‘Way Before the Coffee, there was Starbucks the Dance Club’


“NY Nightlife Time Capsule” by Marc Silvert

Idania & Rafael Martel with Mariela Pérez, Starbucks Dance Club, New York City, June 1982.

You’ve all read about Studio 54, CBGB’s, Max’s, Xenon and the Mudd Club. I think it’s important to document another example of nightlife culture in past NYC—Starbucks disco was a not a club for the beautiful people. If you wanted a prime example of a real bridge-and-tunnel crowd in Manhattan, then this was it. But I bet an icy Seven and Seven (1 shot of Seagram 7, 7-Up and ice) the crowd here probably had way more fun than at many of those pretentious upscale places on the scene. If you lived in NYC in the early ’80s and you watched TV at all, then you couldn’t have missed the endlessly broadcast commercial for Starbucks disco.

Way before the coffee, there was Starbucks the dance club. I just remember one shot of a Farrah Faucet-shagged blonde suggestively sprawled out on a bail of hay located on the “country floor” of the multi-level disco. She was saying something about how much fun one could have here. They also showed the slide, which you could use to get from one level to the other. After extensive research on the net Googling Starbucks, I found no mention of the club anywhere.

Well actually I did once, by a Bay Ridge DJ on Myspace who says he went to the club when he was tanked and remembers very little. Starbucks was like a lost piece of history.

Once, located on an innocuous stretch of 45th Street between Third and Lexington Avenues, the club was carved out of some strange office space. It was fairly small, but had four floors where you could find all kinds of nooks to partake in the many substances so common in the drug fueled ’80s club scene.

After work, during happy hour time, the place would be packed to the rafters from Wednesday to Friday nights—Friday was the big night. I can’t believe they don’t have any after work scene like this now. In the current nightlife scene what do you do, go to a lounge after work to sit on a leather couch and spend 12 dollars for a sour apple cosmo? No thanks. Back then, on a typical week night I remember walking into the first level main dance floor around 6:30 and Shannon’s “Let the Music Play” was blasting out of a series of huge speaker towers on the dance floor. The Bass was so loud you could feel it in your chest. The floor packed with hot Latinas who often stopped there for some after work getting down before taking the subway to their casas in the Bronx. The dance floor was a veritable melting pot of bridge and tunnel office workers out to cut loose after another day of partitioned drudgery. Let’s just say it was a very multi-ethnic mixed crowd. You could see really drunk pick-up teams from Bay Ridge asking every female in the place if they want to go “party.” And in this place, those guys sometimes actually scored. A common sight was the groups of Philippine nurses looking to unwind after a day of wearing white shoes. To add to the mix you had many exotic nationalities in the club due to the many workers from the nearby United Nations. Also a lot of brothers from Brooklyn and the Bronx tearing up the dance floor with rad break dancing, perfectly executing those really cool robot moves. The music was slamming with top 40 dance tracks, and the charts were still filled with great songs. A typical set included cuts like “Wanna Be Starting Something” by Michael Jackson, “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell, that song “Rumors” by The Timex Social Club and Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines.” Yay for Arthur Baker.

There was a DJ on every floor—two of which were disco, one rock and the top floor was country. With no Studio 54 elitist door policy, the club was a truly a peoples’ disco. The second floor was dark and might have had some type of nautical theme. One wall was a line of lockers leading me to speculate that this location was once a school or health club. Smoking weed or doing lines of coke was not uncommon on this floor. The third floor was a balcony overlooking the dance floor on the first floor. More great places to get better acquainted with the very drunk dance partner you hooked up with on floor one. Then there was the fourth floor, the “country” one you kept seeing in the commercial.

And there they were, the stacks of hay scattered all around the sides of the room. There was a bar up there and another small dance floor. You could dance some more, get a Seven and Seven and plop yourself down on a bail of hay next to a wasted legal secretary. What could be better? I don’t remember what else made the country floor country, but I guess the hay was enough. I think eventually they got rid of the hay and it became just another level of this after work disco utopia. What a memory!

~ by Rafael Martel on May 19, 2014.

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