A Monday-night walk in Mr. Lewis’ neighborhood would impress even Mr. Rogers. My first stop was Butter, where I wanted to say hi to my dearest friend Sherry and to congratulate William Curran, who was just made general manager. Butter was the first restaurant I designed, and because of that I still have a nostalgic connection to the place (plus it’s still the hottest night around). The door was expecting Jerry Seinfeld’s wife Jessica, but who showed up instead but Madonna herself, with boyfriend Jesus attached. An old Jewish pal who’s pretty knowledgeable about Kabbalah and such things explained why Madonna was wearing a schoolgirl costume with a black wig, tights, miniskirt, and old-school Converses, and why baby Jesus was all Joker/Ledgered out. I was told that they were celebrating Purim, that it is Esther’s year, and that the costumes were part of the ritual celebration.
The DJ put on a Madonna mix, and it was all bumping and grinding as the smart set watched with mouths agape. She looked better than ever, dancing sexily with her young companion; she pulled his shirt off and the rubbing and tugging brought out every cell phone in the joint. The whole town was hearing about it, and they left around 1 a.m. as happy as clams — in red wine sauce.
After this spectacle, I walked over to Antik, which celebrated the one-year anniversary of its Monday-night “Industry Party.” If it’s one year old, can it still be Antik? I congratulated owners Ruben Araneta and Craig Koenig. Craig told me that “it’s a friends and family night, a party designed originally to accommodate the post-Johnny Utah crowd’. Promoters Redd Styles, Bernie, and Brady entertain a loyal following of club people partying on their night off. “We bought the commercial spaces when the Bowery started to get hot. ‘R&R’ had just ended because the landlord had executed a demolition clause in the lease, and we wanted to be in this neighborhood in between the Bowery Hotel and the Cooper Square Hotel,” Craig said. The old Marion’s Restaurant space within the joint will become a full-blown restaurant with a soon-to-be-named operator; they’re still negotiating with a few parties while they serve light food. This Wednesday night at 8 p.m., NBC will feature a show called Chopping Block, which was shot there.
Ruben and Craig still own Retreat, which is two and half years new, but they see Antik as a different thing. “It gives us an opportunity to be more downtown and edgier … it’s a totally different experience,” Ruben said. I asked him if he preferred being an owner more than a promoter — the pause was much longer than expected, but he smiled and said that he welcomed “the challenge of being an owner,” and that he liked “the creative control, but with it comes stress and hard work, and it becomes a 24/7 lifestyle.” The boys are looking to expand into two more spots with “East Village locations” at some point.