Started by New York club DJs John Hall and Adam Goldstone, and Perry Brandston --a sound technician who had long been involved with the post-punk art and club world-- The Departure Lounge was originally intended as a freeform outlet for partners' more purely creative record-spinning interests, without regard to such dance floor conventions as familiarity, stylistic consistency, or even danceability. The primary immediate objective of The Departure Lounge was to take what was usually considered back-room, background music (or completely unsuitable for play in any club at all) and place it squarely in the spotlight, and in your face. In short, the idea was to create an environment where it seemed entirely possible that one could, in the words of the club's motto, "hear every record ever made." The result was admittedly sometimes messy, cacophonous, self-indulgent, and even downright ludicrous, but never boring or predictable.
Other features included the Public-Access Turntable, a record player set out in the middle of the room and patched into the DJ booth and main sound system for audience members to join in on (a handful of records whose labels had been removed to add the element of surprise); and Dueling DJs, in which two DJ booths were set up in the same room, allowing the main DJs and their guests to either jam with each other like a jazz band or duke it out sonically like pro wrestlers.