Green clubs attract fun-loving like minds

Greenhouse in New York requires patrons also bring green: A table for six must spend $1,000. Greenhouse in New York requires patrons also bring green: A table for six must spend $1,000.
By Steve Morse
Globe Correspondent / April 19, 2009
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It's everywhere. People are "going green" and so are cars, schools, and corporations. Even at nightclubs you'll find trendy changes such as low-electricity LED lights, vertical gardens, and low-flow sinks and toilets - all overseen by someone with a title like "director of sustainability."

"The whole world is taking steps to be green and nightclubs are a natural fit," says Barry Mullineaux, co-owner of the Greenhouse, a posh Manhattan club that opened last November at a cost of $1.5 million. (The theory is that green clubs cost more to build, but save money in the long run.)

"Some people believe clubs represent excess and debauchery, but I believe there's another side to it. There's dance and celebration, but also being socially responsible," says Mike Zuckerman, sustainability director at the popular Temple in San Francisco.

I consulted the ever-vigilant website and found recommendations for the five greenest clubs in the world. These are Greenhouse and Temple, and the Butterfly Social Club in Chicago, Club Surya in London (run by a man named Dr. Earth), and Club WATT in Rotterdam, which has a dance floor with LED lights partially powered by the movements of dancers. Greenhouse and Temple were intriguing, so off I went in search of bicoastal greenery.

My first stop was Greenhouse, on the edge of SoHo. It's a 500-capacity, two-story complex with bamboo walls (bamboo is highly renewable), eco-designed air conditioning, and 5,000 crystals hanging from the ceiling through which colorful LED lights are passed as if this were a U2 concert. Drinks are served in recycled glass (no plastic cups). It's all very progressive, right down to the waterless urinals. And patrons are loving it.

"It's a chance for America to be in the forefront again," says John Viola, a New York University student lounging on a couch downstairs with friends.

"I think it's a great idea. Why not?" says Natalie Ciullo, a radiology technician sipping a drink on the first floor. "My hair salon is also going green, and I'd like to see some hospitals do more, because there's so much plastic in hospitals."

As for Greenhouse, a visitor quickly realizes that another kind of green is also in play here . . . as in greenbacks. It's an upscale place where if you want to reserve a table (it seats six), you have to promise to jointly spend $1,000. You can still make reservations as an individual, but it's risky if you show up without advance notice. There's no cover charge, but you have to look chic or "bring a lot of ladies," says Mullineaux.

Celebrities hang out here, including Leonardo DiCaprio, P. Diddy, Tatiana Ali, and Colin Farrell. "We have a lot of people who aren't affected by the economy," says Mathias Van Leyden, general manager.

Co-owner Jon B says business is going so well that in the next year they plan to open Greenhouses on Long Island in Easthampton, Miami, Atlanta, and two other locales. And the green concept is definitely bringing in customers. Many nonprofit organizations hold weeknight parties at Greenhouse because of their environmental concerns.

"Any way you can get introduced to the green movement is good, even at a club," says Stephanie Abrams, a student who arrived early and stayed late. "My friends all recycle and all conserve water. Everybody is trying to do their part."

At San Francisco's Temple the greening process is in full sway. At the 1,000-capacity, two-floor space, lights have been retrofitted with LEDs and the main floor is a restaurant by day called Prana (meaning "life force"). There's a dumpster out back strictly for composting; and all the used kitchen grease is donated to for biodiesel fuel purposes.

Temple, which opened two years ago in San Francisco's fast-rising SOMA (South of Market Street) neighborhood, has a vertical garden on its exterior walls where they grow licorice fern, rosemary, and strawberries.

Plans call for a geodesic dome on the roof to grow "sky vegetables" for the restaurant, Zuckerman says.

Temple also hosts charity nights free of charge to such organizations as the Rainforest Action Network and Free Burma Project.

"You might think, how green can a club be?" says Phillip Vasquez, a Temple patron. "But we have to look at the big picture. Green is a fad, but it's a fad we all need to embrace."

Steve Morse can be reached at

If You Go


150 Varick St., New York


Sparkling new club with all the green amenities. Reservations encouraged.

Nightly 10 p.m.-4 a.m.


540 Howard St., San Francisco


Gorgeous decor with Asian antiques spicing up the green elements. Admission ranges from free before 11 p.m. by reserving on the website, to $20 after 11 on weekends.

Open Thursday-Saturday until 4 a.m.