A new Meatpacking District supper club, a refurbished SoHo rock club and a photography book launch party don't seem to have much in common. But The Darby, Don Hill's and a swirl of Max's Kansas City remembrances are leading the charge in a nightlife rebirth rooted in old ghosts....
Consider three recent trips down memory lane:
The Darby: From Butter churners Richie Akiva and Scott Sartiano, The Darby is the new kid on 14th Street. Back in April, we told you what this place said about New York. Now, add to that list an ode to mid-century supper clubs like El Morroco, which Akiva says inspired the joint.
Don Hill's: Well, you know.
Max's Kansas City: Max's was a breeding ground for everyone from The Velvet Underground to Bruce Springsteen and served as Andy Warhol's unofficial clubhouse once he stepped outside his Factory. With a new book featuring photographs of the haunt and two simultaneous gallery shows displaying them that opened yesterday, Max's ghost looms large in the current move toward a grungier upscale nightlife vibe. And there are whispers of a bricks and mortar revival of sorts coming down the pipeline.
Nightlife is cyclical. Forward-thinking club kings have long looked back to the past. The interminable speakeasy revival dates back to at least 2000 and the opening of Sasha Petraske's Milk & Honey. Bungalow 8 referenced the fabled celebrity cocoons at the Beverly Hills Hotel. And The Box was Simon Hammerstein's attempt to put a new spin on the Lower East Side's vaudeville history.
But the nostalgia behind the current crop of venues is less subtle and more local. The most obvious example is Don Hill's, whose new owners Paul Sevigny and Nur Khan maintained the old dive's name, eponymous founder (Hill is a consultant), grimy look and live rock programming, albeit with more established performers playing to a more couture crowd.
The question is which, if any, of these vintage spots will become classics themselves and inspire nightlife's future.