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Are workouts the new nightlife? Here’s why former club owners are now opening gyms


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Photo: Instagram/@vixenworkout

New York City is known for its iconic nightlife venues—Studio 54, Max’s Kansas City, The Tunnel, to name but a few. These cavernous clubhouses were where the city’s cool kids used to work up a sweat. But today’s generation of bright young things are less into drug-fueled nights at the disco and more into all-out dance cardio sessions powered by fat balls and kombucha. So, when Nathan Forster and Michael Alfaro (co-founders of the now-shuttered South Beach club B.E.D. in Miami, that yes, had literal beds) decided to open up a new spot in NYC, instead of turning their 20,000-square-foot raw space in midtown Manhattan into an after-hours hangout, they opted for a gym.

“Wellness is the new nightlife, but [we’re] taking it to the next level,” Forster says, speaking exclusively to Well+Good about the launch of Neo U, which opens today. “It used to be like, ‘Hey, let’s go out to the club and let’s get drinks, let’s party.’ But now it’s like, ‘Hey, let’s meet at the gym and get a workout in.”

He’s right. The city’s clean club scene’s been coming into its own for awhile now thanks to roving parties like Daybreaker. But Forster and Alfaro are looking to give it a permanent home—complete with a full-service café and locker rooms with spa-quality amenities (hello, rainbow LED showerheads and teak flooring).

“It used to be like, ‘Hey, let’s go out to the club and let’s get drinks, let’s party.’ But now it’s like, ‘Hey, let’s meet at the gym and get a workout in.'”

Despite its size, Neo U offers a boutique setup and feel with a basement that has a garage-y, CrossFit-style vibe (Forster and Alfaro opened their first box in 2010 in Miami)—plus, three other open-space studios. Expect programming to be constantly changing, including boxing, yoga, bootcamp, and plenty of booty shaking. (The dance cardio divas of Vixen will have a residency there and famed DJ Steve Aoki curated a playlist for its kickoff classes.)

What’s more, the studios are dynamic themselves, each featuring interchangeable equipment and atmospheric projectors intended to turn workouts into immersive experiences. “We can change the color of the walls, put up a [particular class or studio’s] logo, and even make it feel like you’re around the world,” says Forster. “Think the Colorado Rockies, or the Grand Canyon, or maybe you’re in Hawaii on the beach.”

For those not in NYC, before a major case of FOMO sets in, note that by this summer (once they’ve had a chance to perfect their programing), Forster says they plan to launch a live-streaming service. (Like Flywheel and ClassPass, they’ll use cameras in classes to bring the fitness studio home for remote followers.) Being able to club and get your cardio fix without changing out of your pajamas? Please sign me up for that party.

If you’re looking for streaming platforms today for your next sweat session, both modelFit and Body by Simone have got you covered. 

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