Trying Times for Twilo

Superclub Battles the City While Banking on Going National

According to the Post, police confiscated videotapes that showed a security guard ushering the patrons into a small back room (described by the paper as a "closet") and employees talking about sticking to a "story." Impossible, Sullivan says, since "the [security] cameras have no sound."

Twilo, says Bindra, has tried to be in full compliance with the city, taking extra precautions by beefing up security, even hiring its own undercover guards who question people engaging in suspicious activity.

Twilo GM Mike Bindra: up against a wall
photo: Hiroyuki Ito
Twilo GM Mike Bindra: up against a wall

Such hard-line security tactics, according to regular patron J.C. Gaviria, even went "a bit overboard. It was to the point where it was prohibitive of people taking a cigarette out of their pockets." Gaviria, a local DJ, A&R rep of, and former host of the dance music show Freq on the now defunct Internet TV Web site, jokes about the intense scrutiny: "Do I have a sign above my head in neon that says, 'I'm holding!'? [The bouncers] were doing such a good job that they actually approached three undercover cops in there."

Bindra, while admittedly uncomfortable with the beefed-up security, insists it is necessary. "I'm doing everything I can to make sure that we are complying and running a responsible, safe organization," he says. "We pull people aside all night—we are literally on the verge of violating people's civil rights, just short of forcing them to give a blood test when they walk in." Bindra would not comment, however, on the October 8 incident, referring all questions to the club's attorney.

The club's owners and management are "devastated by the allegations," says Twilo lawyer Sullivan. "We don't know if the allegations are true, but we believe that the responsible course of action is to act as if they are true, because our responsibility is to the public." The club is going to "retain, on a permanent basis, EMT ambulances that are immediately available at any time we are open," Sullivan adds. He says that the club has assigned a staff person to work with the EMT.

But since October 8, doubts about the effectiveness of of Twilo's internal security have resurfaced. Says Connolly: "The number of incidents indicates a failure, in our view, of the management of Twilo to address the issues of the past."

Twilo is hardly alone in its battles with the city. Smaller venues, under continual surveillance by a police department intent on enforcing the cabaret law, have been dealing with fines for allowing unlicensed dancing. And on August 20, as part of Operation Cinderella, police raided several superclubs, busting 78 people at Sound Factory, Cheetah, Exit, Speed, Ohm, the Social Club, and the Roxy. At Vinyl, they seized hundreds of E pills and $13,000, arresting seven patrons and two employees. Vinyl is also facing a nuisance lawsuit from the city, alleging unlicensed sale of alcohol and six sales of illegal substances on four different dates. "It's very frustrating in this climate because it seems to never be enough," Bindra says. "Clubs in New York are under a giant magnifying glass."

Twilo's situation, though, might be especially severe, since the renewed investigation comes at a time when the dance palace is attempting to branch out on a national and international scale. Like U.K. über-clubs Ministry of Sound and Gatecrasher, Twilo hopes to expand its reach into a veritable brand name.

Under the guidance of publicist Ryan Thomas, the club has published its first two issues of Magazine, covering everything from music and DJs to video games and Web sites, and conveniently previewing upcoming Twilo events. The club is also sponsoring a book called A World Without Thumbs, which will feature art, poetry, and prose from Twilo's patrons. And Twilo recently inked a deal with Virgin Records for its CD series—the first installment of which, a double disc featuring longtime Saturday-night resident Junior Vasquez, was released at the end of September. Bindra says each CD release will be paired with subsequent national tours featuring resident Twilo DJs.

When it opened five years ago, Twilo had a one-year "honeymoon period," says 31-year-old Bindra, where "you're gonna be packed unless you're really screwing things up. It almost didn't matter who I put on." Self-described bedroom DJ Bindra's first move as the Friday-night booker was bringing in trance superstars Sasha and Digweed, jump-starting the duo's stateside popularity and in turn helping to revive their sagging overseas profile.

In the past few years, with Peter Gatien—the notorious owner of the Limelight, Tunnel, and the now defunct Palladium—busy fending off federal agents and charges of drug running, and his clubs out of operation or in disarray, Twilo reestablished its prominence in the local scene. But these days, as Gatien and Limelight make a comeback, it's Twilo that's under the gun.

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