Friday, March 21, 2008

SoMa Clubs Disappearing?

Dan, one of the promoters behind Lucky Pierre and Heat at the Stud, sent me an interesting link this morning from the San Francisco Business Journal about Club NV on Howard Street being razed to make room for the expansion of their Foundry Square III building. Add to this the fact that the former Sound Factory has now been turned into a sales office for a new high-rise condo, and the transition of 1015 toward being more of a rock venue, and you start to see a trend emerging. I think the 11th Street corridor with DNA, Fat City, Caliente and the other clubs is probably the last solid concentration of clubs in what used to be the city's nightlife neighborhood, with The Stud holding on for dear life over on 9th Street next to the Cat Club (which I have seen almost empty on a Saturday night).

It seems that San Francisco just doesn't have the market to continue supporting large clubs in SoMa; in fact, I would say that the trend is much more toward smaller events in spaces like The Transfer and Deco, at least in the gay scene. Gus will always manage to put on the big weekend parties for the tourist crowd, but the big gay dance scene seems to be just about done (consider, as well, the recent demise of Fag Fridays).

I don't know how to feel about this; on the one hand, the loss of nightlife venues is a pretty serious issue, and I know for a fact that there are political manuevers afoot to make sure that the City's master plan will give due consideration to the impact of development on nightlife. But perhaps this is emblematic of the overall economic situation that has gripped the country for so many years now; the people who are making the money are not the kind who go out to crazy DJ parties, but rather want to bask in the burning of their bucks on bottle service. Meanwhile, the people who do go out, like young people, don't want to pay upwards of $10 for cover and $6 for drinks.

My hope that this is just a re-structuring of the nightlife scene, and that in the next couple years, once we're out of this recession and the mood of the entire country shifts, we'll see a return to a more exciting and dynamic scene. I just hope there are spaces left where an independent promoter can bring forth a vision of what such a scene could be like.


Anonymous said...

I've also noted this trend. Just came back from NYC, and the coolest spots were not in big venues. For example, Jon Cameron Mitchell dj'd a Thursday nite party at Julius', NY's oldest gay bar. Justin Bond was there, with some NY faeries and downtown scenesters, along with some hustlers and older bar-fly guys. It's about like going to Aunt Charlie's on a Thursday.

I work in book retail, and the trend is true there: Borders stock dropped 28% this week. Large stores like Cody's are closing. Smaller stores with more neighborhood connection are doing better.

My theory is that people want a greater sense of community these days, and smaller venues provide that better than big impersonal ones.

The Jaded Gay DJ said...

I think you've hit something interesting there; in New York you've also had this process where big clubs like Twilo have fallen victim to changing economics, and so, instead of being into going out Big Name Club X, there's been a pullback to being part of specific "scenes" - I saw a little of this at Mr. Blacks in New York when the boyfriend and I were there two years ago, and also in NY's techno scene. Club nights like The Misshapes show that it might not be the music or the club that's so important to club kids, but rather their association with that particular scene. There's definitely an aspect of Scenesterism here (one DJ of my acquaintance, for example, recently told of a very popular Friday night in The Tenderloin that they always get 150 people, but it's the same 150 people). This cuts two ways; on the one hand, it does give people a better sense of community when they go out, and I'm all for encouraging it, but I think this can also turn into relentless, intolerable scenesterism that, in the gay community for example, makes going out a question of which faction you're aligning yourself with that evening.

Anonymous said...

I see what you mean, but large clubs don't prevent "scenester-ism" do they? It just makes the rules different, and the game to play is to get past the velvet rope, or into the VIP lounge. (and yeah i admit i played that game.) Less true at the raves back in the day, but even then it's like, who gets to hang out in the dj booth?

but i can't remember the last time i even wanted to go to a big club or "massive" techno party, i'm just not interested these days. i'd feel like part of the herd.