If you love community, music, and food, get yourself to Nowadays.
Nowadays is a gathering space that defies descriptors of New York nightlife. It’s not a club; it’s not exclusive; it’s a place for hanging out. Created by DJ duo Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin, Carter says, “We choose not to define Nowadays as a club or a bar or a restaurant because each one of those things feels limiting.”
Open for only the warmer seasons since summer of 2015, the 16,000 square-foot landscaped outdoor space, curated by Future Green Studios, is full of birch and honey locust trees, sodded hills, a bar, food truck, benches, and a sun deck. Young families use the space as a park and restaurant during early hours, adults grab drinks at the spacious outdoor bar, and New Yorkers and tourists travel from all five boroughs to attend parties thrown by Carter and Harkin.
In 2018, Carter and Harkin officially opened an adjacent 5,000 square-foot indoor space—Indoors at Nowadays—to enable year-round programming that includes an in-house food and beverage program, listening parties, dance parties, and classes.
Walking inside Indoors at Nowadays, you see the design creates a space that is inclusive of all of its audiences.
The motif is basically eclectic Brooklyn Loft: tall ceilings, large windows, a plethora of plants, mood lighting with banquettes, and large leather couches along the walls. Instead of being cold, it is warm and inviting—like a home.
But, how on earth did we get here? Weren’t we just talking about parties and nightlife? Well, over the years, clubs have changed.
Before creating their signature Mister Saturday Night party, Carter and Harkin were DJs and music enthusiasts who had lost what they loved about the legendary New York party scene. “We’d been going out for years and throwing parties for years, but after Vinyl [where Shelter happened every Saturday and Body and Soul happened every Sunday] closed, I never really found a club that I liked.”
Vinyl closed in 2002 as part of the gentrification of TriBeCa. If you weren’t around to understand what they missed, the Village Voice described Body and Soul as “the type of party that left pretentious door snobbery at home and welcomed anyone…one that for a short time protected you from the evils of generic music, obnoxious attitude, and bottle service.”
Body and Soul DJ Joe Claussell added, “We created a family. As soon as someone came, no matter what background or what country they came from, they felt like they were at home.”
What Carter and Harkin missed was just that: a sense of family, good music, and fun. So, they started again.
They created a party called Mister Saturday Night, which began at Santos Party House in 2009, but the venue “got mired in all the stuff that made the other clubs suffer,” so they realized the only way forward was to move operations to non-traditional, DIY venues. Luckily, it worked. By 2011, they had developed enough of a community to commit to leasing a space by the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn for the summer where they created a spinoff party called Mister Sunday.
Throwing their own parties gave the DJs creative control to try and capture some of the special sauce from the parties they missed. Over time, they developed rules and published them in 2012.
The first rule is simple: Have fun.
The second is harder: No phones, calls, texting, and photos on the dance floor.
The third creates community: No funny business.
“Funny biz includes unsolicited advances; racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic comments; touching you didn’t ask for; verbal or physical violence; and anything else of that ilk. There’s no room for this stuff at our parties.”
The rules continue but are all in this similar vein. At a Mister anything, everything is about inclusion. The dance floor is for all people to feel safe and enjoy it—actively. If you need a long talk, text, or Tinder session, the hangout spaces and bar areas have ample room. In this way, the heartbeat of the party—the dance floor—is full of people living their best lives. No, really. People have met, fallen in love, and gotten married because of these parties.
The Gowanus Grove space ended in 2013 and searching for a new place inspired the Misters to try to find a long-term lease. After a few years at Industry City in Sunset Park, they found an old cabinet factory in between Bushwick and Ridgewood. That space became Nowadays. Where did they get the money for all this? The community. While the outdoor part of Nowadays was done internally, Indoors at Nowadays was funded by a Kickstarter that aimed to raise $50,000. They hit the goal in less than a week! So, the DJs made bigger plans to raise the goal to $100,000 and finished with $102,762. Talk about creating a community!
Creating Community in Other Cities
Today, Indoors at Nowadays is the physical expression of their parties.
The front is a long casual bar and food counter that opens into a large back room filled with picnic benches that can be disassembled and put into hidden closet walls. Once the benches are gone, the back room becomes a dance floor flanked by two sets of speakers: one for parties and one for casual listening.
The first is custom-made by Craig Bernabeu of SBS Designs and is set up at the four corners of the dance floor to submerge sound throughout the space while allowing you to converse. This design is based on systems from the ‘90s and ‘00s that lived places like Vynl, Twilo, etc. The second is a smaller tube-amp system with ‘70s vintage Altec Lansing Voice of the Theater speakers that were made for movie theaters and invoke the feeling of a Japanese listening bar. Depending on the event, Indoors at Nowadays has a speaker set for everything.
The food and beverage program is eclectic but approachable. Carter says, “We try to serve the range of people that come here.” To do this, they partnered with Henry Rich of Rucola—a farm to table Italian restaurant in Borris Hill, June— a Natural Wine bar in Cobble Hill, and Purslane—a Brooklyn full-service catering company that is “ingredient-driven with a slow food ethos and a vegetable-focused menu.” Henry Rich and his partner, Tom Kearney, loved the idea of serving a clear distinct musical community as all of their restaurants are neighborhood spaces with regulars.
For drinks, they needed to be priced reasonably and accessible to all of its patrons: struggling Bushwick artists, old school Queens residents, adjacent Dominican and Puerto Ricans communities, as well as Mister event regulars.
The cocktails range from $10-$11, non-alcoholic cocktails $3-$6, and wine $8-$11. Prices like these are insane for NYC. While affordable, the combinations embrace trending mixology. Highlights include the Nitrodaze Woke Martini—reposado tequila, ancho reyes, and nitro cold brew, the Deep in Flowers—a non-alcoholic rosewater and elderflower floral soda, and the Calm Black Lemonade—an activated charcoal lemonade.
For food, dietary needs are balanced with the current food conversation. Carter explained the desire for “an approachable menu […] that’s also price-conscious as there are many people who attend our events that don’t have a lot of money.”
“We also wanted to be healthy, for vegans to eat and not feel they had to get ‘the vegan thing,’ the same with vegetarians, and, of course, for everyone else, things like meat and cheese,” he added.
To solve this, Rich and Kearney came up with the idea of selling food that can be an in-between meal or a full meal when multiple dishes are ordered, which is the type of food you find at a smorgasbord or a food truck.
Vegans can enjoy the Falafel Bun—falafel meets Bahn Mi with pickled carrot and fresh hummus—for a quick bite. For more, they can add the Army of One—a smoky rice, mushroom, and red lentil bowl that has an earthy intense aroma of brown basmati rice accompanied by cinnamon, thyme, bay leaf, and clove spices.
A vegetarian who doesn’t mind a little fish can munch on the White Rhino—anchovies, capers, garlic, roasted cauliflower, and sweet red onions on a delectable ciabatta bread bun. If hunger still calls, they can add a Salad Iteration—shredded kale with softly tart Parmesan cheese, savory bread crumbs, and light lemon dressing.
For meat lovers, the Party Promise’s Lebanese—seven spice mix with minced lamb and chickpeas—will hit the spot or partygoers can enjoy the Fried Chicken Sandwich—gruyere and fried chicken paired with sweet vinegar-marinated onions, spicy mayo, and a sesame seed bun.
If people come in a large group, just order all six, add fries and some of the naan-like Chili Flatbread and have a feast!
Nowadays’ food is a fusion of slow-cooked nutrition and spices from the Middle East, East Asia, and Mexico that makes the flavors as inclusive as the Mister crowd.
As the first dining customer at the opening of Indoors at Nowadays, I can attest that the food, space, music, and company made me so happy I lost track of time and didn’t want to leave. I guess, I felt like I was home. Hopefully, you will too.