Originally published Sept. 28, 2008 in The Miami Herald as part of an ongoing series of Out Traveler articles.
With more than 50 gay bars and a seven-night-a-week fun factor, New York remains the undisputed center of gay life in the United States. But its dance club scene is undergoing a major metamorphosis. Gone are the heady nights of the '90s when a rebellious energy parted the AIDS-crisis gloom and created the chiseled Chelsea boy archetype.
"As young gay guys get more integrated into society, they don't need to hang around in a bar to cement their identity," says Daniel Nardicio, party promoter and founder of DList.com, a social networking site for gay men. "I meet kids nowadays who'd rather sit at home on their iPhones than go out to a bar."
Factor in other websites such as Manhunt.net that are used strictly for hooking up (a reason many go to gay venues), soaring rents, the rise of bottle service clubs, archaic Cabaret License restrictions -- a prohibition-era law that makes dancing in bars illegal without difficult-to-get certification -- and the general Sex-in-the-City-ification of Gotham, and there simply hasn't been mass LGBT support for the weekly spectacle of big gay dance clubs.
Result: "Gay nightlife has had to become more specific," says Benjamin Solomon, club listings editor at Next Magazine, a weekly NYC gay nightlife guide. "It's become about the type of gay crowd you're looking for: fetish, alternative/indie, minority, etc."
That's not to say there's nowhere left to boogie down. "The best place to be right now is where people are who they are, regardless of sexual orientation," says New York City DJ Van Scott, who's co-producing an event at M.I.A. skate park in Miami this October. "Gays are flocking to indie scenes that attract fashion-forward and music-savvy straight people. It's more about authenticity and originality."
Case in point, his dance rock/Indie Tech Sunday night party DJs Are Not Rockstars at Mr. Black (27 W. 24th St.) that bridges the gay-heterosexual divide. The hugely popular dance den also pulls in mobs of gay men with a music-first mentality the rest of its nights. Fans of the sardine-like old location (which shuttered following a police raid, Labor Day 2007) will really groove at the now three times larger, two-floor new space near Madison Square Park. A reliably riotous time, its dark, shadowy nooks and basement dance floor sees all types behaving badly to electro and house music till 6 a.m. (the bar closes, as all in NYC do, at 4 a.m.). On Fridays and Saturdays, come before 11 p.m. or risk a line, and whatever you do don't cross Connie Girl at the door.
Part One | Part Two