Restaurateur Ariel Arce's recently-opened wine bar Niche Niche is getting a new neighbor right underneath it this Tuesday, June 11th: Special Club. The music and social club, also helmed by Arce, centers around nightly musical performances—it's "an homage to how I was raised," she told Gothamist.
Arce grew up hearing stories about her father Federico (who is also her business partner) working at the likes of New Orleans' venerable haunt Brennan's in the 1970s. After their shifts, "they would go out and spend all of their money on live music," she says. A similar ethos existed at home with her family. "They would invite people over for dinner, the more the merrier," Arce says. "They would just open bottles of wine and everyone would be tasting different things and cooking a great meal. The whole point was to bring people who didn’t know each other together, to create this incredible friend community through food and wine."
It's fitting that Special Club, Arce's fourth Manhattan restaurant venture (she also owns Tokyo Record Bar and Air's Champagne Parlor), consciously fosters conversation between strangers, as well as eating, drinking, and enjoying music together. Special Club will host two seatings a night, one at 8 p.m. and the other at 10 p.m., where people can come and listen to formidable jazz, soul, and blues artists perform. The entrance fee is $40, which includes cover, a seat, a cup of sake, and snacks. People who don't snag a ticket have two options: come by, hang out, and listen to the music from the space's basement (a.k.a. the "vaulted stone cellar"), or walk in and hand over $20 for a partial view of the stage (nothing else is included in this price).
Guests can also dine on bites from Chefs Zach Fabian and Aaron Lirette, which includes the likes of hiramasa crudo ($19) and broiled king crab ($24), and/or sip on cocktails ($14), or pick any bottle from the wine cellar to try and buy (menu below). "That’s part of the communal factor as well, it’s kind of a choose your own adventure, they can go into our refrigerators and pull bottles that are all priced," Arce says. "And they can open it and share that. The whole idea is to keep people in the space kind of connected."
There's also a section on the menu called "band drinks," where people can buy the musicians who are performing a beer ($9) or sake ($8).
Arce says she was inspired by bygone, old-school social clubs, like the infamous Stork Club, both aesthetically (think tablecloths and table lamps), and in how dining wasn't a highly-individualized experience, more so a communal one. "New York City has become so homogenized from a dining perspective," Arce said. "We have so much of the same and who does it better, but I think the thing that we really lack is this human connection...there were spaces where it was about people coming together and having a good time."
Special Club opens on Tuesday, June 11th. It's located in the space below Niche Niche, at 43 MacDougal Street, at King. It's open Tuesday through Saturday, 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. on weekdays and until 1 a.m. on weekends. Bookings are done through Resy.
The menu at Special Club. (Courtesy of Ariel Arce)