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Night and the city

In clubland, gaining an edge proves elusive

In the late ’70s and ’80s, it was Studio 54 and the Palladium. In the ’90s, it was Limelight, Tunnel and Twilo. But the nightlife mecca of 2004 remains elusive.

Due to the commercial expansion of the downtown east and west sides, and upscale lounges with skilled DJs and tiny dance floors popping up on every block, megaclubs need to work harder to set themselves apart.

Club owners are caught between promoting to the right crowd while maintaining the flow of regulars needed for longevity. “Five years ago parties were hitting you in the head,” says David Rabin, prexy of the New York Nightlife Assn. and owner of Lotus. “Corporate events have cooled down, forcing clubs to get creative at adding revenues.”

At the Play in the West Village, the high-rolling clientele can rent videogames, high-tech video and audio equipment for optimal movie-viewing.

At Show in midtown, Saturday night ushers in Mantasia, an amalgam of striptease, burlesque and talent show catering to the bachelorette party set.

Spirit New York, Robbie Wooton’s mind-body-soul complex, not only holds a 1,400-capacity dance space but an organic restaurant and a spa/holistic center. Even more than a business experiment (Spirit Dublin was first), Wooton sees Spirit New York as a cultural experiment. “Most people go to clubs and use drugs or alcohol to bring them to altered states,” he says. “But you don’t really have to, the music can bring you to another place.”

As a result of the enigmatic formula for success and the plethora of choices open to clubgoers, there’s one group of people that’s thriving: the promoters. “Besides reading Page Six and US Weekly there’s no way to know where to go,” says Pavan Pardasani, who will serve as the promotional director of Ruby Falls, a bar-lounge that will open downtown in May.

Additionally, because many of the city’s best promoters have become the new club owners, there is an opening for a new generation of tastemakers to step up. Marquee and P.M., two of Gotham’s hottest clubs, are both run by former promoters.

While Pardasani revels in owners’ increased dependence on promoters, he admits that the crowd they have to choose from today is not what it use to be. “In L.A. celebrities are a dime a dozen,” Pardasani says. “But in New York you have girls from Jersey chasing down some actress from their favorite WB show. Celebrities recognize that and don’t go out, the real A list is staying home.”

In an attempt to achieve the near impossible of catering to a high-end crowd but also appealing to the masses, Avalon New York tries to fashion contrasting spaces under one roof. The club, which has branches in Boston and L.A., has partnered with Clear Channel to bring big-name concert acts into the main room while also running Spider Club, the members-only, bottle service, separate-entrance club within the club.

“Multiplicity adds to success,” says Avalon co-owner Steve Adelman. “Unlike in L.A. where there is one place that is the right place to be, in New York people define their own niches. You have to dig a little deeper and offer a unique experience because the bar is constantly being raised.”

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