Saturday Night in the City, Plus a Chat About Hotel Chantelle

Health is wealth, says my mother. My recent bouts with flu have left me “anorexic,” says she. Well, I took my much thinner self on a romp this Saturday night and got the feel of things. I stopped by APL, which is changing its name, game, and menu to get back to a good place. These are nice people and it’s the last place I designed with Mr. Dizon. I wish them well. Then I scooted by Highlands Restaurant and Mary Queen of Scots, which celebrated their one year anniversary on Sunday.

I walked for a while with Matt Levine, who told me his new place previewed and will soon be ready for prime-time players. He was heading home, so I popped into Hotel Chantelle to see how the roof was holding up with the weather advancing toward winter. The enclosed roof deck’s foliage was as vibrant as ever and the crowds were still there enjoying the illusion of being outdoors. I’m DJing there Thursday, so I checked out the booth to see what I was getting into.

Then I passed by Noel Ashman’s new joint, where fresh paint was debated. Also the name of the place. I can’t much talk about it except to say the joint is going to be sweet. Noel and his uber secret partners are excited. I walked over to subMercer for my second visit in two days. Gabby Meija’s birthday bash the night before was a costume affair with a Roman flair. It was a great party. I didn’t go downstairs Saturday, opting to hang out at the door with Richard Alvsarez and the chain smokers, which could be the name of his band if the door/art thing doesn’t pan out.

I zoomed over to Snap to see how the basement spot I’m designing has progressed. Although the name is secret here as well, I’ve been hearing it in the street. If one more person mentions it, I’ll consider it public knowledge and tell you. Geez, when I had joints I wanted people to have the name on their lips. This secret sauce confuses me. I peeked into The Darby and was amazed by the vibrancy of the place. The upstairs was winding down its dinner/show with a solid adult crowd and bon vivants were sliding into the downstairs lounge. Everybody was beautiful and well dressed. Matt Issacs and I walked over to this 42 Below Underground Rebel Bingo event on 16th street. It was just ending and the crowd was shuffling off to Buffalo and other such places.

There were nice new cars parked everywhere, and I was told the Cold War Kids had performed. It was time to get real, so I headed to the Dream Downtown. I went to the roof where everyone was having a good time in the low lit room. How dim was it… girls were picking me up. It was that dim or they were. I called ahead to Provocateur to announce myself, as is their practice, and was whisked inside. Lately, the snarkiest amongst my readers and friends have suggested that two years in the place has lost a step. It had been a couple of months, so I wanted to see for myself. Those naysayers are crazy or just mean spirited. The place was off the hook with every table a story with a fairy tale ending. Every time I go to Provocateur I see the most wonderous crowd. I zipped over to Electric Room, where Nur Khan was hosting Crystal Castles after their show. I asked the door heroes about the black carpet that guided you through the steep Hacula garage entrance. “So, if a person is rejected they have to skulk all the way uphill to the street? How embarrassing that must be!” They replied with something eloquent, like “Yep.” Inside it was wonderful. Every thing was clicking. The staff is brilliant, the music fun, and the crowd was having a great time instead of just pretending or looking like they were having one. I love it there. In my spare time I asked Victor Medina-San Andrés about his Thursday night soiree’ over at Hotel Chantelle.

SL) Thursday you are hosting the 5th Annual Masquerade Ball. Tell me how you got into this and the charity it benefits.

VMSA) The first Masquerade Ball was in Paris in 2007, I brought out about 700+ people on a Tuesday night and it was a huge success. Healing the Children Northeast is a small organization which is based in Connecticut and they’re great, their sole purpose is to heal children with burn injuries, cleft palates and other deformities whose families don’t have access to or cannot afford treatment in developing countries. I have decided to help them to raise money with their missions. I know the money goes to the right people since I traveled with them to Thailand right after the Tsunami.

SL) You’re having it at Hotel Chantelle and the invite says black tie. Talk to this why Chantelle and why black tie?

VMSA) Terry Casey was the person who suggested Hotel Chantelle and he told Tim Spuches and Kyle O’Brien about the event and they said “Definitely!”. I love Hotel Chantelle, it has a great vibe, 3 floors an amazing roof deck and it’s just perfect for the event. I call it black tie because I want to give people a second chance to look like a rockstar at their prom. If you think about it, we were all a bit awkward in High School so this way you get to basically be whoever you want behind the mask and have fun at the same time. In addition, this party is dedicated to all women. Yes, women who have amazing beauty and within and can show it with their attire that evening.

SL) Tell me about what you do.

VMSA) I’m a photographer and filmmaker. I have worked in about 24 films and I’m developing a few ideas about directing 2 short films I want to shoot. One of them is about suicide and how painful it is to families and I want to present it to suicide organizations to try and prevent it. I’m still developing the idea but we will see what happens with it. The film industry is very “up in the air” sort of business. At times, you can shoot for months and then is quiet. Also, I became partner and curator of the After-Set Independent Film Screenings and we do screenings with Tribeca Grand Hotel & GrandLife. Tony Fant & Tommy Saleh are amazing when it comes to support with the arts and we allow indy filmmakers to screen and showcase their work for free, we screen weekly and we give a percentage of the money collected at the door to Healing the Children Northeast on a weekly basis and it works. is a social media site for filmmakers only and we do the screenings not only in NYC but Paris and Rome. As a photographer, first it was a hobby which turned into a business, I have been shooting for a long time and I recently joined The Cooper Union to take lessons and it’s funny how the professor asked me: “what are you doing here?” since he found out what I have done as a shooter. Lastly, at the party I’m also showcasing The Masquerade Show – Part Deux, 20 nude images I photographed, I’m selling the prints and giving half the money to the charity as well. This way everyone at the party can feel good about helping children.

SL) Terry Casey is involved with this event… tell me more.

VMSA) Terry loves masquerades as much as I do, he’s not only a good friend but very talented when it comes to music and DJ’s. He has been in the nightlife scene for a long time and he approached me last year about doing the Masquerade Ball and he actually introduced me to GrandLife and Tribeca Grand where I did the Masquerade Ball last year, I know this business can be cut-throat but you do actually build good relationships at the end. We are in the business of entertaining people and make their nights memorable and The Masquerade Ball is going to do just that.

SL)How do people get in?

VMSA) Get there early and $20 gives you access to get in. Masks can be purchased at door for $30. Starts at 7pm until 4am on October 27th at Hotel Chantelle. I didn’t want to sell the tickets online because I want to see a line of people dressed in black tie outside the venue. if you come with no mask, jeans, caps or any wrong attire or shoes, no problem, then your entrance fee is $1,000.

Celebrating My Lady’s Birthday at La Esquina, Kenmare & APL

It was the love of my life, Amanda Noa’s, birthday last night and due to circumstances beyond my control we were unable to consider dining until almost 11pm. But late night fare in this town is getting swankier, if not better, so I did have some choices. I wasn’t going to get away with our usual afterhours spots Veselka or Kellogg’s Diner. It came down to the recently opened Marble Lane at the Dream Hotel or La Esquina. She opted out on the steak-centric Marble and we scooted off to La Esquina.

A couple months ago Noah asked me to suggest a name for his new steak house, and I suggested one based on a tattoo on my lady’s back. In honor of our relationship, she has a couple of tats that sum things up. One is a set of teeth with a string tied to them because dealing with me is like pulling teeth. Another is a rib-eye with a pretty bow on top, which is supposed to be “miss steak” or mistake. My gal won’t settle for just a spat – she permanently marks herself with her misgivings about me. Anyway, I suggested the gal-friendly name Miss Steak for Noah’s new spot. Apparently cooler heads prevailed… Marble Lane seems better. I’ll be out late tonight and will pop in. La Esquina remains my favorite haunt. Everything about the place is cool, cool, cool and the food is constantly terrific. We had a blast. For people in the club world, having a relationship is often problematic. We’re surrounded by distractions, many of our own devices. I’m lucky to have someone who puts up with me.

We stopped by Kenmare to say hey to Paul and Nur and found Nur in the back with some other birthday boy. Megan escorted us to see my man and we enjoyed small and big talk before scooting off to APL to wish co-owner Joey Verdone a happy birthday as well. As I hopped, skipped, and jumped to the nearby restaurant, I tried to figure out what date it was 9 months ago. My fingers told me October. After APL we headed to St. Jerome’s, a good place to end a night. It was a going away party for Hotel Chantelle barkeep/manager Dave Coleman, who’s off to Panama to find fame and fortune. He says he’ll be back in no time but I’ve got a $2 bet he’ll be a little late. A coke and a Bud in this legendary LES dive bar came in at the cheap Williamsburg price of $6. We listened to rock staples and laughed and had fun. No attitude here, just good music, a friendly atmosphere and inexpensive solid drinks. Sometimes the business is as easy as that.

Tonight I will DJ rock ‘n roll hootchie coo as Gunbar launches its Wednesday night party. The affair is hosted by BlackBook, thus me getting the gig. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. Saturday I will go to another birthday bash at the newly opened Mother’s Ruin, next to Bread. Dana Dynamite, my favorite PR and marketing flack, will show us how she got her name. I’m sure client Sailor Jerry Rum will lend a hand. I had a few sips of that cheap beer so I’m a little out of it today – I’ll cut things short. As regular readers know, I only have a drink two or three times a year…whenever I have sex. So I guess the second half of 2011 will be…exciting

The NYPD Takes Action Against Increasing LES Noise Levels

There’s no doubt that the quality of life for residents of the Lower East Side has suffered due to neighborhood joints popping off on weekends, and because of the clientele who are doing all of the popping. The Ludlow, Orchard, and Rivington to Stanton Street corridors have become a mating ground for a particularly obnoxious horde that storm it each weekend. But with new, more luxurious housing popping up nearby, something has to give—I’m betting that it will be half a dozen or more particularly loud bars and spaces in the near future.

On my way to the How To Make It In America event at Hotel Chantelle last night, I noticed an increased police presence, on a comparable level to what inflicted the Outer Chelsea corridor a few years ago. This action, by New York’s Finest, eventually resulted—directly or through attrition—in the closing of that club mall. Joints like Mansion, Home, Guesthouse, Spirit, Bed, Cain, Bungalow 8, Quo, and Pink Elephant couldn’t survive their own demons combined with the demons provided by the NYPD in the form of harassing street units, mounted cops, warning signs, and Klieg lights. Perhaps the nail in the coffin for that formerly red-hot red light district was the cops’ decision to block off streets with squad cars, vans, and barricades to prevent taxis from picking up and dropping off club patrons. Monied types hate that, and high heels designed to dance on banquettes don’t often enjoy pavement.

This Saturday, I noticed the same tactics being employed on the LES. Cop cars with flashing lights blocked passage, and there was an increased presence on the street. I even saw a couple of cops searching a few dweeby frat boys. Whether the young studs had an open container, or were smoking a joint, or were just being hassled because of their ugly shirts, I don’t know, but man someone needed to knock that enfranchised, my-daddy’s-lawyer-will-be-on-your-case grin off their faces. The same police captain involved in the crusade against the West 27th Street nightlife industry is on board here. His name is Captain David Miller, and he is the new sheriff on the block. He means business and not of the nightlife variety.

He’s a get-what-he-wants-and-knows-how-to-get-it kind of guy. People who know him say he’s a really bright and fair man who finishes what he starts. And I must admit that the din from places lining the street as I walked by was unbelievably loud. Whereas the old tenants of the hood had gotten used to it, moved there specifically for it, or have never been able to do anything about it, I cannot say. But I do know that things are changing rapidly, and I suspect the type of places that will be left standing after all is said and done will be different than the ones operating now. I believe that places like Max Fish, Motor City, and what we affectionately call “dive bars” will have a hard time surviving. The always-closing and reopening Max Fish has more lives than a liter of kittens. The Hotel on Rivington has just been renovated with Alan Philips, bringing long legged and socially aware clientele to that spot. APL will bring adults for fine dining and libations. Beauty and Essex, just around the way, is a hit with a great crowd, while Stanton Social Club continues to be a go-to spot, and even The Meatball Shop is banging with a decent crew. All around, there are places now overrun by a 20-to-25 beer worshiping set that has pushed the hipsters south or to gulags like Williamsburg. Tammany Hall has Eddie Brady, a veteran operator who will play by the rules and bring in rockers to his new music venue. In this game of musical chairs, these joints will have chairs provided while the others are left standing in the street. Like a thousand revelers this past weekend they will then be told to move a long.

The warm weather will have open French doors and windows allowing the noise to travel down the street and up into apartments. Decibel readings will shut those windows and doors before city agencies use that information to shutter their doors for good. How much carnage will be inflicted on the downtown scene will soon be seen. If I lived there I might be inclined to say thank God, it’s about time, but if were an operator who invested thousands or millions of dollars and blood sweat and tears, I’d be extremely worried.

There are signs posted warning patrons to respect the neighbors and now every place has a security guard with an ID scanner. Still, the action continues to overflow into the streets where party animals will linger, smoke, chatter, laugh and scream while traveling from one room to another, in what has become a giant club with residents trying to sleep upstairs.

That never works, something has to give and I’m betting it will not be the city agencies representing and protecting the interests of these sleep-deprived voters. I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence that this new activity is related to the new hotel slated for the 180 Orchard lot. With the Thompson, The Rivington and the projected Indigo Hotel nearby, all armed with their own bars and restaurants, the area has potential to be a “nice” or “pleasant” part of our great city. When I lived in Paris, I had a male model friend named Adam who modeled very little but always had the finest of things and the nicest gentleman friends. Well, Adam used to describe people who bored him to death as pleasant. If he particularly loathed someone he would say “he is such a pleasant fellow.’ Oh well… there goes the neighborhood.

With rooftops all the rage now, tomorrow night I will attend what is being billed as the opening of the Sky Terrace at Hudson Hotel. The event will feature Kanon Organic Vodka (what will they think of next?), The 88, and People’s Revolution with special guest host, Pamela Love. Music will be by my buddy Paul Sevigny. There is always so much going on at the Hudson, with so many rooms packed full of quality nightlife. I find myself at the place way too often. If it wasn’t heaven before, the roof certainly brings me closer to it.

APL, The Wooly and More: My Party Whim

I’m back to not doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and just doing what comes up. Like the 2 year anniversary of Griffin, the club my firm Lewis and Dizon did, but which I actually did very little of because I was off doing something else. Even though it bears my name, I have never gotten around to being there. Something always comes up—or goes down, I suppose. Sometimes I can’t remember which it was or wasn’t. I guess something came up last night—but with all this confusion, maybe I got confused and the event is actually tonight. If it is, I’ll try to remember to attend.

I sort of remember not liking someone over there, or them not liking me. But that was then and this is now, and the person or incident is lost in the corners of my brain. I’m sure the person wasn’t important enough to dislike anyway. So I will go tonight, unless it was last night. Two years is a long time in nightlife, and they should be congratulated, I think.

Speaking of last night, I had a blast! I was all busy getting APL, that joint we designed on Orchard Street, absolutely completely finished as it really will have some sort of opening tonight. Little details, like hooks for ladies’ bags under the bar (I always forget to do this until the last second) and framing all those signs (reminders to everyone to not drink while pregnant, not to smoke ‘em if you got ’em, and to be of the proper age, and all that). It looks cool. I was in and out all day—annoying everyone, getting in the way, drinking delicious cucumber concoctions, which I was told were virgins but in retrospect I realize that everyone lies about that, and bringing people by who I was sure would say nice things about it to me. I was telling them all to be brutally honest, knowing full well that they aren’t that type.

I rushed over to the Confettisystem’s Lights Up! opening at the W/—— Project Space at 141 Division Street. I thought the event happened on Tuesday, and was happy to find out that it was last night. The installation took up about 300 square feet, and the crowd spread over 3,000 square feet of neighborhood. A brutally honest friend told me I wasn’t hip enough to understand what I was seeing, and I decided he might be right. I certainly wasn’t taking him to APL, to be brutally honest about that. It was a great opening with a ton of very young, old friends. I kissed cheeks, glad handed, and was brutally honest with everyone about how great they looked and how exciting the things they are working on sounded. The show is better described by those who were involved:

Nicholas Andersen and Julie Ha of ConfettiSystem debut a new public installation and a new collection of designs. Presented in collaboration with W/ — Project Space and United Bamboo, 
CONFETTISYSTEM’s new collection, Lights Up!, further explores the duo’s practice of transforming simple materials into objects that occupy the space between the ephemeral and the permanent, evoking a sense of nostalgia and lighthearted fun.

 They transformed the W/ — Project Space into a theatrical storeroom filled with the fantastical objects and wardrobe used in theatrical production. A video collaboration with director Jon Leone, shot on location at Creatures of Comfort in New York, will also be screened as part of the exhibition.

 CONFETTISYSTEM has previously collaborated with United Bamboo on several stage designs for their fashion shows, as well as an ad campaign featuring artist Terence Koh; Leone has directed videos for Animal Collective, Ariel Pink and Beach House.

It was off to Hotel Chantelle with a herd of hipsters for cocktails. To be brutally honest, the previously alluded to cucumber concoctions had left me a bit between the ephemeral and the permanent, and I was in an excited state. The roof is so close to being ready and I’m so excited to ask people how much they truly, honestly love it. Chantelle was popping and I hung out with my cutest friend Stephanie and her friends who she referred to as “her Gays!” I showed them the roof, and they were completely, brutally honest—telling me how wonderful it was. The handsomer one—or maybe it was the other—said it was like Paris with a view of the Williamsburg Bridge. He so got me. I promised to absolutely invite him back when it’s done, which might be as early as next week if the contractors behave with brutal honesty. They rarely do .

Somehow I ended up downtown at the Woolworth building where my young old friend, Eric Adolfson, was hosting the after party from that art show at his joint, The Wooly. Eric was part of my merry clan when he was but a wee-lad. It was established that I had completely corrupted him when he was in his Wonder Bread years, and that he had caught the fever which, of course, butterflied into a dream and passion. That’s the way it is: being a nightlife impresario, you can’t get enough. The warning on the side of that cigarette pack says “don’t get or take more than you can handle.” I unfortunately always skipped the fine print. A gentleman in the crowd recognized me from that Limelight documentary, which apparently is still being previewed short of it’s August debut. I wonder how you all will think of me when you see me in that. I was brutally honest, and not very subtle anyway, Eric has it so together at Wooly. He’s a bright guy surrounded by the brightest people, and the Wooly is just wow. It’s everything I ever wanted and worked hard to create. Every time some follower complains that there is nothing to do at night, a friend leads me to another gem. I had heard only good things about The Wooly, but it takes great things to get me to the Financial District. I can’t wait to go back. Eric and I talked about wallpapers, couches, tables, and such, and the future plans. We will talk about all that when it’s the proper time.

Steve Lewis Returns: Healing by Hitting the Party Circuit

First of all, how have you been? I can’t reply fine, thank you, as I have spent the last week and change sick as can be. I was a guest of the very fabulous Beth Israel Hospital, where I was lost in a drug fog for six days. No snide remarks from the peanut gallery, please. It seems last weekend Amanda and I got bit by something very little while walking the puppies in McCarren Park. The bites, which were just a little more than a mosquito’s work, were annoying but unimportant at the time. However, the next morning, they were swollen, infected, and suddenly very important. Within a day the swelling and all the guck associated with infections had spread to the neighboring fingers, my whole hand, and up my arm.

I went to Beth Israel thinking they would lance it, bandage it, give me some antibiotics, a couple of Advils, and send me home. Next thing you know I have a half-dozen IV’s in me and scalpels are slicing me up. I must have had 20 injections a day for my entire six-day stay. I felt like an Obama voodoo doll in Islamabad. Oh well, the Staph Infection that I got was respondent to antibiotics and I cured quickly. It could have been worse. Some say I got the infection from what appeared to be a spider bite and then picked up the Staph at the hospital. We’ll never know.

I have become an expert on spiders now. It’s very rare to get one, the experts say, but everyone that visited me said they knew someone who’d gone through it. It seems we New Yorkers buy lots of firewood, Christmas trees, antiques, and other things from exotic places where the nasty critters thrive. They hitchhike in and settle in our basements and walls, venturing out when the weather suits them. In Pennsylvania, I saw people bitten by Brown Recluse spiders, even though many experts swear they don’t venture that far Northeast. The crew that visited me daily were amazing. I lacked for nothing while I longed for my own bed. Beautiful women dressed for the evening popped by with flowers and DVD’S to the amazement of a staff who have seen everything. Although very weak, I ventured out last night to attend a few can’t-miss events.

Firstly, I rushed to a very early Cinco de Mayo affair at the besieged Los Feliz. This was a Cointreau-blessed gala hosted by the extraordinary Dita Von Teese. There was a new cocktail for the occasion, the Countreau MargaDita, and a menu by chef Julieta Ballesteros. I love Dita. I’d walk a thousand miles for one of her smiles. I promised Amanda I would drink responsibly and mind my manners. Murray Hill, just back from her whirlwind London Showbiz tour, made the introductions. I was shocked and awed—I had seen Dita do her thing a couple times at the now-defunct Happy Land. If you’ve never seen her perform for yourself, you surely have to. We chatted small talk, but agreed to bigger down the line. I was ready to move on to the next event.

When I had my fill of MargaDitas, I trotted off to the press preview/sneak peak at the kitchen of Joey Verdone’s APL. Marc Dizon and I designed the joint, and I was just dying to see the place with people in it who aren’t plumbers, painters, or electricians. Alas, those people rarely are invited back, even though they spend a year making it right. That’s not a criticism at all, it just happens on every job. The last week, when I was out of commission, the final tweaks were done. I am so upset that I couldn’t be there tweaking away, as this place has been a labor of love, and I sure hope people love it. There has certainly been ups and downs, and changes and delays, but in the end it looks like the right place, in the right location, at the right time. When the folding doors are all pushed to one side revealing the multi-layered, colorful Hobbit hole we have offered, I think the place will be wonderful. Lat night’s Cinco de Mayo bash was super-duper fun.

After all that, I still had my land legs. I headed to Hudson Hotel for the Vice Magazine soiree where my favorite new band, Davila 666, was playing. They’re from Puerto Rico, and Amanda knows them from there. I told you about them a couple of weeks ago. They are more fun than a barrel of MargaDita-drunk monkeys, and I’m telling you to catch them whenever you can. Vice parties have their vices, and too many were lurking around to enjoy myself. After the band, I looked for a sweeter solution. I didn’t have to go far.

I had an amazing meal just upstairs at the Hudson Room, and caught up with Morgans Group Honcho Sal Imposimoto and his lovely bride, Andrea Westinghouse. They were celebrating their anniversary. We settled in at the Library bar for Kellie Calco’s weekly blast. Andrea is working the door at the Boom Boom these days. She recalled how she had been in NYC for like 30 seconds when she saw an FIT ad for a receptionist at Spa. I interviewed her and put her at the front door instead. We talked about the creative life, and I offered that a doorperson at a real-deal joint is indeed an artist. I called it a social curator. The art of picking and choosing, recognizing and cultivating, was taught to me by the master blaster of Studio 54 and Palladium, Steve Rubell. He taught me how to do it, and I passed it down to Andrea and others. Kenny Kenny and King added their vast knowledge. Some will dispute the importance, or the art of the job, and some clubs have taken the job away all-together. I still believe the door is the most important position to fill. DJs are available in vast (and talented) numbers, but I think there’s probably a dozen really good door people out there now. Most door gods forget that the real job is to get people in and make them feel like they belong. This debate is for another day, as I’m exhausted and will now go find my meds.

Camille Becerra Finds a New Home

Top Chef alumni Camille Becerra landed squarely on her feet at Hotel Chantelle on Ludlow, just south of Delancey. Camille, who left under unfriendly circumstances over at APL, which is just up the way on Orchard north of Rivington, was all smiles when I saw her at Chantelle yesterday afternoon. Tastings were minutes away, and all parties were gushing with anticipation.

It’s a great fit with her. The personalities at Chantelle bring out the best in her, while the same could not be said about the her interactions with the APL crew. I love Camille, but also get along fine with the APL owners. Sometimes people just can’t work together and are better off following different paths. APL (pronounced apple) is just inches away from opening as well. My firm Lewis and Dizon designed the place, and we are anxious to see it up and running. Last I heard, they had a chef lined up, which I think is very important for a restaurant.

Camille’s stint at APL ended just as the paint was drying, when a he-said, she-said turf war played out in the blogosphere, and sent her shopping her considerable skills around town. Things got hotter than the fire that destroyed her Greenpoint restaurant, Paloma. Hotel Chantelle, which is open for cocktails, has a cute lounge downstairs, a classy bar on the main floor, and a simply delicious retractable roof dining area. It might become even cuter, as I have been tasked with that assignment. The menu will be French Colonial, and Camille was gushing with excitement about that direction.

I set out a year ago or so to build a place for my friend, and although the first attempt at APL didn’t work out, the fates played a hand, and we are united once more. The design stuff I am doing is purely cosmetic, and shouldn’t take much time or interfere with the daily operations of the place. Hotel Chantelle seems to be the right spot, at the right time. I know I am looking forward to warm weather, cool drinks and fare on an elegant roof after the worst winter I can remember. I am also long overdue for a meal from Camille Becerra.

Hungry after a long day discussing food, I got back to Williamsburg only to be dragged out the door to meet up with some friends. While I pined to fill my belly with a cheeseburger at the always reliable Kellogs Diner, my Amanda was seeking out belly laughs. We arrived at the Cameo on North 6th and made our way, enviously, past the diners who seemed to be really enjoying themselves. We then scurried past the lavatories through a semi-secret door into a rather pleasant little club space. I’m new in Brooklyn, and it never ceases to amaze me. This comedy night, called Big Terrific, has been going on for eons, and I’m the last person to know about it. It’s every Wednesday and it’s standing room only.

Basically, you need to come Tuesday afternoon if you want to sit. Friends, which included a very savvy and good-looking aspiring comedian. explained to dumb ol’ me, slowly, in words I could understand, the differences between Manhattan comedy clubs and the really hip Brooklyn scene that I was privileged to be introduced to. The word “experimental” was used a lot. I go to Stand-up New York, a joint we designed on 78th and Broadway in Manhattan, for belly laughs and free diet cokes. I always laugh loud and often at the great talent, consistently booked. The Big Terrific show was noticeably different. The acts played to a hipper, younger, set. Routines and jokes were offered, most of which would have flown over much of the heads of Manhattanites. That’s because most of the crowds at Manhattan comedy clubs have flown in from elsewhere.

When the hosts and comedians do the traditional “anybody here from out of town” bits, most hands are raised. The acts are trying out or refining jokes they hope to use on Letterman, Leno, or in Vegas, and are appealing to a broad audience. Compared to The Cameo, they are decidedly mainstream, but absolutely funny as well. The show I saw in Brooklyn is all Brooklyn, and that sort of “where ya from” bit wasn’t featured. Gabe Liebman and Max Silvestri host this affair, and pummeled us with really great material all night. I was very impressed with Dave Hill’s act. There is no cover, and the drinks are too cheap to be believed. Comparing Brooklyn to Manhattan is like comparing APL’s to oranges. The result of both ventures is laughter. Without the pressures of high rent, culture of all types thrives near my new home. Sometimes I feel like I’m not in New York anymore, and these days that’s not necessarily bad.

APL Loses Its Chef, Can Greenhouse Be Cool?

On those cop TV shows, sometimes someone close to a cop is whacked, which means that the cop can’t get involved with the case because he or she is too “close.” Of course, the cop who is relieved of duty or assigned to a desk job just can’t stay away, instead spending the next 48 minutes tracking the bad guys and bringing them to justice or to a quick and violent end. I sort of feel that way today. The restaurant that I built around chef Camille Becerra, APL, is parting ways with her before it even opens. As construction was completed over the last couple of months, it became clear that the owners and Camille weren’t getting along. It was like cowboys and Indians, and although at times it seemed like it was going to work out, well, it didn’t.

Camille isn’t the type to feel comfy on a reservation, and the cowboys were inclined to box her in. Camille will move on to do her thing and without a doubt will be wildly successful. The girl can flat-out cook. At the Blackbook soiree at APL, she wowed us with all sorts of fun, unusual, and, more importantly, delicious treats. I will follow her anywhere for her Zeppole’s filled with Serrano and figs. My fear going forward is that Mark Dizon and I collaborated heavily with Camille in the design of the place, which was meant to be paired with her visions of colorful food and drink. Maybe this will still happen with the new chef. For all intents the joint is ready to go. Sure, there’s a bathroom mirror to be hung and a light to be focused here and there, but 2 hours of work will have it ready.

After almost a year of delays, when an egress was denied by a landlord and an alternative had to be approved by the buildings department, the joint now loses what I consider its greatest asset. The jury is still out on whether APL, pronounced “apple,” proves to be full of worms or a Golden Delicious. As far as me being too close to the action to report unemotionally or fairly – well, when clients hire me they are aware that I write and they understand that I tell it like I see it. They often reap the rewards when I tell their story. Sometimes I get criticized for writing glowing reviews on places Mark and I design. I try to always write as if Steve Lewis the designer and Steve Lewis the writer are different people. Alas, it’s hard to do — like that cop on TV, it’s hard to remain detached. I want APL to succeed because it’s something I helped create. I want it to work, but the loss of a chef hours before a restaurant opens is a questionable decision at best. My work there is done and I cannot dwell on it or lose sleep on it. I can only hope for the best for all parties involved.

Stuart Braunstein, ex-Collective Hardware honcho, is real close to being back in the game. With the full cooperation of the boys over at Greenhouse, he’s gearing for a February 1st opening of the basement space at that venue. He’s deciding between two names for the art-based watering hole. “Work in Progress” is my choice. His other option seems to be “The Altar Ego.” Icky poo on that one. If he wants to call it “Icky Poo,” I will consent, as anything is better than Altar Ego, with the possible exception of APL.

Stuart will present a blank canvas to a select group of artists, who will install their work as the joint’s design. About 30% of the space will be changing constantly, compared to the 70% that will change only sometimes. Stuart feels real comfortable that Jon B, Greenhouse’s notorious owner, actually gets it. I think Jon does as well. What other owner would embrace this crowd, this concept? The bottom line is that Jon is always aware of the bottom line, but this basement boite comes with a low overhead, and stands to add much-needed cache to his brand, which is at best is associated with bottles, bimbos, and bridge and tunnel.

Although Greenhouse and Juliet (Jon B’s other venture) have had moments in the sun, they are generally considered “B” clubs. But adding a layer of downtown credibility may extend his run and give him relevance with those who discount his huge success. Stuart says, “I got a good feeling he’s going to do the right thing, and if he does and this works the way I feel it will, we can take it to another level.” He’s asked me to design a small section and I think I will. Collective Hardware ended badly. Most passionate endeavors do. However, in it’s hey day, it was the only game in town. It was the only game that was unpredictable and smart and savvy, that catered to those who just don’t care about a table next to a Lohan or a squadron of models. By providing a blank canvas and the material budgets to scenester artistic types, Stuart will attract those seeking an edgier nightlife than what’s being provided.

Alig did something similar back in the day with the after hours joint Lotto. He redecorated an abandoned office with seven rooms, each week giving club artists 100 bucks per room to do their thing. Lotto was a success until it wasn’t, and maybe this idea will wear thin, or the powers that ”B” will get greedy. Whatever happens, Stuart should be congratulated for trying something newish, and Jon B should also be applauded for embracing the concept. February 1st starts with a friends-and-family-type run, and soon after the adoring public will be invited.

“The noise some people make” is not a comment from one of my readers, but an EP from my friend Madison and the band that bears her name. I will be on hand at 9pm tonight at Marty’s, 247 West Broadway, for a celebration of its release. The songs are catchy and rock and cool, and come from a sweet little gal who becomes a monster on stage. Madison is wonderful and I will be there to support.

BlackBook & The Supper Club Celebrate the Holidays at APL

Last night, BlackBook and The Supper Club celebrated the holidays with a special sneak preview of the new Lower East Side den APL, which was designed by our very own renaissance man, Steve Lewis. Delicious hors d’oeuvres were provided by APL Chef Camille Becerra, whose pulled pork tostadas had us hanging by the kitchen door in anticipation of the next batch.

Desserts came courtesy of cupcakes by Melissa and tunes were brought to us by Chelsea Leyland, a pretty blond thing. The Philanthropy partner – because who doesn’t love those – was St. Bernard Project. Check their shizz out here – it’s super rad and fun and also it’s good times! To create a dichotomy of winners and losers, we had a raffle. Shout outs go to La Cage Aux Folles, Chicago, American Idiot, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Addams Family, Million Dollar Quartet, NY Yankees, Patron, and Gevril Watches for not only being totally spontaneous and cool, but also for being friendly! Seriously, this was a good time folks, and it was only made more good by the presence of Patron. Until next time! P.S: Richie Rich was there!!!

Photos by Peter Richardson of SPREADhouse.