Graphic Design & Web Development: Michelle Svoboda
The Lively, 26 9th Avenue, will open Feb. 3 and on paper it looks like a hit. With a great Meatpacking location, it’s a unique and functional space, has a well-heeled parent company in BR Guest and has a new, enthusiastic marketing team in Manny Del Castillo and Emily Sands. (You’re waiting for a “but,” so I will provide one or more of those). But the space has never worked. HILO and The Bunker Club came in with great expectations, but never found an identity and both slipped into irrelevance.
Everyone knows the building as it sits in that triangular, anvil-like place where 14th Street is bisected by 9th Avenue and Hudson Street. The actual joint is located beneath the cobblestone under 9th Avenue in an ancient vault. The underside of manhole covers can be seen while you sip drinks. Despite all sorts of 21st century engineering , annoying leaks keep management on their toes. I heard it was to be made into a place back in the ’70s, but that didn’t happen. It was too complicated to make work. Sex clubs used to occupy the expansive brick and mortar basement, but these places, as well as the clubs 675 and Troy, were actually in the basement of the building. The Lively space is under the street and being under a city street meant the Bureau of Transportation had to be involved when the permitting process began. First time I saw it, Steve Hanson the BR Guest overlord showed it to me and my old design partner. We wanted to put up a glass ceiling, so you could see the cobblestones. There we no credible staircases, so we slid down to it and climbed back up. It was all rubble, iron and dreams. All the major players looked at it, but their dreams just didn’t mesh with BR Guests.
BR Guest is a major restaurant operator with Dos Caminos, Blue Water Grill, Atlantic Grill, Bill’s Bar and Burgers to name a few. They’re real good at restaurants, but less so with nightlife. Think Michael Jordon trying to play baseball. Mike had all the tools, but, well, couldn’t hit a curveball and nightlife is all about curveballs. Manny has a solid nightlife resume with places like Griffin and Le Baron in it. At those joints Manny had to deal with curveballs, screwballs and even spitballs. He’s great at tweaking and rebranding. You can see his work at the Gansevoort Market, which I hear might close as that block is being developed. I asked Manny to tell me all about The Lively:
Manny Del Castillo / Futura 2000 (Photography: Sammy Glucksman)
You are in a space that’s never been a hit, despite high profile players and a great location. What makes you think this time is the charm?
“The Lively embodies an open door policy. It is a community process, getting the right players to do what they are best at. Everything is well thought-out, the nights are being programmed with both staple New York nightlife artists as well as supporting new and up and comers.
The Lively is fresh and original, bringing back to the area a more gritty downtown, yet sophisticated vibe. It’s a local hangout where creatives from around the city can come together and relax with like-minded individuals. Drinks are cheap, delicious and inventive. Late ’70s-inspired cocktails, Boozy Snow Cones, canned beer and wine and Bottles that max out at $275 making it by far the lowest price point in the neighborhood.”
The Meatpacking District is a high-profile high traffic location. Dos Camino’s the BR Guest property that houses your space is hugely successful even by Dos Camino’s standards. How will you exploit the location? what are the upsides and downsides?
“We want to actually embrace the creative community that surrounds The Meatpacking district, instead of alienating them. Everything from Chelsea galleries, Red Bull Studios, Soho House and of course the New Whitney, draw all the ‘types’ of people who will love and be inspired by The Lively. Exploiting the area is easier because we are using the resources and people who frequent these areas as our target demographic to dictate how the space functions, the design, logo, branding, marketing and nightly programming.”
The Lively is one of the best names I’ve heard in recent years. It really defines what you are doing with live acts. What’s in a name?
“The name is everything. The Lively is a way of life; The Lively is the feeling we want people to feel when they walk in: alive. The current nightlife is somewhat staged and feels contrite. We want to get back to the roots of what makes people ‘feel’ in the nightlife world. Great live music, great design, great drinks, great food—a space dedicated to making you feel Lively.”
You’ve come in as a marketing/branding consultant for BR Guest, which is a great restaurant operator, but a bit short on the nightclub stuff. How are you a deep club operator interfacing with this hospitality giant and what are you doing marketing-wise?
“We are a creative agency. We were hired to come on and to conceptualize everything from design, brand development, initial media and programming, as well as help connect the right people to the space to shape and mold what The Lively entails. BR Guest Hospitality is a great company to work with, very supportive, and they have given us great creative liberty to be inventive and innovative. They knew that the space needed something fresh and original.
Boozy Snow Cones
Nightlife is a niche, difficult industry. It’s about personal relationships and building through word of mouth, through various marketing tools and most importantly with Millenials through grassroots social media platforms. As an agency we try to combine design and marketing using our local community of friends to help spread the word. For example, Artist Futura and Son 13th Witness are doing an art installation in the space. Both have immense followings on social media and have huge marketing platforms. Not only are we excited and thrilled they are apart of this project, but it is also great press material and helps give The Lively credibility with our target demographic. Social media is a huge part of our campaign. We create a storyline that people want to follow through the process of unveiling the new space. Everything from carpentry to drink making to connecting artists with patrons. This is all part of our campaign to connect the community through organically driven marketing.
Less obvious marketing avenues are design features we hope will help market the space organically. We have boozy snow cones that we specifically created because they are Instagram-worthy, fun and different. We also are serving food, “Hottie Pockets” and have Jean Prouve inspired benches, an amazing sound system by world renowned Global Audio Systems and sophisticated yet fun logo’s created by LA-based graphic designer Michelle Svoboda.”