New Jersey Makes Noise



Take a seat and soak up the sound... it's Bliss. (Photo credit: Rahav Segev)

Bliss and Deko Lounge give NYC a run for its DJs.
By Chrissi Mark

Bliss, Clifton
With video dancing along projection screens, across LED tiles, onto curtains and behind a trickling waterfall; an energetic Turbosound-based sound system; and European-inspired décor, Bliss is an environment focused on interplay of elements: All the club’s a stage.

“I wanted people to feel like they’re in New York, Miami, Las Vegas,” owner Tommy Dorfman says. “Not New Jersey.”

But the Big Apple’s legendary nightlife is the inspiration for first-time owner Dorfman’s maiden voyage. With a decade of promoting experience in NYC clubs, Dorfman knows how to throw an over-the-top party. He credits former Sound Factory owner Richard Grant (who he calls “the master”) with inspiring Bliss’ theme parties.

“I have crazy people in here with stilts, people glowing, a guy lying on a bed of nails, all different things and shows,” says Dorfman. “I always want to keep it entertaining and fresh for the guests.”

Since opening in December 2006, the 1,000-capacity club already has thrown a white hot “Winter Wonderland” party with some 15 snow machines filling the club, plus a few devoted to pumping out two feet of snow on stage for snowboarders doing tricks. And Dorfman topped it all off with an entirely white-adorned staff and dozens of dancers performing choreographed shows.

But theme parties aren’t the only resource Dorfman brought from his SF days. There he met Joe Lodi of Advanced Audio Technology (, sound designer of a myriad of clubs and lounges in NYC, including Home, Dirty Disco and Buddha Bar. Dorfman wanted Lodi to put in a system that would make the place comparable to any 1,000-capacity room in the country. So Lodi opted to anchor Bliss’ system on Turbosound’s Club World Award-winning Aspect Series because, he says, “in our opinion, it’s the tightest, cleanest box out there.”

Eight of the TA-500 speakers, paired with TSW 218 subs, line Bliss’ dancefloor. “What’s very cool about Aspect tops is that they don’t lose any of the frequencies off-axis,” Lodi says. “And [the TSW 218] is the most round-sounding sub we’ve ever heard.” The result is a high-energy room with plenty of room for bottle service types in white cubby-like tables flanking the dancefloor’s perimeter, and spectators sprawled throughout the front of the room in plush seats, or buzzing near ample bars.

Bliss also has an array of visuals that include video streaming or mixed from a Pioneer DVJ through Color Kinetics iColor Tiles and two projectors, as well as a combination of dancefloor lighting and LED illumination everywhere else. So keeping the light-to-darkness ratio in balance is entirely up to the LJ. “You can come in here one night and then come in the next night, it looks completely different,” Dorfman says. “The light guy has complete control.”  

The architectural lighting was designed to complement the all-custom décor, a collaborative effort imagined by interior designer Pedro Ponz and lighting designer Dougie Lazer of XS Lighting while the walls were stripped (a tabula rasa for wiring possibilities). Though a design veteran, Bliss is Ponz’s first “total club,” and he didn’t overlook a single detail, from the grand conic lamps surrounding the VIP section to the LED-controlled sinks in the bathroom. The men’s room even features open lip urinals – a Club Systems favorite (from Dutch company Bathroom Mania!).

“I saw so many rooms and I took what I liked and what I didn’t, from the flow to the look and everything,” says Dorfman, who also was heavily involved with the design. “I have beautiful VIP rooms, but I still have five bars.” To adjust to varying crowd sizes, the club’s front area can be closed early in the night to keep the main space lively, and opened as the heavy traffic enters.

And they’re planning for more heavy traffic, booking more top DJs and likely adding a rooftop next summer with a retractable roof. “The monitors in the booth are nuts,” says Lodi. “So powerful, loud and tight; any of the big DJs would like to play in that booth.”

Lazer says it marked the install’s success when Jonathan Peters played: JP’s notoriously gear-demanding manager didn’t ask to add any rental equipment to the set-up. “We gave [the owners] the A, B, C plans and they went with A all the way,” Lazer says. “It’s one of the top 10 best clubs I’ve ever done.”

And to Dorfman the result is just as priceless. “Nobody compares it to a Jersey club, which is exactly what I wanted,” he says.

Deko exudes a warm design, crafted to follow nightlife trends.
(Photo credit: Johel Berrios Jr./Chill Designs)

Deko Lounge, Sayreville
If the world was built in six days, why not a club extension? Breaking ground on a Monday, 8,000-square-foot Deko Lounge debuted its six-day patio renovation the following Saturday. And blowing the deadline was not an option. Superchumbo had already been booked to spin for the celebration inside, with Richie Santana in the lower level B Lo lounge, and pricey celeb jock DJ AM outside to christen the new space.

“That’s what separates us,” says owner Dimetri Rexinis. “Who would hire DJ AM for a crowd of 100?” Let alone charging only $10 at the door. “I won’t make a dollar with what I’m paying him,” he adds. “But I’m not doing it to make millions. You don’t stay open for 15 years under the same name by taking advantage of people.”

Though Deko is in its fifth year of operation, Rexinis’ other club, Abyss, which he co-owns with brother Kosta, has been open since 1992. The two venues, literally across the street from one another, have reared a clubbing destination some 30 miles from Manhattan. “Like any other [NYC area] club, it’s a Jersey crowd, which has supported New York nightlife for a long time,” Rexinis says. “A lot of New York clubs don’t want to admit that.” And though Deko pulls significantly from the five boroughs as well as Long Island, Boston and Canada, Rexinis’ mostly Jersey regulars reportedly tell him, “I’m happy I don’t have to drive to the city to get this vibe.”

Rexinis’ hands-on approach has kept the club drawing not only a steady crowd, but A-list DJs who’d normally book their Big Apple dates in New York City proper. His renovations include everything from a recent revamp of B Lo to adding a hip-hop/mash-up DJ (DJ Klutch) to the resident roster.

“It’s [the residents’] job to come in and show [the patrons] what’s new and up-and-coming,” Rexinis says. “We, as owners, want to keep it fresh, and it’s their job to show [the clubgoers] the next big thing.”

Head resident and local boy Richie Santana – the face and heart of the club – does it all: He plays weekly at Deko, and monthly at the superclub over the bridge, Pacha New York. He produces underground tribal records for cult fave international labels like Stereo Productions, thus securing a global fanbase and the friendship of superstar DJs. And he keeps his finger on the pulse, sacrificing ego to spin at Deko’s teen nights. Scores of minivans taxi the 13- to 18-year-old enthusiasts to each event, who leave little question about the future of the scene. They mouth the words to the vocals, and stay up on the newest music, club-wear, dance moves and energy drinks.

With one eye on what’s coming next, Rexinis keeps the other on what’s hot now, bringing big-name and big-draw DJs to Dirty Jerz. He tips the hat to N.J. native Erick Morillo for popping the cherry at Deko five years ago, paving the way for more “big DJs” to jump in. “People like Victor Calderone, Roger Sanchez, and Chus & Ceballos look forward to playing here,” he says.

Just like the club’s family-like staff, the design is warm, crafted to follow the latest nightlife trend spotted by the Rexinises: an intimate, house party vibe in place of the impersonal big club feel. Deko’s walls and floors are all wood. The low-ceilinged main room is speckled with quasi-gauche “chandeliers,” actually shade-less lamps hung upside down and fitted with amber bulbs by lighting designer Derek Vasquez of Custom Lighting (Roxy, Sound Factory).

The surrounding club lights are a mix of spots from Coemar, small strobes from Chauvet and a slew of moving mirrors from High End Systems. “In most rooms that are lounges, there’s not a lot of movement on the dancefloor,” Vasquez says. “They want [Deko] to be a party.”

The sound follows suit. Custom designed by Michael Connochio of Sound Environments Inc. (SEI), Deko’s eye-catching white boxes are modified EAW Avalon Series models, powered by QSC amps. The matching tweeter arrays are custom SEI with JBL components. And the low end is SEI’s own CT-18 models, which house dual 18-inch McCauley woofers. The four-way stereo system – nearly 30,000 watts in total – features two zones on the main level and a third for B Lo, each digitally controlled by a Crown IQ-USM 810.

“I don’t think they foresaw how successful they’d be. Lots of Jersey clubs struggle to get a Saturday night going; Deko has four solid nights,” says Connochio. “[The owners] do so much work just to keep it fresh. No grass grows under their feet.”

Even while he’s spending money on booking DJs and improving his systems, Rexinis vows to keep his cover charge as low as possible, and blames ballooning prices for clubland’s recent loss of fun. He wants his kid brother, future progeny, and the entire next generation to have as much fun as he did in his youth. You can feel that clubbing pride and democratic sensibility the second you step into Deko.

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Copyright 2006 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2006 TESTA Communications