New York Nightclubs:

10 Top Spots Behind the Velvet Rope

In an ironic twist, Prohibition’s ban on alcohol in the 1920s helped spark the emergence of the modern-day nightclub. Bars were forced underground, and their guest lists necessarily became more restricted. Even when these clubs could safely reemerge from hiding, many continued to reap the benefits of exclusivity and pricey cover charges. The most exaggerated examples can be found in New York, where long lines and unsympathetic bouncers are still the rule. But if you consider the number of global dance movements shaped in the city’s late-night scene—from disco to electronica—you might agree that the party is more than worth the wait.
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#1

Lavo 39 East 58th Street

Midtown Center: Star-Studded Dance Floor

Don't be put off if you walk into Lavo and find a classy Italian bistro instead of the rollicking dance party you were looking for. The festivities take place downstairs, in a nightclub where celebrities bump and grind on the dance floor and sip cocktails on leather banquettes.

#2

Bembe 81 South 6th Street

Williamsburg: International Beats

Dancing isn't limited to any one area at Bembe. Clubbers shake their hips as they order mojitos at the candle-lit wooden bar and tap their toes in time as they wait in line for the bathroom. International DJs fuel these never-ending dance parties with soul, funk, and Latin grooves.

#3

SOB's 200 Varick Street

SoHo: Latin Dance Club with Free Lessons

To dust off your samba, salsa, or bachata moves, attend one of the free dance classes held on Friday nights at SOB’s, which stands for Sounds of Brazil. Afterwards, order a tropical cocktail and apply your lesson on the dance floor as renowned international performers fill the space with Latin-inspired beats.

#4

Pacha NYC 618 West 46th Street

Clinton: Bikini-Clad Dancers

With its swarming dance floor, dimly lit alcoves, and multiple bars, Pacha seems like one of those places where you’re destined to lose your wallet or cell phone. Play it safe and leave your valuables in the basement-level coat check before heading upstairs to join a dance party led by a troupe of bikini-clad dancers.

#5

Webster Hall 125 East 11th Street

Greenwich Village: Saturday Night Circus

Locals know to avoid East 11th Street on weekend nights, when honking cabs bound for Webster Hall create an impenetrable wall of traffic. Considered the first modern nightclub in the United States, the multilevel cavern hosts massive themed dance parties—including an interactive circus bash with acrobats and fire breathers.

#6

Santo's Party House 96 Lafayette Street

Chinatown: Andrew W.K.’s Brainchild

Co-owner and infamous party animal Andrew W.K. takes it upon himself to answer the phone at this two-level club. After providing lost drivers with directions, he’s likely to say something to the effect of “Can’t wait to see you!” Andrew makes it easy to party hard at his discotheque with a lenient door policy and a booming sound system.

#7

Le Bain 848 Washington Street

Meatpacking District: Indoor Pool and Rooftop Terrace

A round of frenetic dancing is enough to make anyone feel overheated. Thankfully, Le Bain offers two ways to cool down. The first is an indoor pool, where one might or might not tread water alongside topless models. The second is a breezy rooftop terrace, which looks out on panoramic views of Manhattan and the Hudson River.

#8

169 Bar 169 East Broadway

Lower East Side: Late-Night Kitchen

If you’ve worked up an appetite dancing to the live bands and DJs at 169 Bar, consider yourself lucky that the kitchen is open until 4 a.m. Instead of seeking out a greasy slice of pizza outside, order up some New Orleans–style seafood before heading back to the neon-lit dance floor.

#9

Sullivan Room 218 Sullivan Street

Greenwich Village: Subterranean Techno Party

Not a peep can be heard from Sullivan Room's underground cavern before nightfall. As soon as the clock strikes 1 a.m., however, the unassuming space becomes the scene of a techno party complete with LED lights, international DJs, and throngs of cocktail-swigging dancers.

#10

Cielo 18 Little West 12th Street

Meat Packing District: World-Class Sound System

Disregard, if you will, the long lines, pricey cocktails, and immaculately dressed clientele. There's a good reason why Cielo is regularly lauded one of the top clubs anywhere. The world-class sound system blasts electronica from some of the world's finest DJs, including Francois K and Louie Vega.

Deal or no deal, our editors strongly recommend these businesses based on their reputation, popularity, and quality of service.

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