The never-ending fascination with 1970s New York night life takes a more tangible form at Night Fever, a temporary bar and gallery that opened last November at the Museum of Sex. Built around a photo exhibit of Bill Bernstein’s explicit black-and-white photos from infamous clubs like Xenon and Studio 54, the bar allows patrons to view the art while sipping cocktails and dancing to the disco beat.
“It’s like a time travel space where you get to see these different examples on the wall and you could try something out maybe for a night,” said the associate curator, Lissa Rivera, describing how the art serves as a how-to manual for partying in that hazy decade.
Previously a lounge and library for erotic books, the large room was given a disco makeover as a new gallery for the Bernstein photos, which were recently published as a book. Serge Becker, a downtown impresario (the Box, Miss Lily’s), was brought onboard to assist on the project and, working with the designer Jason Volenec, created a Factory-esque space featuring foil on the walls, low-slung black sofas, zebra rugs, chrome coffee tables and a constellation of disco balls. At the center of the room is a monolithic Richard Long sound system, roped off like the work of sonic art that it is.
It’s a bring-your-own party kind of place, the scene varying depending on who group-texted friends for a meetup. It’s also popular with creative types who stop in for a groovy happy hour. Later, the crowd is a younger mix of museum guests and foreign students, with the occasional boomer-era disco mama reliving her youth.
Straight-up disco, no chaser. Shimmy, slide and hustle to all those wedding reception favorites like “Boogie Oogie Oogie,” “Ladies Night” and the Bee Gees oeuvre, along with the odder cuts of the era like “A Fifth of Beethoven.” Duh-duh-duh-DUNT!
Enter through the gift shop, walk past the “Fifty Shades of Grey”-theme bondage kits and colorful battery-powered toys, and head all the way toward the back, where a wood-paneled foyer serves as the ticketing area for the museum. There is no admission; just follow the pounding bass beat and enter the gallery-bar on your left.
A throwback cocktail menu features ’70s favorites like Tom Collins, tequila sunrise and whiskey sour ($10), as well as beer and wine. The tubs of Crisco lined up above the bar are not for sale.
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