Photo: Stefano Giovannini
Lil Jon manned the turntables at the SINS first anniversary bash.
It is 2:30 a.m. in a cozy, dark club on the Upper East Side. Rap music reverberates around the room, flocks of waitresses deliver Champagne bottles adorned with fired-up sparklers.
Stylish, 20-something patrons clad in tight jeans and leather filter in from Meatpacking spots like Le Bain, Tao Downtown and Catch. A bearded and sunglassed Lil Jon, still riding “Turn Down for What” fame, mans the music console.
“This place is awesome,” says Dana Burich, a 23-year-old model, as she perches on a banquette and takes in the action. “The music here is fantastic and the crowd is cool…I come with my friends and we always have a great time.”
With throbbing beats, bottle service and beautiful people, it’s your typical hot, late-night party scene — save for the lithe blonde, wearing nothing but a G-string, hanging upside down from a stripper pole, and a long-haired dude buying a lap dance for his girlfriend.
‘I like getting lap dances. They’re fun and remind me of hanging out with my girlfriends at college.
– Stephanie L.
Welcome to Sunday nights at the Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club. Once a week, the East 60th Street jiggle-joint transforms into SINS (Sapphire Industry Nighton Sunday), a weekly party that draws a trendy crowd, big name DJs — Lil Jon, Manufactured Superstars and Questlove top the list — and a smattering of celebs, including Sting, Clive Owen, Mark Sanchez, Dennis Rodman and various New York Jets.
Party promoters Ruben Araneta and Eddie Quiles started the party a year ago, creating the New York approximation of a clubby bacchanal held weekly at the Crazy Horse III strip joint in Las Vegas.
Initially they had trouble convincing top DJs to play.
“There can be skepticism,” says Araneta. “People weren’t sure about performing at a gentlemen’s club.”
One musician who needed little convincing is Lil Jon. Two weeks ago, he manned the turntables as SINS celebrated its first anniversary.
Between songs, he pushed the crowd to make it rain, saying “If you ain’t tippin’, you’re trippin’.” Clearly, he has a soft spot for the venue.
“Afterward, we hung out with him and some of the entertainers [strippers] doing shots,” recounts Araneta, 44. “Lil Jon said, ‘I want to be the resident DJ here!’”
The Manufactured Superstars also had a blast when they spun at SINS earlier this year.
“[It] was interesting and exciting and cool,” says Bradley Roulier, one half of the Denver-based DJ duo. “We smiled more than usual because there were strippers diving around in front of us. A ton of girls were there, which was great. You don’t want to be playing for all dudes in a strip club.”
Some potential performers haven’t passed muster with Sapphire’s promoters, though. Araneta admits that the controversial Chris Brown wanted to play at SINS, but they rejected him.
The club promoter won’t get into specifics as to why, only saying. “We desire a cool crowd and [some people] can get us into a lot of trouble that we don’t want.”
Meanwhile, Justin Bieber couldn’t even get into the club as a guest. Last February, Page Six reported that the singer was barred from the party because “he wasn’t worth the trouble.”
When they’re not keeping Bieber and Brown out, Sapphire’s party organizers work hard to bring in enough girls. Forty percent or so of the Sunday-night clientele is female, and getting them there involves some fast-talking and soft-selling.
“Girls are not used to going to strip clubs,” says James Hwang, 35, who normally rounds up pretty people for Sapphire, as well as Catch and GoldBar. “You need to show that it’s a party — which just happens to be in a strip club.”
But once they’re in the door, many women seem to appreciate SINS’ strippers almost as fervently as Lil Jon does.
“I think they’re amazing and love watching them,” Stephanie L., a slender, 24-year-old brunette real estate marketer who lives in Manhattan, enthuses. “I like getting lap dances. They’re fun and remind me of hanging out with my girlfriends at college.”
Stephanie also says she gets hit on more often in the strip joint than at other clubs. “The atmosphere makes girls more comfortable, and that encourages guys to approach us,” she says.
Mike Gallegos, a Sunday night regular in his 30s who lives in Brooklyn and works construction, would agree.
“The naked girls create a free atmosphere, like it’s the 1970s. Everybody’s chill,” he says. “You get a crowd that goes to the ‘in’ spots, girls start throwing $100 bills at the strippers and, suddenly, somehow, it doesn’t feel like a strip club.”