Q & A: Noel Ashman Returns

This Friday, Q — a club where Quo, Myst, Prime, and Retox used to live — will open. None of these were A-list joints, but all entertained the B-, C-, and D-listers with great sound and good service. They were what they were, and I found myself there having a good time more often than I’d like to admit. The concept of a “new” club gets blurred as spaces are renamed, redone, and hopefully reconsidered by a public always willing to give it another shot. That seems to be the case here, where management has brought in a couple new faces (Antonio Fuccio and Mike Heller) and will refer back to the “glory days” of Quo with the Q name. The two-room format will be disposed of, as Q will be a good midsized room. The city needs this size of a betweener room, as only Pacha and M2 fill the large club niche, and there are hundreds of small joints. Q can present a world-class or circuit DJ and still remain small enough to have a social scene.

And really, Quo was never that bad. The crowd that enjoyed it has gotten a little older, which may mean wiser and more monied. The room itself is built for nightlife, with few columns and high ceilings. For opening night, the joint will go old school with Noel Ashman and Patrick McMullan among others hawking for a crowd. Noel had some success as the owner of N/A and Plumm on 14th Street in recent years but never really achieved the success of his Soho spot Veruka. Is it just me, or do all these names suck? Anyway I caught up to Noel and asked him about his return to the limelight (no, not “the” Limelight!).

This is your first gig since Plumm closed? No, I hosted a party for Candace Bushnell at Mr. West and did a couple of things in Atlantic City.

What have you been doing with your time? We have been shopping two TV shows … both are new takes on reality shows — and a film.

Is Friday’s opening a one-off, or will you be promoting at Q? Not sure. I know I’ll be hosting the opening with Patrick and then maybe some parties down the line. I might do a weekly party at this space because it’s large and I like to do that, and it’s a contrast to something I’m working on but can’t talk about right now, which is a very small, semi-private club. You’ll probably be consulting on the design.

Yes, but I’m sworn to secrecy. This is difficult for me sometimes, as I can’t talk about some stuff here, and I often read about things I’m working on in other blogs, and I get yelled at. What does “semi-private” mean? Private — you have a number to call, and only members get in. We’re going to let some of the public come. A limited number.

What clubs do you enjoy now? Good question. I’ll get in trouble any way I answer that. I do think there are some good ones out there.

How do you feel about Richie Akiva and Scott Sartiano taking over your old joint? I wish them well. I was there for five years, which is a pretty good run.

What are the biggest challenges for owners in today’s club market? Over-saturation. Back in the day, there were four or five good ones. Bottle service brought all sorts of new people into the game. Everyone wanted to get in on the gold rush. It looked easy. Many found out it’s harder than it looks. Few actually make money

Did you ask Patrick to co-host with you? Yes, Patrick is an old friend. They wanted a cool, high-end opening with an old -school crowd feeling comfortable, so I thought it would be fun. I also have Ethan Brown hosting and DJing. I’m going to be Ethan’s manager.

Do you think a good crowd will return to that West 27th Street/28th Street strip? They’ll come if there is something special happening. This Friday figures to be special.

You have been an owner for years. Is going back to promoting an event or a weekly something you enjoy? I always did events at other places, even when I owned Plumm and NA. If I do a weekly, it would be a different type of weekly — maybe not at a club. Funny thing … I’ve had close to a hundred calls from people who think I’m the owner of Q. I tell them I’m hosting opening night

For the new project, do you have your old crew of celebrity investors on board? Yes, some of them will be there, as well as some new ones. I think this space will really be much more like Veruka.

What motivates you to do it again? When you ran clubs, you approached it as an art form …

Well, part of that art definitely was making money. Yes, but you took the approach that if you did it to make money, you probably wouldn’t make any … but if you made good art, you would, because it’s easy to sell good art.

Well yes, thank you. That was a basic Andy Warhol lesson. Andy felt making money from his art was very important — maybe even a validation. For me it certainly was. I feel many people can open and make loot, but not be fabulous, and many can be fabulous but broke … success for me was having both. Tell me about the film. It’s about New York nightlife. We’ll start shooting in five months to a year.

When will the new club happen? Very soon. You can’t talk about it!

OK, OK. Are you keeping busy? Strangely enough, yes. Plumm’s closing has freed me up to work on the TV shows and the film.

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