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A Queer, Digital Detox: The NYC Club Where Disconnecting Allows for True Connection

A Queer, Digital Detox

When you walk into Sutherland, one of Brooklyn’s most buzzworthy queer clubs, you’re walking in without your phone. But unlike nights when you may have left it in an Uber after too much pre-gaming, here, you’ll know exactly where it is: stowed away at coat check or stuffed in your pocket in a sealed pouch. If you’re itching to cheat and see who’s zero feet away, there’s on-site technology that keeps you off of Grindr — it’s by Yondr, the same tech outfit that comedians like Dave Chappelle use to prevent audiences from recording their acts.

Once you’ve digested the foreign idea that your night out will be phone-free, you’re primed for a beautifully novel, analog experience. The only way to check the time at Sutherland is on the wristwatch you probably don’t have. Flirting happens IRL, with those glances across the crowd and in-the-flesh charm we’ve come to undervalue. There’s even a forced, cinematic romanticism to sharing your number: If you want to do it, odds are you’ll be scrawling your digits on a vodka-blotted bar napkin. And with the unsurprising, strictly enforced no-photos policy, your only hope for documenting the night is squeezing into a lone, dusty photo booth. Think of Sutherland as a combo of traveling to a weekly Berlin haunt — where phone-check is routine — and traveling back in time.

“No one is worried about what’s going on in the world outside, or trying to contact friends who aren’t here,” says Tad, one-third of the in-demand DJ collective Occupy the Disco, and one of the founders of Sutherland. “It’s a great, magical digital detox.” What it’s not, per se, is a sex party, but what happens at Sutherland stays there. So if you’re looking to land some action in a corner, no one’s likely to stop you, and better still, no one will post it to Instagram.

The Spot: Open for uninhibited business every Friday and Saturday night, Sutherland, on East Williamsburg’s Meserole Street, comprises three key spaces. The bar area — also known as 3 Dollar Bill, and the one venue section that’s open all week — is a rustic mix of brewhouse chic and dive-bar gentrification. The popular outdoor patio is reminiscent of that of nearby Rosemont. Then there’s the dance floor, a massive vault that features a vintage sound system built in the 1970s (it amplified the legendary White and Black parties long held at Roseland Ballroom). The lighting design is by Guy Smith, one of the masterminds behind Fire Island’s Pines Party, and it features an original fixture from Studio 54.

The People: Think femme queers, disco queens, and in-betweens — like 20- and 30-something gay men who alternately sport back-in-the-day facial hair and modern-day bitch face. Hosts include rising New York staple Linux, who considers herself a drag queen but admits she can’t perform. Her job is to show up in a path-clearing DIY look — fashioning herself as everything from guitar to suitcase — and keep guests amped with her gossip.

The Soundtrack: The music at Sutherland is “focused on celebrating queer heritage while also creating room for the future,” says Tad. Friday nights reverberate with pumping disco and soulful house. Saturdays give way to more pulse-quickening realms of techno and house, along with new and edgy pop. The tableau on the floor is a blend of hardcore marathon dancers, a little bit of leather, and a whole lot of sweat.

The List: There’s no list at Sutherland, and every weekend night, no matter who’s spinning, there’s free access before 11, then a $10 cover until midnight, and a $20 charge for anyone rolling in during A.M. hours (it closes at 4 ). Security won’t bite — unless you fight the no-phone rule — but there’s no re-entry, so commit yourself to the scene.

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