On Wednesday night, the designated Instagram page for Bossa Nova Civic Club, a beloved Bushwick nightclub on Myrtle Avenue that’s been in operation since 2012, posted a bleak update: a blaze had broken out in one of the apartments above the venue, imperiling the lives of tenants and severely damaging the building. “A tenant was seriously injured and sadly another tenant’s dog did not survive,” Bossa’s update reads. “The building sustained significant damage and it’s safe to say we will be closed for a notable amount of time. We will update soon. Thank you so much for 9 years of support and friendship.”
I just got off the phone with John in regards to bossa, he told me the fire was above bossa, bossa didn’t burn but the water damage and the damage to the whole building means it won’t be opening for a very long time and may not reopen at all but still figuring this out.
— frankie (@frankiefatgold) January 13, 2022
A GoFundMe set up to aid the club’s recovery has already raised over $38,600, but it’s unclear if Bossa will survive. The news has dealt a devastating blow to dedicated members of the Brooklyn nightlife scene, a loose characterization that includes artists and music enthusiasts from all walks of life who’ve found solace, joy and release on the oft-crammed Bossa dance floor.
“To a lot of people in the queer community, techno and rave is a spiritual healing practice, and these spaces are our temples,” Janus Rose, a Brooklyn-based electronic musician and producer, told Observer on Thursday. “They are rare and sacred and it’s a kick in the gut to wake up one day and find them gone. Especially in these times of never ending crisis when we need community more than ever.”
Instagram footage of the aftermath of the fire showed water pouring through the ceiling of the club; the blaze also took place less than a week after a devastating Bronx apartment complex fire claimed the lives of 17 people.
When the pandemic first began veiling the city in 2020, the overnight loss of nightlife and dancing immediately stood out as a particularly devastating element of our crushing new reality. During that time, like so many other venues, Bossa temporarily shut down; when New York clubs finally began welcoming revelers again around the middle of 2021, an ecstatic rush of decadent partying followed. This was as sorely needed as it was overdue.
In a midsummer New Yorker piece, Emily Witt beautifully described Bossa’s unique magic. “It is the rare venue where social mixing happens—queer and straight, younger and older,” Witt writes. “You could go on a Monday and find people to talk to. The music began at ten. Even one or two people could dance unself-consciously early in the night, and by two or three in the morning the floor would often be full. In a city marked by rapacity and a lack of imagination, it was a small oasis.”
Bossa’s shutdown also illustrates just how precarious things are for those who make a living on the nightlife scene. Years into the pandemic, stimulus checks are a distant memory and structural support is thin on the ground. “So many of my friends are nightlife workers, and they are the always the ones who suffer most when these things happen,” Rose added. “The city and the government aren’t going to help, so it’s up to us to show up for our community with material support.”