Bossa Nova Civic Club in Bushwick burned in January. Well, technically, a fire broke out in an apartment upstairs, and though it killed one tenant’s dog, it never reached the nightclub; the problem was water damage. Many regulars, thinking the club would close forever, mourned it online. As the artist Signe Pierce effused on Instagram, it had “nurtured and nourished an entire generation. A cultural freakosystem. A haven. A heaven. A technomagnetic breeding ground. Our tribal heartbeat.”
The club opened in 2012, intending to, as co-owner John Barclay once told Fader, “stand in fierce defiance of the Cracker Barrelization and Portlandification of Brooklyn nightlife.” Bossa called itself the “techno Cheers,” only 1,900 square feet (max capacity: 140) of rave room in an event center that once hosted quinceañeras. Bossa was Bushwick’s Platonic ideal of a sticky dive bar, yet it was always something more — scented with incense instead of stale beer, serving White Label yerba mate, with a reliably foggy dance floor bringing in DJs that catered to even the most particular of dance-music “heads.” You knew someone had been doing ketamine there the night before when you spotted a black-ink smiley-face stamp on the inside of their right wrist. Bossa’s identity was even strong enough to be memeable: “She bossadown on my nova like it’s her civic duty in the club.” (The club itself runs a meme page, full of in-the-know jokes for well-under-40-somethings who like to party in Brooklyn.)
The burning of Bossa didn’t come at an ideal time for the rowdy, nightclub-heavy strip of Myrtle Avenue it inhabits. Just a few months before the fire, someone was stabbed inside the club, and though this next detail is certainly less concerning, the line outside seemed to be getting longer every weekend, sometimes filled with normies from Murray Hill who’d heard about a cool spot under the M train. (There was once an Instagram account that documented the line called @thelineatbossanova.) After the fire, more than $113,000 was raised on GoFundMe to support the staff and bring the venue back. Meanwhile, the clubbers flocked to a new spot just down the street, until that one, Rash, met with arson. Then Barclay opened another dance club, Paragon, around the corner, though it was far too big and too sparkly to satisfy Bushwick sensibilities. (One employee suggested to me that Paragon was built as a booby trap for those Murray Hill kids once Bossa inevitably came back.)
Bossa did reopen in October. Inexplicably, it looks almost exactly the same as before, down to the graffiti on the toilet seat that reads ENJOY YOUR PISS :). Security seems stricter, and the corner it occupies is brighter owing to a new convenience store next door, making it harder to skip the restroom line and enjoy your piss outside. “It also just smells right. Like sandalwood, industrial cleaner, sweat, and, let’s just say, chemical residues,” says McKenzie Wark, a writer, professor, and raver-about-town who threw her 60th birthday there last year.
On the night I return, one friend whispers to me, “I have a theory the ceilings are higher.” (They did look, upon closer inspection, at least cleaner.) Another insists, “It’s the same. All the same. They didn’t even fix the floors.” As before the fire, it’s still a perfect place to spend a weeknight. If you’re not doing poppers on the dance floor, the music is just loud enough to listen to but not so loud that you can’t gossip. On the sidewalk out front, at least three people ask if they could bum a cigarette, and it doesn’t even bother me.
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