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The Renaissance Hotel in Chelsea.
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Yelp Users Flood New Nightclub With One-Star Reviews Alleging Racial Discrimination

Customers of Somewhere Nowhere, a recently opened rooftop venue, say the club’s staff have been turning people away based on appearance and race

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Somewhere Nowhere, a recently opened club atop the Renaissance Hotel in Chelsea, has come under fire following customer complaints about mismanagement at the venue and alleged discrimination by its bouncers.

The newly opened venue is located on the 38th and 39th floors of the Renaissance Hotel in Chelsea. The nightclub opened in July, at a time when a rooftop bar with an open-air pool should have been a surefire hit. But less than a month after opening, the venue is now contending with dozens of customer complaints on Google and Yelp, detailing hours-long waits at the door, last-minute reservation cancellations, and bouncers that allegedly have been turning away clubgoers based on their race and appearance.

“I have never been so mistreated by a staff anywhere, and would not come back here if they paid me to,” one reviewer wrote on July 24, 2021.

In a statement to Eater, Somewhere Nowhere denied the complaints. “Due to high demand, reservations are highly encouraged at Somewhere Nowhere. Most people who arrive at the door without a reservation do not gain entry. Guests with a reservation are almost always admitted, pending venue capacity. We do not make decisions at the door based on race.”

A man enters the doors of a building under a series of archways and an ornate hanging letter “R”
The entrance to the Renaissance Hotel in Chelsea.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

For Aniekeme Umoh, a customer who tried to visit Somewhere Nowhere in July, her issues with the club began in the hours before she arrived. Umoh says she received a call at 6:47 p.m. informing her that her reservation for 8 p.m. on Saturday had been cancelled due to “renovations” at the nightclub, according to a voicemail message reviewed by Eater.

Umoh went to another club that evening, but later in the night, she noticed that Somewhere Nowhere had posted multiple photos and videos to its Instagram, which appeared to show the club fully operational and packed with customers. She left a review on Yelp about the experience, which is when she discovered that multiple other Black customers had left one-star ratings, describing incidents in which they say their reservations were cancelled last-minute or their parties were turned away at the door.

“All they had access to were the names of the people who made the reservation,” Umoh says. “In my mind, it’s not far-fetched to see a name of someone who sounds foreign and deciding that you can cancel it.” She claims that she later contacted the venue by phone about the cancellation, and an employee told her that they were not aware of any renovations at the club that evening.

Somewhere Nowhere denied the account in a statement to Eater. “Our venue occupies two floors, which are separate reservation bookings,” a spokesperson for the club said. “Unfortunately, we did have one floor that was not operational that day, and needed to cancel existing reservations for necessary repairs.”

Perenna King, who visited Somewhere Nowhere in July, claims that one of the venue’s bouncers was dismissive of two women of color standing in line behind her, while allegedly showing patience and preference to the groups of white customers around them. “They were specifically targeting people of color at the door... and ushering in people that they deemed appropriate for the club,” she says. King described the venue’s clientele as mostly white and attractive.

“They are selectively picking like they only want white people,” says Monica Pham, who visited the nightclub on July 31. Multiple reviewers on Yelp also claim to have witnessed or experienced similar issues when interacting with bouncers at the venue. Somewhere Nowhere declined to comment on specifics surrounding its bouncers’ admittance practices.

The incidents surfaced among other complaints about management at the bar, making it difficult to say whether the venue’s alleged issues with customers are limited to its BIPOC patrons. Other customers, who are not BIPOC, also reported stories of last-minute cancellations and being turned away at the door in online reviews.

King, who is white, says that her reservation for 8:30 p.m. was cancelled less than 30 minutes before she arrived at the nightclub, after she was already en route, and the next day she was charged a $50-per-person cancellation fee. Meanwhile, Pham, who is Vietnamese-American, claims that two of her friends were denied entrance to the nightclub because they were “too ugly,” she says, allegedly quoting a staff member at the venue. Somewhere Nowhere declined to comment on this alleged incident.

A set of guidelines posted the venue’s website states that “final admittance is at the discretion of the door host and Management. Venue reserves the right to refuse entry to guests for any reason, including but not limited to: underage patrons, visible intoxication, client presents a danger to himself or herself, or failure to adhere to dress code. All reservations are subject to doorman’s discretion.”

A single line on Somewhere Nowhere’s website describes its dress code as “upscale” and “trendy.” As is the case with the venue’s reservation guidelines, “final admittance is at the discretion of the door host and management.”

Discrimination at clubs and other nightlife venues is notoriously difficult to prove, due to the autonomy and discretion that many bouncers wield. Regardless, customers have been turning to Google and Yelp to document their experiences at the venue. The club has 2.9 stars on Google and 1.5 stars on Yelp at the time of publishing. Comments are temporarily disabled from the nightclub’s Yelp page due to an “unusual activity alert,” as of September 8, 2021. “This business recently received increased public attention, which often means people come to this page to post their views on the news,” according to the warning.

Somewhere Nowhere comes from hospitality group El Grupo SN, which also owns the Row House restaurant in Harlem and Hidden Lane, a Union Square bar and events space. The group plans to open a three-story club, bar, and restaurant called Gamehaus in Long Island City this fall, according to its website.

Ahead of Somewhere Nowhere’s opening in July, El Grupo SN co-founders Sameer Qureshi and Nathan Leong expressed their interest in creating an inclusive space “that openly welcomes people and cultures,” according to an opening story from Time Out. “Our focus will be singularly on delivering the best hospitality experience to everyone that honors us with a visit,” Qureshi told the publication at the time.

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