlay that into success with potential suitors. The New York Times recently published an article about which professions are more desirable now that finance careers are on the rocks and college students are no longer banking on a Wall Street job. The real question for us is which professions will make it easier for you to get a date?

There are some professions that are highly coveted in nightlife; being a celebrity, athlete, or musician never goes out of style. Lawyers and doctors are pretty safe bets, but they don’t go out much because they are usually stuck at work. That’s not helpful for our purposes. The stocks of other professions rise and fall with the changing times. Internet moguls had a few good years, then their bubble burst. Finance guys dominated bottle service, but now their industry is taking a pounding. For some, it’s time to look for a new power job.

Of course, the New York woman is looking for more than a guy with a specific job. It helps a lot when you actually have a personality too. But if your profession is a tool in your dating arsenal, here are some ideas on which ones will give you the highest value relative to other potential guys. (I refer to guys here because our culture judges women largely on factors that have little to do with their job.) I’m not an expert by any means and my list isn’t scientific by any stretch of the imagination. It’s based on nothing more than my own observation and experience. It just seems to me that there are certain jobs that have a dating upside, even in these uncertain times.

Advertising, Marketing and PR: While these corporate mouthpiece jobs often don’t translate into big paychecks, they do have perks that are highly recession proof. They have access to promotions, events and ‘meetings’ that are usually overflowing with free liquor in exclusive venues on any given night. Add that to their regular brushes with celebrity and the illusion of media exposure and a savvy guy can create an exciting and dynamic spectacle to draw people in.

Creative: The one similarity between a starving banker and a starving artists is that neither of them have a lot of cash. The one difference is that being an artist implies a certain amount of passion which is attractive in its own right. You can be a photographer, painter, or whatever else you want as long as you can express yourself and make it interesting. You might be dramatic and insane too, but at least you’ll be interesting.

Entertainment: While the guy in front of the camera has an obvious advantage, there are benefits to being the producer, engineer or (again) photographer. You can combine the celebrity access with the creativity in a way that taps into peoples fantasies about being celebrities themselves. There are quite a few aspiring models, singers, dancers in the clubs that are drawn to people who might be able to help them blow up.

Hustlers: If you’re still on the grind and working to make it big in spite of the hard times, you display a resilience that increases your survival value. The theory is that people are more drawn to people who are active than those who are waiting around for the market to pick up. So if you’ve got big plans and you’re actually doing something about it instead of just talking or sitting on your ass, you’ll benefit your business and personal life.

Survivors: If you happen to be one of the many investment bankers, hedge fund managers, or real estate developers who still has a job and is picking up the pieces of your fallen competitors, congratulations. Your competition both in business and pleasure has been cut down considerably. You might not have time to go on a date while you’re raiding the carcasses of your enemies, and there might be a little more oversight on those bottles you charge to your expense account, but that is a small price to pay for retaining your position, right?

In the end the job you have is only a small piece of the social interaction puzzle. Your style, personality, wit, and charm are much more powerful dating tools and if you have those you might not need to have a job at all. Things get better when you add a socially attractive job into the overall package, but don’t let it be a crutch. The girl who is dating you just because of your job might not be worth dating in the first place.

Have fun.
Gamal

The Four Residents of Nightlife



An excerpt from the upcoming book Seize the Night.


All nightlife patrons are not created equal.

I am not talking about differences in race, income, social status or gender. I am not referring to the reasons they might go out or the things they might like to do or the places they might like to go. The personal preferences of one patron and another is a natural and normal expression of individuality. I am talking here about basic patterns of behavior that separate one person from another and directly influence that person’s nightlife experience and the experience of the people around him or her. In my experience I have found that there are four types of residents in the nightlife space; operators, natives, amateurs and fanatics.

Operators: make the nightlife machine work. They are the people who offer the services and experiences that patrons come to enjoy. Operators exist on many levels and perform a wide variety of functions. Everyone from the owner of a venue, to the manager, bartender, DJ, musician, hostess, waitress, security guard, dancer, sound technician and promoter are one level or another “operating” in nightlife. For many of them it is a passion. For all of them it is a business. Whenever you go out and enjoy a good party at a well run venue, with no fights, good service and a positive atmosphere, you have the operators to thank from the top of the food chain all the way down the line.

Natives: see nightlife as their natural habitat. They are the people who have spent time in the clubs and maintain a harmonious relationship with nightlife. These are the people who go out to on a regular basis for a variety of different reasons and experiences; lounging with friends one night, listening to new music on another night, meeting clients for drinks and then dancing with friends at the end of the week. Some of them might know operators and use those relationships to get the inside track on the latest and greatest. All of them know the spots that best suit their personalities. The most important aspect about a native is the sense of balance. These people can drink, dance, and date several nights out of the week without sacrificing their health or their ability to work and without leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

Amateurs: are relatively new to the nightlife experience. Circumstances like age, previous lifestyle or simply being new to an urban environment have limited their exposure to clubs and the things that go on inside. New amateurs haven’t been to many venues. They don’t know what to expect when they get there. They don’t know what they can handle. They don’t know how to react in different situations and they haven’t integrated nightlife into the rest of their life. Old amateurs only go out to the clubs on rare occasions, but they go out on these same occasions every year. Although they have been exposed to nightlife on their birthday, New Year’s Eve and possibly Halloween, their relationship with nightlife is tenuous at best. Many of them still are unsure of what goes on in nightlife, many of them consume too much when they do go and many of them suffer in one way or another as a result of that over consumption. While some new amateurs evolve into natives, old amateurs shy away from repeated exposure to nightlife because of the pain associated with their over consumption.

Fanatics: combine two distinct qualities. First, they have considerable exposure to nightlife. They know where to go, they know what to do, they know what they can and can’t handle. Second they consistently strive to go beyond the limits of what they can handle with little regard for the consequences. These are the people who leave their homes at the start of the night with the mantra “Tonight, we are going to get fucked up!” The volume of liquor they can drink is an indicator of their status. They see fights and police altercations as struggles for respect and freedom. The destruction of property and the disruption of people’s lives are inconsequential and blackouts, hangovers and strained relationships are the cost of doing business. In the mind of the fanatic, if you’re not going to go too far, you shouldn’t bother going.

So where do you fit in?

Everyone who goes out fits into one or more categories. It might not be easy at first glance to figure out where you fit in. As I said before, it’s not based on age, standard of living, gender, race or social background. It is a pattern of behavior and a frame of reference that guides your actions when you are out. Some patrons enhance the night, some patrons cause problems. You know who you are. The question is, are you the nightlife resident that you really want to be?



Have fun.

G

Can Music Save the Clubs?


By Gamal Hennessy

Less disposable cash, more lost jobs and more concern about the economy has created a unique situation in nightlife. Patrons want to go out more to forget about real life for a while, but they have less money to spend. Venues have to fight with each other for fewer dollars. How can clubs differentiate themselves, attract a steady audience and do it without raising prices? The answer might lie with the musicians.

There is no doubt that the recession will alter the music scene in New York City. The question is how it will change. One music writer for Lucid Culture sees the number of clubs shrinking and with it, the number of venues that bands can play. They predict that large venues, very small venues and niche venues will survive while remote, middle of the road and tourist venues will die off. The writer sees a rise in non traditional performance venues, more acoustic, jazz and ethnic performances and a decrease in cover charges as venues attempt to entice patrons into the bar. One possible outcome that the blog doesn’t mention is the rise of musicians of various types as a way to help venues thrive.

As competition gets tighter and venues have to do more to differentiate themselves in the market, could this be a chance for music to become more influential? If a certain venue can become known for having certain kinds of music or musicians could that keep the crowds coming and keep the doors open? Could the clubs, DJ’s and the bands help each other to survive?

Rockwood Music Hall is consistently packed (probably because it’s just a little bigger than my apartment) with people coming to hear independent music. Santos Party House has thrived recently because of Q-Tip’s spinning and venues like APT and Cielo have become staples in nightlife partially because of the music that they play.

Every club can sell bottles or offer ‘specialty’ drinks. Branding might have to come from a different aesthetic. Music could be the thing to set venues apart and set us all free.

Have fun.
Gamal
http://www.newyorknightsonline.com/

The Definition of Nightlife Culture


By Gamal Hennessy

(Note: This article has been modified from the upcoming book: Seize the Night)

People don’t often associate the words “nightlife” and “culture”. At first glance, the two ideas don’t have anything in common. But when you take a moment to consider it you’ll see that nightlife has a direct relationship to and a profound impact on all aspects of our wider culture.

Before we can look at the ways nightlife influences culture, it would probably help to know what we’re talking about when we use the word “culture” since it is a word that has a variety of meanings and value judgments embedded in it. Once we know what culture is, then it will be easier to determine if and how nightlife offers any substantial contributions to it. We already know that nightlife means the environment of bars, clubs and lounges, so we don’t have to spend too much time on that.

I found several definitions of culture online. While they are all similar, each one offers a slightly different perspective for analysis. Culture has been defined as…

  • Socially transmitted behavior, art, beliefs and institutions.
  • The patterns and traits considered to be the expression of a period, class or community.
  • Intellectual and artistic activity and the works produced by it.
    Manifested in activity such as music, literature, lifestyle, food, painting, sculpture, theater and film.
  • A set of material, intellectual and emotional features of a society or a societal group including art, literature, lifestyles and values.

If we look at nightlife through the prism of any one of these definitions, it is not difficult to see how this environment fits within the cultural landscape. Nightlife has its own behavior, art, beliefs and institutions that are distinct to our community. Our patterns of behavior express the changing times we live in as well as our social class. Nightlife is an abundant source of artistic activity that manifests itself in the music, drink, food, interior design, fashion and lifestyles of our community. Finally, nightlife represents a societal group that has its own values, its own emotions and its own perspective. Nightlife as a distinct aspect of modern culture is readily apparent to anyone who actually takes the time to observe it. As we separate nightlife into its individual elements, the components of each of these definitions will become clear.

There is another definition of culture that needs to be addressed before we talk about nightlife culture. Matthew Arnold was quoted as saying that culture is “the best that has been thought or said.” This definition helps create a divisive split into two forms of culture; highbrow culture and lowbrow culture. There are those who see highbrow culture as museum quality art and classical music and lowbrow or pop culture as everything else; anything that has mass appeal. Basically, under this paradigm, self proclaimed cultural warriors see highbrow culture as a treasure worthy of protection and respect and lowbrow culture as the dregs of society, worthy only of disdain and ridicule.

The problem with this definition is the subjective nature of its assertion. The first question that we ask when faced with Arnold’s definition is what constitutes the best and more importantly, who exactly decides what is best? The subtle implication is that some, mostly European, cultural movements are intrinsically better than others. Attacks on lower forms of culture can be seen as attacks on diversity and individual choice. It is interesting to note that some aspects of nightlife culture, especially music are non European in origin. Does the fact that nightlife serves as a haven for minorities, homosexuals, and progressives make it easier to reject nightlife culture as viable. Does it make it easy for the cultural warriors to deny that nightlife culture even exists?

It is important to recognize that different cultures cannot be placed on a linear scale and compared against each other as “more” or “less” cultured. Non-classical, non European art, lifestyles and values do not represent less culture. They represent a different kind of culture. A Zulu tribesman is no less cultured than an Eskimo, who isn’t less cultured than an Irish Catholic who isn’t less cultured than a ballerina who is not less cultured than a Goth. Each has, to a different degree, all of the traits found in the definitions of culture on the previous page. Any assertion that alternative cultures are somehow less worthy of appreciation and respect is narrow-minded, self centered and xenophobic. Once we understand that, we can understand that nightlife culture has just as much to add to our society as any other culture.

Have fun.
Gamal

More Bars are Better Than More Taxes


By Gamal Hennessy

Governor Paterson recently announced a plan to balance the New York State budget that includes higher taxes and fewer services across the board. The plan has been met with attacks from all sides. Unemployment is rising and the constant barrage of Wall Street failures has sucked faith out of the market. If the Governor is looking for an alternative to his current plan, he might consider how much money can be generated by improving the SLA.

Businesses can’t sell liquor in New York State without a license from the State Liquor Authority (SLA). The process that an applicant has to go through is very involved. The application itself is dozens of pages long and the review process is detrimental to the nightlife industry and the state.

According to the liquor control law, the SLA is supposed to review a properly filed application within 30 days. Experts say that this has never been the case. In previous years, the turnaround time for an application was 2-3 months. Current estimates are that it takes 4-8 months for an application to be reviewed.

There is a school of thought that sees a strong stream of revenue coming into the state if the licenses under review are processed as soon as possible. According to unofficial estimates there are currently close to 2,400. While all of these licenses are not for bars or clubs (on premises licenses) even if only half the licenses resulted in new bars, the economic affect on the city could be dramatic.

If 1,200 open licenses translated into open venues, New York could experience direct and indirect benefits. If you assume each bar employs a manager, a bartender and a server, then 1,200 bars would lead to 3,600 jobs. Keep in mind that a New York bar with 3 employees is an extremely low estimate that doesn’t take into account security, bar backs, DJ’s, hostesses, or multiple people in each position. The actual number of new jobs could be as high as 7-10 thousand. To place this in perspective, Mayor Bloomberg recently had a press conference where he publicized the fact that more than 4,000 jobs would be created from the 17 on location TV productions lined up for 2009. Approval of outstanding SLA licenses could lead to twice as many new jobs.

There is also a potential for secondary job creation. Bars have to be constructed, maintained and serviced. This creates work for construction crews, lawyers, accountants and hospitality vendors. An influx of 1,000 bars would also lead to commerce associated with nightlife. Despite the way nightlife is depicted in music videos, people don’t just magically appear on the dance floor. They go out and buy clothing and beauty services before they go out. They take cabs and public transportation to and from the venue. They eat in restaurants before and after they go out. The ripple effect in terms of jobs in New York can be substantial if the venues are allowed to open.

There could also be a positive effect on local investment. As investors take their money out of the stock and bond markets and look for places to put it, nightlife can be an attractive option. A significant portion of the owners, managers and promoters in nightlife come from the finance, investment and real estate industries. But those investors are not willing to tie up money in a business that might require them to wait a half a year or more after the construction of the business to actually be able to open for business. The current waiting cycle of the SLA creates a chilling effect on nightlife investment that ultimately deprives the state of millions in revenue.

Of course, a sudden influx of venues would alarm certain groups and the frenzy of competition would prove chaotic initially. But the patrons would weed out the poorly run establishments and they will close. And the community boards, police and other advocacy groups will continue to make their displeasure known if and when a venue goes too far. But in this economic climate it might be better for the state to promote viable businesses in New York by allowing them to open, rather than drive them out of the state with increased taxes.

I am not advocating wholesale approval of all licenses. I am not implying that the SLA should abdicate its authority by rubber stamping every applicant. I do think that the Governor can realize his economic goals with less hardship to the citizens of New York if he takes a responsible look at the SLA review process and takes steps to overhaul it.

Have fun.
Gamal