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With the rash of clubs under attack in recent months, you might wonder if the people sticking out their necks with new places during the most vicious time in New York nightlife history might have a death wish. "I think I'm crazy!" Vincent says. But the savvy locals behind these spaces know more than the average hedge-fund businessman who blithely opens a bar without care or caution for his surroundings. Sevigny, who operates in the basement of a residential building, is already in close contact with his new neighbors, and 3rd Ward's Goodman regularly reaches out to his community, including the police.
"We purposely picked this area," says Vincent of Chrystie Street, pointing out the park across the street and the parking garage and warehouse that flank Home Sweet Home. So far, the gamble has paid off, despite a bad experience with their first contractor. "We've been turning people away on the weekendit really shocked me," Vincent says, adding that "all three bars were over capacity," meaning 205, Home Sweet Home, and Fontana's around the corner. "I didn't know how big this was going to hit."
While many big-name club owners give lip service to the idea of supporting the arts when they're pleading their cases with cops and community boards to get their liquor or cabaret licenses, these newer club entrepreneurs are actually for real. Vincent turned the first floor of Home Sweet Home into an art gallery; Bondaroff encourages graffiti artists to work on the spare walls of 205, and has already hosted numerous after-parties for gallery openings, including one for Deitch Projects. His friends in the art worldincluding Ryan McGinley, Dan Cohen, and Dash Snowhave plans to throw their own parties once a month. Brooklyn Sugar, the 14,000-square-foot Williamsburg space designed and booked by Colin Faber, is set up to be much more than a typical nightlife venue: The raw upstairs space, which recalls the now defunct Volume, can be easily changed around to host art shows, commercial events, or acrobatic performances, as well as live bands. The venue has already hosted Cut and Paste, which Faber calls the "Iron Chef of graphic design"; the Institute for Audio Research has conducted live sound-recording classes there.
3rd Ward in Brooklyn, though, is perhaps most impressive in its role as an all-purpose arts center. The 20,000-square-foot venue offers monthly workspace rentals to artists for just $300 a month, along with classes that range from modern dance to yoga to photography, and a quarterly arts and literary journal published in-house. Somehow, they also manage to host parties like the Burning Man Decompression event in their 10,000-square-foot main event space. Jason Goodman, 3rd Ward's 27-year-old co-director, says that for his partners, the art space came first, and the event space second. "It wasn't even part of our original plan," he says of the latter. "We're not a music club. We do cultural fundraising events. It's a super-important distinction. We're not a dance club and we're not a rock venue. And we're definitely not a bottle club." Clearly there's an audience for 3rd Ward: "The support for it is overwhelming," he says. "The proof is in the pudding1,000 people want to come out to these events."
Gooman's not alone. "I feel like there's a movement toward intelligentsia," says Simon Hammerstein. "People who know what a good night out is, who aren't going to be hoodwinked by, like, 'Oh, I got into Cain, I must be cool!' he muses as he looks over the balcony at the Box's stage, hopefully the site of many legendary performances to come. "That's over."