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Last dance, new chance

The Garden City Hotel's upscale nightclub has witnessed

more than two decades of fashion trends, music and celebrities through its

several incarnations and name changes. And now it's about to undergo yet

another identity shift, perhaps the biggest in its career.

The hotel's Posh Ultra Lounge threw its last Thursday night party open to

the public yesterday, bringing down the curtain on a storied history that began

in 1985, a nightclub scene of $3,000 suits, Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs and

free-flowing Cristal.

The nightclub will retain its name - Posh - but will undergo a minor

facelift and reopen as an upscale venue for everything from corporate and

charitable affairs to culinary events, said Brian Rosenberg, Garden City Hotel

vice president of sales and marketing.

The nightclub scene has changed, Rosenberg said, and the general nightclub

trend on Long Island is toward more casual dress - a style that doesn't quite

fit the hotel's image or that of the hotel's two restaurants - Rein Bar &

Bistro and Polo, the more tony of the two.

"We're not closing," Rosenberg explained. "We're just adapting to our

environment and our strengths."

The Garden City Hotel's strengths, according to Rosenberg, involve catering

to a growing customer base looking for more upscale venues and an experience

more in line with what its two restaurants offer. Polo has been rated among the

top restaurants on Long Island, and the hotel's executive chef and wine

director, Steven De Bruyn, has won critical praise for the food at Polo and

Rein.

The change "gives us more room to play," De Bruyn said. "This is not going

to be a regular, standard banquet room. And for me, it's an opportunity to be

unique."

Pairing dinners with beer is one way De Bruyn plans to make use of the

space. Beer enthusiasts have difficulty finding upscale beers at restaurants,

he said, even when it's obvious that a wine won't pair well with certain

dishes, particularly spicy ones. So, in October, he plans to use Posh as a

venue for beer-pairing dinners, similar to the wine pairing dinners offered at

Polo, he said.

"That would be a great room to do it in, and it's less stuffy than Polo,"

he said.

Posh and its previous versions - which have been managed by Rosenberg for

17 of its 22 years - have built a reputation as tough competitors, outlasting

many a challenger. But this time, Rosenberg and the Garden City Hotel have made

an agreement with one of Posh's fiercest contenders: Mirage, a Westbury

nightclub.

Mirage has agreed to absorb about 90 percent of Posh's core staff of 50 and

provide free limousine service and admission to the club for the hotel's

guests. Mirage also will have access to Posh's mailing lists.

John Smythe, owner of Mirage, said he was "absolutely shocked" when he

heard that Posh would no longer be a nightclub.

"Twenty-two years for a nightclub is unheard of for Long Island and New

York City," Smythe said. "It's been like an institution."

Smythe said he views the merger of Posh's staff, particularly the

bartenders, as a "blessing." Though bars in nightclubs tend to be more

impersonal than watering holes, Smythe said good bartenders at the popular

clubs have a following, and he's hoping to draw some of Posh's following to his

club.

Since Posh's inception as Club G in 1985, the Long Island nightclub

industry has blown through many trends and seen the population of clubs drop by

at least half, according to Keith Hart, a veteran of the Long Island club

industry and now owner of the Hart Agency, a marketing, advertising and

modeling agency in Farmingdale and Manhattan. There were more nights to go out,

he said, and, for many, nightclubs served the purpose now claimed by Internet

dating services.

"Years ago, if you had a disco ball and a sound system and you opened up

somewhere, you were successful," he said. "Three to five nights a week you were

open." Posh's schedule was Thursday and Saturday nights.

Today other forms of entertainment vie for people's time, and the

competition among nightclubs has intensified. Renovating and reinventing the

club every four years became a must after about 1995, Rosenberg said. Club G

became Dallenger in 1996 and then emerged as Blu in 2000. Shortly after Mirage

was launched, the Garden City Hotel's club transformed into Posh.

Until recently, Posh and Mirage battled "like cats and dogs" for the

partying population, Hart said. When one club brought in a famous DJ, the other

would bring a celebrity name to spin the next night. These days, Hart said,

clubs attempt to elevate their image by bringing in celebrities.

Rosenberg expects the celebrities to continue to come.

"The celebrities we get here, their tastes have changed," Rosenberg said.

"Back in the day they loved the club, now they like Rein and Polo."

And, he hopes, the new Posh.

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