Welcome to Nightlife’s Time Machine Era

Maybe I started to notice it when I saw a 20-something at a party yell, “I love this fucking song” when a DJ started playing the self-titled track off Donald Fagen’s 1982 solo album The Nightfly, and then when she danced with her small group of friends like it was the hottest new club banger and not a solo cut by a member of Steely Dan. It could have been when people started asking me out “for martinis” instead of “for drinks.” It could have been when I found myself at Bemelmans Bar witnessing first-hand that, yes, Gen. Z is really into the famous spot, or when I found myself with a Sazerac in my hand at Columns in New Orleans, feeling like I was in a Tennessee Williams play, or when I saw Sporty & Rich doing a collab with L.A.’s famous Sunset Tower Hotel. At some point, I realized that everything new about going out these days is old. But it’s a new sort of old; it’s not people going out and trying to recreate partying that looks or sounds or feels like a specific time, it’s a mix. A mish-mosh of everything that came before is all available to you on any given night of the week.

The ideas aren’t retro, mind you. It isn’t one specific decade being back. This isn’t the swing revival of the 1990s or another “[Insert whatever decade here] is so hot right now” sort of thing. It’s little bits of dirt and decadence from previous decades all mixing together. My friends in Miami, who used to prefer old-man dives over clubs, are telling me that The Key Club in Coconut Grove—a place designed to look like a throwback to the city’s mid-century glory days, but with sushi, espresso martinis and good lighting for perfect selfies—is their favorite place. People are going out for Champagne and caviar at places like Airs in the West Village. My Brooklyn friends now prefer to go into Manhattan and hang out at Temple Bar, a place that opened in 1989, got popular a decade later with people that wanted to live like they were on Sex and the City, and closed on December 31st of 2017. The bar has since reopened, but it’s not updated, renovated or meaningfully changed in any way. This is how it is now.

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Restauranteurs Marc Rose and Med Abrous are leading the charge. They converted an old storage closet on the mezzanine level of the Hollywood Roosevelt into an Art Deco cocktail den called the Spare Room, and their next project is to reopen La Dolce Via, the Beverly Hills Italian spot originally opened with help from Frank Sinatra in the late 1960s. Rose thinks there’s a simple reason this old-school mentality for going out is on the rise. “I think right now that people are excited to use less technology when they’re out,” he says. “They want to feel that luxurious feeling of being taken care of.” With an opening date targeted for later in the summer, they’re still working out the details, but perhaps more important than things like “the menu” or “the cocktail list” is that they have the feel worked out. “It’s a red sauce restaurant. Classic. And we want to embrace that,” Abrous says. “We want to get away from the casual a little bit,” Rose adds. “And get back to this formality and excitement about going out.”

Rose and Abrous seem to be onto something. Ever since Carbone took its show on the road, going from being the hottest reservation in Manhattan to one of the most coveted in Miami as well, diners have been eager to feel like cast members from Goodfellas, just sitting around a few big plates of barely-touched rigatoni and fettucini. That honestly sounds great anywhere, but even more so when it’s a place with history.

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