Clubland Carouses East—Is It Chinatown?

ALTHOUGH THERE ARE PLENTY OF reasons for moving a scene from one neighborhood to another, the current club haven of West Chelsea has fallen victim to a flurry of crime and bad publicity over the past year, enough to give any club owner reservations about staying.

“I find that a lot of people are fed up with the oppressive police presence,” club owner David Sarner said. “And out of frustration they are looking to move downtown.”

The man largely credited with inventing the bottle service format also listed closed streets and a lack of late-night cabs as reasons for the transition, but he noted that escalating rents are also pushing people out.

“You used to be able to pick up space at $20 or $30 a foot,” he said. “Now you see places going for two and three times that.”

Alex Picken echoed these thoughts.

“On 27th Street, you’re looking at more like $60 a square foot these days,” he said. “Not only are people getting a deal downtown, but they are finding that the community boards are not as tough yet as they are in Chelsea.”

James Famularo, a broker who has represented a number of nightlife spots over the years, says that while the move is happening, he believes it is limited to those that can make a hefty profit off a small group.

“There are two types of operators,” Mr. Famularo said. “You have the guys that operate by the thousands and then you have Amy Sacco, Jamie Mulholland and Danny A, who have a total gross of 200 people and they are fine with that because the folks will spend thousands. These are the people who want to move downtown.”

However, the uber-exclusive admittance policy for which many Chelsea clubs have become famous may not fly with the downtown set. Will gaining entrance at these new establishments be any easier than at their uptown siblings?

“Our door policy is tough, but we are working every week at developing a better demeanor,” Mr. McKinley said. “You may not always get in, but at least we are not terrible jerks at the door.”