Single in the City: Looking for Love at an Open Bar

I am a 26-year-old single woman living in New York City. Do you find that hard to believe? I sure do, but it’s pretty much my daily battle. The truth of the matter is that I have spent the greater part of the last year and half completely immersed in my job, and often times I have used work as an excuse for not fully living and being open to the possibilities of my own life.

I consider myself a fairly outgoing person, always down for a hang-out sesh with friends and never really having any expectations for a night out on the town. I like to toss back a couple brews; I don’t get wasted and know my limits. When I do go out, however, I usually end up in a circle with my ladies talking ridiculousness or busting out my best dance moves. Do guys like this? Do guys find breaking through the girl power-wall completely intimidating and not worth it? Am I just subconsciously resisting love out of fear? Ugh, probably.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve dated. It was just last summer that I dated the wrong person. (Excuse me while I let the reality set in that it’s been almost a year since I was last flung.) I let my guard down and disappointment hit me in the face on the eve of Hurricane Irene. The first person I really liked in nearly two years blinded me with his cheap charisma, believable excuses, and apologetic manner. I call bullshit on those who, in an age when we eat, shit, and sleep with our phones, deems it appropriate not to text or call back in a timely fashion or even at all. It’s just not OK! No one likes this!

I tried the OKCupid thing: I never messaged anyone, never went on any dates. I just sat back with a bowl of popcorn, a glass of wine, and scoured the site for at least one cute guy. This took hours. Eventually I deleted my profile because I got tired of waking up alone with wine mouth. It wasn’t for me, nor was it serving me in the way that it probably should have—which may have been my own fault. (Whatever. I was resisting. Fine.) If OKCupid shot an arrow in your direction, then great, good for you! I mean it, and you probably deserve it.

I am done. In an effort to be confident and not the guarded human I tend to be. I have decided to stop living in a fantasy land, envisioning the perfect romance, and instead become an active participant in my own life. Shit isn’t always just magically going to happen; I have to make an effort to put the work in to make it happen and live the life I know I deserve.

Thursday night my heart and I stepped on over to Flavorpill’s “The Rules of Attraction” party held at Above Allen at the Thompson LES. Upon my arrival I noticed a gigantic line—a gigantic line of CHICKS. I made my way to the back of the line of babes and waited. If you really want to annoy the shit out of me, force me to stand in a line only for the anticipation that the coolest thing ever is just beyond the velvet rope. My friend Janira was beyond late, and I was beginning to realize that I was probably going to have to head into this party solo. I was about two seconds from peacing out, but I forced myself to stay. I had to at least give myself the chance to be open and see what this party was all about.

When I finally got inside (solo), I quickly (and I mean quickly) realized this was not my scene at all. I looked over to the bar, which was swamped with the masses, who were guzzling a little liquid courage courtesy of Tito’s Vodka. As I was waiting to consume a vodka cranberry like it was 2004, I overheard the two dudes behind me exchange these words: “ I am quickly losing interest.” “Free booze and an excuse to be social?” “I guess.” I could tell these guys were likely in the same boat as me, but at least they had each other. Did I talk to them? No, of course not. Thirty minutes later I finally got my drink (which, I am convinced, had no alcohol in it), and I made my way around the crowded party, still on my own. I decided to people watch since it was evident I was not going to talk to anyone. Here are some notes I jotted down during this time.

  • Girl wearing shirt that says “THE FLIRT EXPRESS.”
  • Girls seem like they are dancing for attention and so far no guy in a suit has even looked in my direction.
  • 7:56 pm: cool, I just dropped gum everywhere.
  • Girl eating Cheetos out of the bag—classy.

I texted Janira to find out her whereabouts and warned her that the chances of her getting in were slim. Since she wasn’t missing much I said I would meet her and run to the nearest spot away from this party. Before I left, “Last Dance” came on the sound system (RIP Donna Summer!) This got everyone singing and dancing in typical deceased music icon fashion; it was then, of course, followed up by some Whitney. I mean, don’t we all just wanna dance with somebody? Yes. Yes we do.

Now, I know this was suppose to be an effort in me being “open” and “experiencing,” but I know what I want, and I can’t force fun and conversation if it’s just not there. I left the fluff for those who looked like they may actually be having a good time and met Janira, who had arrived with four lady friends I’d never met. I reassured them that they weren’t missing out on anything going on inside that couldn’t be found outside, to which they were almost relieved because they didn’t have to force being anything other than themselves. Janira’s friend told us of a gallery opening she’d heard about happening in the neighborhood. This was what I was looking for: spontaneous, unexpected fun.

While I didn’t meet the love of my life last night, I was open to just being out and living in this city that has so much to offer. Sometimes you don’t have to put yourself in a situation where there is an expectation of what is supposed to happen. While I know this all has a Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed tone, I am begging you: if you have someone awesome and are just scared to fully commit out of fear I ask you to rethink, to live in the now, because the future may just be right in front of you.

I am single, yes. I know what I want, and I wont apologize or trick my heart to think otherwise. I want a man who doesn’t care if I pair leopard print with sparkles, someone who laughs at my jokes and understands that I don’t take things too seriously. Above all else a man who treats me with a little respect, some dignity, and is uninterested in playing games. I know you’re out there, I am ready, I promise I wont resist!

When I got home I did what any respectable woman would do: I took out the garbage (insert metaphor here) and made a gigantic bowl of popcorn.

[Photo: Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez]

Startup Social: Fortnighter @ Above Allen

Why doesn’t anyone launch a startup in a dive bar? Is every startup really best represented by a fancy hotel bar? Granted, Fortnighter — a place to order custom-written travel itineraries for $100 and up — is best represented by a fancy hotel bar. In this case, it’s Above Allen at the Thompson LES hotel. I double-checked whether it really cost a hundred dollars to get anything from this site. It does.

On Fortnighter, which soft-launched three weeks ago, you fill out a questionnaire with sliders, checklists, and open text boxes about the types of restaurants, hotels, and activities you want. Then the site picks a travel writer from their network to write you a custom itinerary. One of the co-founders, Justin Kalifowitz, claims they’d already gotten feedback from users saying they got so much for their hundred bucks or two, they felt like they should have paid much more.

I don’t understand this. I do not understand the concept of feeling you have underpaid for information. I didn’t understand it in college when I paid $200 per world-unlocking textbook, and I sure as hell don’t understand it this week, when I freaked the fuck out at a one-hour Wikipedia downtime. My free information was NOT AVAILABLE. I complained on Twitter.

But the real sign you’re smart is knowing how many people are richer and dumber. Or, hell, just richer and busier. At some point it must actually make sense to hire a writer to custom-assemble an itinerary, right?

I never much thought about the economics of this until a stint I did at Gridskipper (then edited by BlackBook’s current editor) around 2007. At the time, Gridskipper was Gawker Media’s travel blog, aimed at jetsetters and written by poor freelancers. The reviews were thus either unhelpful, lies, or revealed the writers’ poor financial habits. Most opinions were stolen from Yelp reviews.

What a perfect moment in the great media switch. At one point, it made sense to pay someone to go on a trip just so they could write about that trip for others. But now you can ask people who went on the trip anyway to write up the experience for free.

So why do it any other way? Why hire writers for custom projects? To make people feel special? That’s probably why you hold a party in a fancy hotel bar, right? Because the guests wouldn’t normally just head to a hotel roof and pay $12 a drink, but you’ve bought out the bar for the first two hours?

Only at some point the open bar ends, and you get to watch people decide whether they care enough about you and your company to pay the $12, or watch some BlackBook freelancer order a seltzer water and see if he blinks when he gets charged $5 (though you don’t have to watch to see if he bitches about the cost to your other guests, because that never doesn’t happen).

The party was friendly but ultimately like all other startup parties: serial startup consultants Rex Sorgatz and Rachel Sklar showed up, as did several members of the ad agency Barbarian Group — where Colin Nagy, one of Fortnighter’s founders, also works. All four founders — Nagy, Kalifowitz, Noah Brier and Alex Basek, who I want to make clear are lovely, smart, confident but self-effacing young men — are just moonlighting with this thing (though one hopes to turn it into a full-time job). Justin and Noah were surprised to find I’d just asked my way into the party; everyone else attending was a friend or a friend’s plus-one, which probably proves that the same ten people are doing everything in New York startup-land.

They handed out sample itineraries at the party. And, well, they read like typical guidebooks. The New York sample is broken down into destinations, which seems less helpful than the walking tours in a Lonely Planet. A sample paragraph:

Take a breather back at the hotel before contemplating your evening out, or relax at the smash-hit Eataly, the sprawling, many-splendored Italian food hall brought to the U.S. by Mario Batali and his partner Joe Bastianich. From reasonably-priced wines and great salumi downstairs to the fantastic new beer garden up top, you can’t really go wrong for a fun happy hour. Mind the locals wielding shopping baskets as weapons. (200 Fifth Ave.)

I’ll ignore the quality of the writing, because it’s a travel book, not a short story. But most of that info is in a free Zagat article from March, except for the beer garden and which floor the salumi’s on. Public travel sites, blogs, Wikitravel, and Yelp make most any paid travel guide ridiculous. My girlfriend planned an entire trip to Switzerland by asking questions of locals and previous travelers on TripAdvisor. Buy a $30 travel guide just to have an easy-to-browse physical anchor, but anything more seems unhelpful, until these custom guides actually get individual. Of course, that logic won’t kill this startup any more than the logic of free seltzer water.

Startup Social evaluates new tech and media startups based on their party-throwing prowess.

(Photo: Maya Baratz)

NYC Try Outs: Kristina Marino’s Downtown Diaries

Steve Lewis has it right: these are the good ol’ days. They’re good because there’s something for everyone, and you can change your something on any given night. Take Kristina Marino. Her blog, The Downtown Diaries, chronicles all things nocturnal in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn—her own weekly imbiberies are chameleon-like, but they’re also true to herself. She likes a nice local bar where everyone knows her name, she takes chances with new parties, and she doesn’t judge a restaurant by its dress code. Here, her weekly spots to be scene and be sceney.

Name: Kristina Marino Professional Resume: I’m a jack of all trades but am best known for my blog, The Downtown Diaries, and the parties I throw. In my spare time, I’m the Digital Engagement Manager at Mirrorball, aka I get paid to Facebook, Twitter, and blog, all day, every day—be jealous. One Word to Describe Nightlife in New York City: Sceney


City Loves:Favorite lunch spot: Westville, Schillers, Miss Favela (Williamsburg). • Favorite dinner spot: Rye (Williamsburg), Fette Sau (Williamsburg), Gemma. • Favorite nightlife trend: Wearing whatever the F you want. • Drink of choice: Dark and Stormy’s. • Meal of choice: Any kind of seafood. I love the linguine and clams from Fiore—it’s cheap and delicious but more of a guilty pleasure. • Favorite group of people to bump into: Nicole Wasilewicz (Free Williamsburg), Katherine Kelly, Melissa Widhson, Caitlin Monahan (Darling Cait), Tommy Eichmann (Alexa Ray Joel), Mike Del Rio, Brittany Mendenhall (ChiChi212), Antwan Duncan (I Think You’re Swell), Victor Castro (Wet Paint Photography), Hannah Rad (Sheena Beaston, East Village Radio), the Finger on the Pulse twins, DJ MSB, and a bunch of people no one reading this has ever heard of.

City Gripes:Nightlife trend you loathe: Fake glasses, models, celebrity/socialite DJs, and Aalex Julian. Oh and ladies, if you are not wearing tights in the middle of winter, you need to get your act together. • Drink: Vodka Cranberry • Meal: Street Meat. Food Chains. Dos Caminos. Group of people to bump into: About 50% of the people I see out on a daily basis…New York City is one big incestuous small world.

Her Hotspots:  Honestly, as a blogger, it’s hard to have a hotspot—I am running around the city attending different events, shows, etc. The best part about living in NYC is the variety—it’s all about having options. Here are some basics. Monday: Jane Hotel Tuesday: Le Souk Harem is giving a solid effort. The Bowery, Avenue, Lit, Gallery Bar…I guess. Wednesday: FOTP BBQ Blowout at Good Co, RDV. Thursday: Il Bagatto, Goldbar. Friday: Above Allen, Dram. Saturday: Day & Night, Le Bain. Sunday: Thompson LES pool party, Jelly Pool Parties/ All Saints Pub, Goldbar.


Every night: Le Bain, Kenmare, Godlbar, or anywhere local—I usually hang at The Commodore, Maracuja, or Spuyten Duyvil. Wouldn’t be caught dead here: Greenhouse, Marquee, SL, Kiss & Fly, Tenjune, Veranda, Above 14th St.

For special occasions: MILK Studios is a great event space.


Brunch is usually: To eat, I like to stay local. There’s nothing better than brunch in Brooklyn. My friends and I wind up at Lodge more often than not. If I am going to “brunch” to dance on tables and get wasted, then Day & Night it is. 

New York: Top 10 New School Hotel Bars

Boom Boom Room (Meatpacking District) – Eighteen floors above the Thigh Line, Eyeful Tower’s Boom Boom Room layers on even more sexual innuendo. Sex, too: nothing like floor to ceiling windows revealing the glittering city at your feet for getting you in the mood. Most now spot in town. (For now.) ● Jane Hotel and Ballroom (West Village) Latest smash from Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode gets all Edwardian on the WVill. Nights can run a little wild out this way, but that’s copacetic with the kinds of guests that the Jane Hotel attracts. ● Above Allen (Lower East Side) – Lush Life, indeed. Lofty Thompson LES rooftop heated up fast. Stephen Sprouse prints harken to downtown ghosts, while shmancy $15 cocktails shout out to hood’s posher present.

subMercer (Soho) – The Mercer’s stealth subterranean hang. Elusive and exclusive. Red banquettes with matching stripper pole, lovely for shrooming socialites. ● The Pool Deck (Upper West Side) – Get a neon tan 12 stories above Broadway. Empire Hotel guests mix with savvy UWSiders, everyone chows down on mini-cheeseburgers and foie-gras PB&J’s. Old-timey signage completes the mood-setting skyline. ● Hudson Bar at Hudson Hotel (Midtown West) – Incredible Hudson Hotel space taken straight from that ending scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Only missing the fetus-like organism enclosed in the light orb thingy. ● Rose Bar & Jade Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel (Gramercy) – Ian Schrager turns to ‘80s art star Julian Schnabel as resident designer at Gramercy Park Hotel. Bars feature bohemian vibe, walls crammed with big art (Basquiat, Twombly, and…Schnabel). Tight ship lets famous faces get comfortable. ● The Whiskey (Midtown West) – Rande Gerber takes his Whiskey neat, with a splash of psychedelic floor, some top-40, and a dash of expensive tourist from the W Hotel upstairs. ● Thom Bar (Soho) – Class act inside the 60 Thompson, not as exclusive as the members-only rooftop, but on point in all other respects. Perfect acoustics let you hear both the music and what that L.A. import in town for one night only is yapping about. ● The Lobby Bar (East Village) – The Bowery Hotel hammers in final nail coffin of old-school wino playground. Wood paneling, stuffed animal trophies, twin oils of hunting hounds give off English manor library vibe. Half expect Kat Von D to come strolling in with breeches and a riding crop and order a Pimm’s.

Boom Boom Town

The town is going goo ga ga over The Standard Hotel’s Boom Boom Room and, of course, that not a drag at all queen, Lady Gaga. Word comes to me from multiple (usually reliable) sources that the upper tiers of The Standard will have club legends, Nur Khan and Paul Sevigny on board after a few T’s are crossed. I think it’s two different spaces, but hey, it’s only one cab ride. I could call them both and get a denial…so I’ll wait for their phone calls and find the truth in their protests—although it does really makes sense as all parties involved would benefit from the fit. Paul has been looking for a place to hang his hat since The Beatrice took a beating and Nur just loves to be on top of the world. Paul has had marvelous success with his Tuesdays and Thursdays at Avenue so it seems he and Nur are at the top of their game right now. The Standard’s excellent location and sublime views combined with the smart looks and staffing seems ideal.

I went to the Out Magazine/ Lady Gaga party at The Box but missed the diva by a bleached blond hair. The blowup of the Out Magazine cover proclaimed “Gaga Gone Wild” and well, it seems that she has. Her Marc Jacob’s party performance was seen by at least 5,000 people who bragged to me via Twitter, Facebook, text, or in person that they had indeed been there to see it and by tomorrow it will be 10,000. While on the subject of diva’s and little white lies, I ran into PM mogul, Unik, yesterday while having a walk-and-talk meeting in my hood. My meeting and I had been chatting up Little Italy mainstay actor, Vinny Vela, when Larry David (walking a ruddy, ratty small dog) passed by. The funny man had a squinty scowl on his face until he accidentally clotheslined a tourist with his pup’s leash; he laughed and hugged her apologetically. David is in town for the Curb Your Enthusiasm season premiere. But oh, back to Unik. He was very upset about a comment made by my pal and fellow blogger, Brittany Mendenhall, in a ChicChi212 post. She called him the “McHammer of Nightlife”, implying that he had made a huge mark but now doesn’t have a gig and is poor. Unik was spouting at me, and I told him I was aware that he had sent Brit an email expressing his chagrin. I cut him off, dialed her number, told her a “special friend of mine wanted to say hello”, gave Unik my phone, and went looking for Larry David with my meeting. When we returned in a few minutes, Unik and Brit were best friends. He tells me he is actively looking for a new home for PM and I passed my meeting over to him. As of late last night they were still chatting.

Karim Amatullah informs me that he’s taken a role over at Above Allen which is one of my favorite hangs. My crew has been gathering every Sunday afternoon for Fanny Chan’s Pool Party on the third floor of the fabulous Thompson, L.E.S.. Unfortunately, this Sunday will be the last week and we, like Karim, will be looking for a room with a view, preferably one that can also protect us from the soon-to-be hostile elements. I asked Karim about something he didn’t think I knew…his impending position over at Anthony Martignetti and James Willis’ joint, Southside. Karim says, “Southside, that’s the lounge-club that has the right vibe. Great size with a speakeasy feel, it’s the Nolita/Soho neighborhood club.” I then asked how he was going to be at two “neighborhood clubs” at the same time and was told “after Allen, Tuesday through Friday”. Perhaps I’ll get a clarification right after fashion week; my head is spinning.

Meanwhile, I wanted to find out what was happening over at the bar, Martignetti Place, which has been closed with brown papered windows for some time. I asked Anthony to which he replied that, “the place will be open in two weeks with a huge mahogany bar. It will be comfy and serve food till 4am”. It will be called Brinkley’s after a joint James and he love in London. Fashion week must end soon seeing as I am tired and running out of unfashionable outfits to wear to “The Best Party Ever”. So many new places have just opened or are on the verge of opening; tons are being redone and promoted. So, there’s no doubt that nightlife is booming. We’re in a new downtown-driven club era. The recession has brought in an period where creativity is celebrated. Even Pacha. Just a few weeks after being on trial for its very existence, was approved unanimously for renewal by it’s local community board.

It’s a Boom Town.

New York: All the Week’s Parties

Just heard a very realistic rumor that East Village hipster standby The Annex has been sold and will become, of all things, a sports bar. In honor of the decline of yet another club kid landmark, the infamous electro-nu-rave Ruff Club party will be throwing a final hurrah for the sweat den it made popular on September 11, bringing out some underground all-stars: the Misshapes, Spencer Product, and the Ruff Kids. Another fond farewell to a Friday night hotspot that many called home.

It’s been interesting keeping tabs on this moody teenager we know as NYC nightlife. As staple bars close, the beloved Beatrice for one, patrons react as like displaced persons, leading a moveable feast in search of their next home. Keeping a regular weeknight schedule has been futile, as flash-in-the-pan venues like Chloe 81, which used to rule Wednesdays, cool down after losing a place in the rotation. These changes, however, open up the field for some new players. Thursday is becoming a great New York night, with two parties on opposite sides of Manhattan drawing their respective crowds. Likewise, people are turning to venues with solidarity, places that have stood the test of time (if not just a few months) to become sleeper hits. While many spend more of their evening arguing about where to go than actually going anywhere, here are some suggestions for parties on the verge — and old favorites rising to the occasion — for every night of the week.

MondayLit (East Village) – With Le Royale creeping out of the picture, Lit now has a refreshed patronage and a fresh outlook. ● Le Souk (East Village) – It will take a little while to regain the status their Monday party once enjoyed, but this mischievous restaurant is poised for a steady comeback thanks to a loyal following. ● Stanton Social (East Village) – In the spirit of restaurants shape shifting into nightlife, this table-hopping joint has been a mainstay on Mondays, though it may seem a left-field choice. The mounting interest in doubling your fun at dinner attracts a diverse crowd.

TuesdayAvenue (Chelsea) – Beatrice reggies rejoice! Todd and Angelo bring their special brand of refusal to the plush doors of this slick lounge — with Wass! It’s an all-star door, meaning you’ll find a mix of Beatrice groupies dressed up in nostalgia, seated next to high rollers and genuinely pretty people. It’s like a temporary shelter built for nightlife refugees, though this could prove to be long term. ● Rose Bar (Gramercy) – Indeed, the beautiful people have been planted here for a while now. So what? It isn’t any less of a party just because it has been around the block. It’s comforting to know that whenever you might desire being near to big art, Lily Donaldson, a mixed crowd, and a rope you might not get past on a Tuesday night, this is your go-to. ● Above Allen (Lower East Side) – Promoters? Bottle models? Hipsters? Ballers? Promoting hipster bottle models with money? All here on this diverse, overstimulating Tuesday night. Go, dance, get drunk — especially if you and your group are at a loss on Tuesday night.

WednesdayMinetta Tavern (Greenwich Village) – For once, go to this ubiquitous restaurant for the bar. Indeed, the bar lives in the shadow of the food, but the cocktails and bartenders really round out the celebrated establishment. Wednesdays are particularly wonderful here because those on a trendy feeding frenzy are less inclined to stick it out through the night. This means a better crowd, and a better chance to actually get seated — even if it isn’t your main concern. ● 1Oak (Chelsea) – The Koch twins once did a bang-up job on Thursday nights, but the shared sentiment about this golden child is that Wednesdays are now bringing the crowd. “It’s organic, a phenomenal mix of people, and there are usually surprise performances,” one faithful patron says. Indeed, the midweek party hits its stride, and even celebs like Rhianna — who showed face here just last Wednesday — have been known to drop in. “The best part is,” the patron continues, “the B&T crowd isn’t in full force and you actually get to enjoy the surroundings.”


ThursdayJane Hotel and Ballroom (West Village) – Steve Lewis calls the Jane the Obi Wan Kenobi of nightlife. “It is proving to be the savior,” he says, and really, the Jane is something to get excited about. Though some nights showcase bland party princesses better served for the Meatpacking District, we both agree there are enough pockets of poise on their Thursday night to negate the posturing — a feat Lewis says makes this fete a new staple in a nightlifer’s diet. “Any day of the week could be a good night to go to the Jane.” ● BEast (Chinatown) – Ryan McGinley’s Thursday party proved to be a hit with the gays, then came the girls, and now Thursday night is just a mecca of mess (in a good way).

FridayWhite Slab Palace (Lower East Side) – While some things should be kept a secret, this must be said: the decrepit oyster bar throws a pretty great party on Fridays. Known as the Swede Party the music is satisfying, the crowd is fashionable and extremely drunk, and the bartenders seem to be having just as much fun as everyone else. The front seems like a quiet pub, and just like all fronts, appearances are not as they seem. Though the place has caused rumors to fly about questionable activity, it all seems like good, clean fun, aside from the sweaty, dirty dance floor that is. ● The Standard Beer Garden and The Standard Grill (Meatpacking District) – The property is an all inclusive playland. Start off in the garden, if you can stand the crowded atmosphere. Great for a leisurely cocktail to begin the night, especially since you won’t be able to spend your entire night here. After you’re unceremoniously booted around 12am (though the fun sometimes ends around 11pm because of “neighborhood concerns”) gather ’round the friendly front tables and make friends with the rest of the drunks. Sometimes it boasts an unsavory crowd, but the property must be savored in the summer as a premier adult playground.

SaturdayVon (NoHo) – We’ve done everything a person could do on a Saturday night, and we’ve found that staying in or hiding from the masses are usually our best bet. Hiding counts for something at Von, because it isn’t the upstairs bar we’re after, but what’s hidden below it. Try to find it while it’s still mythical.

SundayGreenhouse (Soho) – For those that need their dance fix on Sunday night, Kenny Kenny and Susanne Bartsch bring them great happiness. Though Sundays aren’t at a loss for dance parties, the Vandam party is particularly worthy to check out. ● Goldbar (Nolita) – You can carry the party from brunch to Broome Street, where you’ll probably run into fellow brunchers still carrying on. Very much the Cheers of nightlife, thanks in part to the work of doorman Jon Lennon. ● Sway (Soho) – Sway is still around, and it is still a place to house the freaks and friends of Sunday night. Last time I casually dropped in for a drink, the bartenders were randomly handing out shots, and a colleague of mine was caught crawling around on the dance floor.

Photos by Frank Horvat

Summer Nights: Changing of the Guard

A game of musical chairs is being played by most of the major promotional entities as the summer roof season is upon us. While the highly successful 230 Fifth will still dominate this market just as the Empire State Building dominates its incredible view, some places remain unsettled or don’t have a clear opening date due to a myriad of problems. Highbar is getting a quick polish, while the roof at the Stay Hotel is still under construction. Mixed reports come from Cabanas and The Park, and the highly-touted Above Allen will finally get to open its windows amidst hopes that the sound spill doesn’t disturb too many hotel guests and nearby residents. Daemon O’Neil, Rose Bar’s patient, sweet, and very good-looking door guru (not to be confused with Damion Luaiye), is packing his clipboard and heading over to the Bazaar Bar at the upcoming Trump Soho hotel. The economic downturn, a weak dollar, and a laundry list of safety issues make travel abroad a lot less attractive this season. I hear reports that Hamptons summer rentals are sluggish, yet the Surf Lodge in Montauk is riding high.

I caught up with super duper and uber owner/outdoor space promoter Jeffrey Jah of 1Oak and other fabulous places, and he told me he was bringing back the “changing of the guard” at Groovedeck at Hudson Terrace this summer. “With Groovedeck, we’ve assembled an insane team from Bijoux (Dimitry and Francois) to Pavan and the 1Oak team. We’ve booked the Hamptons Magazine summer kick-off party as well as Lydia Hearst hosting the last International Film Premiere event.” I asked Jeffrey how the whole outdoor summer club thing started for him.

It’s pretty simple … the first real outdoor parties were “Groove on the Move,” with Mark Baker and I back in the early 90s, moving from the Central Park Boathouse to Tavern on the Green, and then permanently at Bowery Bar with Eric Goode and Serge Becker. There really were no other outdoor parties; then in 2000, I moved to Pier 59 Studios and created the deck with Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva — that’s where Remi Laba and Aymeric Clemente were given their fist taste of club promotions. They were low-level maitre d’s. In 2003, we were forced to move it to BED (the same team), and then they tried to get smart, and Baker, Remi, and Karim sold them on a cheaper deal without the 1Oak crew, but they were done after four weeks. We missed two seasons, and we’re now back at Hudson Terrace.

I asked Jeffrey if the problems with international travel these days, the weak dollar, and pandemic diseases would keep people closer to home. “Yes, the economy will keep people here. New York is the capital of the world. What’s more important is that Europeans will venture more to America with the weak dollar and get more value for the buck. We will see a lot of Euros this summer. New York is resilient, we’ve seen worst times apres 9/11. People want to blow off steam, and if the product is good, they will come again and again. A lot of people are not taking houses in the Hamptons this summer because institutional money and jobs evaporated over the last half of 2008 and first quarter of 2009. Hence I’m betting that we will see a much stronger city summer.”

I also asked Hudson Terrace co-owner Michael Sinensky about the economic impact. “If you can build one of the nicest venues in New York City, people will come out to escape what’s going on in the world. In this economy, you have to really service the customer and think outside the box to keep your patrons entertained, happy, and feeling satisfied enough that they’ll come back. I don’t think it’s all about having the best promoters and DJs and strictest door anymore — I think that’s a formula to stay open 6 to 12 months. Hudson Terrace wasn’t built to follow the models-and-bottles formula and meet their steep table minimums. Instead, we’ve taken pages from our other successful eating and drinking establishments such as the Village Pourhouse, Sidebar, and Vintage Irving, with offerings like pitchers of sangria and margaritas.” They’re pitching a happy hour concept from 5-7 p.m. I’m proud to say that Hudson Terrace was designed by my partner Marc Dizon.

The roof parties and a stop-start economy will get us through the heat of summer. An added value is that outdoor parties are generally blessed with quieter music, as sound travels and Manhattan gets more crowded by the minute. The music played in most clubs theses days — especially the clubs catering to these particular crowds — has stagnated. The isolation of Hudson Terrace and Jeffrey’s commitment to play it a little forward should educate a crowd to new tastes. Steven Greenberg’s 230 Fifth bans hip hop altogether in favor of mostly rock fare. This space is the highest-grossing joint in New York nightlife history. I know only a little about music made in this century, but I do know this: The crowds I DJ to these day are growing, and my CD collection isn’t. I play almost an entirely rock set, and there seem to be a lot more people interested in it than a year ago. Oh, if you want to hear me DJ or toss an egg or discuss clubdom, I’ll be at 38 Howard Street off Broadway tonight; I go on at 12:30 a.m., right after the bands.

Hudson Rises, Lou Reed Sulks

I DJed at the Hudson Rise Picnic last night, an amazing benefit proposed to help prevent the construction of a hideous 14-story sanitation facility that’s been approved for construction as early as June 2009 down on Spring and Canal streets, near the river. The city is pushing to construct the building, which will contain garbage trucks, a mountain of salt, garbage fuel, and lots of other stinky stuff that doesn’t seem right next to the water and the Holland Tunnel. The reason I volunteered to DJ for free at this gala was that unlike most groups who gripe about things, these folks are actually offering an intelligent, cheaper, and indeed economically cleaner solution — Hudson Rise Park, which would connect to the river, cost about $200 million less than the city’s current plan, and still accommodate local garbage facilities. Another reason I DJed was to check out the celebs who were on the invite.

James Gandolfini was in attendance, and a guest at the bar actually turned to her wimpy husband and snarled, “Who is this guy? He looks like a mafioso.” Jennifer Connelly also showed up and looked amazing; I’ve met her once when she was very young and was chaperoned by her mom to The Tunnel for an event. She was sweet then and sweet today. Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson hosted the event; Lou generally gets a bad rap for being a bit anti-social, and he did little to disprove that last night. Even though he was there for the good cause, I heard and saw a very gruff and unfriendly incarnation. I once opened for Lou at the old Ritz — which is now Webster Hall — with a fashion show (I was doing that in those days; I produced/directed over 400 shows). But this one was as an opening act for the Warholian legend.

During dress rehearsal, a gofer came to us and announced that Lou Reed was on his way to his dressing room and that the models were not to look at him directly as he passed through. Well, my models were a bit feisty, and one of the older girls said some unkind words about the stars’ lower anatomical regions — kind of loudly — that had the rest of us in tears. I like his work and often his words when he’s interviewed, and even his pal Laurie Anderson is a great person, but Lou doesn’t seem to get that being cool means you actually need to be cool and not think you’re centuries past the rest of us mortals. I booked Laurie Anderson for a New Years’ Eve show back in the day, and I had the legendary Cab Calloway open for her. She was kind, cool, and very smart. Her set was inspiring and positive, so I don’t get the Lou attitude at all. My date last night had a mad crush on him but now thinks he’s a dork.

Well anyway, back to the benefit: There were lots of strong speeches from seriously sharp folk who were just asking the mayor to listen to a common-sense proposal and do the right thing. Victoria Faust (who brought me in) is an inspiring person who put this thing together in just a few weeks. My good friend Michael Calvadis DJed with me, and thank god he came along. When we arrived, there was no DJ equipment, and his laptop saved the day. His first song after the speeches was “Garbage Man” by The Cramps. My boy Dale brought his family, and I played “Whatever” for his ridiculously cute daughter. If you want to catch a DJ set of mine, I will be at Above Allen this Wednesday. And after that, I might take a break for a while. I’m going to leave it to the pros until I can hook myself up with a laptop and Serato, but I’m sure that by then we’ll be spinning telepathically or off our Blackberries.

Industry Insiders: Med Abrous, Mile-High Mover

Thompson Hotels’ director of promotions and entertainment Med Abrous, on his once-in-a-lifetime guest performance with Prince, bringing movie night to clubs and the bright side of the bottle-service decline.

What’s the best night you’ve ever had at one of your venues? A little over a year ago, I put together some concerts in the Roosevelt Ballroom for Prince. He performed six shows for about 300 people per show. It was so intimate, and he put on such an amazing show. During the third show, I’m sitting with a group of people — the crowd was almost more famous than he was, which is really weird — and he starts playing this riff, then calls my name and says, “Yo Med! Get up here.” So I get up onstage with Prince, and he’s playing “Play that Funky Music White Boy,” and I basically sing onstage with him playing backup guitar. It was amazing. I have a picture to prove it because it sounds like such a tall tale. I think that was pretty much the highlight of my life.

Was your performance any good? You know what? I have moves. I’ve really got moves. I was even doing mic stand tricks; I was milking it. Can I sing? Not really. But I put on a show — I was very entertaining. It didn’t help that I didn’t know all the words, but he was helping me out a little bit. It was one of those things where it’s like, okay, try to top this.

How many Thompson properties are you responsible for? I’m based out in LA right now, and I take care of all the front-of-house stuff for the Tropicana Bar, Teddy’s, Above Beverley Hills, and our new property Above Allen, which I’m really excited about. I’m responsible for programming the music, hiring the DJs, hiring promoters where they’re needed, and coming up with creative ideas to drive business.

How did you get into the hotel business? While I was going to Parsons, a lot of my friends were DJs and into nightlife, so to make some extra money I started throwing parties, and I got pretty good at it. I’ve always been interested in hotels, and even though I run the bars, it’s really all-encompassing because bars can be very much one-note, while hotels are multifaceted and have a more interesting operation. Jason Pomeranc, who owns the Thompson Group, was a good friend of mine — we had some mutual friends — and he hired me to do the Tropicana Bar, then we started to do Teddy’s and … voila! Who do you admire in the industry? I think somebody who’s really done it right is Sean MacPherson. He seems to have a great sensibility and great sense of timing for all the places he’s opened. I really respect his work — he’s got a ton of places, including The Bowery Hotel, Swingers, and a great tequila bar called El Carmen in LA. They’re places that last because he makes them accessible and not too exclusive. He delivers a great product with great service and a cool aesthetic. I would definitely use his career as a model.

What’s the best part of your job? I actually enjoy the creativity behind coming up with different concepts that people would like. For instance, in the summertime at the Roosevelt’s Tropicana Bar, which is kind of an oasis inside Hollywood, on Sunday or Monday we’re going to be doing movie nights. We will have different people curate the movies, and we’re building special menus with truffle popcorn, colby hotdogs, etc. It’ll be a night when people don’t necessarily want to go out and rage, but they’ll go and see a movie in a bar. Finding different ways to find revenue is something I really enjoy. The second thing is that I actually genuinely like people. Some people in this business actually don’t, but I tend to get along with people and enjoy most of their company.

You’re a bi-coastal boy. Where do you hang out when you’re in New York? I love to eat. I’m a closet foodie, so I have some go-to restaurants whenever I come to New York. I love Frankie’s in Brooklyn on Court Street, and I’m always discovering new places like Inoteca, which I really like. Frank, I’ve been going to forever on 2nd Avenue and the Corner Bistro to get my Bistro burger on — it’s the world’s greatest burger. In terms of bars, it all depends on what neighborhood I’m in, but there are a lot of great bars on the LES (besides Above Allen, of course) like Pianos and a lot of little local joints. But having a lot of friends in the business means that I have friends who own bars, so when I’m in New York, I usually do the rounds of all my friends’ bars, like 3 Steps on 18th Street, and then the bigger, popular spots also.

And in LA? In LA, the closest bar to me is the Chateau Marmont, so I like going there — the Bar Marmont is really great. There’s also been an emergence of a lot of really cool dive bars like The Woods, El Carmen, and Bar Lubitsch that I enjoy.

Which of your bars do you spend the most time at? Teddy’s. It’s kind of like my baby. It’s something that I work really hard on and has managed to stay successful for a long time. It’s a great space. In LA, a lot of places tend to be really slick and overdesigned, but Dodd Mitchell designed this space, and it really has a lot of character. The Roosevelt is already a historical landmark, and the design really lends itself to that. It has kind of a wine cave kind of feeling — it’s dark and comfortable — and we have great staff, great service, and it’s become kind of like Cheers, where people know each other and know that there will always be a good crowd and great music. We have great DJs that we always rotate, in addition to live music, so it’s become almost an institution at this point.

What positive trends do you see in the hospitality industry? Well, it’s more of a reality and not a trend, but the state of our economy is forcing us to do things differently and more efficiently. I think it’s actually a good thing that for the first time in a long time. People are going to actually have to live within their means. People are really tightening up their belts and trying to find interesting ways to still be successful in this economy. Bottle service, for example, is starting to fizzle, which I think actually has a good effect in the long run. I remember when bottle service first started; I was talking to Steve Lewis about this earlier. I remember that Life was one of the first places that people actually didn’t have to be cool to get in … they didn’t have to be artists anymore. And all of a sudden the investment bankers and hedge fund guys could come in and buy bottles and be in an exclusive place, and I think it hurt nightlife in a huge way. Now, with those people not spending as much money, and bottle service not being as prevalent in New York especially, I think it’s coming back to cool people coming together. Artists, etc. People who didn’t necessarily have money before the crash, and can still go out. I think that’s had a positive effect on nightlife.

Where do you see yourself in the future? I think the natural progression of things is to open my own place, but I’d definitely like to be in the hospitality business. I’d love to start with a small hotel and see what happens.

What are you doing tonight? I’m going to my parents’ house and having a home-cooked meal.