Who Killed Disco?

The age of the glittery mirror ball and loud, simple dance music is over.

According to Ian Schrager, as recorded in Vanity Fair’s recent oral history of disco, it “wasn’t AIDS that made the nightclub business difficult. Government regulations did it in.”

Schrager and his partner set up their first nightclub, in Queens, for $27,000. The more famous Studio 54 — or is that “infamous”? — went up for $400,000.

“Now,” says Schrager, a major real estate developer, “with all the regulations, fire codes, sprinkler requirements, neighborhood issues, community planning boards . . . before you even put on the first coat of paint, you’re into it for over a million dollars. What it’s done is disenfranchise young people.”

And it’s not just disco that’s suffered. It’s worth remembering one sad side effect of all the red tape cities and states put up to new enterprises. It leaves the private sector desperate to focus on the surest forms of wealth generation, less able to serve niche markets. Like discos.

Nowadays, to establish and run non-school,  non-work activities for young people, volunteers organize community events, write grant applications and hold out their hats. This crowds out funding for needier, worthier charities, and litters our towns with poorly run government-funded efforts.

Personally, I don’t like disco — but could it be that things were better when entrepreneurs like Schrager set the stage?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

14 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jan
    29
    5:11
    PM
    John Ken

    Building codes disenfranchise young people. Give me a break.

  2. Jan
    29
    7:26
    PM
    Bob Hahin

    Building codes DO cause grief for young people, for example,here in Berkeley,ca. I looked into putting a studio apartment above my detached garage that I could rent out to students/etc. Between rent control and off street parking codes it was not economically worth it. the apt goal was to pay for itself after a few years,but the BS from the city/codes cancelled any plans.

  3. Jan
    30
    6:32
    AM
    Johny A Belgarde

    I wanted to start a training program for high school students.
    I had the approval of the local high schools and the local political establishment. But low and behold I feel prey to the child labor laws.\
    I wanted to give summer employment to high school students as helpers in the electrical trade during the summer months.
    I guess learning to be a drug dealer or other nefarious trades was OK.
    Lets demonize someone who was willing to give them a potential trade and a wage that would support a family.

  4. Jan
    31
    9:55
    AM
    Alex

    John Ken, why don’t you answer the man’s contention? You’re glib answer is not an argument.

  5. Jan
    31
    9:55
    AM
    Alex

    “your”

  6. Jan
    31
    10:16
    AM
    Guilherme da Fonseca-Statter

    So we are supposed to believe (and expect) that all putative entrepreneurs will take into account facts such as “public health” and the environment.
    There is something such as “The Commons”… The latin “res publica” simply mean those “things that belongs to all”… Including the outise appearance of your building.

  7. Jan
    31
    11:56
    AM
    Mike Paulus

    Guilherme da Fonseca-Statter, as the owner and operator of business I have a strong interest in having an attractive looking establishment and also in not killing off my customers.

  8. Jan
    31
    12:49
    PM
    Zen Fro

    Lots of people have died in nightclub fires, even ignoring those caused by terrorism or arson:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nightclub#Accidents

    Is that worse than being “disenfranchised”?

  9. Jan
    31
    4:44
    PM
    stopnthink

    Hey Zen Fro, that list includes the whole world!! over the past seventy years!! Not a strong counter argument. As a percent measuring risk the numbers are very very low.

  10. Jan
    31
    5:21
    PM
    The Reticulator

    It seems there are some people for whom is is not so important that people are safe, but for whom it is very important that we have government regulations that require safety. It’s an interesting psychological phenomenon.

  11. Jan
    31
    5:32
    PM
    JS Brown

    John Ken has no argument.

  12. Jan
    31
    6:47
    PM
    michael

    Guilherme da Fonseca-Statter:

    The great thing about a free country is your ability to not be a patron of any business you disapprove of.

    Don’t think someone is looking out for “public health” or some other intangible then you can deny him your hard-earned money. Or do you think that you’re capable of making that decision for millions of people you’ve never met?

  13. Jan
    31
    7:26
    PM
    Colorado

    I read somewhere recently that codes have driven the night club business from Paris. Paris had a noise control ordinance that was only occasionally enforced. But when the anti-smoking laws drove the customers from the clubs to the streets to smoke, the neighbors could use the noise code to have the club closed down. It is getting so bad that the famous Paris nightlife now ends at 11pm.

  14. Oct
    29
    9:07
    AM
    coolestgirl

    Do you need a liquor license to sell outside a bar?

    I and my friend chanced upon dealing with building and developing a night club business, this training ebook http://www.settingupanightclubbusiness.com/1 appears to be interesting. But do you feel it’s worth it?

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