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Photo of the first Brooklyn Mirage in 2015 by Amanda McHugh.

The Story of NYC's Biggest Music Venue That Almost Never Happened

ByAnna Codrea-RadoandWill Caiger-Smith

After a shaky start, Cityfox finally have the green-light to open the Brooklyn Mirage. But it took more than money to get there.

Photo of the first Brooklyn Mirage in 2015 by Amanda McHugh.

In our Dancing vs. The State series , THUMP explores nightlife's complicated relationship to law enforcement, past and present.

On a clear Sunday in July 2016, three stragglers arrive at New York's Pier 36 and plead with the crew of the Cornucopia Majesty. The trio is nearly an hour late for the scheduled departure of Cityfox at Sea—a summer boat party from the European dance music promoters on Manhattan's waterways—and they're hoping they can still climb aboard.

Unwilling to bend the rules, the crew sends the late-comers away. The 800-capacity vessel sounds its horn and chugs down the East River as the sun beats down on the deck. Following a warm up set from Mike Khoury, Âme and Dixon will headline the event, purveying the brand of polished house and techno with which Cityfox has become synonymous.

The party was never meant to be on the water. At the beginning of the summer, the promoters had opened the Brooklyn Mirage—a capacious, 2,800-person outdoor venue on the border of Williamsburg and Bushwick, intended to play host to a packed schedule of parties. But within a month of the venue opening, city authorities shuttered it, for safety violations.

The shutdown wasn't the only time the expat promoters—whose blowout events reflected their deep pockets and elaborate aesthetics—had run into trouble with the authorities. Their 2015 Halloween bash was cancelled at the eleventh hour after local residents found out it was taking place on a toxic former factory site—losing the group nearly half a million dollars in ticket refunds and production costs, according to Cityfox. Now, as the summer trickled on and the Mirage lay dormant, Cityfox's dreams of creating a raver's paradise seemed to be floating further and further away.

The tide changed in early April, however, when the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) granted Cityfox a full liquor license, allowing them to reopen the Mirage, in addition to establishing the entire 6,000-person capacity compound that houses it—including two former warehouse spaces—as a permanent music and events venue called Avant Gardner. Located in an old industrial lot across the street from a lumber warehouse and an office supplies warehouse, the venue is a purpose-built party Eden, complete with a huge outdoor dancefloor, two indoor performance spaces, several bars, and viewing platforms surrounding the main outdoor stage. When it reopens—Cityfox are aiming for early summer—the complex will be one of the biggest club venues in New York, and indeed the whole of North America.

At a time when some local venues are struggling to stay open in the city, it might seem surprising that foreign promoters with only a few years experience in New York nightlife were able to secure their liquor license for a venue of such scale—especially given Cityfox's past run-ins with the authorities. But Cityfox had something many upstart promoters don't: links to the financial sector, and access to investors to support their vision.

Their voyage up to this point sheds a light on many of the challenges New York promoters face, from stagnant bureaucracy and tricky local politics, to a mainstream distrust of dance music. With Cityfox now set to return from their river-bound exile, it also poses a question: are money and ambition alone enough to succeed in the New York nightlife?

***

It's a grey afternoon in October, and Cityfox co-founder Jürgen "Billy" Bildstein and marketing director Simar Singh are huddled around a wooden picnic table off the central dancefloor of the Brooklyn Mirage, sheltered by an alcove built into the wall. Billy—dressed in a camel-colored suede jacket and jeans—has just arrived from a meeting in the city. Singh—clad in cargo pants, his wiry hair pulled back into a messy ponytail—has been puttering about the property all afternoon, offering those assembled tangerines. Drizzle patters down on the concrete of the courtyard that stretches out in front of us. The venue has remained closed all summer, and summer is almost out.

"We had this underground sensibility, and then all of a sudden we were so much bigger than even we realized," says Singh, recounting Cityfox's meteoric rise and subsequent fall after the authorities shut down the 2015 Halloween party. "We're planning parties and scheming on how to get the production right, just flying along, and then suddenly you get hit out of nowhere. And it's like, 'Where did that come from?' And then you get hit again."

Austrian-born Bildstein launched the first Cityfox parties in Switzerland in 2006, when he was living in Zurich. By 2008, he had opened Alte Borse, a 700-capacity club decked out with a custom-made soundsystem and metal-panelled walls, housed in the Swiss financial capital's old stock market. A year later, he started Cityfox Music, a European house and techno-focused label with original releases and remixes from producers such as Mark Henning, Jamie Jones, and Nick Höppner.

Through Alte Borse, Bildstein met Philipp Wiederkehr, who at the time was working at a Swiss private bank. After months of regularly attending the club's string of sold-out nights—which featured names like Lee Curtiss and Pan-Pot—a mutual friend introduced him to Bildstein, and the pair quickly forged a business partnership to expand Cityfox even further.

From left to right: Billy Bildstein, Simar Singh, Philipp Wiederkehr. Photo: Brian Park

Unlike many underground party promoters, the partners had a legitimate business background. Before throwing himself full time into Cityfox in 2006, Bildstein had spent a short while working at the German insurance firm Allianz, and then at a private bank. Wiederkehr had been employed at a string of financial firms before starting his own company, Wiederkehr Associates, in 2010—now a multi-million dollar private equity and asset management firm that oversees the fortunes of some of Zurich's wealthiest companies and families. In 2014, he also launched a sister company focused on real estate investments, Wiederkehr Real Estate.

When the four-year lease on the Alte Borse space expired at the end of 2011, Bildstein and Wiederkehr joined forces to find a replacement venue, drawing on Weiderkehr's real estate expertise. When they failed to find one in Zurich, they set their sights across the Atlantic.

Bildstein and Wiederkehr had landed in the city with impeccable timing. At the turn of the decade, New York's underground party scene was finally starting to show signs of recovering from mayor Rudy Giuliani's crusade against nightclubs in the nineties. Since the late 00s, clubbers and promoters had been crossing the East River, turning once-industrial neighbourhoods of Brooklyn into an increasingly fertile land for electronic music. DIY promoters were able to pull off parties on a shoestring budget—often illegally—without too much drama.

But Cityfox were different from other promoters in the city. For a start, they were outsiders, lacking the institutional knowledge of the city more seasoned NYC heads possessed. They also wanted to throw much larger events than their peers. And—crucially, as it turned out—they had strong ties to the Swiss finance world.

To get their foot in the door in New York, they worked with existing party crews. The group's first party in the city, in 2010, was a low-key affair: a label showcase for Cityfox Music, hosted by veteran New York promoters Wolf & Lamb, whom they'd met on the international party circuit. New York's BlkMarket Membership then hosted Cityfox Music in 2011. With the help of Gunita Nagpaul—Singh's cousin and an established US promoter—Cityfox produced their own label showcases in 2012 and 2013.

"[Cityfox] were a boutique label just starting out like we were," Wolf & Lamb's Zev Eisenberg, who helped organize the showcase, told THUMP. The DJ and promoter—who has been has been throwing parties in the city since the early 2000s—says he noticed early on how passionate the crew were about music, and how much attention they paid to detail. "They were super ambitious, honest, full of energy," he said.

But the label showcases were just the beginning of Bildstein and Wiederkehr's plan to conquer New York. Over the years, Cityfox became a recognizable party brand, heralded by its iconic fox logo. The fox theme stuck; when Bildstein and his team started a separate events production company in 2013, they called it Reynard Productions, after the medieval french word for "fox." "Reynard" also refers to a silver-tongued human-fox character from many western fables known for its intelligence and cunning.

By 2014, Cityfox was regularly bringing top DJs like Mano Le Tough, Solomun, and Maceo Plex to one-off warehouse parties in Brooklyn, in addition to producing a Halloween event for Life and Death, the deep house label founded by DJ Tennis and Thugfucker. According to Cityfox, all their massive events were run above-board, with the necessary permits.

Singh, a former corporate lawyer who joined Cityfox as head of marketing in 2011, said the crew aimed to differentiate themselves from other warehouse parties in the city by increasing the visual and sonic impact of the experience. "The concept was to bring the European Cityfox's high production values and attention to detail to NYC, and showcase artists we thought deserved the platform," he said.

That attention to detail came at a price. Tickets to Cityfox's parties in 2014 often ran up to $80, compared to the $20-30 that fellow Brooklyn-based promoters Resolute charged for parties in similar warehouse locations. But Cityfox always insisted the premium they charged was worth it—their events were larger, with bigger DJs and superior sound and decoration.

In the summer of 2015, Cityfox opened their first semi-permanent New York location, the original Brooklyn Mirage, a couple of blocks from where the new site stands. True to its name, the venue was only intended to last for one summer, hosting 5000-strong parties every weekend from July to September before the temporary structures were dismantled.

Local media outlets like DNAInfo dubbed the venue a "pop-up club," referring to the fact that the Brooklyn Mirage was a temporary live music event space. At the time, Cityfox did not realize this phrase would come back to bite them. The press fueled a steady stream of revelers, who flocked to the Mirage for big-name tech-house DJs like Stephan Bodzin and M.A.N.D.Y throughout the summer, as well as other parties hosted at the venue, like Lee Burridge's All Day I Dream and several charity events.

Photo of the first Brooklyn Mirage's 2015 closing party by Amanda McHugh.

The Brooklyn Mirage's closing party on September 26, 2015—featuring Adriatique, Frank & Tony, and Alexi Delano, among others—was the royal flush in Cityfox's high-stakes gamble on New York nightlife. The resounding success of the season cemented the crew as slick professionals who threw parties with the right amount of flash while paying homage to the underground.

But things were about to go very wrong.

Buoyed by their recent success, Cityfox went big for Halloween in 2015. Since their lease had ended on the Mirage, the team found a new space for the party: the abandoned NuHart plastics factory in Greenpoint. They charged between $50 and $80 to 4,500 ticket holders for the blowout event, which featured Lee Burridge, M.A.N.D.Y, and Behrouz.

But on the night of the party, as a line of revellers snaked around the block waiting to get in, the fire department showed up and shut down the party, citing safety concerns. Unbeknownst to many of those present, the factory was a polluted superfund site scheduled to be cleaned by the government.

The NuHart plant was a sore point among locals, who had long battled to have the site cleaned up because they suspected that the chemicals from the site were making people sick. The factory closed down in 2004, but it wasn't until 2010 that state environmental officials declared it toxic and started their work to make it safe. When resident Laura Hoffman found out about the party, she distributed flyers around the neighborhood encouraging others to call 311 to get it shut down.

"If you can have a rave with 8,000 people on top of a state superfund site, there's something really screwed up with your communicat­ion," Hoffman told the Brooklyn Paper at the time, angry that government agencies had allowed the party to be organized in the first place.

Cityfox claimed in a Facebook statement that they had in fact procured all the permits—from the State Liquor Authority and Department of Buildings—they needed to throw the party. They also told THUMP they didn't know the factory was a sore point for local residents. 

City officials pointed fingers—Kings County Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, who presides over the district where the plant is located, blamed the permitting authorities for not researching the venue's history. "The agencies did not really look very carefully at where the party was located—in a superfund site—and they issued a permit anyway," he told THUMP. (In November 2016, a year after the doomed party, the developer Bo Jin Zhu of Dupont Street Developers LLC, who owned the factory, was fined $150,000 for environmental violations for allowing the party to be planned on the site.)

"We had this underground sensibility, and then all of a sudden we were so much bigger than even we realized."—Simar Singh, Cityfox

The fact that Cityfox was able to secure the permits inadvertently opened a can of worms; it implied the city's agencies weren't regulating one-off parties properly. After the Halloween debacle, authorities latched on to the phrase "pop-up" to describe clubs and parties," and—like the term "rave" in the 90s—used it to target nightlife in the area. In November, Lentol wrote to the State Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, asking him to "investigate the pop-up party industry in New York City."

For promoters in New York, the incident shone an unwelcome light on an underground warehouse scene that relies heavily on keeping a low profile by maintaining good relationships with law enforcement and local communities. For Cityfox, the Halloween shutdown was catastrophic. In addition to nearly half a million dollars lost in unrecoverable production costs and ticket refunds, there was the discrediting of the brand and the burden of explaining the difficulties of organizing such events to disappointed partygoers, said Singh.

"The following months were some of the worst of my life," he told THUMP.

***

The financial hit alone would have sunk many promoters. But Bildstein and Wiederkehr had an ace up their sleeve—Wiederkehr's work in the financial sector, which gave them access to wealthy investors looking for new ways to put their money to work.

Cityfox is the name most clubbers will recognize, but it is basically just a brand name, supported by a group of separate corporate entities: Reynard Productions, an event production company; Avant Gardner LLC, the operating entity behind the new venue; and Cityfox Music, the music label.

Photo of the Brooklyn Mirage in 2015 by Amanda McHugh.

Those companies are all separate from Wiederkehr Associates, which Bildstein told THUMP had never been involved in funding Cityfox's events—at least, that is, until 2016. Indeed, without Wiederkehr's financial connections, Cityfox would not have been able to bounce back from the huge losses they suffered when the Halloween event was shut down.

In the spring of 2016, Cityfox decided to build another venue, called Avant Gardner, which included The Brooklyn Mirage as the seasonal outdoor space. Wiederkehr used the Mirage's first incarnation as proof of the lucrative business Cityfox could bring to predominantly industrial property in East Williamsburg, and eventually convinced some of his investors to finance the purchase of a permanent warehouse space that Cityfox would convert into a year-round venue.

So it was that in 2016, Wiederkehr Real Estate bought a set of buildings on a block-sized lot in East Williamsburg, on Meserole Street between Stewart and Gardner Avenues, a stone's throw from the first Mirage. The investment threw the crew a financial lifeline. Bildstein and Wiederkehr set up Avant Gardner LLC to rent the property from WRE. In return, WRE provided Avant Gardner with what is known as a Tenant Improvement Allowance—cash to transform the empty warehouses into an epic music and entertainment venue.

"The investors wanted to diversify and they liked the economics of the entertainment business," Wiederkehr told THUMP. "It's been an up-and-coming market over the last couple of years."

Over the following months, Cityfox set about building an opulent events venue that could house 6,000 people. It featured the latest KV2 sound equipment, along with more bars, more space to chill out, and more indoor areas than the first Mirage. As with their first outdoor venture, the team enlisted Marc Dizon—an interior designer whose portfolio of past work included New York nightclubs Output and Marquee as well as the swanky Hakkasan restaurant in Las Vegas—to help craft the space.

The venue's centerpiece was a huge outdoor courtyard, sandwiched between a vast warehouse known as the Great Hall and a smaller indoor space called the King's Hall and encircled by a 360 degree elevated walkway offering visitors panoramic views of New York City.

From a high wall overlooking the main courtyard, a sign of neon letters the crew commissioned from artist Olivia Steele flashed as if in testament to Cityfox's ambition: "If not us, who? If not now, when?"

***

As it turned out, the summer of 2016 was not Cityfox's moment.

In anticipation of the Mirage 2.0's opening party on May 21, the Cityfox team had applied for an armful of permits from the city's various government agencies. First, they got a Temporary Place of Assembly certificate (TPA), issued by the Department of Buildings and "required for temporary premises where 75 or more members of the public gather indoors or 200 or more gather outdoors," according to the DoB's website. The TPA was a standalone permit issued specifically for the opening party.

To serve alcohol at the party, Cityfox applied for a special event permit from the New York State Liquor Authority. Cityfox needed this permit because they did not yet have their full liquor license. As required by law, they applied for it in partnership with a fully licensed vendor—One Stop Beer Shop, a Greenpoint bar run by Ben Roshia.

Cityfox had previously been granted special event permits many times before; the 2015 Mirage did not have a full liquor license, so they had successfully secured them on a party-by-party basis. But this time around, the SLA said in a letter to Cityfox seen by THUMP that using that type of temporary license was not appropriate for the nature of the Mirage's business. The agency also admitted it should not have granted it to them the previous year: "In retrospect, the repetitive, similar, scheduled event that the applicant held last year should have required the applicant to obtain a [permanent liquor] retail license," the letter read.

Photo of the second Brooklyn Mirage's opening party in May 2016 by Anya White.

One of the major challenges in throwing a fully licensed event in New York City is that promoters often don't find out until the day of the party whether their TPA and liquor licenses have been granted. Argilio Rodriguez, a Brooklyn-based lawyer who works closely with the SLA, told THUMP that interacting with the city's booze authority is notoriously difficult.

"The [liquor] laws were made during Prohibition, and so a lot of the concerns just make no sense in the modern era," he said. "You have procedures within the SLA that don't serve any function except to complicate the process and make it difficult to operate a bar or nightlife establishment within New York City."

Multiple promoters THUMP spoke with for this story said that they feel they have little choice but to throw parties illegally. Getting a party up to code is often prohibitively expensive and time-consuming, which is why it's more productive to just cultivate a good relationship with police.

"A lot of cops are more pragmatic," said one long-standing Brooklyn promoter, speaking on condition of anonymity. On paper, organizers are required to have all these permits, but in truth, they count on police having a "don't ask, don't tell" policy and trusting that promoters will keep the party safe and under control, the source said. "[Police] get that these parties are going to happen, and they understand that organizers are doing everything they can to keep it discreet and calm."

In any case, seeking the right permits doesn't always protect parties from being shut down.

"We have done it the right way [running a fully licensed event] a couple of times," the promoter explained. "But the really sad truth is you can do it that way, and it still doesn't ensure that you're going to be completely safe."

Despite not having a liquor license, Cityfox didn't back down from their opening party. Instead, they informed revellers via Facebook and signs all over the venue that no alcohol would be on sale. On the night of the event, even a heavy downpour didn't deter scores of ravers from showing up and dancing in the outdoor courtyard, though some took shelter in the cavernous indoor space of the Great Hall.

But a couple of hours into the event, which ran from 4 PM to 6 AM, one of the bars at the venue began serving alcohol despite the Mirage not having the liquor license. Cityfox told THUMP this was because of a miscommunication between members of the team—a barman had misinterpreted an instruction over the radio to open an extra bar, and thought that meant the alcohol license had finally come through. This proved to be a devastating mistake when the cops showed up at around 8 PM for an inspection. They didn't stop the party entirely, but they did issue Cityfox with a court summons for the unlicensed sale of alcohol. After driving away, the 90th precinct tweeted: "Warned you, No Liquor License No [booze] #PlayByTheRules Alcohol confiscated summonses issued."

Taking a big risk, the crew decided to throw another party the following weekend, again without serving any alcohol. This time, though, the fire department showed up halfway through and shut it down, citing safety concerns. The next day, the Department of Buildings revoked the Mirage's permits and issued an order to vacate the property.

Undeterred, Cityfox got their permits back in place within a week and proceeded with their plan to throw a party at the Mirage a few weeks later with Detroit techno legend Richie Hawtin.

But there was heightened scrutiny from the authorities on Cityfox, something they hadn't faced the previous summer. The new Mirage fell under the jurisdiction of the same community board that had been outraged by the Halloween fiasco, and the group's string of missteps did not bode well with the agencies that had been supplying the permits.

On June 17, one day before the Hawtin party, the fire department and the Department of Buildings showed up to the Brooklyn Mirage and cited multiple building and fire safety violations. They shut the venue down—and this time, it looked like it was for good.

Photo by Oliver Correa

The Cityfox crew were forced to cancel the rest of the summer program. With the exception of two boat parties in July and September, their only public-facing activity consisted of sending weekly emails to clubbers, recommending other people's parties. Far from the party oasis it was intended to be, the Mirage had been reduced to a shimmer on the horizon, just out of reach.

As dusk fell over the courtyard during our initial meeting in October, Singh grappled with an industrial lamp to provide some light, but it wouldn't switch on. Illuminated by a cellphone, he and Billy looked out into the yawning darkness of the empty courtyard.

"The really crazy investment here is time and energy," said Bildstein. "It's taken blood, sweat and tears over the last 10 years to build this all up. We really need to get to something [with the Mirage] soon, because we cannot survive like this."

***

Turning around the Mirage's misfortunes took two things that don't typically go together: money and humility.

One of the biggest mistakes Cityfox had made was not fully appreciating that throwing a successful party in New York is not just about getting the paperwork, or having cash. It's also about building relationships.

Community boards—New York's local representative bodies—do not have the power to grant or revoke liquor licenses and building permits directly. But savvy business owners know that the recommendations these boards make to the authorities in charge of permits hold a lot of weight.

Brooklyn promoters Mister Sunday, who run a weekly party at their outdoor Ridgewood space Nowadays in the summer, have a history of throwing parties in areas with hard-to-please community boards. "One of the ways we do things the 'right way' is that, before we even locked in the space, we went to the community board and local [police] precinct ," organizer and resident DJ Justin Carter told THUMP.

The Halloween fiasco had turned the local community board against Cityfox, leading it to complain to the Liquor Authority when the promoters sought permits for the second Mirage. The crew readily admitted to THUMP that they should have engaged with the Williamsburg and Greenpoint community board sooner when mapping out their plans for the Mirage 2.0. "The vision was so in our heads that we neglected to present it to people earlier on," said Singh. "We should have approached the community board earlier."

So, at the beginning of 2017, Cityfox went back to the community board. This time, they'd done their homework, preparing an extensive presentation. They'd also spent $60,000 on services from the lobbying firm State & Broadway. The lobbying effort focused heavily on plans to hold a far wider range of events at the Mirage than the electronic music nights that had sparked such opposition in the past.

The presentation Cityfox gave to Community Board 1 in February included 24 letters of support from local politicians, community organizers, and business owners—ranging from the senator responsible for the district, to charity groups looking for places to hold fundraisers, to the organizers of dog owners' meet-up the Brooklyn Dog Day.

The letters touted the venue's size and multi-functional appeal, highlighting a lack of such spaces in the area, as well as vouching for the professionalism of the Cityfox gang.

Beatrix Bang, an events planner for clients including Delta Airlines and HBO, wrote: "There is currently an absence of venues that can accommodate the types of shows, events, exhibitions etc that are part of the marketing campaigns that we create and produce."

The presentation worked, and the community board was impressed. Assemblywoman Maritza Davila said at the meeting, "We've shut them down badly, and you know what? That shows a lot when you come up and face this crowd."

Davila was among a number of high-profile local government figures to publicly support the project, including City Councilman Antonio Reynoso and Borough President Eric Adams.

Still, the Community Board unanimously voted against recommending the venue for a full liquor license. This mostly had to do local politics: the Community Board has a strict policy about not recommending any licenses for outdoor venues that want to stay open past 1 AM, and Cityfox wanted to the keep the venue open til 6 AM.

"I will not hesitate to yank this thing."—SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley

After demanding a last minute walk-through of the venue, the SLA convened a special hearing just for Cityfox on April 3. The authority was confident that the community board's concerns weren't about the safety of the venue, and the support Cityfox had garnered from those key political and community figures also significantly bolstered their case. At the end of the hearing, the SLA voted to approve the full liquor license.

But Chairman Vincent Bradley and Commissioner Greeley Ford came down hard on Cityfox. They agreed to approve the license on the condition that the venue would close at 4.30 AM, rather than 6 AM, as the promoters had requested. Bradley reiterated that the agency would be keeping a very close watch on them. "There's not going be a lot of leeway if something goes wrong," he told Cityfox. "I will not hesitate to yank this thing."

He also implied that Cityfox's ability to appoint expensive legal counsel had helped their cause, suggesting they would have been sent packing if not for the prestige of their lawyers. "I'm putting my neck on the line for guys I'm not 100% comfortable with, but I'm willing to do that because of the background that you guys have that are representing them. That's the only reason we're here," he told one of the attorneys from prominent New York firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, which has ties to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

After the hearing, Bildstein told THUMP he took the SLA's words to heart: "We'd made missteps, which we readily own. We're very grateful to be in this position."

He added that while closing at 4.30 AM was not part of the original plan, Cityfox would adapt: "We're already mulling over ideas of how we'll adjust elements of summer programming and production so that an audience will be fulfilled, same as for an event that goes until 6 AM."

***

Photo of the second Brooklyn Mirage under construction in 2016 by Simar Singh.

Back at the Mirage, a few days after the SLA approved the liquor license, the sunlight reflects off the wet asphalt as Singh rolls up in an Uber. It's been raining all day, but the deluge has finally stopped, and a bright blue sky is criss-crossed by strings of tiny round clouds.

Singh is visibly lighter on his feet as he gestures towards various parts of the cavernous venue, detailing design ideas and name-dropping potential event headliners. He describes his reaction to the SLA's approval of the license, which he and Bildstein along the rest of the Cityfox team celebrated over drinks at One Stop Beer Shop before Singh finally went home to get some rest.

As his phone blew up with messages from friends and acquaintances, he says relief began to sink in, and he became oblivious to the raucous college basketball fans packing out the Greenpoint drinking hole. "We were sitting at the bar, and I just felt like my body was melting," he says. "Then I just lay down and zonked out for like 16 hours."

Cityfox still have a lot to prove. They've got relationships with the officials and the community to maintain, customers to win back, and a reputation to rebuild. They've also burned through a whole lot of capital—costs that reveal not just the price of making mistakes, but also the price of recovering from them.

But even in New York, where cash is king, Cityfox's story proves that money alone isn't enough. Theirs is a cautionary tale of what happens when ambitious outsiders venture into unfamiliar territory. Good intentions and a fat wallet can only get you so far; without learning local nuances and getting the right people on your side, it's hard to stay afloat.

Today, the outdoor section of the property is completely empty. The temporary wooden and metal structures that made up 2016's summer venue are gone, dismantled after it was closed. Without them, it's just a huge expanse of flat tarmac, dotted with shallow puddles that reflect the evening light. It's a blank slate, and this time they've got a license to use it.

Photo of the first Brooklyn Mirage in 2015 by Amanda McHugh.

Additional reporting by Michelle Lhooq.