Push Push in the Flatbush

Brooklyn Dance Clubs Pick Up the Cabaret Law’s Slack

"I think it's too soon to say," says Schwartz, "but if history is any precedent, ten years down the line, you might see the East Village looking more like the West Village and Brooklyn looking more like the Lower East Side."

So, the DJs, musicians, and artists, tired of commuting to Manhattan to play and party, decided to throw events where they could stumble home drunk after the gig. "It's basically two blocks from my house," says Ingram.

Brooklyn's lower rents allow for more freedom, too, says Halcyon's Schwartz: "The advantage is having a clean slate, not being on top of all your competitors. If we were paying more rent, we would have to have higher table turnover, we'd have to charge cover, we'd have to be more persistent about making money. We wouldn't be as loose." Much of Manhattan's nightlife tension stems from conflicts between residents and venues—particularly in areas that were previously considered "industrial," like the meatpacking district. "Big clubs in Manhattan are such retarded, overly-sanitized meat markets that feature uncreative music for people who don't really care. There are some clubs with amazing music policies who book amazing talent, and the crowd wouldn't notice the difference if their little brother got on the decks, as long as the coke is good," says Shapero. "One Manhattan club owner who really enjoyed our music told me, 'You know, I feel like the city would rather I ran a coke den. I wouldn't make as much noise. It's the only other way I could pay my rent.' The hatred of the neighbors for loud music near their apartments seemed to motivate the city far more than illegal drugs."

Brooklyn clubs and promoters—particularly those in Williamsburg and DUMBO—don't have nearly that level of discord with their neighborhoods. Many owners, like Northsix's Steinhauser and Halcyon's Schwartz, began attending police precinct community outreach meetings from the get-go. "Either you're in the game or you'll be kicked around at will because you don't have a voice," says Schwartz.

But Brooklyn isn't entirely immune to the problems that regularly challenge Manhattan club owners. As each section of the borough increases in popularity, familiar battles surface: "When new people move into a neighborhood and pay higher rents," says Caval, "they start to complain about the noise and put their uptown sensibilities into effect." And while getting people to come out to Brooklyn is proving easier, promoters and club owners say there is still some hesitancy. As drum'n'bass DJ Delmar, who has put on semi-legal and legal parties in Williamsburg for several years, says, "Brooklyn is maybe 20 to 30 times the size of the Lower East Side. Certain areas may overtake the LES as far as hipness. But it's hard to conveniently get from Park Slope to Williamsburg, much less coax people from Manhattan to Greenpoint for a party."

A healthy club scene should always be a "moving target," says Shapero. "People used to tell me I was insane for throwing parties in Williamsburg. Now they say I'm insane for thinking about throwing parties in Bushwick." He laughs, "Next thing you know people will be going out in New Jersey."


Related story:
"A Scene Grows in Brooklyn: Live Rock Finds a New Home Across the Williamsburg Bridge" by Chris Parker

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