An Inconvenient Club: New York Nightlife Goes Green

Mr. Elmes is currently seeking the much coveted LEED certification for the building.

“Certainly, we’re at a crisis with energy and climate,” said Mr. Elmes. “Our idea has to be to participate as much as we can in creating solutions. If we can lead by example, we will.”

Galapagos plans on holding tours to explain how they made the building more environmentally friendly.

Mr. Elmes explained that every detail of the construction has to be considered for LEED certification. The entire process, he said, makes entrepreneurs think more creatively, not only about their clubs, but about the institutions as cultural venues. “We’re not in the same kind of thinking model as a regular business,” he said. “If the artists can’t pick up their heels and lead, who can?”

Aaron Levinthal, a partner with environmentally friendly events production company GreeNow, said that when companies are thinking of getting eco-friendly, they should consider that other kind of green, too. “It’s an easy thing to market,” Mr. Levinthal explained. “You say your event is more green, it’s easier to get sponsors, and you can start getting tax breaks.” He said it’s also cheaper to use energy-efficient generators. “It’s almost stupid not to do it.”

GreeNow, which is only six months old, organizes recycling programs and powers outdoor events with generators that use 99 percent biodiesel. They even use biodiesel-fueled forklifts and trucks to transfer equipment. One prominent client is the city’s River-to-River concert series; GreeNow also powered the lights that lit up the Pope in Yonkers when he visited the city in the spring.

Mr. Levinthal, a technical director and producer of corporate events for 18 years, said Al Gore’s documentary on the climate crisis, An Inconvenient Truth, changed everything. “That stupid movie was such a baseball bat to the face to what is going on. My wife and I changed the way we lived when we were at home, and me and my business partners became much more eco-aware.”


Barcade, a Williamsburg bar lined wall-to-wall with old-school video game machines, looks like a monster of energy consumption, with its Rampage and Ms. Pac Man flashing all over the place. But at the bottom of the beer menu, patrons might see a curious note about the venue: The bar runs on 100 percent wind power. Owner Paul Kermizian said that customers’ first reaction is to look up into the skylights and search for some kind of wind turbine in the dingy ceiling.

“I have to explain to them that that’s not how we get it,” Mr. Kermizian said. Barcade purchases their electricity through ConEdison Solutions, a subsidiary of ConEd that offers “green” energy. So when a customer operates one of the 28 arcade games in the club, their Donkey Kong character is lit up with electricity coming from 20,213-foot-tall wind towers on Fenner Wind Farm in Madison County, N.Y.

Barcade also exclusively serves craft beer, made at independent breweries in the States, which usually run on wind power or have alternative energy sources.

“We use quite a bit more electricity than regular bars,” Mr. Kermizian explained. “We wanted to try to do something that lessened our impact, looking into alternative providers. It’s a little more expensive, but it evens out with the amount of goodwill we feel and good publicity that we get.”

Chuck Hunt, executive vice president for the New York Restaurant Association’s metropolitan chapters, said that the city’s clubs, bars and restaurants consider greener practices “one of the most proactive situations going on right now” in the industry, and added that the association plans on setting up a hot line and information program on how to be more environmentally aware owners.

But not all clubs have been keeping on top of more eco-friendly practices, said Mr. Hunt. Or if they are, “they aren’t bragging about it yet.”

Except for one.

“You’re talking about the world, and the water is melting and the temperature is changing,” said Mr. Bakhshi, the club owner who plans on opening Greenhouse. “This is something we can do to change things. I think that everybody in every business and in everybody’s lives are going to have to adapt to things like this. I think that’s going to be the way of life.”

Greenhouse has already held publicity parties at the Cannes Film Festival and Sundance, in addition to Paris Fashion Week. Mr. Bakhshi plans on throwing a huge opening bash in New York when the club opens in the fall, and to donate a portion of the proceeds to green charities. “The whole idea of giving back,” he said, “we’d like to really focus on that. We’re a green club.”

Mr. Bakhshi added that he’d like Al Gore to host the party. “I definitely have to reach out to him for sure.”

An Inconvenient Club: New York Nightlife Goes Green