Nightlife » Bars

Making a 21st Century Splash!

by JC Alvarez
Wednesday Sep 5, 2012
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In the always trending world of nightlife culture, what’s in today is passé tomorrow. The longevity of a now-popular bar or club is measured by its elasticity - it’s ability to bend and snap back regardless of the push and pull of the often too easily distracted clubland crowd. In New York City no other club space has been more adept at reinvention than Splash. The legendary Chelsea club and favorite happy hour haunt has always been on the cutting edge of the dance floor culture and always providing its patrons with something of the unexpected.

With our fair metropolis in the midst of a 21st Century renaissance, even this legendary mainstay is looking to freshen things up. With the success of 42nd Street’s urban reconstruction and the insertion of the XL Nightclub, it would suggest that clubland is no longer shying away from drawing folks back to the dance circuit scene that once dominated our weekends.

For a time as the "big room" culture began its decline and the gay crowd turned to the Internet for its immediate gratification, Splash was the only game in town. Whether you remember it as Splash Bar, or when it briefly went by the initials SBNY, every promoter was clamoring for a spot on the seven nights a week schedule that was drawing in big name DJs and giving celebrities like Britney Spears, Katy Perry and Kylie Minogue a connectivity to introduce their latest albums to their adoring target audience.


Million Dollar Reboot

EDGE was recently invited to check out the heavy-duty (and rumored million-dollar) redesign that is moving Splash light-speed ahead of its neighboring competitors. Upon entering the main area, instantly you’re struck by the always well-built Spartan assortment of bartenders that have been a main attraction of the club’s 20-year history, but even they couldn’t distract from the newly polished bar that will greet guests preparing for an afternoon two-for-one or a quick shot before hitting the rest of the space.

Greeted by Greg Jones, Splash’s manager and keeper-of-the-keys, he introduced us to the bar’s newest attraction and most spacious front bar area yet. With a new white lacquered smooth surface that orbits the glowing top-tier assortment of liquors, this redesigned and very deluxe service area is a beauty to behold. Surrounded by new flat screen video monitors that won’t distract from the chiseled men behind the counter, the surface radiates a futuristic glow reflecting the glitter of the dance floor area.

"We’ve always wanted to make more space up top, and we’ve done that with the new bars," Jones insists. The polished walls behind the main bar also give the room a much-appreciated depth. "We wanted to just freshen things up," which is a tradition that has always kept up the interest in the Chelsea hot spot.


Downstairs Chic

The other area of Splash that has significantly undergone major renovations is the downstairs bar, which for many years provided a momentary escape from the frenzy above, but has now been modeled to fit more in line with the overall retro-futurist look taking over. We found the ever-present and always hunky Brian Landeche, the long-time owner of Splash busily setting up for the afternoon’s business, putting stools in place along the new half-moon shaped downstairs bar. To the far back of the room, DJs will find that their traditional cubby hole has been replaced by a dock station more inclined with what you’d find at the Apple Store, but, as Greg promised is exactly what the downstairs DJs have always been asking for.

"The downstairs was always set apart from the rest of the bar," Jones described, "but now it’ll keep the flow moving between the upstairs and it makes Splash feel like one, big room." A new modernized LED light display adorns the back wall and couches have been placed along this area to give those seeking a momentary pause some room to breathe, but keep them at arm’s length from the more than 50 strapping staff members that will be manning the drink station. "This will also be utilized as a space for performing guests or VIPs," Jones continued along the tour. "We can keep them here until they are ready to perform upstairs or have a place for them to relax afterwards."

And back upstairs once the next - and final - phase of the reconstruction commences, every DJ on the planet will be looking to command the turntables in the newly styled DJ booth which will dominate the rear area of the main floor and sport a new technological marvel - a massive LED backdrop to highlight the performance stage area. Every emerging pop star in town will be clamoring to unveil his or her latest single on the state-of-the-art sound system and extendable stage that will reach out onto the dance floor.


This Beat is Popping

"We worked very closely with our resident DJs to provide a state-of-the-art digital sound experience," Jones added about the innovations beyond the cosmetic that will enhance the Splash experience. "It was very important to us that we get their professional input." And with an non-stop list of Who’s Who on the DJ club circuit set to continue the headlining draw on the dance floor, Jones is confident that once Hex Hector returns for his next gig he’ll be pleasantly impressed.

The other major highly anticipated main floor reconstruction will be the elevated VIP area that will hold court behind a new bar area set to replace the far back bar. Entrance into this area may be relegated to those party revelers looking for a little more of a attentive experience. Along with more comfortable seating and a view of the main stage and room this area will also provide guests with table service, and a reason to avoid the always present paparazzi.

Nightlife architect Mark Nelson has brought back his infamous "F*Word" on Friday nights which draws the colorful collection of NYC’s nightlife elite and every enigmatic club kid, and the popularly established Dougie Meyer promotes his blockbuster Saturday night. Neither of these has experienced even the slightest decline in their parties’ attendances as the reconstruction continues.

Longtime resident DJ Max Rodriguez couldn’t imagine calling another New York space home. "They’ve been very good to me here," Rodriguez says. "Splash has always allowed me to play a wide variety of music and video," and cater to its wildly eclectic audience. Max just easily commands a music video powered happy hour, to immediately turn his taste to the late night dance floor crowd on a Friday night. "It’s not about the DJ it’s about the people," he suggests. "The people are what dictates the music, not the other way around."

And the crowd eager anticipating the next incarnation of Splash is what has kept this New York City hotspot a destination and the envy of clubland the world over. For our exclusive look at the redesign going on at Splash check out our album.

Goto www.splashbar.com for a calendar of events and upcoming premiere specials you can’t afford to miss.


Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".

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