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Inside Verboten, Brooklyn's Newest Party Palace

A look inside the newest addition to NYC clubbing culture.

Damian Lazarus in the Control Room. Photo Credit: Oliver Correa for

People say that nightlife in New York City is past its heyday. But in fact, club culture here is always evolving. From the glitzy days of Studio 54 to the golden years of house music havens like Twilo, Paradise Garage, and Tunnel, the city that never sleeps has been living up to its name.

But recently, on the heels of an era where many hedonistic refuges were shut down by astute politicians and a "quality of life" campaign, the city seems to be bounding back. We're now in the middle of a nightlife renaissance.


Manhattan has EDM-tinged super clubs like Pacha, Marquee, and the newly re-opened Sankeys, along with smaller, more trendy venues like like Le Bain and Santos Party House. "True heads" probably find themselves dancing in Brooklyn, a borough more suited to the low-key underground tastes. But until last weekend, there was only one giant, LED-lit music box in Williamsburg where you could see top-notch DJs from around the world show their stuff with the auditory intensity that only a Funktion-One system could offer. And it was Output.

Enter Verboten. For the last decade, these accomplished party promoters have been organizing some of the best displays of house and techno in the city. We've been hearing rumors for over a year that the Verboten crew was gearing up for their own permanent home in Williamsburg. And last Friday, that dream took the form of a grand opening.

It's somewhat curious that Damian Lazarus and his Crosstown Rebels label were chosen to set off the tone for this new club. Their crew has a sound leaning towards the more trippy, eclectic, Burning Man-esque side of the spectrum. I would've pegged the Verboten crowd as more of the slick, house-loving Carl Cox types.  Nevertheless, based on the range of DJs who'll be taking up residencies at the club this year—including Carl Craig, Matthew Dear, and Lee Curtiss—as well as the fact that the gay icon Susanne Bartsch will be throwing a party later this month called "Kunst,"I knew better than to assume the club would be pandering to a single "type."


Photo Credit: Oliver Correa for

Nevertheless, I got to the club around midnight and was pleased to see there was a relatively large crowd at the door—but the security and staff were handling things with nary a wrinkle in their brows. Once I got past the shitshow of a coat check line, I entered the impressively enormous main hall—the "Control Room." There were HD video walls set up behind the DJ booth and scattered throughout the rectangular room. They looked like a cross between Skrillex's Mothership and something from the final scene in 2001 Space Odyssey. Suddenly the room's futuristic moniker made sense.

The side areas of the main room were slightly elevated above the ground level, and seemed to be home to a mix of VIP tables and people who had just decided they wanted to stand next to people at VIP tables. One of them being… me. While standing above the crowd and dancing to Damien Lazarus' infamously druggy tech-house riffs, I couldn't help but notice the undeniable mix of people around me. I saw clubbers of all stripes, from the low-key Williamsburg cognoscenti to New Jersey bros, to glamor girls in heels, and a slew of tourists, probably from the Wythe Hotel next door. That is what's so great about giant clubs like this: watching people from so many different walks of life under the same roof, dancing to the same enthralling beats.

In the side room of the club, known as the "Cabaret Room," the Venezuelan techno duo Fur Coat were putting down an all-night set. This room was also set up as a sort of long rectangle with a bar on the side, and some inconspicuous VIP tables along the side. Apparently, bottle service is an option here, but I didn't see anyone partaking in champagne-spraying tomfoolery. Thank god.


Fur Coat in the Cabaret Bar. Photo Credit: Oliver Correa for

At this point, I needed to relieve myself of the ten-dollar whisky ginger ale cocktails I'd been downing.  Time to check out the club's bathrooms. The men's room was a combination of stalls and urinals set in front of a glass pane that reveals the top half of everyone pissing. It was pretty strange taking a leak while gazing at people dancing a few inches in front of my face. Nonetheless the bathroom experience was quite pleasing.

I headed back to the main room to catch the techno goddess Ida Engberg, who was taking the stage to close things down. Verboten houses a one-of-a-kind Martin Audio sound system, and the thing sounded remarkably clean. Every time a track dropped, the "sprung wood" on the floor, apparently rescued from one of Thomas Edison's old factories, would be overcome with vibrations.

My friends and I managed to finagle our way on stage behind the DJ booth. As the giant disco ball lit the crowd, I wondered how Verboten would assimilate into the ritzy neighborhood its taken residence in, and New York City's booming dance club culture in general. The club's irony-fueled name translates to "forbidden, especially by an authority," and it's clear after the opening that few acts of transgression will be forbidden in this place when resident parties like Push The Night and Trouble & Bass invade. Hell, maybe their Sunday brunch service, which starts up this summer, will be Brooklyn's answer to Manhattan's infamous champagne brunches.

A grand opening is always a singular experience, and it's hard to pin down what feels real and what doesn't. Maybe my friend had it right when he texted me the following morning and said, "That place didn't feel real man, it felt like a dream."

Photo Credit: Oliver Correa for

David would like to take this chance to thank Verboten for contributing to a truly epic hangover. @DLGarber