Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cielo - New York, NY

18 Little West 12th St
(Cross Street: Between Ninth Avenue and Washington Street)
New York, NY 10014, (212) 645-5700

We visited this meat packing district club on Saturday, October 7th. The creative design was interesting -- but the industrial design considerations are lacking at best (I'll explain later). Cielo has a capacity of approximately 250 (give or take). The cover charge that night was $20 (rumor has it that the better looking you are and the more aggressive you want to be with connections, the more likely you are to be comped or VIPed in the door) which we paid for the nearly ten people in our group. Cover charges at clubs are needed to (a) fund the entertainment the club provides for those who don't drink, (b) provide a good dose of revenue for the club, and (c) keep the undesirables out. I'm not a fan of cover charges in general, but most in our group didn't care about the imposition.

Getting back to the design of the place, I must admit some admiration for the integrated lighting tubes in the wall. Alternating white log type lights were placed adjacent to wall pieces that looked like wooden logs. When activated, the lights lit up to the music (see picture). That night, like most, house music was the flavor at Cielo with Tedd Patterson at the musical helm. I found the music somewhat monotonous - and hence the lighting got to me after a while. The industrial design of the place was quite poor. Because of the club's fairly small footprint, the designers placed steps leading down to a recessed dance floor sunken in the center of the club. The problem, of course, is that without step lighting in a very dark club, stairs become tools for mayhem. Two sets of steps -- placed far enough apart to be dangerous -- enhanced the poor industrial design. Worse yet, the path to the exit had large swaths of light colored flooring interrupted by occasional black borders -- the net effect being the perception of additional stairs that never materialized.

Around the perimeter of the central dance floor are reserved tables that are available with bottle service. Because of the tight quarters and abysmal service at the only bar (see below), I'd recommend table service if you must be at Cielo. There is an outside smoking garden in backyard. While I don't smoke, it was ironically refreshing to be amongst the smokers outside -- atleast there people respected personal space in a way unimaginable inside. Needless to say, having not reserved a table, we stood at the bar the entire evening (with two trips to the smoking den).

Design objections aside, my biggest gripe with Cielo was the service. Perhaps because I have grown intolerant of expensive drinks delivered with absolutely no nod to customer service. Our bartender was a guy named Danny. I introduced myself to him and placed our first order. We ordered standard drinks, which were satisfactory (Grey Goose and soda, Jack Daniels and coke, Campari and tonic were the few I remember ordering). My second round was ordered from a female bartender with significant attitude -- despite not being that busy, she had a continual sense of hurry. Her signature move was delivering bottled beers by slamming them onto the bar (which, 90% of the time caused beer to gush out of the bottles that were designed to contain them). At $10+ a drink, service should have been better.

Nightclubs are always designed to be high energy destinations to shake off one's desire to dance and move. I question the need to package any of the requisites of nightclubs with service that isn't welcoming. Perhaps it's just me. Thoughts?

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