Life is a bagatelle. And a beach. And those artful cultivators of all that is fabulous and famous–Remi Laba and Aymeric Clemente–will be unveiling both this coming Cinco de Mayo weekend. The new and anxiously anticipated Bagatelle Beach will be an amphibious extension of the brand’s lavish restaurant-cum-nightclub at the Strip’s legendary Tropicana. Where inside is all dazzling lighting design and glittering chandeliers, its littoral spinoff emphasizes mellow poolside lounging in private cabanas, or on stylishly designed loungers and, um, lily pads. Or just float on out in the pool, drinkie in hand. With a white sand beach and exotic foliage, it’s a little slice of St Tropez chic in Vegas. Of course, it’s all just a fantastic excuse to launch a new edition of Bagatelle’s already storied champagne brunch.
When Remi Laba (left) and Aymeric Clemente founded Bagatelle three years ago, they expected it to be successful. After all, as promoters, the duo helped Pink Elephant, Marquee, and Lotus become staples of New York nightlife, transforming each into European-style spots of sophisticated revelry. What they didn’t expect was that their upscale French bistro in the Meatpacking District would end up pioneering an entirely new category of hospitality.
“The idea was to create a restaurant with a truly Mediterranean feel, identifying with the South of France in both the food and the joie de vivre,” says Laba. This translated into brunch, with guests sipping rosé and picking at plates of tuna tartare. “We added the DJ element to create a bit more of a party, and suddenly it grew into a full-on day of play and fun.” Thus, “daylife” was born, taking elements of nightlife – music, dancing, “champagne superman” – and sticking them where the sun does, in fact, shine. The effect was felt on Bagatelle’s bustling evening business, which found diners hanging around after their meals and ordering cocktails instead of heading off to nightclubs. “Bagatelle was a game changer,” Clemente says. Last winter, however, a dispute with their business partners left them locked out of their now-legendary restaurant. They reached a settlement and are now taking the Bagatelle name and concept to a new location at One Little West 12th Street this fall, as well as opening restaurants in the Hamptons and Los Angeles. “The brand has momentum, so we’ve got to move fast,” Laba says. “The opportunities are ours to seize.”
[Photo by Steven B Ekerovich]
I woke up, had my cup, and I dragged a comb across my head, and I read the news today (and yesterday) — oh boy,about a lucky man who made the grade, and though the news was rather sad, well I just had to laugh … The Jon B-Mike Satsky URL story had heads shaking and tongues wagging as the blogs took pleasure in what appears to be a lowlife clubland grift. Jon B is by all accounts a very successful club operator with a number of properties and a lot more coming in the near future. He is absolutely dedicated to defining himself as an honest, intelligent, and gifted club/restaurant operator. But the blogosphere is buzzing with negative reports of a below-the-belt hit on Iron Mike Satsky. According to the reads, the Greenhouse gang took the provocateurnyc.com domain and had it direct people to the Greenhouse website. Provocateur is the new spot my designer pal Lionel Ohayon is producing for Mike and partner Brian Gefter. Mike and Brian had a winner over at Stereo before it was shuttered. After my successful mediation last week between Chichi212.com queen Brittany Mendenhall and Unik Ernest, who she called the “MC hammer of nightlife.” I was feeling very Bill Clintonesque. I called Jon B and said, “You have your new restaurant, Juliet, named after your mom, with top chef Todd English, and it just seems ridiculous to have this petty game play out online.” He agreed and told me to come meet him at Juliet.
When I arrived at Juliet, Jon had already spoken to Mike Satsky, and peace was made. Mike told Jon he never compared the Greenhouse crew to “Payless” in relation to his future boîte. Jon explained how an ambitious “intern” had grabbed the URL as a joke. Jon told me, “There’s no point in playing childish games … I’ll give it to them as a gift.” We were sitting in Juliet, co-owned by my friend turned enemy turned friend again Todd English. Todd and I had a “childish” fight in the blogs a bit back, but now he has expressed genuine interest in rekindling our friendship, and I am feeling peaceful myself. Jon is taking a conciliatory approach as well, and Todd and I will be having dinner real soon. I’ve been in Juliet a lot lately. It is a very ambitious design with a great deal of reflective surfaces. The columns, low walls, banquette backs, bar … even the floor is mirrored tile. It’s not my thing as it feels a bit cold to me, but Jon told me “it looks great with the lights down low.” Sounds like my last girlfriend.
A couple hours later, Mike Satsky responded to a call for comment. Mike usually shies away from talking to bloggers, and I was honored that he felt I was to be trusted. He explained how “Jon’s Greenhouse and what I do is very different, like apples and oranges.” I said some clubs might be heaven for some folks and a nightmare for others. Patrons at Pacha or Cielo wouldn’t see the value of a Jane or Avenue, and for the most part vice versa. They all are great clubs. Mike says “there’s plenty of room for everybody,” and his door at Provocateur will be like Fort Knox”; it will be “a place like no one has seen before … I will not disappoint.” Rumors of a just under $5 million build-out and acoustical treatments to protect hotel guests from noise being done by a former NASA engineer were not addressed in my conversation. Mike said they will open “in around four weeks, maybe as much as six.” “There’s room in this town for everyone, every type of club … Jon is doing something completely different, and I wish him well.” Provocateur is already proving to be provocative.
Remi Laba and Aymeric Clemente have gotten the go-over at the Merkato 55 space and will make a go of it without Kiss & Fly and Bagatelle partners David Graziano and Corey Lane, who are themselves making a go of it without them over at Gansevoort 69. This sounds like an incident waiting to happen, but all are really great people — and as long as Jon B’s “intern” doesn’t get into the mix things, will remain civilized.
The Mark Packer acquisition of the Au Bar space, across from his totally successful Tao, seems to be complete. Sources say that old Park Avenue South brand Canastel’s will be the restaurant entity, while the rest of the space may be a lounge or corporate event space. It’s a can’t-miss, as it could easily survive on the overflow from Tao.
GoldBar had a little facelift, with a couple of well-placed disco balls, a tweak of the mesh curtains, and an overall dimming of the lights making the space a bit more frenetic. I hung out with door king Jon Lennon while a beautiful crowd of fun-loving and well-heeled patrons partied hardy inside. GoldBar remains one of my favorite places, and Jon Lennon has really stepped up and made the place his home. Here is a hotspot which handles its door in a way that the Jane Hotel should take note of. Avenue and 1Oak as well are uber-desirable places to get into, as much so if not more than the Jane. They control their door, have few patrons outside, and control the uncontrollable cab honking outside. The Jane’s problems outside are solvable, and I understand that they are taking big steps to do just that. I’ll be there later to check it out.
Lastly, Paul Sevigny finally returned from his Rome concert in partnership with Deitch Gallery. In response to rumors I reported that he would be joining the crew at the Standard, he says, “I wouldn’t be caught dead walking through the Meatpacking District.”
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.
RDV opens tonight with a John Legend party. According to co-owner Corey Lane, the new lounge is an “exclusive venue under our highly successful restaurant Bagatelle.” “RDV” is short for “rendezvous.” The style is a hip, chic mix of classic Victorian and modern art. I’m sure partner and designer David Graziano will kill it; Pink Elephant and Kiss & Fly are perfect. The new space will have a separate entrance from both Bagatelle and Kiss & Fly. There’s a team of powerhouse players involved as well: Randy Scott, Aymeric Clemente, and Remi Laba bring more to the table than just tables. This is a sharp, mature crew with a great crowd. It looks like a home run — yet another small lounge with big players.
Point of Origin: My dad’s American, my mother’s French. I was born in the US and raised in France. I can’t seem to negate my origin for some reason. Nightlife was an accident, to be honest. I was working for a liquor company, Pernod Ricard, and people were constantly asking me for sponsorship, and at one point I said ‘You know what? I’ll comp your sponsoring if my friends can come to your events.’ It grew from there until club owners starting saying they would pay me to bring people to their club. And that’s how we [partner Aymeric Clemente, formerly of La Goulue and Le Bilboquet] started, ten years ago.
We did it for fun until we realized it could really become a business. Everything we do resembles us. We try to create something that embraces the Jet-Set lifestyle in which we were brought up. When we started at Lotus, 8 years ago, Lotus was known for its hip-hop, models, whatever, and they called us and we brought in something very different. We brought DJs from Paris that were more focused on European house, and that brought the whole European crowd in and it became some of the highest generating sales ever for Lotus. We took that concept and moved it to our next venue, Marquee. We were part of the opening team at Marquee, then we did the Deck with Jeffrey Jah and Mark Baker and all those guys. We took it to Bed Roof. We always take that same concept and each time make it a little more complete. Then we opened Pink Elephant, as promotional partners with those guys.
Occupations: Aymeric and I are the main partners at Bagatelle, we’re the partners here at Kiss & Fly, and I’m in charge of all the marketing and PR aspects of the venue. What Aymeric and I do better than anybody else is bring the French ambiance and atmosphere into the venue. So it not only looks French, but it feels French. We’re taking it to the level: the St. Tropez party lifestyle. It’s for people who like to drink great wine, eat great food, and like great parties. Go to Bagatelle on a Monday night and you’ll have a peaceful environment with great food. Then the vibe builds on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and then by Saturday brunch we move into a full-blown party. But we’ll never compromise the food.
Side Hustle: Aymeric and I are partners in marketing company/DJ agency called In The Buzz, that does promotions at all the top nightclubs across the world and also represents some of the top talent when it comes to DJs. We also do consulting in the hospitality industry. That’s what brought us to owning our own venue. There’s 13th Street Entertainment, which basically owns Kiss & Fly, Bagatelle, and our new lounge opening the first week of September tentatively named Bagatelle Lounge. We represent Mitch LJ, who’s the resident DJ at Nikki Beach. Jacques Dumont, who is an older DJ, probably 47 years old, and was the resident DJ at Nikki Beach St. Barths for years. Now he’s our resident DJ here at Kiss & Fly. We’ve had David Guetta play here. It’s not exclusively house music, but the crowd they’re playing for likes primarily house. I think for all of us our side projects are our personal lives. It’s hard to balance that in this industry.
Favorite Hangs: The Hamptons are a big market with high visibility. A lot of people go there, and there are very few clubs to go to. Pretty much only Pink Elephant, Cabana, and Dune. We have a very good relationship with Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss and we host the Saturday night Kiss ‘N’ Fly party at Dune Southampton. But when I go to the Hamptons, I don’t go to socialize. I enjoy the beauty of the nature there. I love the beach at Flying Point, and off Route D in Southampton. In the city, I love going to Bar Pitti. It’s very unpretentious, a great terrace, and always good food. If I’m with a group of friends and want a good, fun dinner, I like Indochine, Bond St., Le Bilboquet; Aymeric used to be the GM there for several years. Bagatelle is a big version of Le Bilboquet. If I’m going to dinner with my girlfriend, I want to go upstairs at Le Colonial. I’ll never have dinner downstairs, it’s too formal. But the lounge is unbelievable.
Industry Icons: Jeffrey Jah and Mark Baker were the first guys to understand the European factor in nightlife. They kind of made us who we are today. I’ve really enjoyed working with those guys. I don’t know if I look up to anyone really. If there are two guys who have had a memorable career so far it’s Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss. We worked with them at Marquee, then at Tao in Vegas. They are very, very hard workers, and what they’ve achieved is remarkable. I would never work the way they do. The way they work is very American. The way we work is more passionate, less driven by numbers.
Known Associates: My current associates are Aymeric Clemente, Corey Lane, Lionel Ohayon, David Graziano, and Jonathan Segal. My past associates are Richie Akiva, Scott Sartiano, Mark Baker, and Jeffrey Jah, Jason Strauss and Noah Tepperberg. We’ve promoted for Jamie Mulholland and Jayma Cardosa at Cain. We’ve basically crossed paths with every major person in the industry. It’s a small town.
Projections: We’ve established Bagatelle and Kiss & Fly in New York. Our next project is due the first week of September, fashion week, which will be the Bagatelle Lounge downstairs of Bagatelle and Kiss & Fly, at which point our 13th Street project will be complete–one restaurant, one nightclub, and one lounge. From there, we’ll move on, not necessarily with the same partners, but we’ll open Bagatelle restaurants and Bagatelle cafes in different cities. Ultimately our dream is to open a Bagatelle boutique hotel.We’d love to open something in Tulum (we’re looking at a property down there). We’d love to open Bagatelle, the restaurant as you know it, in London, Vegas, and San Paulo. We have offers in South Beach, but I don’t think Miami Beach is what it used to be. Though we did go to the Winter Music Conference in Miami for the past two years and did ‘Fuck Me I’m Famous’ with David Guetta at Cameo; that’s very successful.
Do you cater to a different crowd in the summer in the city than the rest of the year?
There’s definitely a different club crowd in the summer, not necessarily in quality. Most of your regulars go to the Hamptons in the summer or travel to St. Tropez, Ibiza, Croatia, etc. But there’s also a lot of tourists coming to New York in the summer who have read about venues and will come out. The truth of the matter is, if you have a good product and run your door properly, you can have the right crowd in your club every single night. If you focus on only celebrities and models and there are eight clubs going after the same clientele, there will be one winner and a lot of losers. But if you say, “Ok, I want my venue to be fun, I want the crowd to be pretty, and I want to generate dollars,” the way you look at things are going to shift. Some people say “Oh, my club is so great, we only have models.” Great, models are pretty, but are they the most fun girls you’ve ever seen in nightclubs? Not necessarily. Energy’s also a very, very important factor. If 1Oak says, “Oh, in the summer we have to sell out because all the good crowds are going away,” well, I’d rather sell out my crowd a tiny bit, but still maintain the level of energy.
Considering you’ve worked with Scott Sartiano and Jeffrey Jah, etc. in the past, do you see Butter as an influence or a competitor?
Butter is known for their Monday night parties. What Butter does on Monday nights, no one else does. It’s a concentration of models and celebrities in a very small space. Those guys have done great at it, they own Monday nights, but that’s not what we do. We’re not model-driven. [The Butter guys] aren’t competitors, they’re friends. We actually go to Butter on Monday nights when we can.
A lot of reviews of Bagatelle are calling you the next Pastis. Do you see yourselves replacing Pastis ever?
No. I think Pastis as a French bistro has had a lot of recent competition in the neighborhood, but we are very different. Most of the restaurants in Meatpacking, their concepts are big. We are very different; we’re small, 90 seats. We have a very personalized welcome. Aymeric and I are here every day. You can create an intimate relationship with the owners, which no other restaurant in the meatpacking can offer. At Pastis the food is average. At Bagatelle we pride ourselves on great food. Our chef Nicolas Cantrel, (who we “stole” from bobo), is a gift from God.
What are you doing tonight? I’ll be at Bagatelle caring to my guests and then dinner with my girlfriend later on.