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Former Inwood Auto Garage Transformed Into Nightclub and Art Space

By Nigel Chiwaya | August 12, 2013 8:09am
  Vacca Grill and Lounge, which opened Thursday on West 203rd Street, aims to transform a desolate section of Inwood into the Meatpacking District.
Uptown's Newest Nightclub
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INWOOD — Don't let its surroundings fool you, uptown's newest nightclub is a visual feast.

Located on a desolate stretch of West 203rd Street, Vacca Grill and Lounge, which opened Thursday night at 416 W. 203rd St. between Ninth and 10th avenues, is a mixture of art gallery, restaurant and nightclub.

And it has enough lights, paintings and sculptures to make patrons completely forget about its understated exterior.

Each wall of the 5,800-square-foot space is adorned with art from several uptown and Dominican artists, which customers are invited to take in while eating from the restaurant's raw bar, seafood and meat menus.

The lounge is the brainchild of artist and entrepreneur Dario Oleaga, who has developed several local venues, including Umbrella on West 202nd Street, Guadalupe, Tette Club and Ambar Room.

The transformation of the space took about a year, said project manager Diego Balarezo.

"We had to break everything down. This was just an empty garage with no electricity, no water, nothing," he said.

The West 203rd Street location — set amid a relative den of auto repair shops — was chosen in part because of its relative isolation from apartments. Balarezo said that isolation will prevent Vacca from facing the problems that plague the restaurants on Dyckman Street, where residents complain that bars have invaded their residential space.

"The Dyckman area is having big problems," Balarezo said. "This was the only area where you can have clubs and lounges without having any issues with tenants."

Vacca will be open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Balarezo said dinner will be served until around 11 p.m., after which the tables will be cleared out for dancing.

The lounge's opening is the continuation of a trend of bars and clubs migrating to the 10th Avenue area in Inwood, Balarezo said. Citing Umbrella, Tette Club on Post Avenue and an upcoming pizzeria lounge planned next to Vacca, Balarezo said the hope was to create an area similar to the Meatpacking District.

"We want to make it classier," Balarezo said. "Hopefully, it will be a destination area for people to come from Jersey, Downtown and upstate."