The first thing that struck me about Kastel, the new bar/lounge in the Trump Soho property is the richness of the Rockwell Groups design. After that I was awed by the calm, the lack of urgency and mayhem normally associated with places about to be birthed into the chaotic New York City social scene. Kastel is masculine, warm and ultra sexy. As a designer I looked for the little things, the brilliant details and wondered how David Rockwell’s team did this or did that. The place is stunning. I became very envious because I know they spent a ton of money. As a designer with too many friends, I often find myself designing places with very low budgets. I often want to put a sign outside that says something like “designed by Lewis and Dizon for a mere $85,000.” $85,000 was spent in 45 minutes here. The sign outside this Soho property says “Trump”—that tells you they spent money to make money. There was no sense of urgency when I sat down in a lounge amid gorgeous Fendi furniture and Taschen books to meet with Quattro/Kastel co-owner Nicola Siervo.
The quiet confidence of Nicola and indeed everyone at the property makes me believe that this place might be the realio dealio. I was watching Charlie Bronson the other day in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western masterpiece Once Upon A Time In The West. In the opening scene 3 bad guys are meeting him at the train station and Charlie observes there are only 3 horses and asks the gunslingers about it. The toughest guy stares at him and with a laugh answers “looks like we’re shy 1 horse.” Charles looks at him cool, soft and hard and replies “you bought 2 too many.” Then he guns them down. As I sat chatting with Nicola Siervo I kept wondering if he was a “Charlie Bronson” talking softly yet confidently with the big guns of the adjacent restaurant Quattro and Kastel, about to take over the wild wild west side of Manhattan.
Nicola is a wonderful operator. Accessible, classy, smart and experienced. He slayed me with cool water confidence and a clear plan. Kastel will find its niche as a place to be after dinner and before the bedlam of nightlife. While the other places fight for the night, they will provide a sweet spot for the evening. With partners Karim Masri, Rony Seikaly, Nicola Schon and a beautiful and manageable room close enough and yet far away enough from everything relevant, they seem ready to rock and roll. In fact that’s what Nicola and I were chatting about. In what may be the first mistake of the new joint’s existence, they have asked me to bring in my old tracks and tricks and play rock, rock and more rock, as a DJ at the opening party tomorrow night. My pal Stretch Armstrong, a real DJ, will be along to really DJ. The festivities start at 10pm and I think you should make arrangements in advance as this figures to be a very swanky affair. I e-mailed Karim and Nicola a bunch of questions to help inform you. These are the answers I got back.
What is the concept behind Kastel? Kastel is a Bar and Lounge that is open between the hours of 4pm until 2am, nightly. It serves the purpose of hotel bar form 4-10pm and goes to a door policy from 10pm onward, with a separate entrance on Varick.
What is the venue’s relationship to the hotel and to Quattro? Kastel is operated by the same operators of Quattro—KNR Restaurant Group—but is a distinct outlet with totally separate areas and design.
Tell me about the design of the venue? Rockwell Group designed the venue. It’s an intimate space with raw and rich finishes—sleek armchairs, scattered velvet ottomans, leather banquets. The environment is relaxed but chic.
Do you have any events lined for opening week? We have our grand opening on Tuesday and we have Rosario Dawson and Yellow Fever’s joint Birthday party hosted with Jamison Ernest on Thursday. Last night we had the after party for the Versace Versus Party, which was at Milk Studios.
Who is your clientele? Our clientele will be friends, hotel guests, neighbors and will serve as an after-dinner drink spot for Quattro.
Nightlife in NYC these days seems to be centered around hotels. How does being located in a hotel effect your approach, door policy? You have to be a little more flexible and try to accommodate the hotel guest as best you can.
Tell me what attracts you to this particular location? The beauty of the property is its location, the food at Quattro, the one-stop-shop factor—dinner and drinks all under one roof.
Many people wanted this property. What occurred between you and Mr.Trump to have you get it? Ownership picked our group because, with Quattro as an anchor, we have a very strong New york following, Miami following, as well as a European and strong celebrity-client base. We are restaurateurs that can also do nightlife, which is not typical. In the case of KNR, we do it all—manage the banquet and catering facilities at Trump Soho as well as the room service, pool bar and deck and, the soon to open 45th floor event space called SoHi.
Tell me about the differences, similarities between opening a venue in Miami and New York? In Miami there is no such thing as a purple lounge in terms of nightlife. In Miami, people expect a venue to be full of energy and DJ-driven with dancing on the couches, because it’s a resort destination, people really let loose and go wild. Where as in NY, we are doing a true ultra lounge that is not DJ driven—although we have a DJ—and the music is played at a lower volume to allow mingling and socializing. Such an approach doesn’t work in Miami nightlife.
Are you interested in opening in other cities? We are going to do more in NYC that is restaurant and hotel related. Also more in Miami—for the time being we want to focus on those markets. We are only interested in going to cities that we enjoy visiting. It is very important to maintain a quality of life while we work. Los Angeles would be a logical expansion. London as well, as we have a very strong European following. We have plans in the works to open in Rio in time for the World Cup and the Olympics.
Where do you see the future of nightlife heading? Smaller, more intimate venues where like-minded people can hang together without having to deal with the stress and aggravation that some large venues cause with large crowds and rough door treatment. Smaller clubs with a more personal approach, whether in Miami or NY.