Sunday, July 6, 2008

Nightlife, Roxy: Bring it Back


Not many realize the impact Roxy's closure had on New York nightlife. Whether you went there or not, whether you are a fan of dancing or not, there was always a comfort in knowing that on any given Saturday night you had the option of totally losing yourself on the dance floor until dawn. Thousands of men, weekend after weekend- a full on, resident dance party. Then it shut down. After thirty years.

The revelers committed to the every weekend party split off in two directions laid forth by the powers that be. John Blair took his legendary party to Splash, tired and played out to NY residents but hits the jack pot on tourists and the young. Others went to Octagon Stereo for Peter Rauhofer's Saturday night fix. That party only lasted a year or so.

Dancing is dwindling in this city and nightlife is being smothered to a less than subtle degree.

Alegria lost its space at Sound Factory Pacha, then Crobar Mansion and now resides at Webster Hall, which despite it's genuine and historic nod to NYC nightlife, just can't pack 'em in like the major venues of the city.

This is New York City, ladies and gentlemen, and a gay man can't even dance on a Saturday night! There's something seriously wrong here.

One of the top ten most talked about conversations heard by gay or straight, male or female people of this city is that there is no place to dance and that people aren't dancing. Just like the bees dying- people aren't dancing.

In fact, a few months ago at Nowhere Bar a couple from London was asking all the patrons where the big party was for that Saturday night. When they asked my group we looked at one another, shrugged our shoulders and mouthed, "there's nowhere to go." This is New York City- what the hell is going on here?

Well, we talk about it and certainly complain about it enough so here's a window of opportunity to at least try to do something about it.

Community Board 4, Business Licenses & Permits Meeting
Tuesday, July 8th @ 6:30PM
The Westin Hotel (270 W. 43rd St.) in The Minetta Room.

This just in:

This Tuesday, you have a real opportunity to stand up for New York City nightlife, which has been increasingly under attack from a small group of residents. These groups are fighting to end the city's legacy as a global nightlife destination, attempting to allow fewer licenses to be issued, closing bars early, and even shutting down some venues.

The historic Roxy nightclub is attempting to reopen, and their ability to obtain a liquor license may be blocked by Chelsea's fringe anti-nightlife activists. On Tuesday, you can attend Community Board Four's Business Licenses & Permits Meeting and ask the Board to preserve New York's outstanding nightlife.

Roxy could practically be designated a landmark, defined in New York City as a structure at least thirty years old that possesses "...a special character or special historical or aesthetic interest or value as part of the development, heritage, or cultural characteristics of the city, state, or nation," according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Roxy first opened in the 1970s as a roller disco, and was known as the 'Studio 54 of roller rinks,' whose guest list included the 1980 US Mens Hockey Team, which had just won an Olympic Gold Medal for the United States. In 1982, Roxy transformed into one of the birthplaces of hip hop, showcasing hip hop pioneers as illustrious as Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. My own memories are more recent; I was a regular attendee of Roxy Saturdays, the John Blair-sponsored gay night where icons like Madonna and Cher would occasionally perform. Even beyond its cultural and historical importance, though, Roxy was an absolute success story as a clubgoing destination; it remains a beloved fixture in New York's nightlife and has earned the right to reopen in the neighborhood that it has fostered for over thirty years.

Beyond The Roxy's license problem, there is a disturbing trend first reported last April in The New York Sun. "In most parts of Manhattan, bar and club owners say, it has become nearly impossible to open new nightlife establishments that are permitted to serve alcohol until 4 am." The "City That Never Sleeps" is under attack from those residents who move into neighborhoods that have been revitalized in large part by their vibrant nightlife, only to attempt gut that very nightlife and turn the neighborhoods into the equivalent of suburban bedroom communities. Unless we act now, we could see our 4am nightspots dwindle off. Make your voice heard Tuesday.

This is more than a lifestyle concern; nightclubs and the businesses that serve them bring over $10 billion in economic activity to New York City and employ over 100,000 people. On Tuesday, tell the Board that failure to grant full liquor licenses will effect thousands of your friends and neighbors.

The fight won't be over Tuesday, though: please mark your calendars for Wednesday, July 23rd, when the full board will meet to debate its final recommendation to the State Liquor Authority. We need hundreds of people, gay and otherwise, to come and show power in action. The anti-nightlife frenzy of Community Board Four is destroying the quality of life for thousands of people in our community. Let's exercise our democratic rights and reopen Roxy.

I hope you'll join me at both meetings. Bring a friend. Bring five. The future of New York City nightlife is in your hands. And hey, we can all go out for some drinks afterwards. Hopefully we can find a place nearby still open.

Meeting Details:

Community Board 4, Business Licenses & Permits Meeting, Tuesday, July 8th @ 6:30PM at The Westin Hotel (270 W. 43rd St.) in The Minetta Room.

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008, 6:30 p.m, Roosevelt Hospital, 1000 Tenth Av. (b. 58th / 59th)


Ryan J. Davis

PS: Want to help? Join the Facebook Group
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Ryan J. Davis | New York, NY

Pundit - The Hill & The Huffington Post


Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

It's going to be terrifically hard to stop this bad trend from continuing. It's a function of real estate and money. Rising residential values attract millionaires who want to be in the trendy neighborhood. They arrive like locusts and devour the neighborhood leaving it just a frightening shell. This is what happened to Provincetown. Manhattan is destined to be wall-to-wall millionaires. It's geography supports this manifest destiny. The next big dance venue will probably be off-island or up near Fort Tryon. Unfortunately, the inspired kind of urban leadership needed to avoid this may exist but never has the tools to stop this type of wealthy/unhealthy influx. At least in Fort Lauderdale, there is so much room for expansion that the rise and fall of real estate values is much more absorbable and will not - in the short term - wipe out diversity.

Dennis said...

I never truly believed Roxy would close. Sound Factory, Twilo (sigh), and so many other clubs came and went, but I always thought Roxy would be there. It's so cliche, but I didn't appreciate the club until it was gone.

Anonymous said...

Yech... I hated Roxy. The place was saturated with drugs and filth.

But a little variety would be nice. New York is so predictable I don't even go out anymore. Regulated down to the last square inch. Not really a fun town for going out at night, especially compared to other big cities like London or Berlin.

David said...

Probably not what you want to hear, but in my 15+ years as an active gay man I have been to a dance club less than 1/2 a dozen times. Back then there was no comfort in knowing the dance clubs existed. It just meant there would be a lot of gay men I'd never meet because our paths would never cross. Quite frankly the Pier Dance once a year is all I need.

I mourn the passing of the piano bars to a much greater degree. I don't expect to see any Community Board meetings to address this any time soon. There will always be dance music and those that move to it. But who will help keep the flame of musical theater alive?

Anonymous said...

the new date is August 12, same time and place. at least for now.

John Weis

kitchenbeard said...

The same thing happened in SF with the dotcom boom and we're only now seeing a resurgence in the after hours scene. Yet there is an awareness that cultures change and that re-invention is at the core of the gay community. I can't help but wonder if NY is reinventing itself and will have to learn to keep venues and attractions like this alive if it wants to survive as a destination.

Mark said...

the dead nightlife scene is one of the reasons i left new york. who wants to live in this megopolis when you can't find a decent place to dance on a saturday night. so i moved to L.A. - where you can't find a decent place to dance on a saturday night.