The Stay Hotel opened up just as the economy sank, but through a series of adjustments it has managed to stay ahead of the recession. New still sells, and Times Square ain’t what it used to be … it’s stocked with a steady stream of tourists. It’s better in many ways than it was before the sanitization, but I, of course, miss the old Times Square. When I was young — yes, there was a time — I had a strange hobby: I would put on some very old clothes, a hat to cover my face, and put a bottle of Welch’s grape juice into a brown paper bag, then lay down or sit propped up in a doorway in a very dangerous pimp-thug-whore environment and listen, watch, and absorb street life. No one ever noticed me. I was invisible. I absorbed the jargon, learned the rules, and saw incredible things. Later, Times Square would become Disneyfied, and the old ways were exiled to another Main Street. The Minnesota strip where pimps would turn 15-year-old runaway farm girls into women who were never saved by Travis Bickle has been converted to some Midwesterners’ vision of Times Square, with new neon and less risqué messages. Girls, girls, girls turned into McDonald’s, Burger King, and Ruby Foo’s.
Today, my firm Lewis and Dizon was awarded the design gig for the three-story roof lounge at the Stay Hotel. The other day I wrote about Griffin, and a loyal reader named Doyle thought it inappropriate that I write about what I’m working on. He thought it was a conflict of interest. I am a prolific designer of hospitality spaces because there are those who think I know what I’m doing and trust me with their projects — which in many cases means trusting me with their lives, or at least livelihood. BlackBook hired me to write for them because they think I’m connected to the scene. I use this rule. If I would write about it if I wasn’t involved with it, then I should do so. On these projects, I’ll try to just lay down the facts. However, if I didn’t think it would be great, I wouldn’t do it, so it’s a de facto endorsement.
The three-story roof lounge at the Stay Hotel will overlook bustling Times Square below. It will be operated by Greg Brier, who also handles the ground-level restaurant Aspen Social — Marc Dizon and I designed that joint. He is also the operator of Highbar around the corner. The roof lounge will be called Ajaxx, a reference to one of the big ski-sloped mountains that tower over Aspen, Colorado. Greg wants a retro-Times Square feel meets Tokyo in 2088. It’s Blade Runner with Club USA mixed in (or do we say mashed-up these days)? Club USA was a spot I was involved with before my design days. My one design contribution was finding a rather brilliant guy named Steve Dunnington to build that fabulous blue slide. Ajaxx will serve hot dogs and those famous Highbar signature sliders to a crowd that wants a great view, fresh air, and a tasty cocktail. They want to open the joint one June 1, so I have less than a month to pull this off. Usually a month or six weeks is spent just on refining the design, so I’m in for a wild ride.