Playboy moves into club hub, worries community board



The Playboy Club, located on 42nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenue, opened on September 12th, 2018. Photo: Elizabeth Mulvey.

Under a black awning adorned with a gold Playboy bunny insignia, small groups of people talk and smoke on the sidewalk, and a bouncer and hostess stand behind a velvet rope. The Playboy Club reopened this fall  in Midtown West, 32 years after the original club closed, despite pushback from Community Board 4, which expressed concern about increased complaints from residents and criminal activity in the area.  While patrons come for upbeat music and retro decor, some CB members see the club as a recipe for disruption, public drunkenness and crime.

Midtown West, a formerly industrial neighborhood bounded by 34th Street and 59th Street, is now a hub for large, multi-story nightclubs and gentlemen’s clubs, which occupy the last remaining industrial properties. The area’s proximity to public transportation and tourist attractions, including Times Square and the Theater District, attracts tourists and locals alike.

CB members believe that crowds of intoxicated patrons have contributed to dramatic increases in noise, traffic and criminal activity.  The Playboy Club is located just one avenue over from Manhattan Precinct South — 29th Street to 45th Street and 9th Avenue to Lexington — which has had the highest crime rate of any precinct in the borough for the last two years.  In 2018, it averaged 10 crimes per 1,000 residents. By comparison, the second highest rate of crime, found in Manhattan North Precinct, was just 4.3 crimes per 1,000 residents, according to the NY State crime data website.

The Playboy Club received approval for an on-premise liquor license from the New York State Liquor Authority, despite the CB’s recommendation in December 2016 to deny their application. In a letter to Vincent G. Bradley, the chairman of SLA, the CB detailed their ongoing problems with the location and its previous tenants, Out NYC Hotel and XL Dance Bar.  

“From the time of their opening, those establishments caused major issues for the community,” the letter read. “Including (as reported by the community) noise from the hotel’s outdoor spaces disturbing the residents in hundreds of apartments that overlook these outdoor spaces; inebriated patrons of the club space found passed out on the neighboring sidewalks and even in the lobbies of nearby residential buildings.”

The letter also stated that local law enforcement had informed the board of the dramatic increase in criminal activity and liquor violations at this location and the surrounding public areas, citing 32 police incidents in 2016 alone.

Not all residents feel that the area west of 10th Avenue is unsafe. Lella Dugna, a resident of Silver Towers on 11th Avenue and 42nd Street, regularly walks around at night, and said that crime here is rare. “The police are right next door,” she said, referring to the Strategic Response Group building on 42nd Street. She believes their presence may explain the unusually high number of police incidents reported outside the nightclub.  

Olivia Walker, who has visited the Playboy club twice, does not believe the club will create a disturbance for the neighborhood because it attracts an older, more exclusive clientele. While the bar and restaurant are open to the public, a club membership costs between $5,000 and $100,000 annually, and offers access to a private VIP lounge, chauffeur service, and complimentary hotel nights at Cachet Boutique Hotel NYC, according to the Playboy Club’s website. “The Playboy Club is trying to be classy and it has a strict dress code, so it’s more exclusive and there are fewer people,” she said. “My boyfriend got turned away last time because he was wearing a T-shirt. This spot just does not appeal to millennials, and because the customers are older, it’s just not going to be very rowdy.”

John Loo, who has been living on the block for a few years, has not seen any disorderly conduct outside the new Playboy Club, but he did with XL Dance Bar. “I did see drunk people, sometimes passed out on the sidewalk or struggling to get home,” he said. “They were mostly harmless though.”

By 1 a.m. on a Saturday night, many of the patrons of the Playboy Club had cleared out. A few lingered at the curb, waiting to take an Uber home or to their next destination. The CB has taken a wait-and-see stance. “People are obviously cautious,” said Jesse Bodine, CB’s District Manager.  The Playboy Club did not respond to multiple requests for comment.