By Bob Ruggiero
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Gay Pride weekend reportedly saw shutterings at gay-friendly nightclubs Pacha and Marquee on Friday night, bringing to mind the memorable raid last September that seemed to permanently close East Village dance den Mr. Black— 32 people (17 staffers and 15 patrons) were arrested as a result of "rampant drug activity," as NYPD spokesman and assistant chief Michael Collins told the Voice. Happily, Mr. Black has now returned. Having opened shop June 20 in the old Gypsy Tea basement club on West 24th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, version 2.0 is already back up to speed, enjoying fantastic turnouts by both residents and those in town for the parade. I can tell because at 7 p.m. on Sunday night, owner Stuart Black can't stop yawning. "I'm so happy and so exhausted," he whispers. "I forgot what it was like to open a club."
The underground cavern in the Flatiron district feels so much like the former Mr. Black that it's "creepy," according to its owner. I ask him how the whole thing came to be. "We found the space by accident," he explains. "My head of security dragged me over there, and when I walked in, I couldn't believe how similar it felt to Mr. Black. So we spent some time in negotiations, figuring out how best to utilize the space, and now here we are!" Would he have opened a new version of his beloved club had he not found its twin? "Never," he stresses. "It was a very real possibility that we would never reopen. But Lady Luck was on my side."
Black says the crowd hasn't changed either, despite the move uptown. "We worried a little about that," he says. "You know how it is: Anything above 14th Street is essentially upstate New York. But the downtown kids are still traveling up to see us, which is great."
Of course, not everything is the same. They're being more cautious in this new incarnation, having added security and bathroom attendants. ("Things might have gotten a little too rock 'n' roll in the old space," Black admits.) And don't expect the same party lineup, either. Black is currently switching nights around, trying to achieve the best vibe for the new space: There's a new Sunday-night dance-rock party with DJs Dan Cacioppo, Van Scott, and Marc-Alan Gray. Are they perhaps aiming to give Hiro's Cuckoo Club a run for its money? "I really just like to tell a story throughout the week, and give each night its own personality," Black says. "I feel like I have a chance to be more creative here."
Perhaps the best news for fans of Mr. Black is that the entire staff returned—including bartender and performer Ladyfag, DJs Sammy Joe and Johnny Dynell, and The Ass. And this time, Black doesn't expect any problems. "Everyone seems really well behaved, other than being drunk and making out and doing whatever they want after they leave the club," he says, laughing. "I think they just appreciate that we reopened."