Two years ago, Yang Gao and Richie Romero were looking at a very noisy and very expensive construction project: digging under, under, under the floor of an old building on West 41st Street, just outside Times Square.
Mr. Gao, an entrepreneur, and Mr. Romero, a nightlife impresario, were carving a giant dance club nebula. By exploding the cornerstone, the ceiling could be so high – 27 feet above the dance floor.
Known as the “Club King” in the tabloids, Mr. Romero had definite ideas of what a nebula should be and what it shouldn’t. The main thing was that it should be the kind of place where people would actually dance, and not just for fun at night banquets.
This used to be the case when he began moving from Queens to Manhattan as a teenager, eager to show off his moves at Tunnel, Palladium, and Club USA. Then everyone went out on the floor. You got mixed up. You have sweated You have joined it. By the age of 18, Mr Romero was working in the limelight as a promoter of parties. He was armed with a beeper and a list of more than 2,000 names and numbers. If your name was on the list, Richie waved to you.
“Manhattan was the king of the world at the time,” said Mr Romero, 46. “The stage was bigger than the DJ. Every DJ wanted to play them. ,
He was sitting on the balcony of Nebula while on vacation. The place was empty and quiet. He recalled his early success taking on the challenge of Monday Nights at the China Club and just packing the space.
“I was 19 years old,” he said. “I was so thrilled. I thought I was a big shot.”
Manhattan may still be a center of finance and media, but the club scene has shifted elsewhere – Miami, Berlin, Las Vegas, even Scottsdale, Ariz. These days, New York is the “little half-sister”, lamented Mr. Romero. And though the marquee is going strong on Tenth Avenue, New York’s nightlife energy has shifted to Brooklyn.
Along with Nebula, Mr. Romero and Mr. Gao hope to return to Manhattan on its glorious nights. Mr. Gao said he pledged some $12 million to the project, a huge gamble to take in the middle of a pandemic, when nightlife was on lockdown.
“To deal with the uncertainty of it all scared me,” said Mr Romero.
At 10,000 square feet spread over three levels, Nebula was the city’s biggest new nightclub when it opened last September. The main dance floor is 5,000 square feet. A D&B sound system pumps up the beats. Six LED projection screens descend from the ceiling to encapsulate guests in trance-like views.
The multimedia aspect has attracted the tech crowd. “Every NFT company wants to come here and do something,” said Mr. Romero.
The nebula has also become a favorite spot for newly minted 13-year-olds: “Fun,” he said. “We’re like the king of the bar mitzvah now.”
The private events, which take place on the weekends, are a charming edge to the highlights: weekend dance parties with top DJs from around the world, including Jamie Jones, Artbat, and Eric Pryde, all of whom will be performing at Nebula this month. Huh. ,
As New York clubs have become more lounge-like in recent years, with a focus on bottle service for high rollers who charge $10,000 to $20,000 for a private table, Nebula is decidedly old school. .
,I want to capture people who are artistic, who are able to go to the club and appreciate the music,” said Mr. Gao, Nebula’s owner.
Mr. Gao, 42, is new to the nightlife industry. a classically trained oboist who once played in the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, He said he had a hand in several businesses, including a wine store and East River Party Boat in Astoria., About five years ago he started looking for club space Tin Manhattan, which stated that the ceiling height should be at least 21 feet. After singing Lige in late 2018, he sought out Mr. Romero.
The location of the nebula has a long history in Clubland. It was formerly Sassy, Show and Arena. Most recently, it had Circle, a Korean American location that defined going out to a generation of Asian and Asian American communities in New York until its closure in 2018. Mr. Romero promoted parties in all those places except the Circle. In recent years, he has dropped out of nightlife and into quick-service restaurants, opening a pizza chain, Jazzy’s, only to be tempted by Mr.
“I believe in good bones. And there were always good bones in this room,” said Mr. Romero, who speaks at 200 beats per minute. “Locked down. Saw the vision. Came in here. We started putting it all together and made the Nebula Nebula.”
Mr Romero said trade boomed in the brief window between Opening and Omicron. Since then, supply chain problems have led to a shortage of the club’s most popular tequila, Don Julio 1942. Banquets meant for the sides of the main dance floor didn’t arrive until last week.
For those who are wary of large crowds, Mr. Gao designed private rooms on the basement level, each with its own sound system, light, and bathroom. Despite reports of Covid-19 waves coming, he said there are optimists.
“I know people want to come out,” said Mr. Gao. “People crave human interaction. That’s when I decided this field was not going away.”
On a recent Tuesday at 12:30 a.m. Nebula’s main dance floor was almost full. As images flashed on the LED screen, several hundred club-goers were dancing to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”. The event was Baby Tuesday, a night set aside for people working in nightclubs.
“It’s an industry night,” said 37-year-old Jonas Young-Bora, a former male model who described himself as “left-handed, right-handed” to Mr. Romero. “You get people from other clubs who can’t go out on weekends, plus crowds of 21 and up.”
Mr Romero, who is watching the action on the dance floor, said it was a bit slow for Tuesday for the crowd. He promised more turnout next week when he would register 50 per cent attendance. But after two years of social isolation, it was incredible to see hundreds of bodies so close together, without masks or outright fear. The hostesses brought champagne bottles with sparklers to the VIP section.
New York has changed since Mr. Romero’s youth, but he was determined that some things would not.
“It’s important,” he said, “that we keep Manhattan thriving.”