Paradise Asbury Park, New Jersey


Idylic bathrooms and bright bar lights

Famed for his remix and production work for Madonna and other pop stars, no one in dance music can ignore Shep Pettibone and his influence on this genre. He was one of New York’s most important DJs during the age of disco, and his Kiss FM Mastermixes pioneered the way jocks mix today, be it house or hip-hop. Now the DJ and producer has brought his own brand of nightclub utopia to New Jersey. Pettibone’s Paradise nightclub is located at the former site of The Empress beach hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The club features massive sound and lighting systems, two dancefloors, six bars, a pool, and some of the more renowned DJ’s around today – including Junior Vasquez, one of Pettibone’s more famous apprentices, who graced the DJ booth this past July. But is it really paradise? Pettibone may know music, but does he know nightclubs?

Stalker #1
After driving for a little more than an hour from Brooklyn we finally find this club/bar/hotel owned and operated by legendary Shep Pettibone. It doesn’t really live up to its name if indeed names are a foreshadowing of what is to be found inside. When we pulled up to the club, which had no valet parking I might add, the neon sign made it seem as if we were headed into one of those cheap hotels that billed has-been performers as their headlining acts (like Sheena Easton).
Once we found parking ourselves, pretty much across the street on some disheveled mound of earth, we rushed in to see what would have prompted legendary Junior Vasquez to bring his talents so far away from home. We could hear the music from outside, but we realized once in that it was from the outdoor patio that had its own speakers. The cover was an astounding $25 rather than the usual $10, but that was because it was a benefit.
When we walked in we were immediately surrounded by mirrors, which gave us the impression of being at a strip club. The décor was boring, with nothing more than neon lights reminiscent of something you would see in a club from the ’70s. The staff, though, was friendly and welcoming, which made up for the parking fiasco and the harsh lights bouncing off the mirrors and into my eyes.
After making it inside I found it to be not as bad as I pictured. The drinks were fair as compared to NY clubs, but oddly enough there were 50 cents attached to every price, making your pockets heavy over the course of the night.
Next up was the dancefloor, which was decent in size but nothing like the outside of the club made it seem. (The club is housed in an abandoned hotel, so at first glance it seemed enormous. )
There was an abundance of intelligent lighting and a green martian type of laser, but because the second bar was so obnoxiously lit and so close to the dancefloor it kept the lightshow from working any magic. There was a small stage, but due to the poor performances I decided not to venture in its direction. The DJ booth, which we expected to be filled with extras, was short of space. There was plenty of sound in the room, but not enough of a vibe as the bar lighting kept the children of the night from getting down and dirty. After having a drink or two, I ventured to the bathrooms, and what a trip it was. It was here that I was introduced to all the other bells and whistles this club had to offer.
There was another smaller room with plenty of couches and air conditioning, and another bar. There was also an enormous pool with poolside chairs and tents at both ends of it, making it possible for patrons to get food and drinks without fighting the forces of nature. The music out here was low, making it the place to be when away from the floor. The entrance here was tricky, as it led you right into the hallway where people waited to use the bathroom. This area was always plagued with traffic, as it was the intersection for those waiting in line for the bathroom, using the phone in the phone booth (yes, I said phone booth), the DJ booth entrance and exit, and general cruising of boys/girls. The bathroom was very well kept, even without an attendant on hand (they must potty train the clubbers in Jersey). No overflows, no pools of nasty water, and plenty of toilet paper at all times made it a pleasant experience for even the most obsessive-compulsive patron.
The final room that I perused was a whole other world, boasting pool tables that were in great shape and video games (including Ms. Pac Man), which gave us insight into the era that the club and its décor were obviously stuck in. Nevertheless, it had its own little bar and was quiet, making it the getaway spot for those not into the big boisterous club thing. All in all, I think Shep did a pretty job with the place but hope to see vast improvements in bar placement and dancefloor size if he is to make the city clientele happy. I think that’s who they’re trying to attract, judging by the slogan “not as far as you think” on their website. What it should probably read is, “If you think driving an hour will result in paradise then we have a statue for sale!” I would probably come back here as long as I got in for free, Junior Vasquez wasn’t the DJ, and it was a sunny day.

Stalker #2
The hour drive wasn’t so bad but the parking lot was a bit tragic for anyone who had anything other than a dune buggy. Upon entering the club there seemed to be an overwhelming amount of mirrors but I let this slide since the staff was very welcoming at the door. The bar was way too big and understaffed making it next to impossible to get a drink. What was the deal with the lounge right next to the bar? They should have expanded the bar and moved this lounge next to the dancefloor where it would have made more sense, and kept the dancefloor for dancing. The doorway separating the main room from the rest of the place was reminiscent of the old Space in Miami (if you’ve ever been there then you know what I mean). It could have been worse but I guess the long drive and bad weather kept Junior fanatics away – had they been there it could have been a complete debacle. Bathroom placement was pretty bad. Both of the entrances and exits led into a tiny hallway where no more than two people could convene at any given moment. They were clean though and that made up for the three-ring circus that was getting in and out of them.
In my opinion, this club seemed like it would be better suited if it were open during the day. The pool and the setup alongside it make it the perfect place to frequent after a long hot day at the beach in preparation for a long hot night at the club. I don’t know if this what the owner had in mind, but from the looks of it this is where it’s heading.
Copyright 2003 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2003 TESTA Communications