Back in late 2009 my editors at Paris Magazine contacted me about writing an article on the Paris nightlife scene. My assignment? To write a sort of rebuttal to the flurry of articles that had recently appeared in the French and American press declaring that Paris was dead after dark. So I spent the first six weeks of 2010 getting reacquainted with some of my favorite old haunts and checking out a handful of new ones, trying to readjust to a nocturnal schedule and stay warm despite the particularly harsh winter temperatures (and the typical female party attire of not enough fabric).
Yes, bars and clubs have taken a hit due to loud smokers on the sidewalks at all hours and an increasingly intolerant residential population, but there's still much to do after dark if you know where to look. You can read my article in the March/April 2010 edition of Paris Magazine, available in English bookstores and major newsstands (or read it on their website).
For those of you who don't get out much, here's a brief rundown of some of the latest changes and noteworthy additions to the Paris nightlife scene:
Flèche d'Or has reopened after a long closure for renovations. Concerts aren't free anymore (not that €8 including a drink is going to bankrupt anyone, even during la crise), but at least the bathrooms have been spiffed up. Pete Doherty and Gossip (this week, actually) have had shows, and Juliette Lewis will be singing in May.
The Chacha Club was closed down by the authorities in January after the staff were caught dealing drugs (and none too discreetly, it seems), but the latest reports are that they will reopen the end of March. To be continued...
Le Loco nightclub was purchased by the neighboring Moulin Rouge in November and reopened in February as La Machine du Moulin Rouge. For the moment it's still a club hosting live bands (mostly rock and pop) and DJs, but rumor has it the cabaret will eventually incorporate it into their lounge, gift shop and museum.
The upper-level restaurant of the BC (aka Black Calavados) was converted into a lounge bar last year, and is now home to Rasmus Michau's Blitz Tequila Bar through the end of May 2010. It still has the signature glossy black walls and historic fresco on the ceiling, but now you'll also find barmen (and Florian, the flamboyant host in the photo) in real lederhosen, cuckoo clocks on the wall, cartoon toadstool lamps, kitsch 1960s album covers on the walls, a few black garden gnomes, and Blitz tequila from the Black Forest in Germany (yes, the agave is imported from Mexico). There are 40 other high end tequilas and a selection of tasty tequila cocktails that even tequila-haters like myself can enjoy. Open from about 11pm.
L'Etoile, the nightclub just off the Champs Elysées was completely redecorated at the end of 2009 and reopened under its original name, L'Arc. The restaurant and bar upstairs has a contemporary decor with 1960s touches and extraordinary views of the Arc de Triomphe (and the prices to go with it), open lunch on weekdays and dinner nightly. The club downstairs, open Friday and Saturday from midnight until dawn, has the same neo-60s look that actually works much better in person than the photos on their site indicate. The actual dance floor is minuscule (the photo above is of a burlesque dancer trying to do her thing with very little wiggle room), since most of the club is dedicated to table service (no bottle, no sitting down, folks), but smokers will be happy with the little garden outside fixed up just for them. No entry fee, if you can get past the demanding physio at the door.
Le Scopitone, which replaced the old Paris-Paris, finally got its late-night license back in February, so you can now dance until dawn Thursday through Saturday. They still have a nightly program of live music and guest DJ sets, but they're no longer free (maybe Paris nightlife isn't dead, but it sure has become more expensive for tightwads).
In what seems to be a never-ending series of name changes, the club formerly known as World Place, formerly known as Mandala Ray, formerly known as Man Ray, is now called Le 1515. They had a huge openeing night in February, but whether it will be a regular club or only for private soirées is yet to be seen. Hard to pack venues this large. In the photo below, the crowd looks impressive, but few people are actually dancing despite the techo DJs admirable attempts .
Le Magnifique is a classy new bar near Palais Royal that serves €16 cocktails (they are quite good) and sushi (didn't try it). The crowd is mostly, but thankfully not exclusively, 20-something. By midnight pretty much everyone is up dancing to the DJ tunes, which seem to go randomly from 70s disco to 80s new wave to 90s hip-hop and back again. The atmosphere is quite fun, like a more laid-back version of Le Baron (and friendlier doormen). Open daily from 7pm-4am.
La Conserverie has a completely different vibe, hidden on a quiet street between Bonne Nouvelle and Sentier metro stations in the 2nd, it has developed a loyal following by word of mouth alone over the past six months (they're actually a bit obsessed about trying to stay out of the press, IMHO). It has a spacious, loft-like feel with wooden floors, a theatrical industrial decor, and cozy, mismatched vintage armchairs and sofas. The lighting is comfortably dim, the music hip and not blaring, and the food...well, let's just say this would be the place to go if you're hungry AND thirsty and you don't want to eat peanuts or typical bar grub. The British manager Oliver (formerly at Fish La Boissonerie) explains that he chooses all of the best ingredients and regional products. They also have a nice cocktail list and, my happiest discovery, unsweetened cranberry juice. "You'll want to dilute that" warned the bartender handing me a bottle of water, "it's very strong." I like it straight. :-) Read a few reviews here and here. You can also follow them on Twitter.
Prescription Cocktail Club is still my favorite new bar of the past year, and not just because it's on my side of the Seine, but because now they've introduced a menu of gourmet burgers made with "40 day aged Yves Marie Le Bourdonnec French beef , topped with caramelized onions, aged comté and truffled, home-made mayo, all enclosed in made to measure Kayser rolls" (according to a big fan), delish! The Paris Kitchen wrote a great review, so instead of reinventing the wheel, have a peek at their site.
All of this research has actually come in handy for my current project, updating the second edition of the Naughty Paris Guide, due out this fall. Stay tuned! :-)
PS: Word has got out that the legedary Castel's on the Left Bank was sold in January and is being completely renovated by its new owners, who supposedly will be changing everything but the name. A suivre...