Red meat to red ropes: A night out on new 9th Ave.


By Lincoln Anderson

Anyone who takes a look at Ninth Ave. any evening from Thursday to Saturday can see that the Meat Market nightlife scene has, in the word everyone uses to describe it, exploded.

Where once meat trucks and men in bloody white coats crowded cobblestoned streets and sidewalks, young revelers now swarm. Sidewalks are impassable, not because of palettes and forklifts, but because of people waiting behind red velvet ropes outside trendy clubs. Limos and taxis clog what is now called Gansevoort Square.

On a Thursday night two weeks ago, the party machine was in full swing. Inside PM, a new nightclub on Gansevoort St., a young crowd was dancing to a mix of disco-like songs, Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life” and the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” as a man in a dashiki pounded along on a bongo drum. (In May, PM was shut down for three days after the Department of Consumer Affairs padlocked the place for allowing dancing without a cabaret license as well as underage drinking. However, last week a general manager at PM said they had gotten their cabaret license at the end of June. He also stressed that PM is a lounge and restaurant, not a nightclub.)

Charles Fauntroy, PM’s front desk manager and bottle host — he turned away briefly as if in disbelief when a reporter asked what exactly a bottle host does — said the Meat Market is the happening scene right now, perfect for bar- and club-hopping.

“Obviously, it’s been completely revitalized,” he said of the Market. “There’s a bar on every street. It’s not a residential area. You can walk right outside and experience something new — Thai, French, gay, straight.”

Fauntroy said the new Market entertainment and restaurant district won’t be a mere flash in the pan.

“All these places will become institutions,” he predicted.

Across Gansevoort Square was another red rope, another new club.

“It’s exploded. It’s amazing,” said Vanessa O’Hayon, who mans the velvet barrier at One, of the new scene. “They’re people out here all night, every night.”

She said One is “friendly” but that the red rope is needed “to control the crowd.”

Inside, the music was rock — what O’Hayon, in her early 20s, called “oldies” — ranging from AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” and Guns ’n’ Roses’ “Paradise City.”

It costs $200 to $300 to sit in the “bottle area,” a section with sofas ringed by candles in nooks along the walls (obviously, the domain of the bottle host)

Apparently the place does not have a cabaret license: A bouncer keeping an eye on the crowd said if too much dancing goes on, they stop it, but that it’s impossible to halt every random shimmy.

Per D.C.A. regulations, on Thursday nights, sidewalk cafes must shut down at 1 a.m. The sidewalk cafe in front closed for the night, as employees rolled the tables inside and folded up awnings. It was actually 1:06 a.m., pointed out Celeste Fiero, one of One’s four partners, adding, “We’re a little late.”

She and Chris Walsh, another partner, stressed that One really prides itself on its restaurant.

“The face of dining has changed in the last 10 years,” said Walsh. “People want to eat and stay.”

Alex Freij, owner of the chic new 24-hour eatery, Diner 24, at 16th St. and Eighth Ave. — he also owns Industry in the East Village — stopped by to say hello to O’Hayon and pop his head inside.

“Put him in,” Fiero told a reporter. “That’s the kind of person who comes here.”

Kevin Sharpe was also at One, each time as he stepped outside, seemingly with a woman more beautiful than the last. Hmm, he looked like he could have been a football player…his name was Sharpe. That’s right, he said — he’s a cousin of football players Shannon and Sterling. Not quite B list, but not too bad.

“Hey, you’re a good-looking dude!” Fiero told him.

There was no red rope to negotiate to get into the new, Technicolor, 14-story Hotel Gansevoort or onto the elevator to its rooftop, which had opened to the public the day before. The bar had been installed the previous week. Jessica, a cocktail waitress from Australia, said hip-hop power couple Beyonce and Jay-Z had been there earlier that night. However, when the roof isn’t being used for private parties, it’s open to the public. (A beer is $8, wine $10 and drinks $14.) A front-desk concierge said the hotel had thought of making the rooftop a members-only club like Soho House across the street, but decided against it.

At Vento, Stephen Hanson’s new trattoria in the Triangle Building, still more young night crawlers were dining at an expansive “red sea” of sidewalk tables. Level V, Hanson’s guest-list-only club below the restaurant, allows in reporters by appointment only, said the doorman.

Around 3 a.m., Gene Sullivan, Vento’s bartender, was counting the day’s register take. Asked where he thought all the young revelers now coming to the Meat Market are from, he said across the Hudson. “It’s a big Jersey crowd,” he said. “It’s easy to drive to, there’s a lot of parking. We’ve been working in this business a while. We can kind of get a feel.”

The Hog Pit, also in the Triangle Building, is a veteran nightspot sandwiched among the glitzy newcomers on Ninth Ave. Some customers there last Thursday night weren’t happy about the area’s transformation.

“I don’t like it,” said lawyer Brian Ashkel, who lives nearby in the Village. “It’s a little too much. It’s lost a little of the grit. It’s getting Disney.”

Johnny Knoxville of “Jackass” fame, reportedly a Hog Pit regular, is also said to have bemoaned the area’s changes.

But Damon Dell, the bar’s owner, isn’t complaining. The Hog Pit has become what Dell calls the “industry spot,” the place where employees of the Meat Market’s new bars, restaurants and clubs come after work for a nightcap.

“I think it’s really cool and business has tripled. God bless America,” Dell said. “I thought the Spice Bar was going to kill me — but now I’m doing better than ever.”

The sidewalk around the Triangle Building was once the main cruising strip for transgender prostitutes in the Meat Market. But with all the new activity and nightlife, the prostitutes have been driven to the Market’s fringes. They certainly don’t work the Triangle Building block anymore.

“It was ‘Dances With Wolves.’ It was me against them for years,” said Dell. “Like Kevin Costner when he got to the fort. Box cutters — ‘I’m gonna cut you.’ This was their main location.”

Now, it’s a main location for nightlife. Just call the hotels and nightclubs the cavalry.

Dell looked around in an arc, pointing out the changes, listing them aloud, as if dumbfounded by it all, at how fast it’s happened — Vento where the Hellfire S&M club once was; Gaslight — another early, pioneering bar — recently expanded into a welder’s former space; Spice Market and Soho House in a former warehouse; the Hotel Gansevoort on what used to be a parking lot.

No, he’s not knocking it.

“I’m in the best location,” he said. “Right across from the hotel, for Christ’s sake.”