Jon B. is a behind-the-scenes kind of owner. Shy and relatively unrecognized — considering he has owned some very successful nightclubs — Jon is often found with his cellphone glued to his ear. Very much like me, he is loved by many and not loved by others. I once said the thing I missed most about my time working with Peter Gatien was the business banter. Gatien knew this business; he understood and enhanced concepts which are lost on so many owners. I can talk business with Jon. He has a quick, mathematical mind and is very aware of the pulse, aware of the scene. He’s able to grasp the value of promoters and has a keen awareness of the bottom line. Jon B. knows how to make money in clubs — not an easy thing.
When Spirit opened, it was met with universal disdain. I’ve seen clubs ignored and fail, but few have been as despised by the public. Against this beginning, Jon assembled teams and packed the club for years. Opening a green club costs more than a less eco-friendly one and, in a time when dollars are rarer than ice in Greenland, Jon has stuck to his beliefs and is going to open Greenhouse … er, soon. I visited the place and talked with Jon about the past, present, and future.
Jon, when you are going to get this opened? In three weeks.
Weeks, or is it a month and a half? No, no, three weeks.
And tell me what the idea of Greenhouse is. Why eco-friendly? Why’d you go that route? Well, I think the whole world is going to be revolving toward the eco-friendly, energy conserving, using recyclable materials status, and I wanted to be the first one to raise awareness of it through nightlife.
Is it because you really care about the environment, or is it a gimmick? No, I think it’s very important.
So, Greenhouse is in the old Shelter space on Vandam and Varick? Yeah. And Flow was here, Buddha Bar was here …
Actually, I think the space has been a club since, like, 1939. Really? I didn’t know that.
This is two floors, two bars — what’s the music going to be like? Hip-hop, rock and roll, 80s, and house, and we’ll have a big DJ here on Friday night.
Downstairs is hip-hop and R&B? Hip-hop and rock will be downstairs, and upstairs is going to be mash-ups and house.
How does this affect your other businesses? I don’t think it really affects the other businesses because this is going to be high-end, and we’re looking to do something special down here. The area is booming — you have Bouley opening up near us, Trump opening up across the street. I think this is the new area to be in.
And so, the 27th Street club mall that you’re a huge part of — won’t it feel weird to you to be away from that? It already does feel weird while I’m here doing construction.
But this is a destination — will you be able to handle a destination? You’re not in the Meatpacking District, you’re not on the 27th Street strip, you’re all to yourself over here. I think it’s better that way. I think that people have been going to the — just like you call it — the mall areas for awhile, and I think people are looking to get away from that.
Where do you think bottle service is going? I don’t think its going anywhere that much. I think the people who still want a table are still going to get tables; they might not buy as many bottles as people used to because of the whole economic factor, but I do think that this place is going to definitely attract that type of a crowd.
Everyone knows you as Jon B. Your real name is Jon … Jon Bakhshi.
You’re an Iranian Jew and you’re very proud of it. Yes.
I’ve done business with you. I’ve designed places for you. I found you this place, turned you on to it. Your religious views and your morality are very important to you. You make sure that you pay people and nobody can ever accuse you of not doing that, and so your religion and your upbringing — And karma.
Karma, religion — they are very much a part of how you do business. Tell me about that. Well, I consider myself pretty religious, you know. I’m a practicing Jew; I went to Yeshiva — which is private school — my whole life. And, you know, I went to NYU. I graduated NYU, and I was supposed to go to law school, but I was always doing the nightlife stuff, and I just stuck with it.
Now, I designed Home and I designed Guesthouse for you. I’m not doing Greenhouse. You’re basically doing this on your own and, ten minutes ago, you asked me to check in on you — make sure you’re on the right track. Opening this eco-friendly joint is a passion for you. The reason that you’re doing this is because you feel very strongly about this concept, and so you really want to be hands-on with the design to ensure it’s truly done as green as possible. I think that it’s looking good. And you’re opening up, I hear, in mid-November … Election Day.
Election Day! Election Day! Are you going to invite me? Absolutely, you know that. I’m going to call three people, and you’re going to be one of them.
Who are the other two? My parents, and I have to think of who the third person is going to be. Oh, Kim Kardashian? Yeah, if she’s in town, she’ll be here.