Inside Special Club, Manhattan's New Music & Social Venue

Special Club
Gary He

Jazz pianist/vocalist Champian Fulton and jazz trumpeter/flugelhornist Stephen Fulton performing at a preview of Special Club on June 7, 2019.

The venue opens Tuesday in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood.

Restauranteur Ariel Arce is bringing a brand-new music and social club venue to Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood this week. Underneath wine-and-dinner-party restaurant Niche Niche, which Arce also owns, Special Club is slated to open on Tuesday and promises to live up to its name.

Inspired by old-school musical social clubs, the venue will feature musical performances by emerging blues, soul and jazz artists each night who will hold two- or three-day residencies, while guests can choose from a selection of champagne, sake and cocktails, plus small plates from chefs Zach Fabian and Aaron Lirette. The menu (below) contains an extensive wine selection from Niche Niche's cellar, along with other unique items (note the "band drinks" section of the menu, in which guests can buy a beer or sake for the musicians who are performing).

“Special Club is my dream come to life,” Arce tells Billboard. “It’s the place where you can have it all: entertainment, good food and drinks and relax into the company of friends or lovers. It’s a place where music sets the tone but doesn’t overpower the experience.”

Upon entering the club, you’ll see a flutter of red curtains at the bottom of the stairs and walk past a full wine cellar before reaching the club space. Inside, you’ll find decorated booths and tables and a stage just large enough for a full band. It feels reminiscent of the restaurant scene in Goodfellas, though much more intimate.

Special Club channels Arce’s other spots -- Air’s Champagne Parlor, Tokyo Record Bar and Niche Niche -- in that it puts music and entertainment at the forefront, while fostering a communal vibe through food, drinks and music. Tokyo Record Bar allows guests to create a custom playlist based on their vinyl collection during the meal, while Air’s and Niche Niche also emphasizes the communal experience. Special Club sets itself apart though by being Arce’s first spot to feature live music. The club hosts two seatings each night -- one at 8 p.m. and another at 10 p.m -- for a $20 entrance fee.

“In a perfect world, people will feel like they can lose themselves here for a few hours, slip away into a bygone era and just enjoy something special,” Arce said.

Confirmed performances coming up this month include saxophonist Kenny Shanker, contemporary jazz and soul group Poetic Thrust, trumpeter Alphonso Horne and vocalist Shenel Johns.

Special Club opens to the public on Tuesday in the space below Niche Niche at 43 MacDougal St. The club is open Tuesday through Saturday between 7 p.m. and midnight on weekdays and until 1 a.m. on weekends. Reservations can be made on Resy.