When David Vincent’s Manchester, England based clubbing institution Sankeys announced in 2010 it was expanding to the West Side of Manhattan, the news was met with enthusiasm from the city’s dance music community. Clubs come and go in NYC, so the addition of one with as global reputation was considered a much needed shot in the arm. But after the excitement died down, the Manhattan club never materialized, leaving many to speculate about why it never came to fruition. Three years later, Sankeys announced in October that it had secured a new location — the former District 36 space in Midtown sporting a Void incubus sound system, designed and installed by Anthem SSL, featuring the world’s first hydraulic LED Grid Matrix system — and would open its doors on Halloween with a themed night billed as The British Are Coming featuring with (non Brits) Reboot, No Regular Play, My Favorite Robot and Dave Rosario. (Friday’s lineup includes live performances by Amirali and Slow Hands as well as DJ sets from Fur Coat and Tanner Ross. Saturday’s bill features DJ Sneak, Julian Perez and Deep and Disco presents JKRIV).
In an exclusive interview with Sankeys New York co-owner Antonio Piacquadio (an accomplished tech-house DJ/producer in his own right) who is joined in the venture with Carlo Seneca, Robert Toma, Paolo Angelo and Dirk van Stockum, he explains what caused the club’s long delayed opening, how the two-room nightspot will fit into currently expanding Big Apple club scene and where Sankeys might expand to next.
Sankeys has a worldwide reputation courtesy of its successful club in Manchester and events in Ibiza. What prompted you to expand to New York City, a notoriously competitive city?
Antonio Piacquadio (pictured, below right): My passion for the business as well as the underground music scene. I have been a DJ and producer of forward-thinking music before the house music explosion in NYC (late ’80s). I’ve always been based in New York and have been active in the nightclub business as a DJ and operator/promo director for the past 25 years. I felt the time was right for me to open a venue I believed in and the brand was right to bring to NYC.
In 2010, Sankeys announced it was opening an outpost on the west side of Manhattan. There was a lot of buzz and excitement, but the venue never opened. What happened? Did you at any point give up on the dream of opening a club in New York?
I’ve never given up on the dream ever. I am a very strategic thinker. As we were developing the NYC project, Sankeys Ibiza got into some financial trouble. There has never been a successful large scale American operator in Ibiza. The way it works is it usually takes three years to build a brand there if you are accepted. Sankeys Ibiza opened in spring of 2011 and had some hard times. They called upon me, and I had to make a decision. Continue on with the New York project and see Sankeys Ibiza fail, or step up to the plate. Get Sankeys Ibiza Back on track and put New York on hold until Ibiza was stable? The decision was obvious. Our team stepped in and worked side by side with David Vincent to make Ibiza the success it is today. By the time we were able to restart NYC, we realized that the west side outpost may not be the right fit for Sankeys and the 36th St. location became available so we pounced on it. Between that and licensing and dealing with NYC, etc…you can now see why it took us three years. You know what I always say? Perfection takes time and better late than never. (Although it actually is the absolute perfect timing for Sankeys to hit NYC).
“For Sankeys it’s not about the names of the artists, it’s about the music that is played.”
There are several new clubs opening in New York City How will Sankeys fix into the mix, and what will it need to do in order to be successful?
Sankeys will be a club that is very different musically and architecturally than most. Great sound, futuristic lighting and forward-thinking music will set us apart. For Sankeys it’s not about the names of the artists, it’s about the music that is played. That is the significant difference between Sankeys and the other New York City nightclubs.
Sankeys has taken over the former District 36 space. What have you done in terms of décor? Tell us a bit about the sound system and DJ booth.
You will have to come see for yourself. I will say this, it will certainly has a ‘wow’ factor. I can assure you.
“Let me tell you, hitting an opening deadline for a major venue in NYC is no easy task. A hundred things can go wrong to delay our opening. We have corrected 99.”
Bottle service is a contentious issue for a lot of clubbers in America. Some feel priced out of seeing their favorite DJs because they can’t afford to spend a few hundred dollars on bottles of alcohol. Understanding that clubs need to make money in order to stay in business, what sort of balance do you have in mind between catering to both ends of the spectrum.
This has been a very sticky subject in our world. Main problem is that a club in NYC just cannot exist without it. It’s very simple how we are approaching this. No one is expected to purchase bottles. We won’t hold up the door in efforts to force people to do this. However, we will offer it once you get past the door. If you’re the right fit for our venue and there for the music, welcome aboard. It is your option to buy bottles if that’s what you like to do at that point. We will not offer bottle service on the main dance floor, there will be a designated area for that far away from the DJ on the mezzanine. This is our way of solving the problem and making everyone happy. If you want to dance and be with the DJ, great (that’s what we love). If you want to sip your bottles, we have a place for you to do that also. It’s entirely up to the customer.
Let’s talk about opening night! Halloween seems like as good a night as any to open. Did that happen by chance, or was it planned well in advance?
We planned it way in advance. Let me tell you, hitting an opening deadline for a major venue in NYC is no easy task. A hundred things can go wrong to delay our opening. We have corrected 99 [laughs]. We have pushed through and have done the unthinkable. A club in NYC that opens as planned is a harder proposition than it seems. Whew, we made it!
The opening weekend features No Regular Play, DJ Sneak, Reboot and others. What will be the club’s music programming? How will it compare to the bills you present in Manchester?
Actually, we will be following more of the Ibiza Sankeys format. That is our mothership now so the lineups will look a lot like those and will feature most of the Sankeys Ibiza artists.
Danny Tenaglia has played a lot at Sankeys in the UK. Do you see him as a potential resident? Will the club be naming residents in the future?
We love Danny and welcome him with open arms. Hopefully he will love our space too. The rest is entirely up to him! As far as other residents, we will announce them in the coming months but the answer is yes. We do plan on having certain residents. Stay tuned.
Now that the club is finally a reality, what’s the most important lesson you learned about opening a club in New York?
Cross your T’s and dot your I’s. This certainly ain’t Kansas Dorothy!
Obligatory final question: Which city will Sankeys expand to next?
This is a question that has been plaguing the Sankeys family for a while. If I had to guess, Miami may be the next stop but we also have London in the works. It’s a race but either way Sankeys is expanding and will continue to as long as the fans embrace our concept.