Cain Mutiny: Playing for a New Team

I attended the one-year anniversary of Avenue last night and it was indeed all things to those people. I popped in to pay respects, and was overwhelmed by a beautiful, relevant, and successful crowd. Although I always feel more comfortable in dive bars and hipster hangouts, there is no denying that Avenue, in it’s brief existence, has captured the hearts—and cash—of the bottle/model crowd. All things table service were honed and perfected at Noah, Jason, and Mark Packer’s joints, Marquee and Tao Vegas. While others have added their personal touch to the art of plying the goose from the ganders, as Carly Simon once put it, “nobody does it better” than this crew. On the way in I stopped to chat with my old friend Wass Stevens. As we talked about the ‘this and thats’ and ‘what have you been up tos,’ we were interrupted from time to time by a steady flow of the beautiful, the rich, and the connected as they passed through the velvet ropes. I asked him who was inside and he said, “everybody,” and proceeded to name names. Indeed, it was a cast of bold-face names that had your humble author shocked and awed. We don’t repeat the named names here. The old adage is, “those who can’t, teach,” and I stand by, “those who can’t write, gossip.”

So this is what I heard. I heard a rumor that Jayma Cardoso of Goldbar, Surf Lodge, and Cain fame is in deep negotiations with Avenue, Tao, and Lavo owners about moving her beauty, brains, and bottle-selling chops over there. I would presume it would be over at Lavo when it opens. Is this a Cain mutiny or just a natural flow of extreme talent from one successful empire to another? The thing about rumors is that they are sometimes exaggerations, and since we don’t gossip here, it’s nice to get a second or third confirmation. The thing with those confirmations is that they can sometimes be traced to the same source, so they are often nothing more than the ripples of the same rock thrown in the water. When I asked my sources where they heard the gossip, it turned out to be the same guy, so I went straight to the source.

Jayma called me back and told me that although nothing has been signed—“as of yet”—she “has an offer,” and is “in negotiations with owners, Mark Packer and Noah Tepperberg.” She also added that “nothing is 100%, but I’m very excited.” I asked her what was to become of Goldbar and Surf Lodge and she assured me that, “I’m still going to take care of my babies.” I called her ever-gracious partner Jaimie Mulholland, and asked for his take. He told me they were “exploring their own things,” and that “all have grown from their shared experience,” and that “We will, of course, always be close friends as we concentrate on our own things. We all have our own decisions to make.”

The move, when it happens, is of major significance. Jayma is one of the premier bottle-pushing entities in this business. Her clientele is vast, with a large following of South Americans and Euros. She is adept at training staff and bringing other waitrons with rich followings to the tables. The girls with connections tend to flock together, because most joints pool their tips. Waitresses don’t like to work in places where their bread and butter is spread amongst other waitresses who aren’t bringing good tables to the table. When everyone is pulling in big fish, they share tremendous amounts of tip money. A good crew can take home thousands each, on a single night. Jayma would fit perfectly in the NY-Vegas empire, which showcased itself at Avenue last night. Her assertions that this deal isn’t done, notwithstanding that it is a deal that will be done, because it makes sense.

If indeed her and Jamie are exploring their own things, then this is the right fit. With Noah, Mark Packer, Jason Strauss, and company, she will be among old friends who offer her a place where her customers will feel comfortable. She will be part of a professional team, with players similar to herself, working almost as hard as she does. It feels a little like Derek Jeter going to the Mets, but like our favorite shortstop, there are only a few teams big enough and ambitious enough to handle her. Like Derek, Jayma just can’t play for a team that isn’t winning, or in the rebuilding process. I must re-emphasize that the deal isn’t done, and we must give the players a chance to jostle and negotiate the final terms, but this deal feels like a winner for all parties.

The club gods giveth and the club gods taketh away, as former Marquee nightclub GM, Patrick Robinson has settled in at the new restaurant Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva are building on 14 the street and 8th. Patrick was the operations guy over at Marquee, which was Noah, Jason, and Mark Packer’s success story for about 6 years. He has returned from an extended vacation, and is getting that joint ready for a summer opening.

27th and 28th Street Ghostown: Clubland’s Lost Nabe

For years the epicenter of vibrant NY nightlife, the west 27th/28th street club corridor is now a virtual ghost town. Tonight, Scores will celebrate its anniversary, with Damon Dash DJing. I’ve been facebooked, texted, tweeted, and called to attend this gala. Noel Ashman and a zillion promoters insist I attend. I might not go— never been a strip club guy. No homo, I just don’t head to that area these days. But there was a time when I was there almost every night. The core clubs of that mall, Pink Elephant, Cain, Home, Guesthouse, and Bungalow 8 are gone, as are the cops on horseback and the Kleig lights that put virtually the entire area out of business. Gone also are a couple thousand jobs in an economy that needs jobs. A visit to the M2 website revealed an ad promoting Common and DJ Funkmaster Flex on May 14th. I guess I missed that as well. Tomorrow I’ll be meeting with Joey Morrissey to find out if the mega club will reopen—if he even knows.

A few months ago I attended the closing night bash for Cain. Outside, a reporter from the New York Post asked me why Cain was closing. I pointed to the new building being put up across the street and told her that the Post was partially to blame. I said it was no coincidence that the rezoning of the neighborhood allowed developers to develop those luxury residential building, which resulted in the harassment and closing of the clubs. I pointed out how the Post stirred up the feeding frenzy with its call to arms after the unfortunate death of Jennifer Moore. My comments weren’t used.

Last week, the NY Times reported that the highly successful “fast tracking” of liquor licenses would not be put out to pasture. When new State Liquor Authority chairman Dennis Rosen implemented the program, almost 3,000 license applications were awaiting processing, with 9-month delays very common. The SLA is now sitting on under 900 and there are plans to go back to normal, with state inspectors doing the heavy lifting. The program allows qualified liquor license attorneys to self-certify that the facts on their client’s applications are indeed facts. The budget crisis in Albany, with a moratorium on overtime for state employees, necessitates the continuance of Mr. Rosen’s solution. This is good news for clubs, bars, and restaurants, and good news for business in general. New licensing means new jobs in construction as well as hospitality. Community Boards are severely at odds with a state that may finally be recognizing the potential in sales tax and new jobs the hospitality industry offers.

The difficulties bars and clubs impose on a neighborhood can usually be solved. A new construction project I am working on at 146 Orchard Street is engineering a complaint-proof establishment, stopping the belly-aching before it happens. A new ceiling in this establishment has a layer of sheet rock, with a layer of insulation between it and a new ceiling. The new ceiling is suspended from springs and is 3 additional layers of sheet rock thick, and that’s before the finishing materials of wood and wallpapers are applied. All ductwork is treated to a soundproof construction. Sound will be hard-pressed to find the ears of good neighbors. The problem will be when those dreaded smokers pop outside for puff-and-chats. Responsible management must enforce respect and demand soft talk. This can be done.

What’s been a real problem at hotspots is cabs honking. The clubs have lobbied for a cop from the Paid Detail Program to be allowed to work outside to enforce the quiet. You see Paid Detail cops inside banks and other businesses. Commercial establishments can hire a uniformed patrolman to act as security. Licensed premises are the exception. Raymond Kelly, the police commissioner, has nixed the idea of his soldiers working near bars and clubs. Potential corruption has been cited often. A possible solution is to use Department of Transportation employees instead of cops. A uniform with the authority to write a costly ticket may well serve the community. Sometimes it seems that a solution isn’t being sought at all. It can feel like constructive dialogue falls on deaf ears. The club community moves into neighborhoods that are so often derelict, filled with prostitution and crime, like West Chelsea and Meatpacking, and spend millions of dollars to turn these hoods around. Politicians are prompted to rezone these districts for mixed-use, allowing residential construction. The real estate industry then builds high rises and city agencies persecute the clubs until they go out of business. This is the reality of West Chelsea. It seems the city just wants the clubs to disappear or move on to another unattractive hood and start the process again.

Maybe I will go over to Scores tonight. Noel Ashman has invited me a hundred times since Friday. Nostalgia begs me to revisit the strip club that I enjoyed until just a few years ago. I’ll walk down 27th street and then up 28th. It will be a relaxing walk down memory lane and, frankly, I could use the peace and quiet.

The Closing of the Club Formerly Known as Cain

Last night I attended the wrap party of what might be remembered as one of the great clubs of the bottle era. In reality, the Cain we all knew closed a long time ago. The redux as Cain Luxe never caught on with the crowd owners Jamie Mulholland, Jayma Cardosa and Robert McKinley were accustomed to entertaining. The neighborhood, Chelsea, had died a quick death from enforcement malpractice after city zoning procedures changed the area from commercial to mixed use. The rebirth of Cain as Cain Luxe didn’t work and probably never could have. Perhaps last night signaled the end of an error.

Those in attendance were saying goodnight to Cain and ignoring the Luxe part they never cared to know. The neighborhood’s new residential high rises provided ample motivation to destroy the Chelsea club mall that stretched from 27th to 29th street. The police barricades, search lights and cops on horseback were no longer in sight. They had already completed their mission and destroyed almost all the business on the once thriving block.

As I strolled down 27th street you could hear a soggy pretzel drop as I passed by the bones of once thriving clubs. Gone were Bungalow 8, Home, Guesthouse and Spirit. A few long-legged ladies approached the door where Pink Elephant once roared as if they were lost in time. They must of come a few years back and thought it was still a relevant club. The Elephant has left the building and only Pink remains as management changed and the old owners moved on to friendlier ‘hoods. There were more security and support staff outside than patrons. There used to be lines of hundreds.

I was greeted at the door of Cain Luxe and treated like I was Elvis. Jamie Mulholland greeted me inside enthusiastically, smiling like I was delivering him his morning coffee and croissant. I congratulated him and he looked at me like I was going to deliver a punchline. I told him he had so much to be proud of. The smile he had practiced all week faded. I said that club god “Steve Rubell couldn’t have made Luxe work” he almost offered a “but” but I wouldn’t let him. “You did a great job no one could have made this work with the police and the constant harassment, Cain will be remembered as a great club.” It was hard for him to accept this praise. Club moguls never want to close the doors. This crew still has GoldBar, which is still so fun after 3 years. The Surf Lodge in Montauk is brilliant and set to reopen with the season. The Bahamas is said to be beyond cool. As hard as it must be for Jamie to say goodbye to his baby in reality it will give him so much more time to excel at these places and elsewhere. I almost asked him who he sold the place to as if you my readers might care who or what will be there. I didn’t think you were interested.

He got me and mine some waters and got me to PR guru Steve Kasuba and we worked the room our way while Jamie went off to do the same. I saw real estate honcho Steve Kamali, who was just named on Societe Perrier as number 5 on the “The 10 Most Beloved Nightlife Impresarios in New York City.” I came in at number 8. I asked to be removed due to technical difficulties, but no one was amused.

The crowd was confused. They couldn’t decide whether they were at a wedding or a wake and I finished my exercise of shaking hands and straining for names and went towards the door. As I was leaving a security guard, with a rubber stamp in hand, asked me if I was “coming back tonight.” I looked him in the eye and said “No and never again.” He was not amused. Outside the New York Post hit me up for sound bites. As usual they were interested in what Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton did when they were at Cain. They asked me why they closed and I pointed to the new residential buildings going up across the street. I told them that the New York Post had spearheaded a campaign of bad publicity about the clubs on the block, a campaign that eventually helped drive the crowds away. I turned them over to the always dapper Cain alumni Randy Scott and slipped back into the present.

We hit the quiet streets and stopped at Marquee to see how the SL design was holding up. It looked good, still crazy after all these years. We strolled down 10th Avenue to Avenue, chatted with actor/door god Wass and popped inside the bottle-popping Mecca. Noah Tepperberg and I talked shop and exchanged inside info that’s so hot-to-tell that I wont tell it. The crowd at Avenue was stunning. Wealthy, dressed and having fun like those types like to have fun. We made our loop and went to 1Oak and chatted serious chatter with the players who play there. Again we were off into the night. About once every week someone asks me if I miss it. The glamor the clamor, the riotous nights. I do sometimes, but walking towards 9th avenue holding hands with a person who only knows and likes the person I am and doesn’t know the person who used to be Steve Lewis, I felt very warm fuzzy and satisfied. I had done the best job I could have back then and like Cain, I think I will be remembered fondly. After all, I am the 8th most beloved nightlife impresario in NYC.

The Bungalow 8 Blues

imageI got this story secondhand — and like sweaters I get that way, it’s bound to have a few holes in it. It seems that Bungalow 8 was closed for ten days, and excuses like “Amy isn’t around” and “They were taking a break or renovating” were thrown out for their adoring public. A source with some chops told me it was the collapse of parts of the roof that caused the closing. Plexiglas panels came detached, and in a sky-is-falling late night incident, the party came to a stop. Repairs were long overdue, and staff did their best to control the elements with strategically placed buckets and such. Amy is indeed traveling some, but my source revealed that with only about a year and a half left on her lease, Ms. Sacco has decided to ride it out. She has some money put aside from the sale of her West 23rd Street boîte as well as a flow of consulting fees from the Griffin, the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, and the “Living by Amy” condo project on John Street. Bungalow 8 London, which according to another source isn’t hitting its marks, is still another revenue stream for the queen of nightlife.

This second source — a Brit with firsthand knowledge — says that though the membership thing is very common for upscale London clubs, in this case it wasn’t as successful as projected. “She should have gone with a strict door policy and doorman New York style; she would have made more money and been cooler.” I don’t like these secondhand, heard-it-through-the-grapevine stories, so I called up Amy Sacco confidant Tiana Reeves for comment. Tiana would neither confirm or deny the validity of the story. She would only volunteer that “Amy is very happy.”

There is little doubt that Bungalow isn’t what it used to be. One of the main reasons is that none of the feeding clubs — i.e., Marquee, Cain, Pink Elephant, Home, Guesthouse, or M2 — are supplying the A-crowds like they used to. In fact, Scores may be the best source for Bungalow 8 clientele. Scores is bringing people in, these people are spending money, and the girls are doing well. My source said that, “The Bungalow New York City is being treated like a stepchild.”

The realities of the woes of 27th Street have indirectly brought the sky down on Amy’s gin joint. A continuous police presence, the distractions of Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss with Tao Vegas and their new spot, Avenue (which is in previews), Jon B’s good crowd moving to Greenhouse, Cain’s crowd to GoldBar, and the change over of the “trying to be great Mansion” to the “trying to stay crowded M2” has drained Bungalow of its crowd. As I said, some of this was from semi-reliable sources and should be taken as just that — secondhand smoke. For instance, one of my contacts reached over to my friend’s hair, tasted it, and correctly diagnosed it as Sebastian with a little Paul Mitchell molding wax. With sources like that, how could I go wrong?

Good Night Mr. Lewis: Pink Elephant’s Rocco Anacarola Speaks Out

I’ve avoided the Pink Elephant story that’s been developing in the blogosphere because I don’t really like to gossip. I ran into Shawn Kolodny at a meeting, and after we chatted for a few minutes, he asked me if I heard what went down. I said I heard he was now at Kiss & Fly and asked if congratulations were in order. He thanked me, and I asked him if he wanted to comment for this blog, but he told me that until he got the go ahead from his lawyer, he couldn’t speak about the circumstances that had him leave Pink Elephant. He said next week would probably be OK. I got home, kissed the dogs and cats and the little woman, and I got a call from my old pal Rocco Anacarola.

Rocco is always a gentleman, and yet I could sense that he was agitated. He too asked me if I had heard what was going on, and I said only to some extent; I told him I had chatted with Shawn, and that I intended to call him for comment next week when he was free to chat. Rocco felt that the stories running around the blogs did not portray the circumstances as he knew them and asked for an opportunity to tell my readers the Pink Elephant version. Initially, I was going to do an interview, but decided instead to let Rocco tell it to you directly, so here we go with the Pink version, verbatim:

Pink Elephant was born four years ago on 8th Avenue and 14th Street on the outskirts of the Meatpacking District in a defunct bar/club known as GO, owned by Shawn Kolodny. After many years of hard times, Shawn got together with David Cabo and brought in myself, Rocco Ancarola, (Ciaobella, Boom, Rocco’s A La Playa, Nocturne), David Sarner (Chaos and Spy Bar), and designer David Graziano. With only one year left on the lease, and a great team, I thought that we could build a brand that would knock people’s socks off. We would also be the first club to concentrate only on house music — Ibiza-style — and with all the gimmicks of the big clubs but in a VIP situation. The fact that it was a tiny space with a strong team like we had … it seemed crazy to open such a small venue when we could have filled a stadium! But that was the part that I liked — going against the grain of the normal things that people would expect. I also believed that if we did well and were successful, we would be able to attract investors, and we would have half a year to find another larger space and move. “I wanted to change the going name game of a ‘one word’ name for a club (Chaos, Spy, Marquee, Cain, Pangaea, Rehab), and so I opted to mimic English pubs with two names instead. We started with the ‘White Poodle,’ the ‘Red Parrot,’ and so forth, until one day David Sarner came up with ‘Pink Elephant,’ and we all said yesssssssssssss!!! It was based on the Disney movie Dumbo, when little Dumbo drinks champagne, gets drunk, and sees pink elephants. Hence the name stuck, and Pink Elephant was born. “We moved to 27th Street — a strategic move at the time, as 27th Street was the hot location for a club. I wanted to be there so badly — Cain, Marquee, Scores, Home, and Guesthouse were there, but no more spaces were available, so I went to the Crobar guys and pitched the idea of taking over their VIP room with an entrance on 27th Street. They loved the idea, so we brought in Robert Montwaid, Sarner’s partner from Cabana (Hamptons), who is an expert in construction and an investor, to do the job. And Pink Elephant was born again. We had three years of great success, being known for a beautiful crowd, hailed as the best music club in New York, and attracting top DJs from around the world. We were a great team, and we went on to host and set up satellite clubs around the world, from St. Barths to Sundance and Miami during the Super Bowl. I became the brand’s international ambassador, throwing Pink Elephant parties in the international arena at the Cannes Film Festival, in Croatia, Italy, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, Rio de Janeiro, Punta del Este, even the World Music Conference in Miami — always bringing along the worlds top DJs from Paul Oakenfold to Pete Tong and David Guetta. “This year things seem to be changing as we are growing and taking the brand to other levels. David Cabo, for one, decided that he had a new calling in life to follow his religious roots, attend religious retreats, and maybe go back and try the priesthood, his one-time ambition. And a few months later, Shawn was feeling lost in the company, and two weeks ago approached us and told us he was not happy and needed to move on. I feel that with the market slowing down months and months ago and money being tight, they needed to move on to new pastures; so Shawn hit the road following Cabo’s footsteps. Cabo has not been seen or heard of, and Shawn, we hear, has joined the Kiss & Fly, owned by another ex-partner, designer David Graziano, who defected a year ago due to differences with us. He took along with him a lot of our staff from Pink Elephant to form Kiss & Fly, which has copied our format. I am glad that we trained and helped to assist people in their new ventures. “For now, Pink Elephant continues to be successful and to introduce new ideas and new ventures worldwide, and as we expand the brand to new horizons, I am sure that many will follow suit and copy our ideas once again. For now, we hold the record sales ever in a club in one night: $226,00.00! We have partnered up with a design studio from Milan, and we will be launching our new Pink Elephant clothing line with fashion shows scheduled around the world next year. We are gearing up to open Pink Elephant in Sao Paulo in a few weeks on December 19, as well as a beach club in Puerta Vallarta on December 25, and next year we will see a Pink Elephant Hotel at the same location. Next year will see Pink Elephants popping up in Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Egypt, Turkey, Rome, and Punta del Este. With Pink Elephant Hotels scheduled also for Miami, New York, Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro, who knows what other surprises might spring up in the coming new year. All I know for now is that Pink Elephant is running and not walking; too much champagne cannot make this Elephant drunk!” — Rocco Anacarola

Good Night Mr. Lewis: Shuffling the Deck

imageThe world’s worst DJ — yours truly — hit the turntables Sunday night at La Zarza. The place was packed with a beautiful crowd who surprisingly didn’t leave. Usually I’m terrible, but I think I might have only been awful. With Mondays easily the best night out around town, it makes sense that the ultimate off night, Sunday, would attract A-listers searching for a place far from the maddening bridge & tunnel crowds that rule the weekends. Jamie Burke, the Calvin Klein model and Bloody Social lead singer, was pitching platters downstairs. My boy Chris Willard came on after me on the main floor. They want me back next week. They’re either desperate, or deaf, or desperate and deaf.

Greenhouse is possibly three weeks away from a long, long, long-anticipated opening. Originally scheduled to be in the old Opera/Aria space on West 21st Street, it has since found a home at Varrick and Vandam streets in the old Flow/Shelter space. Two floors, high ceilings, and a cabaret license in SoHo seem like a winning formula. Despite dire economic predictions and continuous police harassment, joints continue to open. The shuttered Eugene’s space, purged of its demons (the worst operators in history), is going to get a new look after a quick fix. Cain is closed and getting a 30-day makeover. Ella just opened and seems to be providing lots of answers, and Mr. West seems to be drawing peeps away from the serious boites.

The new club in the old Lotus space is finding investors at a whopping $180,000 per point, says a friend who should know. It may be that the stock market crash has a silver — and maybe even gold — lining. It seems that people with loot aren’t eager to park it so fast in the market, or even real estate. Investing in a business that may become more cash-oriented, with credit cards flailing, may be ideal. The history of the business says that in times of upheaval people drink their sorrows away. The spots dependent on corporate credit cards will adjust with door admissions and slashes in promotional payrolls. Yet, with all the bad news, I don’t know of one joint on the verge of actually closing. Sure, a few are throwing up some paint and changing the name on the awning, but no one’s turning in the liquor license.

A comment came in the other day regarding an interview I did with Abel Ferrara. The reader didn’t see the connection between Hollywood and something I know a bit about (clubs). I agree. The interview started out as an interview with Jen Gatien, my dear friend and of course the daughter of Peter Gatien. She was plugging a couple of projects, and it was arranged that Abel would also be interviewed. As it turned out, Abel became the focus, and we’re rescheduling the interview with Jen. A man has to know his limitations, a great man once said.

New York: Top 5 Places for Brokers & Bankers to Drink the Pain Away

Kinda nutty day, no? So much for bottle service at Cain. Corporate rounds at Tenjune? Forget it. Even a bottle of Pinot Noir at Pastis might be too much to handle for all the financial types who saw their immediate futures evaporate over the weekend. It’s no secret that when the nightcrawlers of Wall Street go out, they go big. That won’t be the case anymore, but they’ll still need to drown their troubles somewhere. New Wall Street landscape means new nightlife landscape. So employees of Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, AIG, and others — here’s some on-the-cheap bars you might want to check out, and some extra-happy happy hours you might want to jot down in that company Blackberry you’ll soon be turning over to regulators.

Since the Beatrice Inn might be out of your new price range, head around the corner to Corner Bistro for mugs of criminally cheap McSorley’s. The waterfront bar Ear Inn is one of New York’s oldest bars (est. 1817); there’s little doubt that back in 1929, your predecessors came to this watering hole to obliterate similar woes (those who didn’t jump out of their office windows, anyway). What you need is a classic East Village dive bar with some tunes to help you forget. International Bar is known for its extensive jukebox and inexpensive bevvies. Grab some whiskey, put on “What a Wonderful World,” and try and believe it.

The biggest shock might come when you suddenly realize how pricey Manhattan suddenly feels. Thankfully, there’s a whole other city across the East River known as Brooklyn, where the drinks tend to be cheaper and the females less generically hot (thank God for the cheap drinks, am I right?). An all-purpose joint you’ll never have to (or want to) leave: Bar Reis in Park Slope. Three-buck beers, garden, loft space, and cheap quesadillas make utter financial ruin seem like nothing more than a trip to the dentist. Finally, since your spouse will have left you, and no one your age will want someone whose life is in shambles, head over to Bar None in the East Village. It’s the ultimate NYU hangout, where happy hour lasts eight hours a day and drinks are cheaper than the girls you’re likely to pick up. But if both of you drink hard enough and squint hard enough, she’ll still look sophisticated and you’ll still look rich.

Industry Insiders: Aalex Julian of Tenjune

Tenjune door sentry Aalex Julian dishes on the K-Mart of nightlife, the old chicks and thugs who don’t make the cut, “animals” who grab asses, and why some nightlife vets are toast.

Point of Origin: I’ve been working the door at clubs in Manhattan for almost six years. I started doing a lot of special events, for Lizzie Grubman, other PR groups. I did the Jay-Z event in the Hamptons. I knew people like Jeffrey Jah from going out. Some people resent me because I befriended the right people.

Instead of starting off as a security guard or something, I started off at a good level. A lot of people get hired and fired, are around for three or four years. When I started, I was working at Rehab, which was one of the top places at the time. The first door that was my door was Below, on 19th Street in 2002. Then I went right to Rehab. Then Bed, Cain, Guest House, Pink Elephant twice (on 13th Street and when they opened on 27th Street). I opened Home, I opened Guest House. There’s been a few more, but that’s the chronology. I chose to leave 27th Street before it got as bad as it’s gotten.

What do you think changed? I think [Home and Guest House owner] Jon B is the K-Mart of nightlife. When I started at Guest House, we decided with his partner Ronnie [Madra, now of 1Oak], we all agreed it would be a high-end, selective place. Within two months, Jon B started flipping the switch, letting in thugs, letting in a guy who was threatening people. It sounds like you’re very into keeping your standards. You have to be. I have a lot of friends, but I have even more enemies because I hold my ground. With every team that I’ve worked with, the fact that I hold my ground [at the door] has either been what they respect the most or what leads to a parting of ways. I’ve worked with everybody. But now I don’t need to go through the headache of opening a place unless I’m sure it’s going to be a hit. I believed in Tenjune from the beginning. Without getting into specifics, I make a good living, I get a lot of perks. During Fashion Week, I’m one of the first people they call, and I’m shopping with editors and stuff. I get a lot of free stuff. Everything has evolved now from only nightclubs, to more of a lifestyle. People call me to ask where to take their clients. Is that just you, or Manhattan nightlife in general? I think for the higher-end, yes. There are some people, without naming names — [unlike] the people at 1Oak — [these others are] high-end people but they’re sleeping till 2 o’clock in the afternoon, they’re drunk five nights a week. You know who works hard and who’s just passing the time. Nightlife is really reflective of society in general. You have your slackers, and you have your hard workers. I have my differences with Noah [Tepperberg, of Marquee and Tao], but I can’t deny the gentleman that he’s a hard worker, and that’s why he’s successful. I can’t deny that. At the same time I can look at someone like Rocco Ancarola [of Pink Elephant] who’s been in this business forever and is just barely hanging on. There are people who have been doing this for way too long and they’re burnt out, and it’s obvious to everybody. I tell some of the waitresses [at Tenjune], this business is like a ferris wheel: It’s a great ride, but you want to get off before you get thrown off. If I turn away a beautiful girl one night, there are gonna be two more the next night that are younger and prettier. We’re probably the only city in the world that has that. So you don’t buy into the notion that New York is over and London is the new “It” city? I haven’t had the urge to go to London. There’s something about New York that makes it what everybody else wants to be. You can go to Toronto to fake the backgrounds or whatever like they do in movies, but you can’t fake the Lower East Side, you can’t fake Soho. I can say that because I’m a New Yorker. We have something that just can’t be duplicated.

Occupations: I’m director of VIP services for Tenjune. Eighty percent of the night, I’m at the door expecting celebrities, clients, models. I do the seating arrangement of the floor. I keep track of the minimums (who’s spending $1,000, who’s spending $4,000). A lot of this business is based on the come-back. If you have someone spending $1,000 every once in a while, that’s one thing. But if you can keep that person coming week in and week out, that’s how you make your money. We just happen to do it better … well, Marquee does it as well — they’ve been at it longer — but that’s what sets us apart from other clubs. We have so many repeat [guests]. The main reason I do this job is the freedom it allows me. The only regret that I have is that I’m the only person in the industry that gets paid to say “no.” I’m respectful about it, and I don’t talk down to people, but people think I’m nasty or rigid — but I’m not. I’m playing a role.

What’s your worst experience with jilted clubbers? This is the first summer in four years I haven’t been at Cain and Pink Elephant in the Hamptons. Last summer I had an issue with this one thug-type guy who showed up with a couple other people. I let him in, but one of his friends was this big, sweaty, 350 pounds — it just wasn’t a good look. Anyone who was inside wouldn’t want this guy rubbing up against them. I didn’t let him in. He said, “Look, I know you’re here, and you’re gonna catch a beating for it.” Two weeks later, in the Hamptons, I’m inside looking at the room [before the club opened]. And one of the security guys runs in and says, “Listen, don’t go outside.” The guy was out there with 15 guys waiting for me. These guys aren’t kids, they’re pushing forty. It’s like, grow up already.

Everybody always talks about how it’s all about money, and if you can buy your way into clubs, you can always get in. And that’s not true. I can’t tell you what Wass Stevens does at Marquee, or what Armin [currently of Socialista] used to do at Bungalow 8. I can only tell you that … well someone commented on my New York magazine interview that I’m the “King of the Bottles.” I can tell you flat out that’s not the case. I’d much rather sell a table for $800 that’s gonna be a good crew and be respectful and fun inside than someone who offers $5,000 and behaves like an animal and pisses off tables around them or starts fights. Frankly yes, if I see a beautiful girl outside, I’m going to let her in, and I’ll buy her drinks all night because she’s going to add something to the party whether she’s buying something or not.

So the goal is the party as a whole? Yah. Tenjune is almost two years old, but it’s still a viable product simply because it’s a good party. Yah, there might be smaller places that are more selective, and bigger clubs where you’re not going to have a problem with anyone you walk in with, but I think most people are going to pick Tenjune over most other places because it’s always a good party. You might go to 1Oak and see 50 people, and then what? You have to get in a cab and go somewhere else.

I’m not a promoter, I’ve never been a promoter. It’s a very different role. The job of promoters, whether they’re owners, managers, whatever, is to get people to the door. I can’t go to work unless they bring me a good crowd of people [to choose from]. The owners have to trust me, and they do, to let in people that are going to add to the party and not detract from it. In almost two years at Tenjune, we haven’t had a single fight. If you look at the money that we’ve made and the money that 1Oak has made … in fewer risks that [we’ve both] taken because [we’re both] so selective, well, they wanted to be so selective, they’ve had more problems than we’ve had in two years. Some promoters and I argue that they’ve brought all these people and I’m not letting them in, and my answer to that is look: The checks never bounce. I have a proven record. My job is to gauge who’s coming in and who’s not. I do seating too. Working with Jayma [Cardosa of Cain, GoldBar, and Surf Lodge], I went from just running a door to seeing how critical it was to know how to sit a room. I decide where the promoters sit, where the big clients sit, who goes to VIP, who doesn’t. It’s a lot more than Ben does at 1Oak who just lets people in and then there’s a manager inside and then a floor manager. I make much more of a hybrid decision. But it’s critical.

Side Hustle: I’m exclusive with Tenjune. A lot of friends ask me, “Why don’t you work at different clubs on different nights?” and yah, maybe I could make even more money doing that. But clubs are all about consistency. Let’s say I work Tuesday/Wednesday with someone, and Friday/Saturday with someone else. When I get back on Tuesday, I don’t know who they let in on Friday and Saturday. Then I have to either clean up their mistakes or make up for people they didn’t recognize.

Favorite Hangs: I love to travel. I’m looking to go to South Africa, I’m going back to Brazil in October. I just bought an apartment, so I’m going to go look for some art. Asking me if I like to go out in the city is like asking the chef if he likes to go to restaurants when he’s not working. Going out can feel like work. It’s flattering [when people recognize me from Tenjune or other clubs], but still. Then there’s the other side of it. I was in Williamsburg at a deli getting apple juice in the winter, and the guy behind the counter’s like, “You’re Alex, that doorguy for that club in the Meatpacking.” We [at Tenjune] had just done the victory party for the Giants for the Super Bowl, and I guess I didn’t let this guy in. People take [getting turned away at a club] like I’m slapping their little sister around or something.

Do you think that’s indicative of who’s going to clubs in Manhattan now? They’re a more aggressive group of people? I think it’s indicative of people who don’t get in, who shouldn’t get in. And that reinforces the need for people like me who will stand their ground and be selective. I have had people come up to me and say “Oh, you have to let this guy in, he’s a super VIP,” and I didn’t. They got mad, but an hour later, in line, the guy is grabbing girls’ asses. I’m not going to take chances. I’d rather know who someone is.

Industry Icons: I have a lot of respect throughout. I’ve learned a lot from people like Steve Lewis, Jeffrey Jah, Dirk Van Stockum, Mark Baker. There’s a bunch of other people. I mean this respectfully, but truthfully, as much as I’ve learned from [other nightlife people’s] success, I’ve learned even more from their mistakes. It’s like if you’re walking up an icy block, and you see some people make it, and some fall, I know where not to walk. Sometimes you need to see someone you look up to fall, so you can say, wow, if he can fall, I can fall too. There’s someone I won’t name but who’s stuck around [in the business] way too long. You can only be in this business if you’re going to exit gracefully. Otherwise you’re like the girl who’s gone out too long, who was cute at 22 but now she has the injections and the lifts and is mad I don’t want to let her in anymore. It’s one thing when you’re 23 and you’re tipsy and giggly — it’s another when you’re 43 and sloppy drunk. It’s not a good look.

Frank McCue who runs the place under the Gansevoort [G-Spa & Lounge] for Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva [currently of Butter and 1Oak], he’s great at what he does. He told me one time, “I respect you and I respect Armin, but you guys do a thankless job. If you let someone in nine times, they may never thank you. But if you don’t let that person in one time, it’s like ‘you’re such an asshole”’. It’s just thankless, but you have to deal with it. Known Associates: This is the first time I’ve worked for Mark Birnbaum and Eugene [Remm]. I’ve known Mark for six, seven years. I just met Eugene when we opened. Working with them happened over three or four days. It was very quick. I had told Pink Elephant like a week before that I was leaving, then I opened Tenjune two weeks later. I didn’t like the direction 27th Street was going. Even though I know everybody [in the nightlife business], that’s not who I hang out with. You’re not going to catch me at Butter on a Monday night. Partly because of the drama I get when I go out. It’s embarrassing if I go out on a date or with friends and have to deal with that. I love Jayma Cardosa. I’ve know her about eight years. We happened to work together at Cain, but it was a genuine friendship. We like each other.

Projections: A lot of people with financial backing have asked me over the years when I’m going to open up my own club. And my answer to that is: I like the freedom that my job allows. I’ve been fortunate enough to make a very comfortable living without having to spend all day in an office staring at a computer screen. I take three or four weeks off during the winter and go to Brazil or Southeast Asia to hang out. You can’t do that when you have a 9 to 5 job. It’s not for everybody.

The dilemma for me now is, do I open my own place, or not. There might be a chance for financial growth, but at what cost? [At my own place] maybe I couldn’t take a month off a year. If someone falls at a club now, they don’t sue me, they sue Mark and Eugene. They have to put the fire out. That’s a lot of weight. That’s a decision I have to make in the next year or two. I’m not going to be doing this 10 years from now. Where do you hope to be next year? In nine months I’m going to do something new, and it’s going to be a hit. I hope that it’s going to be with Mark and Eugene, but my deal’s up with them in September, so we’re going to sit down then and make some decisions about the future. I do have two other projects I’m looking at. One in the Meatpacking, and one here [in Soho].

What are you doing tonight? Tonight I’m going to the screening of Pineapple Express, and then we’re hosting the after party at Tenjune.

Industry Insiders: Remi Laba of Bagatelle & Kiss and Fly

Monsieur Meatpacking: Bagatelle and Kiss and Fly‘s Remi Laba on boring models, the grub at Pastis, and bringing down the house (music).

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.