Expansive dancing and DJs are erupting all over Brooklyn's hot nabe -- albeit with an egalitarian ethos
The burgeoning Williamsburg nightclub scene just got more crowded.
The trendy Brooklyn neighborhood's Wythe Avenue, previously known for stereotypical hipster bars, is looking a little like Manhattan's Meatpacking District now that three neighboring dance clubs have opened there in the last year, and an established lounge is about to expand.
The most recent arrival is Verboten, a 750-person performance space and megaclub on North 11th Street and Wythe that opened quietly on March 14. "Verboten came out of our experience working at big clubs in Manhattan at a time when the city was shutting down nightlife left and right," says co-owner John Perez. "We'd come out of work and be greeted by NYPD klieg lights and mounted police." The Verboten brand initially started as a pop-up house and techno party before moving to its new Williamsburg home.
"We built the space to be a throwback to classic New York house music clubs with an open floor plan, good flow, adjoining side room, low DJ booth and amazing sound system," says Perez, who adds that the club's piece de resistance is a 1,400-square-foot sprung dancefloor made of reclaimed wood. "Not only is it easy on the knees for dancing, you can feel the bass travel into your feet and up your leg."
Although these megaclubs are widely considered electronic dance music venues, the team behind Verboten disagrees: "The whole city is going through a nightlife renaissance that is mirroring the current EDM explosion, but these newer clubs like Verboten are catering to a more mature audience of music lovers who favor the underground house and techno music," says Betty Kang, president of Plexi PR and publicist for Verboten. "This is not EDM."
Williamsburg has been a live-music mecca since the 2000s, but Perez and his competition say the dance scene has caught up in recent months. "We were late to the 'early' Williamsburg scene, but now it's crazy how much is there," says Peter Shapiro, who opened Brooklyn Bowl on Wythe Avenue in 2009, where Kanye West, Adele, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and DJs Skrillex, Girl Talk and Questlove of The Roots have performed. "Things just started happening. And then the Wythe Hotel came across the street from us, and then Output, and one thing led to another, and then a snowball. It just led to people being here.
"There is a kinetic energy that's happening," adds Shapiro, and megaclubs are driving that energy right now. Output, a two-story club with a rooftop bar that opened about a year ago, offers perks to clubgoers that are hard to come by in Manhattan: no cover charge, no discriminatory red-rope door policy, and no top 40 playlist. Instead, it hosts live DJs who have included Matthew Dear, Q-Tip and Trouble & Bass.
TBA, which is closer to the Williamsburg Bridge and inhabits a former auto body shop, offers the same egalitarian policy that is driving those tired of velvet ropes and bottle service out of Manhattan. "It's a simple place, where you have no problem getting in and you don't get bothered by security," says co-owner/managing partner Gio Gulez. The dance club, which celebrated its one-year anniversary on March 15, has played host to a mix of local and international DJs, including Stimming, Taimur & Fahad and Nick Hoppner.
The influx of megaclubs has also led to the expansion of Kinfolk Studios, a coffee shop by day and a lounge by night where DJs Disco Rude, Johnny Santos and Nick Mercer have spun. According to brand director Jeremiah Mandel, a larger performance and nightlife space called Kinfolk 94 will open next door by late April.
Although the density of nightclubbing that takes place on Wythe Avenue is parallel to the Meatpacking District, the latter's exorbitant bottle service, complicated handcrafted cocktails and dancing on banquettes instead of floors are not. In those respects and others, the Williamsburg venues are actually throwbacks to the cavernous nightclubs of the late 1980s and '90s that dotted the West Side of Manhattan, such as Twilo, Sound Factory and Tunnel.
"I can see why the comparison is being made," says Perez. "[It's] a conveniently located manufacturing district that has quickly become a nightlife center, based around a new hotel and surrounded by clubs, bars and restaurants."