After only two and a half years in the Elm City, Image Nightclub may leave New Haven as plans proceed to demolish the club in order to make way for a new high school campus.
Months after the city informed Image Nightclub — along with a nearby dry cleaner, tire company and restaurant — that it would have to close its doors by December to make room for the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School, Image Nightclub owner Dennis Dean said his plans for relocation are still up in the air. Although he is still in the midst of negotiations with the city, Dean said he probably will not relocate to a downtown location because he does not want to risk being forced to relocate again.
Dean said he acknowledges that the Arts COOP will benefit the downtown, but he said he finds it puzzling that the city is putting the school in the middle of a nightclub district and is unsatisfied with the lack of attention city planners paid to nightclub owners’ desires.
“Input from the nightclub owners has [not] been a factor at all,” Dean said. “City planning comes up with an idea … and they implement it. No one has ever sent me a survey.”
Although city officials said the forced relocation of Image Nightclub is unfortunate, Deputy Director of Economic Development Tony Bialecki said the revitalization of downtown areas will inevitably displace some current tenants. But he said the long term benefits of a plan to make downtown a leading arts and education center — which includes the relocation of Gateway Community College to the current Coliseum site — will pay off.
“It’s an issue to displace some other potential development, but in the long run it ties into a strategy [for arts and education] strength downtown,” Bialecki said. “Both Gateway and this school will just add so much in terms of facilities … [and] generate new programs and new interactions within the arts sector.”
School Construction Coordinator Susan Weisselberg said the removal of Image Nightclub will not affect the overall character of Crown Street, which is currently occupied by a handful of other nightclubs.
“We met with a lot of neighboring property owners … on COOP’s effect downtown,” Weisselberg said. “The general sense was that the loss of one club on Crown Street did not imperil the nature of Crown Street. We believe its identity will remain intact.”
The building that houses Image at 230-232 Crown Street, which is on the National Register of Historical Places, sits on one of 30 potential sites originally considered for the relocation of the Arts COOP, Dean said. Unluckily for him, Dean said, his location was ultimately chosen for the school’s new grounds.
“If this were the lotto, I’d be ecstatic,” Dean said. “I can’t even win a drawing at a PTA meeting if I buy 20 tickets for my child, but I won this one.”
Dean said relocation will be financially difficult because Image Nightclub draws much of its business from Yale students, and relocating to a site farther from the University will affect the nightclub’s profitability. Although the city is paying for all physical relocation costs, it will not pay for lost revenue from students, he said.
Regardless of the perceived benefits of moving the Arts COOP downtown, some at Yale, especially student organizations that use the nightclub for special events, said they will feel the absence of Dean’s club. The Yale International Relations Association has held a party at Image Nightclub for two years, and the organization will miss having events at the club, YIRA member Stephen Kappa ’07 said.
“We used it last year and will be using it again this year for our Model UN conference,” he said. “YIRA members themselves really enjoyed their experience there. The dance floor is great, and the owner was easy to work with.”
But some students said the club’s loss will not have a large effect on the local party scene, especially in light of the increase in popularity of other nearby clubs.
“I think that other clubs such as Hula Hank’s have overtaken it,” Peter Enestrom ’06 said. “People just don’t want to go [to Image].”
Despite competition on Crown Street, Dean said he has built up a profitable rapport with Yale students over time.
“It took me a long time to build a relationship [with Yale students],” he said. “All of the sudden [the city] pulls the rug out from under you, and you’re gone.”
Construction on the Arts COOP is projected to begin in the spring of 2006. Although Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 can still prevent demolition of the historic building that currently contains Image Nightclub, city and school officials plan to tear down the building to accommodate the Arts COOP.