In a town full of skyscrapers, it’s often what’s happening beneath the sidewalk that ends up being the most exciting. Hidden spaces—think SubMercer, the basement of La Esquina or the late, lamented Undochine—are black gold in New York’s over-saturated nightlife scene. A hard-to-find, little-known location with the right music and crowd can become an overnight sensation, and if a group of people just above 14th Street play their cards right, they might have New York’s next one on their hands.
Sitting directly underneath Union Square’s model-waiter mecca Coffee Shop is
The Union Square Lounge—formerly used to handle the overflow from private events at the adjacent 4,000-square-foot Union Square Ballroom—New York’s next great subterranean nightclub. Maybe.
While only the lounge has been open to the public since 2001, its original launch date was September 11—and while the owners have kept it open ever since, it’s been little more than a chilled-out lounge for informed neighbors and NYU students with generous allowances. But beginning Nov. 9 party promoter Michael Gogel will take over the spot and attempt to give it the cache that clubs like The Beatrice Inn or The Jane Hotel had—you know, when they were still open.
“Nobody knows where this is,” Gogel says of the Union Square Lounge (owned by the Gotham City Restaurant Group). It’s true that the door, at the back end of Coffee Shop on West 16th Street, seems a bit hidden despite its convenient location.
Gogel’s goal is to create a new destination for night owls who don’t want to put up with the trials of terrible parties, touristy crowds and bottle service bullshit. He plans on having no dress code and no pissy door-guarding) to lure in the different party sects—hipsters, club kids, models and their money men—that only rarely seem to happily commingle.
It’s not clear exactly how Gogel will execute this utopian idea of nightlife—mixing Uptown and Downtown without ending up almost completely Jersey and Long Island. Aside from curating the music (which will fluctuate between rock, soul electronic and will use only live DJs, no iPods) and keeping drinks at a somewhat reasonable $10, he seems to be relying on the help of his hefty nightlife Rolodex.
Gogel plans to bring in Dowtown nightlife fixtures like Richie Rich—in the hopes that the former Heatherette designer will drag along some of his insanely dressed club kids—and a rotating list of guest DJs.
The ballroom, currently in a soft opening, has already been host to DJ Peter Rauhofer, the a staple resident at the Roxy who won a “best remixer” Grammy in 2000 for his reworking of Madonna tracks, and Gogel plans to present a diverse bunch, including Stretch Armstrong (a pioneering ‘90s hip-hop DJ who helped put Notorious B.I.G. on the radio) and Gloomy Palmz, a lounge DJ from the Brooklyn-based French art collective le-sexie.com.
Gogel, a Frenchman himself, also plans to lure in rock ‘n’ roll types like model Jamie Burke, the Bloody Social frontman who can normally be found lurking at Lit or The Delancey, and DJ Lucas Walters from the now-defunct Le Royale (formerly Luke & Leroy, where the Misshapes first flared up). Perhaps unique to the New York scene will be Gogel’s international flair—the atmosphere he hopes to create is very Euro, very “young Parisian.”
But getting the cool kids in is only half the battle; how does Gogel plan to keep the assholes out?
“Intolerance,” he explains. “The judgmental types will leave as soon as they see the eclectic mix of people.”