Author Jayme Otto Illustration Graham Roumieu
At night, Lilienblum Street is transformed from a subdued shopping lane to a crowded locus of revelers. You’d think with the excess of places to socialize, a club would try to stand out. Not so the Mirpah, which doesn’t advertise at all. In fact, it goes to great lengths to conceal its identity. A small placard outside the door announces a long-defunct doctor’s office within (the name is a Hebrew term for a medical checkup). But patrons who enter through a nondescript door and descend a set of beige stairs find a barely lit dance club featuring Tel Aviv’s best DJs. After it opened last year, word of Mirpah’s existence spread through Twitter and Facebook. The crowds on Lilienblum sought it out, compelled by curiosity and by that unquantifiable compulsion among the hip set not to miss out on something cool.
“The misleading signage was done for fun, something quirky to set the new club apart,” says Dean Ezekiel, the CEO of Tel Aviv VIP Nightlife. The concept caught on. Since Mirpah’s opening, a dozen clubs have sprung up in secret. There’s another incentive for the covert clubbing: The municipality of Tel-Aviv taxes owners for storefront signs, so keeping things discreet actually reduces overhead.
Besides Mirpah, there’s Tzalin, a nightclub hidden behind the façade of an electronics store, and the just-opened Shu Shu, Hebrew for hush hush, which is literally underground and accessible only through the back door of a yogurt shop. Then there’s the recently shuttered Itz, a former favorite that opened on weeknights in the annex of a synagogue.
Such clubs seem to disappear almost as fast as people hear about them, which is part of the allure. “We like the attention that comes from the short life span,” says Ezekiel. “And we love that the club becomes legend.”