Beach Blast: The Hamptons Flip Out This Memorial Day Weekend

After a few sleepy summers, shit is once again getting real in the Hamptons. What’s that mean? It means throw some wedges and a DSO-worthy outfit in the Birkin bag you’ve been using for the gym, because you are not going to have time to work out with all the new openings out east, though you’ll definitely have an opportunity to work it.

Under the best of circumstances, Hamptons properties see more flips than the schedule board at Penn Station, but this season has been off the charts. To wit:

Out: Madam Tong’s/ Madam Tong’s Redux In: Southampton Social Club Ian Duke (of NYC’s Prohibition) and David Hilty took over Jen Luc’s ill-fated Madam Tong’s last year, but not in time to change the concept (they just amended “Redux” to the offensive name), but this year they’ve taken the place speakeasy chic.

Out: Jean Luc East/Prime 103 In: The Beachhouse Micheael Gluckman, proprietor of the Boathouse, has added one of the marquee spaces to his “house” line. The huge space, with indoor and outdoor seating, has not had a restaurant worthy of it in quite some time. Will this one be different? Signs point to yes.

Out: Bamboo In: Shiki Gluckman unloaded his sushi place in East Hampton, perhaps to concentrate on Beachouse. There’s another sushi place there now. Raw fish and cold sake will set you right.

Out: Le Maison In: The Pomme Café The last vestiges of Jean Luc were exorcised from the Hamptons when the Trata guys took on JLX to make a go at their own French Bistro. It didn’t last. This season the folks behind The Pomme, a successful bistro in Astoria, toss their chapeaus in the ring.

Out: Almond In: Agave Almond vacated the building it’s been in for years for greener pastures. A yet-to-open restaurant called Agave will take its place. Do you really need to be told that it will serve Mexican food and tequila?

Out: Ocean Grill In: Almond Almond’s new digs are right on Main St. in Bridgehampton, and its loyal following is sure to follow to the larger space (with the added benefit of sidewalk cafe tables).

Out: Capri In: Capri Languishing after its Pink Elephant heyday, the Capri Hotel’s new owners (Steven Kamali of the Surf Lodge among them) have classed up the joint with a Nobu, a Cynthia Rowley boutique and a daytime/nighttime hang space called The Bathing Club.

Out: RdV In: South Pointe One of the largest dance halls in the Hamptons goes through yet another change of hands, and this time it gets spruced up with tiki bars and “extravagant” crystal chandeliers. Why is there an “e” on the end? Probably so they don’t get sued by the Vegas club “South Point.” You see, it’s totally different.

Out: Polish people In: The Elm OK, that’s not entirely true. Long ago the space now occupied by a veritable superteam of veteran club promoters was once a Polish social hall, but in recent years has been an event space for hire. It’s another cavernous Southampton space, and this summer is sure to be an nightlife epicenter, with high-profile acts and the Koch brothers “Day and Night” champagne brunch for daytime revelers.

Out: Lily Pond In: SL East Michael Satsky reportedly had liquor sponsors in place and had even put up a billboard on Hudson St. in NYC inviting people out to Lily Pond for summer 2011. Then his landlord turned around and gave the venue over EMM Group’s Eugene Remm, Mark Birnbaum and Michael Hirtenstein, who will bring their SL concept to the perennial club spot on the outskirts of East Hampton.

Out: Second House Tavern In: Ruschmeyer’s Another one one bites the dust in Montauk. By which we mean, another flea-ridden family motel (OK, some might say “old-guard piece of nostalgia”) bites the dust, as part of the team from Surf Lodge takes over another hotel/restaurant and makes it over in their own hipster-beachbum-no fleas image. Expect local cops to get writer’s cramp ticketing lines of cars on both sides of Fort Pond.

Check out the Hamptons Listings on the BlackBook Guides – and download the iPhone app – for the latest and greatest hangs, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Thanks, I Needed That

Thanksgiving gave me a needed break from the hustle, bustle, and daily grind. I used it well, mostly bundled under covers with old westerns on the tube. Friends from afar scurried in and then out, comets of nostalgic love. Friends went back home to visit, only to return just as I began to ache to see them again. We will all reunite tonight for bingo at Bowery Poetry, which is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. I have so much to be thankful for. Foremost, a great dinner among family, followed by another with friends and my Amanda. I am thankful that it still feels right to write every day, and for all the BlackBookies that make it possible to seem literate. I am thankful for those tone-deaf and misinformed moguls and tastemakers who allow me to DJ once in a while. I’ll be doing it, doing it, and doing it well at the Chelsea Room Wednesday night for the APM holiday party. I am very thankful for those who placed their trust in me this year by allowing me and Marc Dizon to design their joints. I am so pleased to see APL chef Camille Becera’s restaurant thisclose from opening. I love the way it turned out. When you dream a place in your mind, and through the hard work of many people, it comes to be – that is a feeling to be thankful for. This 146 Orchard Street space couldn’t catch a break, as landlords and agencies and all the furies combined to prevent it from happening. I stopped in late Saturday night to see what you will soon see, and I was very proud of it. It is one of the most forward design concepts we have attempted.

I am also pleased and thankful to see Snap, the sports bar we designed on 14th and 8th, hitting a home run every night. Leonardo DiCaprio caught the fight there last week, and the crowd is always solid. “There’s always something on,” replied co-owner Justin Mcmanus when I asked about games continuing to bring the crowds. Not being a sports aficionado, I took him for his word. On Friday night there were multiple events on the multiple TVs, and different groups huddled around the banquettes and tables to watch. Cheers came in wave as players scored points, or goals, and other sports things happened. I like.

I went next door to The Darby to see the swells arrive for tastings. The patrons seemed to be enjoying the food, the stage show, and the ambiance. Until the public actually occupies a space, kicks the tires, and takes it for a drive, it’s all only theory. Only ego or arrogance prevents a designer from looking at what he has done and seeing what isn’t working. Darby is working real well. The minor tune-ups that will make it purr like a performance roadster will be done in a few moments. I think Darby is a dining experience breakthrough, and I told co-owner Richie Akiva just that as we watched the stage show on Friday. This is a very different concept than the other joints around town. You half expect to see Humphrey Bogart in a white tuxedo jacket with a babe on his arm. Darby caters to a crowd that has grown up seeing it all and wanting something new, and yet mature. I am thankful to see this place near complete. It reminds me of that old Air France Concord advertisement that hovered over the Midtown Tunnel exit. “Concorde, For Those Who Have Already Arrived.” Darby is for the set that is all set.

Capri nightclub in Bay Ridge was all over Channel 1 this weekend, and it was fabulous to see people enjoying and celebrating it. For decades this spot has entertained the local bridge and tunnel crowd, who are often welcome in Manhattan but do like a place closer to home. Capri’s renovation proves that effort and vision can once again revitalize a space that has grown weary. The place is packed with a nice crowd. I am thankful my redesign is being appreciated. One of the owners said to the reporter that they will likely renovate again in six or seven years. I’m volunteering now.

Eddie Dean called me to thank me in advance for attending the Pacha 5 Year Anniversary Week (plus a bit longer) Celebration. Starting this Friday, December 3rd with DJ David Guetta, 5 great events will underline the importance of this city’s only international dance presence. Saturday, December 4th, Kaskade will appear. Next Friday, December 10th, it’s DJ Luciano, and that following Saturday it’s Erick Morillo and Fedde le Grand. I love that name, Fedde le Grand. It sounds like a fabulous character from a Warner Brothers cartoon. That’s a joke but Fedde isn’t. This Dutch-born DJ/producer has worked with everyone, and produced such well received tracks a s Put Your Hands Up for Detroit, Let Me Think About It, and tons more. The Pacha party closes that following Sunday night with Danny Tenaglia Classics.

We need to be thankful for Pacha. It was the focus of a massive effort to shutter it after small amounts of drugs were purchased there. In court it became apparent that some of the drug buys were actually orchestrated by undercover cops who told dealers to meet them there for exchanges. It was proven that Pacha had done more than humanly possible to prevent drug use or sales. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and this important international cultural icon continues to thrive. Pacha has its friends and detractors. Nightlife scenesters sometimes complain that the door policy is too “democratic” for their refined tastes. Large dance clubs of my checkered past are sometimes cited. It’s almost 2011 and comparing that to this is unfair. The so called “A” crowd has found nirvana huddling in smaller places, listening to familiar tracks spit out of lap tops by ex-model DJs. And it’s all good, but house music in its purist progressive form can rarely be found in any place other than joints that can afford the international circuit DJ. The troubles that these mega joints get from the powers that be often result in closure, or big fines or legal fees. Santos’ Party House remains clouded in mystery, with secret knocks and rumors possibly indicating a bad finish. Hopefully, something will be done to prevent this travesty. I hear we will know more this Thursday.

Moving Out & Moving On

Sorry loyal readers, I haven’t had a second, so my usual quibbling may have morphed into useless drivel. You see, I just got Capri nightclub open out in Bay Ridge. I have to get Snap open any day now, and of course, I’m still banging away at Darby and that 146 Orchard Street restaurant. There’re some others that need a tweak here and there. I’m also trying to move my stuff from my old Nolita apartment to my new Williamsburg digs. I got other stuff going on, too, but you have your own problems, and I’m not curing cancer or anything, so no more complaining. I asked my mover to get me out on the 1st, and he told me he was busy that day and “to take the 5th.” I told him that I took the 5th before, and it sort of worked out, but he didn’t have a clue why I had a quirky smile on my face. My current relationship is not understanding why certain pieces of memorabilia have so much meaning to me and are therefore taking up so many boxes. She would like me to toss away some of the “junk” and live in the present – and future. She is such a smart girl, it’s a wonder she’s with me.

Some poet once said, “Long ago it must be / 
I have a photograph / Preserve your memories /
 They’re all that’s left of you.” Now that may seem pretty corny to some, but to live in a world of wonderful, dynamic people for so long, you accumulate a past. Mine is now packed up in cardboard boxes marked with sharpies. She said, “It’s such a clutter!” and I pointed to my temple and said “you should see what’s going on in here.” I live off my experiences. Certainly nobody hires me because I’m good looking or sweet or fun to hang with. My present is paid for by countless trials and errors—by the things I’ve learned. I’ve learned from a thousand ghosts, from ten thousand nights. I have the scar tissue in and out to prove it.

When I wandered around Capri on Saturday night, I could see what was wonderful and what was a little short of wonderful. Adjustments will be made, and by weeks end, it will be sweet and vicious. It is a machine built for speed, efficiency. It is designed to make money and to entertain a crowd that wants to escape from one world into another. The crowd poured in and saw my vision. They saw what the owners agreed to let me create for them. The revelers felt the energy, saw the new joint, and for the most part ooh’d and ahh’d. I was in the shadows watching and learning.

Capri could be anywhere. It is a world class facility in an old school neighborhood. It was meant to take them someplace they had only seen on trips to Manhattan, Vegas, or Miami. To see it filled with people and watch it hum like a tuned-up sports bar gave me a deep satisfaction. I can’t find that satisfaction sifting through the memory boxes. Sometimes, someone will tell me how I helped them or entertained them or treated them with respect way back when, and I will feel a little proud. Success packed away in cardboard boxes has some meaning, but I learned early on that you are only as good as your last gig. I no longer am driven to be “the man.” Walking my dogs with my gal through McCarren Park is enough of a thrill for me. The night belongs to others now. As I chatted up friends at Capri’s “A” bar, it was sweet to shake the hand of a stranger who called me Uncle Steve. Nightlife still keeps me busy. Designing and writing about nightlife is as close as I can get to still being that guy that used to be Steve Lewis. Capri was a validation. So many write about nightlife from a primitive or inexperienced point of view. They certainly have a right, and even an obligation, to tell it like they see it, but unless you actually played the game, I can’t see how you can understand it well. It’s easy to critique, and dis, and put down others in the nightclub biz. It’s a world where everyone has to prove how big their dick is, every night. I sit apart from it, but I’m in it just enough. Enough, hopefully, to be considered an honest broker, or insider. To sit above the fray not hearing the music or noticing the skirts or celebrities anymore, I must prove myself everyday. If I am going to be credible, I must walk the walk, as well as talk the talk.

If you run into me this week and I look a little worn or frazzled, and I don’t linger to hear all about it, whatever it is, please overlook my frenzy. Please forgive me. I’ve got a million things on my mind, trying to open up a half dozen joints in as many weeks while developing some more joints, writing this and doing that, and trying to make some girl—oops, got stuck in the past again there. I got a TV camera following me, I’m visiting Michael Alig, etc., etc., etc, and I’m moving the family. I guess the next time I move there will be another cardboard box of notebooks and fliers and memories from Fall 2010. I can’t even imagine what will be going on inside my head.

My Mind On the Eve of a New Opening

The 1st of October finds me too busy to chat with you. I need to be onsite, breathing saw dust and paint fumes, readying dream palaces for imminent openings. I will have an egg with my sweetness, and my loyal and capable assistant, and then jump head first into the whirlpool of my work. Today it’s the finishing touches on Capri, the Bayridge joint opening tomorrow. I need to purchase levers, and drop latches for bathrooms, get a bronzing medium for the old bronze lights I found at Old Good Things (my secret source for everything), and some fabulous ancient handles for the front door. Then it’s an hour trip to a place still in NYC, to bang around with the contractor and all the subs. It’s a happy job site, with the product looking even better than I hoped. The workers are fun, and cool—like Bayridge workers almost always are.

Tomorrow night I will attend the opening of Capri. I will watch how the people flow through the space. I’ll look to see if what I planned actually works. Over 25 years of experience has taught me that nothing can be taken for granted. The space in the club where I didn’t think needed light may need it, the furniture might need more room to be comfortable. A thousand things will be looked at and analyzed by these old eyes. I will come up with solutions if I see a flaw or if the operator catches one.

Clubs should always open on Saturdays, for many reasons. Firstly, it gives you a few days to adjust if something needs a tweak. Secondly, staff can be evaluated and changed. Thirdly, Saturdays need to be your moneymaker: it’s good to give it a boost. If you open on, let’s say a Friday, then the Saturday is invariably anti-climatic, and you can’t have that out of the gate. I’ve been up since 7, nothing unusual about that, but my night was restless. My mind wouldn’t sleep as it dreamt of the club, and imagined it as it was open. Sometimes I see the people moving about, sometimes I hear the music. I guess that’s crazy, but I buy into that crazy/creative curve theory. October 1st is a strange date. I never liked it. I guess you can pretend that September is still part of the summer, but come October, you know the big chill is coming, Historically, it was the date when Karl Marx published Das Kapital (1867), in 1918 T.E. Lawrence of Arabia captured Damascus with a band of brothers, who he would eventually betray for the home team, and oil money. It was the start of the World Series in 1919. That year the Chicago “Black Sox” threw the fall classic, and became pariahs for very little cash. In 1931, the Waldorf Astoria opened as a palace for those who had everything else in the world they could ever want. I know there’s a story I could weave from these fun facts, but I’m going to need to rush away right now to have coffee, and small talk with plumbers, and contractors after an egg with my girlfriend, and assistant.