Peter Gatien

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Peter Gatien
Born (1952-08-08) August 8, 1952 (age 64)
Cornwall, Ontario, Canada
Spouse(s) Alessandra Gatien

Peter Gatien (born August 8, 1952) is a Canadian club owner and party promoter. He is best known as the former owner of several New York nightclubs, including The Limelight, Palladium, Club USA, and Tunnel. He was once dubbed as the "King of New York Clubs", during his time in New York City.

Life and career[edit]

Gatien was born in Cornwall, Ontario, the third of five brothers.[1] His first business venture was a jeans store in his home town, which he opened with a $13,000 settlement after he lost an eye in a hockey accident.[2] After that, he turned a former country western bar into a rock club called Aardvark, and booked the band Rush to perform.[1] In 1976, he read about a bankrupt nightclub in Florida known as Rumbottoms; the space became the first incarnation of the Limelight. Limelight Atlanta followed. The longest period of time in which The Limelight remained closed was from 1996 to 1998. It reopened from 1998 onward until Gatien sold it in 2001 to a real estate developer.

Gatien produced the 1993 film A Bronx Tale, which starred Robert De Niro,[3] after having produced it as a one-man play starring Chazz Palminteri.[4]

A 1996 federal investigation attempted but failed to link Gatien to the sales of party drugs, especially Ecstasy, in his clubs, but his acquittal in 1998 left him with huge legal fees.[5] In addition he was later arrested on tax evasion charges after a series of club raids; he was acquitted of most of the charges. He pleaded guilty to tax evasion in 1999, for which he was sentenced to a fine of $1.6 million, and a 60-day prison sentence along with 5 years probation. In 2003, he was deported to his native Canada, due to the Department of Homeland Security immigration laws which order the removal of any alien (non-citizen) convicted of a felony.[6] However, because he is part Native Canadian, Gatien has since been able to visit the United States again.[7]

Gatien relocated to Toronto where he opened a 55,000-square-foot (5,100 m2) entertainment venue, Circa.[8] By 2009, he was no longer involved with Circa and has been out of the nightclub business since that time. Circa was forced into bankruptcy and closed its doors in March 2010.[9]

Gatien's daughter, Jen Gatien, produced the 2011 documentary Limelight about New York City night life in the 1990s and the rise and fall of her father's club empire.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Gatien and the histories of his clubs were discussed at length in the book The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco, and the Culture of the Night, by Anthony Haden-Guest. Haden-Guest's book chronicles the history of New York nightlife and all the significant people and events that impacted its evolution from Studio 54 through to the days of Limelight, Tunnel and Palladium.
  • Gatien was also a prominent character in two books about scandals involving former club promoter Michael Alig, including Disco Bloodbath by James St. James, and Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture, by Frank Owen. Disco Bloodbath was later made into the movie Party Monster starring Macaulay Culkin and Seth Green, and chronicles the events leading up to the murder of Angel Melendez, committed by Michael Alig. The character of Peter Gatien was played by Dylan McDermott.
  • In 2007 Gatien was made into a Dunny, a type of vinyl designer toy.[11]
  • Gatien is mentioned in the song "The Fun Lovin' Criminal" by The Fun Lovin' Criminals: "I am always optimistic about human relations, I got more friends than my man Peter Gatien". He is also mentioned in the song "Foundation" by Jay-Z, who raps, "Me and my operation, running New York nightscene, with one eye closed, like Peter Gatien".