Rave Robbers

Feds Steal the Fun From Nightlife

"It's been rough for all clubs in the last five years, with all these task forces," says Gatien. "The time and energy that used to be put towards creativity is now being put in the defense of the nightclubs."

Matt E. Silver contends that Giuliani's tactics have killed the culture of nightlife. "There were important deals made in clubs. Who knows if there'd be LL Cool J or Run DMC?" says Silver.

The remainder of the New York's superclubs, among them Vinyl and Centro-Fly, are taking a keep-your-head-down, keep-your-chin-up stance. Trying to fly low on the radar, even DJ Danny Tenaglia urges his fans in e-mail posts to keep the glow sticks at home.

While the hard-line tactics presented by Giuliani have resulted in a "safer, better nightlife," according to Twilo attorney Peter Sullivan, it's leaving club owners and promoters caught between a rock and a hard place. "Either way, you're damned if you do, damned if you don't," says Estopinal, echoing a common sentiment.

"It's gotten to the point where you implement all sorts of invasive security," says Gatien. "While it's more fun than a prison, there's a sort of big-brother type of feel when you go to larger clubs."

Likewise, big event promoters are keeping an eye on new developments and reconsidering their security measures, thanks to the DEA's new warfare.

"I've had DanceSafe on the premises, but I would think twice about that," says Silver, who calls the DEA's excising of the chill room an "irresponsible approach by the government." He maintains that hiring private ambulances—which caused an uproar over Twilo—is necessary for any type of large event. "All concerts have ambulances on standby, any festival situation, that's just what you do," says Silver.

"We used the same medical staff as Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium," points out Sullivan.

Many club owners and promoters say that Giuliani's zero-tolerance approach may have the opposite effect, driving kids to small, unlicensed, and unsafe venues. "It's going to go way underground," predicts Kausch. "It's not going to stop drug use."

530 West 27th Street, once the site of New York's most internationally famous techno nightclub, where thousands of glittered patrons eagerly lined the block, is now deserted but for the few hangers-on. A dark gray sky casts an ominous pallor over the street. Empty Red Bull cans roll across the sidewalk, and "mourners" pass out glow sticks in a cheeky wink at the ravey origins of the club.

The car that had been bumping techno pulls away and the crowd thins out. In a few days, the signs will be torn down, the flowers and candles removed—and with Twilo's infamous awning up for sale on eBay there will be few physical reminders left of the club.

Across the street, a sign flashes "No Vacancy" in the front of a small, nondescript building. The sterile facade belies its glamorous patrons.

"Oh, that's Bungalow 8," sniffs a Twilo-ite, nodding toward the new hot spot where models like Kate Moss cavort. "It's an uppity celebrity joint."

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