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A History Of New York’s Tunnel Nightclub

For many of us, New York’s Tunnel Nightclub was our first entrance into the dark realms of Manhattan nightlife.  For 10 bucks you could walk into Curfew, the gay club at the back of the building and walk straight into the Tunnel, usually getting harassed by the pier queens along the way.  The Tunnel was indeed just that, a culmination of subway tunnels used to load freight that would then head to Jersey (or the 11th Ave. freight yards) until that was stopped in the 70’s.  In the late 80’s (1987 to be precise), the club was bought and turned into the nightclub it functioned as until 2001 when the Guliani gestapo slammed it shut with an iron fist.  We came across a great piece from Complex that goes through the history of the Tunnel from open to close.  What’s great about this article is the first person accounts from the DJ’s, door people, coat checkers, security, bathroom attendants, drug dealers, and son on… AKA the ones who LIVED the Tunnel.

Our favorite quote is from the guy whose career would explode during his residency at the club:

Flex: The first night Mecca came to the Tunnel, I remember thinking it was a very awkward space, very narrow with the train tracks.

That about sums the place up.  Enjoy the read:

Source: http://www.complex.com/city-guide/2012/08/the-oral-history-of-the-tunnel

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  • swiss

    That history begins in 1993….it’s interesting, but for many of us the heyday of The Tunnel was the late 80s.

    • Herb

      True indeed. Before it’s reincarnation as hip-hop spot. The Tunnel was one of the dopest deep house clubs in the country and had a huge influence on the house music scene in the mid to late eighties. This story about it becoming a hip hop party washes away it’s prior glorious history. What a let down.

    • sambagirl

      That’s The Tunnel I remember, went a couple of times later on, but the ’80s, nothing like it.

    • Ken Kelso

      The best time for clubs was in the 90s in NYC.
      Now all the big clubs are closed with the exception of Webster Hall.
      Limelight, Tunnel, Palladium, Exit, Life, ClubUSA, Sound Factory, Roxy, Twilo, Crobar are all gone.

  • kilbirt42

    Mr. Giuliani did not close this club; though he certainly did his best.
    It closed when the New York State Liquor Authority revoked its liquor license. I know because I handled the revocation.
    The Tunnel did not contest the revocation which was for suffering and permitting the sale of controlled substances among other things.
    The revocation was never contested in Court.
    It was a place where a young boy of eighteen years died. He died celebrating his eighteenth birthday with ecstasy.
    The drugs caused a person to become overheated and dehydrated.
    His body temperature several hours after his death was well over 104 degrees.
    They sold water after hours at five dollars a bottle.
    An undercover officer once told me that he saw a customer so desperate for water that he was drinking from a toilet. All the sink faucets in the men’ s room were taken.
    The management saw nothing. It was too dark and too overcrowded for management to see anything. See no evil. Hear No evil and be charged with no evil?
    Wrong. The statute 106 (6) of the ABC Law states that a licensee may not suffer or permit disorder. That does not mean an express permission that must be in writing and signed before a notary public.
    They suffered it. They were indifferent. They tolerated it. They didn’t give a tinker’s damn as long as the money kept rolling in.
    They had a shooting there. The victim was in a wheelchair.
    Good Riddance!

    • Alex E.

      Gee, you must be pretty fun at parties. You clearly have no drug or clubbing experience. People like you and Giuliani ruined what was once an amazing scene in NYC. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll are what make life fun and what made America great. There are risks, but most are happy to run them in exchange for those golden nights and years of pleasure we enjoy in our youth. Just like with psychedelic rock in the 60’s, house music and techno could never have been what they were without the drugs. They open your perception to nuanced waves and layers of rhythm that just sound monotonous to the untrained sober ear. And so look what we get now: all that “EDM” garbage! And the drugs opened the people, as well: there was a sense of communion and unity among the incredibly diverse crowds.

      No, New York was once a world leader and innovator. And it was all killed, shut down, extinguished. We’re only now beginning to see the first shoots of new growth after the puritanical clean sweep that extinguished the New York night scene. New York became… the city that sleeps. Congratu-freaking-lations.

      Look, Ecstasy is quite safe as drugs go. The vast majority of problems with Ecstasy and MDMA come from adulterants and additives – the real problem is the lack of honest, quality suppliers. You think all the other, say, European capitals don’t have rampant drug use in their club scenes? Of course they do! I’ve lived in several of them and seen it firsthand. But older folks and authorities are willing to wink and look the other way because it’s something most of them have done in their youths – they’re not as repressed about party culture as the uptight U.S., and they have longstanding nightlife traditions. (I remember a Spanish grandmother in a housedress with her hair in curlers reminiscing, “Yeah, back in the 80’s when you’d go to a cocktail party, they’d pass the cocaine around on a silver tray.” Sounds good to me! Hey, I haven’t done any in 11 years, I’m no spring chicken anymore. But oh, those were great years. Limelight, Twilo, Tunnel, Palladium, Club USA, Arc – too bad today’s generation is deprived. But America, land of the free, somehow always wants to be the nanny state that protects people from themselves.

    • Anonymous

      The Tunnel was the spot to be Saturday night, from 99-2000. Although it started my down whirl spiral with E. It was the greatest times I ever had. Going in on Saturday night,and coming out to daylight on Sunday was a downer. But that’s what The Sound Factory was for.

    • Insufficient Fare

      Damn lmaoooo. I don’t see how it falls on the nightclub, though. Minus the drug control in the place, no one is forcing someone dehydrated or thirsty to stay and drink out of a toilet if they can’t afford water.

      Shootings happen at a lot of places, non-exclusive to clubs. Stop it.

  • Anonymous

    The “G.O.A.T” of clubs….lots of memories

  • Anonymous

    I was at tunnel every Saturday from 97-2000 hung up in the hallway buy the main floor.
    DT was the man… Those where the best days of my life in that club…
    Kids nowadays don’t know nuttiness about clubbing..