Paris Nightlife On Life Support, Just Like New York's

by BILLY GRAY · January 12, 2010

    New Yorkers who complain that the city's nightlife is stuck in an endless rut, take heart: the party scene in Paris is just as anemic. Le Monde even declared the City of Light the "European Capital of Boredom." The only question is which city's nightlife will be the first to have both feet in the grave.

    Scott Sayare and Maia de la Baume deliver the depressing prognosis in the Times:

    "Despite its reputation as the bustling spiritual home of the bohemian, the city has in recent years grown ever less mirthful and ever more staid and bourgeois, club owners say. Faced with mounting noise complaints, fines and closings, many Parisian bars and concert halls are struggling to stay afloat. D.J.’s and musicians have also been abandoning the French capital, forcing a startling conclusion upon the city’s night life professionals: Paris may soon be dead at night."

    The list of problems plaguing the French capital's bar and club scene will sound familiar to anyone with a passing interest in New York nightlife: "densely packed, mixed-zone neighborhoods", a roster of buzzkilling rules and regulations enforced by "repressive" police and a smoking ban (yes, there is a smoking ban in Paris) that sends black-lunged patrons outside to light up and disrupt the sleep of schoolmarm neighbors. (One possible savior of the New York night: 24-hour public transportation that the frogs, whose subway shuts down at 2am on weekends, lack.)

    Parisians, like New Yorkers, even have the nerve to dance when they go out on the town. One club "is currently facing another potential closing after the police discovered there was dancing there in October. [The owner] does not hold the required license."

    Then, of course, there's that universal enemy of urban revelry:

    "Club owners say the central issue is the city’s accelerating gentrification. Real estate values have more than doubled here in the past 10 years, and residents increasingly demand peace and quiet, the club owners say."

    Where are all the fun people going? Do you really have to ask? To Berlin, of course. Says one promoter:

    “The migratory movement toward Berlin is absolutely colossal.”

    Here's where Parisians have us beat. If their own city's nightlife is lacking, they're a cheap, one hour flight away from the nightlife capital of the world. We're an hour's flight from...Boston. But that sort of convenient mass exodus (think of the "City of Flight" puns) might just accelerate the transformation of Paris into a glamorous old folks' home with unparalleled food. (That said, one advantage Paris has over NYC is a government that actually supports nightlife; it recently extended club closing hours to 7am. Throw us a bone, Mike!)

    New Yorkers have more invested in the fight for our right to party because, frankly, we have nowhere to go!

    In the end, it's Parisian-turned-New Yorker Florent Morellet (owner of pioneering Meatpacking District diner Florent, a victim of gentrification itself) whose musings on Paris vs. NYC cheer us up the most:

    "I moved to Paris, but you know what? Paris is awful! Americans, they love Paris, but I absolutely hate Paris. It is always gray, it is always the same. So I came to New York for the reason everyone comes to New York, because it is the city of changes. People forget this is what they love about New York. They get old, they get grumpy. They get … nostalgic.”

    No matter how dire the nightlife situation gets in NYC, it will eventually change. And right now, it can't get much worse.