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Disco Fever

NEW YORK — Anyone seeking diversion on some sultry August evening might consider beauty sleep instead. Come fall, it’s a night owl’s market out there. With the opening of a slew of clubs and bar/lounges, the city’s nightlife...

NEW YORK — Anyone seeking diversion on some sultry August evening might consider beauty sleep instead. Come fall, it’s a night owl’s market out there. With the opening of a slew of clubs and bar/lounges, the city’s nightlife scene stands ready to receive a much-needed shot in the arm. Mayor Giuliani’s tyrannical rule is over, Michael Bloomberg the bachelor is in, and club owners are relishing the prospect of revitalized fun. After all, with the slew of bad economic news lately, won’t people be looking to party their woes away?

This story first appeared in the July 26, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“A lot of people see Bloomberg as more open to nightlife and willing to do whatever he can to get the city’s economy thriving again,” says Brent Dzekciorius, the manager of APT, which plans to open a second outpost in the meatpacking district next year. “To be so restrictive in granting cabaret licenses and liquor licenses — this administration can’t afford to be as strict as they were in the past.”

Leading the charge is the highly anticipated Crobar, the Miami-based behemoth opening a 40,000-square-foot outpost on West 28th Street, right next door to the new 10,000-square-foot Scores West, soon to be the largest topless club in New York and capable of showcasing at least 100 strippers on any given night.

“If all goes bad, I’m a 38D,” says Amy Sacco, whose Bungalow 8 is just around the corner. “At least, I know I can go across the street and get some business. I’ve been getting buff all summer.” But Sacco won’t be needing to make that trip anytime soon. She’s currently in negotiations with Ian Schrager to handle the Paramount’s boîtes: both the defunct jewel in the basement, the Diamond Horseshoe, and the Whiskey Bar.

One of the greatest indicators of the nightlife revival is the upcoming convention, ClubNation, the first-ever U.S. nightclub summit, something that would have been unfathomable under Giuliani’s reign. More than 5,000 owners, performers, DJs, promoters and managers from around the country will convene at Webster Hall on Sept. 29 for a four-day “bender” of panel discussions. Topics will range from security and door policies to drugs — not how to find them, how to eradicate them. Embattled club king Peter Gatien is even rumored to be attending.

“Nightlife has to politicize. It’s a valid industry within American culture and it’s got to toot its own horn,” says David Rabin, owner of Lotus and the president of the New York NightLife Association. “We need to train people how to do it and this is the forum.” According to Rabin, a recent study shows that New York clubs generate more money than all the sporting events in the tri-state area.

One of the club contingent’s most pressing concerns is New York’s cabaret law. The 1926 ordinance established during the Prohibition era — and strictly enforced by Giuliani’s Social Task Force in the Nineties — states that three or more people dancing in an unlicensed venue is unlawful. But a more laid-back Bloomberg seems reluctant to send out the troops. “I’ve seen a lot more freedom in going out,” says Heatherette designer and former club kid Richie Rich. “Now, it doesn’t feel like you’re going into prison when you go out anymore.” The issue is a sore one, however, for club owners who play by the rules.

“Those licenses are expensive,” says one proprietor. “Bungalow 8 doesn’t have one; Serafina doesn’t have one or Pangea. When people dance at those clubs, they’re cutting into our club business. I’m all for promoting nightlife, but the current budget cuts mean there aren’t 15 officers coming in each night to see if people are dancing on the tables at those places.”

Still, others argue that a nightlife renaissance could help the city recapture the giddiness of its pre-9/11 and even its pre-Giuliani days. Bar consultant Ben Pundole cuts straight to the heart of the matter.

“You can’t find a city with more soul in it than New York right now,” he says.

Empire, West 20th St. (Fall)

Formerly Limelight. New owner John Blair has performed an exorcism.

Buddha Bar, Chelsea Market (Fall)

Just like the one in Paris — darkly lit and full of Euros.

Wei, West Village (Fall)

The über-restaurant/lounge — Indochine meets Halo meets the Screening Room.

Scores, West 28th St. (Fall)

At 10,000-sq.-ft., built to pack in every frat boy banker and sports star in town.

Powder, West Chelsea (Fall)

Float’s DJ and doorman bring their house music to Tenth Ave.

Capital, Chinatown’s Bowery Savings Bank (Fall)

The next Butter — models and the men who love them.

Crobar, West 28th St. (Winter)

Centrofly on steroids. “”