While Chelsea’s The Roxy may be re-opening, it’ll become a giant restaurant-lounge, not a resurrected gay club. But that doesn’t mean New York City’s plans for gay nightlifedom — which, sadly, have been on the wane for much of the 2000s — are over and out. In fact, there’s a $20 million, 80,000-square-foot project underway to return the Big Apple to its rotten, delicious core. And we’ve got a few ideas how developers can make sure they don’t fuck it up.
Dubbed “The Out NYC,” it’ll be a “hospitality and entertainment destination geared to the gay community,” although it’s also being shopped by developers as “a hetero-friendly urban resort.” What’s to be expected? Restaurants! Gyms! Spas! Hotels! All located in five stories at 508 West 42nd Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues in Hell’s Kitchen.
Moreover, gay nightlife impresario John Blair (pictured, top), who disappeared from the scene when The Roxy’s Saturday night fracas ended, is expected to return by reopening xL, the two-story Chelsea lounge that closed years ago when Blair lost his lease. If The Out NYC opens as planned, there will be 10,000-square-feet of dance club space, which by our rough estimate is all of Chelsea current gay bars combined.
Of course, the project’s coordinators at Parkview Developers, Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass, still have to secure three crucial items: financing, a liquor license, and a cabaret license, which is required in New York City to let bar patrons dance. As in, move their hips to music. For New York’s gays, a venue where you can dance to a “Bad Romance” is a dying commodity that’s only been partially saved by weekly gay parties such as mr. Black and [email protected]
So how to ensure The Out NYC doesn’t implode and ruin our hope of a gay nightlife renaissance?
Don’t let this turn into West 27th Street. Like the western edge of West 42nd Street is today, West 27th was a mostly desolate, hooker-friendly zone in the early 2000s before a one Amy Sacco came along and installed a little club called Bungalow 8, and changed the area into a modelizing, table service mecca. (Before seeing it all go downhill.) The change in scenery also showcased everything that is wrong with New York City nightlife: Cash-fueled excess, where exclusivity is bought, not earned. The Out NYC will of course be a profit-seeking center, but it can delineate class and luxury without installing velvet ropes and clipboard access. That shit is for heterosexuals. And West Hollywood gays.
Do not make the hotel rooms Judy Garland themed. Or, really, any theme at all. Going camp will quickly turn The Out NYC into a $20 million joke, not where the city’s up-and-coming gay social climbers come for drinks, dips, and dalliances. The Barcelona-based Axel Hotels is being lined up to create a “a moderately-priced, ‘W-ish, Calvin Klein-clean’ affair with room rates from $99 to $399, and an average of about $250.” That sounds perfect. But aside from a few Andy Warhol self-portraits, let’s not take things over the top. And please, please: No Jonathan Adler plaster figurines.
Bankroll a gay marriage campaign. The developers aren’t stupid: They know there’s ton of cash to made in wedding ceremonies at their hotel. Show just how important thees gay dollars are by actively marketing The Out as a destination for weddings and receptions. Of course, they’ll have to be of the faux variety until New York’s lawmakers get around to legalizing the M-word, but there’s no reason West 42nd can’t be lined with limos, something borrowed, and something blue.
Make nice with the police. Because they’re going to be your neighbors. Cityfile points out that directly across from the proposed site sits the Manhattan South Task Force, which means police cruisers will be lining the streets as often as tinted windowed SUVs dropping off Alan Cumming. Then again, what plagued West 27th Street was a sense of no security; the horror stories of women snatched, raped, and murdered turned the Meatpacking District into a harrowing alcohol quest, not an enjoyable evening out with friends. If there are cops literally at the door of The Out, the gays could expect a bit more freedom from on-site gay bashings and harassment. But that requires outreach from the project’s principles to ensure the gays and the fuzz are friends. Or at least, frenemies.
Crack down on drugs. From the get-go. Make it known that The Out, unlike Blair’s old haunts The Roxy and Limelight, is not a place to fall into a K-hole. A zero tolerance policy on drugs — and a push to make their use in the club seem utterly juvenile — will make the place a safer destination for all, and will give the next-door neighbors (see above) fewer reasons to drop in for a raid. Understandably, actively pushing The Out as a drug-free zone will inhibit a big part of its success: attendance. The Gays who love their nightlife binging also love their illicit substances, and if they don’t have a home at The Out, they’ll go elsewhere. Which is fine. If you don’t build it, they won’t come.
Don’t call it The Out NYC. Sure, you can create the catchy acronym “TONY” out of this, but you’ll still be sharing a four-letter word with Time Out New York. More importantly, words like “out” and “pride” and their ilk are falling out of favor with today’s gays, particularly in urban sanctuaries like Manhattan. The gays there are less of culture of being “out” and more “just gay.” If that. Calling this structure The Out NYC makes the project sound like a bathhouse from the 1970s. We can do better than this.
Surely we missed a few. What other ways can Reisner, Weiderpass, and Blair not totally turn The Out into a very expensive dive bar?