From The Magazine

Inside Gospël, New York’s Most Exclusive Lounge

The cozy SoHo hangout owes its success to a single commandment: You have to be interesting to get in.

by Bryan Goldberg

Manhattan nightlife is notorious for its ruthless turnover rate, so any venue that celebrates a six-year anniversary must be something special. For Gospël, a chic, cozy club on SoHo’s Lafayette Street, it’s simple: It doesn’t feel like a nightclub. “When you enter Gospël, you enter a vortex. You’re not in Manhattan anymore,” says Juriël Zeligman, one of the club’s two managing partners.

“Our success is all about inclusivity,” says Zeligman, a music manager and experience producer who founded the club with Waël Mechri-Yver and James Huddleston (a Jew, an Arab, and a Christian, respectively, none of whom were American citizens when they launched the venture — “it’s a total New York story,” he observes). Being a model with a huge social media following might not get you into Gospël, but wearing a singular outfit, arriving with glittering face decorations, or just giving off the right vibe could get you past the rope. “This isn’t a club for rich people,” says Zeligman, who drew inspiration from his time at Burning Man. “There’s no membership. Our dance floor is for people who are there to have an incredible night.”

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Most evenings, the sidewalk in front of Gospël is full of Studio 54 clamor, but it didn’t start that way. Zeligman and his cofounders began working on the idea in 2016, but by the next year, they’d burned through all of their money and were only halfway through construction. Their dream was on life support until a serendipitous run-in provided them with a way out. “I was walking down Lafayette Street, and I noticed somebody very important sitting at a sidewalk cafe eating brunch with his friends.” Zeligman had never met this world-famous tech titan before, though he knew he was a regular attendee of Burning Man. What did Zeligman have to lose? He interrupted the meal and pitched the mega-billionaire on the concept. “The other three people at the brunch were cringing the whole time,” he recalls, but their embarrassment didn’t matter. Zeligman’s gamble paid off, and the investor — whose identity is still a closely guarded secret — signed on.

Gospël is now the undisputed champion of Manhattan nightlife. Music director Kevin De Roos maintains an unwavering commitment to a Deep House sound that brings to mind the early years of Tulum, while artist Michael Benisty’s sculptures capture a South Asian spirituality that feels 10,000 miles removed from New York City.

Gospël also has a knack for discovering talent early. International House acts such as Ahmed Spins, Amémé, Chloé Caillet, and Carlita booked some of their first performances at Gospël. “Carlita was working behind the desk, but wanted to be in the DJ booth,” Zeligman says. “I told her it was time to change careers, and I found somebody else to do the office job.”

Another key piece of the Gospël puzzle is the private Tribe Room. “The only way to get into the Tribe Room is to be somebody we know,” says Zeligman. Black Coffee, Diplo, and Damian Lazarus are some of the iconic DJs who have played for those crammed into the ornate space, filled with the scent of Gospël’s custom-designed incense sticks. (The club has its own French perfumer, Fred Jacques.) It’s the type of room in which Leo would host a private party during New York Fashion Week. And, yes, he has.

Gospël’s founders are now looking to expand outside Manhattan — literally, this time — albeit slowly and deliberately. For now, they’re doing thoughtful pop-ups where they know their crowd will be. During Art Basel Miami Beach, Zeligman took Gospël to the basement of the five-star Faena Hotel. By midnight, Zeligman was telling lifelong friends and music industry titans that there was no chance of getting them in. They would have to come back next year — and they surely will.

Photographs by Jade Greene

Photo Director: Alex Pollack

Editor in Chief: Lauren McCarthy

SVP Creative: Karen Hibbert