One of the last stalwarts of a bygone era of New York City nightlife, Pink Elephant, has declared bankruptcy. And while we will all surely cherish the memories, not one party-loving New Yorker should shed a tear.
It was long past time for this place to be put out of its misery.
“Nightclubs start out successful but then you have to reinvent the wheel,” owner Roee Nahmani told Crain’s New York. “The neighbourhood is evolving. It was just too soon to put Pink Elephant there.”
No. It isn’t that the neighbourhood is “evolving”. It’s that New York City nightlife has evolved. It’s not too soon for this club, Nahmani. It’s too late.
Let us walk you through it.
Say it’s 2004, maybe even 2006. Back then there was a kind of party that dominated all things associated with luxury in this town. It was the kind of party that was at Pink Elephant — the kind of party that elevated models and bottles, and had promoters leading roving packs of partiers through lines on West 27th Street and other parts of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District.
It was a specific business model. Make the door hard to get through. Get the who’s who in there to be seen and attract that scene that wanted to be seen with them. At that time that included a lot of people. The girls would come, the boys would pay. This show was the coolest alternative to the fratastic bars on the Upper East Side and the dive bars on the Lower East Side. This was where a lot of people went to dance and look fabulous.
But things change. A lot of it had to do with music. Around 2007 and 2008 some dance tracks — like Justice’s ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ and Hercules and Love Affair’s ‘Blind’ — came out and bubbled up to the mainstream just enough to remind a substantial number of people that to get really into a party, you had to sweat, and when you sweat your make-up runs and your hair gets undone.
This realisation was not scene-friendly.
In other words, so many people no longer wanted to be seen at the scene anymore that the business model of attracting hoards of bottle guzzling girls and the guys that financed them no longer made any sense. At least, not on the scale that Pink Elephant once knew.
It was also at that time that Andrew W.K. built Santos Party Haus in Chinatown. The concept — at that point somewhat of a throwback in Manhattan — was to let anyone in, have them pay cover and dance their butts off. Have them wear their sneakers. Bring in the best DJs and put them front and center because that’s where the music should be.
This DJ/music centric concept may sound familiar to you now, but the point here is that it wasn’t always the thing to do. Now you see it in the Avicii concerts — in the David Guetta or Steve Aoki sets — that all the kids seem to be into.
But that’s not all there is to it.
New York City has always a hub for dance music. Hometown music lables like the famous DFA Records have been getting down in this town since the Pink Elephants of the world were going strong. New York City dancers have their own hometown heroes — like Lets Play House (celebrating their 5th anniversary this weekend) — wandering around town throwing parties whenever they can.
New York City does not need a mega-DJ to have a good time. Friday night is special occasion enough (so is Monday, or Wednesday).
What all this means is that in New York City, there is a happy medium between teenagers wearing neon shutter glasses and D-list actors or distant European royalty getting in fistfights with bouncers at clubs like Pink Elephant.
There are big clubs like Output and Verboten in Williamsburg with hundreds of people, monster sound systems and killer line ups. There are smaller venues like Cameo Gallery, Glasslands and Bossa Nova Civic Club with dance floors like a friend’s basement — small enough that you feel like you could know everyone in the room. These places do not have”door policies” aside from ‘try to act like an adult human while you’re in line.’
So to review — Pink Elephant is going bankrupt for the same reason a lot of clubs go bankrupt. At it’s core, the club is not cool enough to sustain itself anymore.
Maybe scale down?