What Will Happen When District 36 Opens?

District 36 opens this Saturday with a mission to become house-head heaven. The perceived impact of this opening is keeping some operators up late at night. Well, not really, they’re up late anyway. The question is, will there be an ensuing game of musical chairs, with some clubs losing business or closing because of this new entry? Or will the scene become more invigorated, with more people going out? House music is a religion, with cults and sub cults. House heads are lemmings, following their favorites anywhere and everywhere while disregarding other genres of music. It’s an international scene with circuit DJs getting paid six-figure fees and enjoying deity-like status. Sound systems designed by heroes as famous as rock stars in this community are constantly improved upon as technology allows and evolves. District 36, like most new places, claims to be bringing it to a new level – or an old level. These terms are not contradictory in this scene. The new technology may make it sound a bit better, and state of the art lights and visuals may enhance the experience, but the perceived purity of classic dance halls, with their mega, no-frills dance floors or comforts like seating, is often sought.

This Saturday, District 36 is bringing DJs Lee Burridge vs.Danny Howells, with residents Taimur & Fahad. They advise eager fans to arrive early, as they will be open with a “reduced capacity.” Will house heads jump around from joint to joint and catch the action at multiple venues in a single night? It seems unlikely that this will happen. Those high DJ fees and expensive sound systems need to be paid for. The hip social clubs like Avenue, 1Oak, and SL, where mash-up or open-format is played, have banished the cashier booth in lieu of the revenue stream provided by bottle service. The house heads drink water and fruit juices. Admission fees vary depending upon the artist at the Serato or turntables, but it’s not uncommon for a $40 or $50 cover charge. That means the average Joe wont bop from joint to joint. The question is, who gets hurt the most? Pacha, the NY branch of the international club empire, brings big talent and history to the scene, but if District 36 hits it for only 10% of its revenues, survival becomes an issue. The lay person looks at a mega club and sees all those people paying and drinking, and thinks its gold raining from the sky. But a look at any club’s cost of doing business will shock the inexperienced.

These days, besides the usual staffing, rent, insurance, payroll and cost of talent, operators must add large legal and lobbying fees. Crackdowns on clubs by city agencies seemed to target house spots more than any other joints, except those places with a hip hop or urban following. House heads traditionally don’t drink much, but are known for partaking in mind-expanding, or energy-boosting drugs. The clubs offering big DJs are attacked by big city task forces who inspect, and fine clubs to death.

Cielo may be hit hardest. It is small, and may not be able to compete in a war between the bigger clubs. If places like Pacha and Webster Hall up their games, and book all the world’s talent to win, or just survive, little Cielo may find it hard to compete. However, it may find a niche. With multiple venues bidding for the services of big names and a possible loss of some patrons to the diluted market, prices will surely go up. DJs will win, and in some ways the public will as well, as NYC will once again be an important city for house music. Cielo might thrive with a cheaper ticket and great tradition. District 36, before it opens, ups the ante, changes the game.

Tonight I must pay homage to the dashing and dapper Michaelangelo L’Acqua who is W Hotel’s global music director, and will playing a DJ set at the Living Room Bar at the W Hotel Downtown. He will be joined by DJs Jamie Biden and DJ Dl. It’s an early gig from 7 to 11.

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