Everybody Dance Now: Retroclubnyc Delivers Throwback Thrills, Playful Nostalgia | chelseanow.com

Everybody Dance Now: Retroclubnyc Delivers Throwback Thrills, Playful Nostalgia

Psychedelic wall paintings and retro-futurist seating give the club a cozy, intimate vibe. Photo courtesy retroclubnyc.

BY SEAN EGAN | While New York is rightly known for its active nightlife and plethora of trendy clubs, variety is not necessarily its forte. Often, it seems the same throngs of club kids and incessant four-on-the-floor beat follow you wherever you go. This leaves very few options for those of a slightly older persuasion looking to hit the town, but less-than-enthused by the prospect of rowdy 20-somethings and blaring EDM. Enter Retroclubnyc, a new venue more concerned with capturing the timeless than chasing the latest trends.

Situated in the heart of Chelsea, Retroclubnyc (161 W. 23rd St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.) is the brainchild of Jeff Wittels, city nightlife veteran and sometime DJ. The club’s grand opening this past August represented the realization of a long-term dream for Wittels: to create a club that specifically caters to the tastes of the 35-and-older crowd (though, he notes, all ages are welcome). Through its throwback cocktails, funky aesthetic, and focus on music from the 1970s to the ’90s, Retroclubnyc aims to create a classy club atmosphere with a distinct dollop of playful nostalgia. When Chelsea Now last spoke to Wittels in March 2017, during the club’s design phase, he asserted: “It’s not going to be corny; it’ll be fun. It’ll be new, interesting, chic.”

A visit to Retroclubnyc one recent Friday night bore out Wittels’ assertion in full. Dozens lined the dance floor or sat at the bar, drinking, moving, and absorbing the delightfully retro vibes, visibly reveling in the tastes and sounds of decades past. “I’ve seen, over time, the crowd is just building week after week. More and more people, inquiries,” Wittels told Chelsea Now in a phone interview following the visit, noting that crowds can swell to 200 people or more on a bustling Saturday.

Upon entering, one quickly realizes that the club has no interest in indulging in garish kitsch. Under dim lights, the combination of gently psychedelic wall paintings and retro-futurist seating lends the club a cozier, more intimate vibe than many of its peers. The dance floor is illuminated by multiple disco balls, naturally. The bar furthers the tasteful throwback trend. “We have a whole two-sided page drink menu of retro throwback drinks and concoctions we’ve made up,” Wittels said, “ranging from our signature we’ve created called ‘The Retro,’ which is a gin-based cocktail. Then, we have things like a Red Devil or a Long Island Iced Tea, Sloe Gin Fizz.” There’s also a food menu, including popular options such as fresh guacamole and crab cakes.

The dance floor is illuminated by multiple disco balls, naturally. Photo courtesy retroclubnyc.

However, at the very center of the enterprise is the music, which Wittels takes a particularly hands-on approach with, given his DJ background (he’s usually up in the booth, and often spins himself). During our visit, selections ran the gamut from pop royalty like Prince, to new wave hits from Eurythmics and Tom Tom Club; the dance floor never thinned out. “We aim to please,” Wittels quipped, noting that it’s no small feat to keep people moving.

“It’s a challenge to work with a diverse crowd and make sure that everyone is happy. It’s something that we’ve been doing. When you have people who are in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, you have to mix it up a lot and keep everyone dancing,” Wittels explained, on reading crowds. “People respond to popular songs that they know. That’s always the way it’s been, and that’s always the way I continue to see it. Everyone identifies whatever experience they have with a particular song, and they want to hear that song… If you hit a Michael Jackson song and you play ‘Billie Jean,’ or if you play something popular from Madonna — always crowd pleasers.”

Still, Wittels has his eyes on taking the music to new levels, asserting that live performances are “definitely on the horizon” for the club. “Probably by early next year,” he elaborated. “We have some bands and stuff that we’re working with, still, and talking to, that play a lot of the ’70s, ’80s music.”

For now, though, much of their energy is directed toward their bustling schedule of private events — which Wittels said has taken off quickly. Thus far, Retroclubnyc has served as a venue for wedding parties, high school reunions, and corporate parties, and a swath of holiday functions are lined up for the near future. Still, though, Wittels’ top priority is to continue establishing Retroclubnyc as both a destination club, as well as a local neighborhood touchstone — a balance its Chelsea location has aided significantly in.

“It’s great spot. Close to public transportation and just nice, great people here in this area and all over the city. We have a lot of local people come in,” Wittels commented. “We have a core group of people showing up every week… they meet me, and it’s very personal.”

“It’s been fulfilling. It’s just good to see that the concept has worked and people come in and they really enjoy themselves. They’re happy, and they’re dancing,” Wittels reflected. “Everyone with smiles on their face. Everyone having a good time, singing along to the songs. People just want it, and they like it. Happy to have a club they can go to for their age group, and not have to go down to the Meatpacking [District] and go to one of those 20-year-old clubs where there’s just house music. People are excited,” he concluded. “It’s fun to just watch everyone be happy and enjoy themselves.”

Retroclubnyc (161 W. 23rd St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.) is open until 2am Wed. and until 4am Thurs.–Sat. Open for Happy Hour Wed.–Fri., 5–8pm (free admission). Cover is $10 after 9pm Fri. & Sat. Visit retroclubnyc.com or call 212-929-0900 for more info. Their New Year’s Eve celebration happens 9pm Sun., Dec. 31 through 1am. Tickets are $125. For reservations, email (email reservations@retroclubnyc.com for reservations); includes champagne toast at midnight, hors d’oeuvres, and an open bar of beer, wine, and well drinks.

Retroclubnyc founder Jeff Wittels can often by found in the DJ booth, spinning crowd-pleasers that keep the dance floor packed. Photo courtesy retroclubnyc.