This Week’s Line-Up: Andrew Goldberg’s Birthday, “Wildchild” Party, and “Broke House”

It feels like spring and I’m lazy and just want to lay out in McCarren Park with the puppy but, alas, there are too many things that need to be done. Writing this leads the list, then it’s coffee at House of Small Wonder which, if I was smart, I wouldn’t tell you about. On Wednesday I celebrated Octavia McKinney’s birthday party at Chinatown Brasserie on 4th Avenue. We had a small room all to ourselves as we all took in Octavia’s undying beauty. She has been a club fixture, employee, and general menace to society for nearly 20 years. After a great dinner at this underrated restaurant we headed to The Boom Boom Room – yes, I insist on calling it that. It’s still the best room in the city.

We listened to old classmate, DJ Fanny Chan, offer up a lounge house-sound to a beautiful crowd. She will be DJing again tonight for Vida at the Hotel Americano from 7 to 10pm. Fanny is living the New York Dream. Formerly one of the most sought-after bartenders in New York, she has moved on to DJing to support herself while pursuing her fashion design career. She is one of a million people who have made it here by working in nightlife on the way up. A vibrant nightlife supports creatives: the people that make this city a cheerful place. As we left The Standard and headed into the night, we passed a threesome who were dejected – obviously told "no" by the Boom Boom door gal. The female of the three tearfully and forcefully told her male companions in a thick southern drawl,"I don’t really care if we get in. Their Hogs and Heifers looks like a perfectly nice place!"…and it is.

Tonight, I am trying to get to the Abrons Art Center where Heather Litteer known as Jessica Rabbit AKA Rabbit will strut the stuff that dreams are made of in Broke House. You only have a few days to catch this act which, according to The New York Times, is an undeniable hit.

Tomorrow I am continuing my rock and roll adventures with a visit to Candice Fortin and Pam Glam’s “Wildchild : Down and Dirty Dance Rock” party. It will feature a live performance by Jogyo and will be at 107 Stanton Street. I have never been to this spot but I hear it’s an old theater foyer or something like that. I also hear it’s dirty and decidedly undone. Sounds like a perfect place for imperfect people to gather and let loose.

Next Wednesday I will attend Tao Strategic Group honcho Andrew Goldberg’s birthday bash at Avenue. Andrew is one of the great people in this business and I expect hordes of scenesters and no meansters at this jungle-themed event. I’ll be talking about this again but figure I will spend the next few days scoping out an outfit. Tarzan won’t work for me anymore.

Industry Insiders: Jeff Zalaznick, Private Eye

Jeff Zalaznick transitioned his career from mergers & acquisitions to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The editor-in-chief of AlwaysHungryNY.com and founder of DinePrivate.com was once a J.P. Morgan employee before finding his passion and his business partner, famed restaurateur Joe Bastianich. The native New Yorker talks about his newest online accommodation for private dining.

How was Always Hungry born? I started Always Hungry after a career in investment banking and finance and realized that food and restaurants were where my passion lay. I felt that at the time there was a huge gap in online sites that were focusing on not only the best technology for restaurant search engines — which Always Hungry has in terms of finding where to eat and what to eat when you get there — but also food-focused content. So that’s how Always Hungry was born. Always Hungry launched about a year ago.

And Dine Private was conceived from that? I was sitting at ‘inoteca with Joe Bastianich (Babbo, Spotted Pig), and he started talking about a way to sell private dining online. We started discussing the fact there was clearly a gap in the market. Private dining didn’t have an efficient sales channel. And basically a year later, we’re here. Dine Private was born out of that conversation and a lot of work in between. Always Hungry launched a year ago; I started working on it two years ago. Around the same time that I was launching Always Hungry, I started discussing Dine Private. It was launched in September.

Is there a subscription fee for Dine Private? No. Dine Private is free for the consumer, so for the customer or anyone in the business of planning events, anyone that goes to our website, it’s totally free. The goal of Dine Private is to offer the best pricing. This happens because restaurants have begun to price their rooms more competitively because they’re selling them against one another through our site. In terms of the cost to the restaurant, the restaurant pays a subscription fee and a booking commission.

How many restaurants do you have now in your database? When we launched, we chose a highly qualified group of people that we thought would be great partners in launching the site, and who could help us create the best product possible. We launched with a group of 14 restaurants that included all the BLT restaurants, the Craft restaurants, Daniel, and Babbo and Del Posto. Since then we’ve had this unbelievable response from the restaurants themselves. We’ve been inundated with requests, and at this point we’re probably signing between two and three a week. Right now we’re trying to get as many as we can and get them online so they can start booking private dining as quickly as possible.

Is Dine Private targeted towards smaller groups as well, for say, a birthday party? This is for anyone looking to plan any sort of event. From huge 200-person parties to a birthday dinner with no more than 12 people. We take over where the restaurant says, “Hold on, let me transfer you.” Whether that number is 8 people, 10 people, or 12 people, every restaurant has a threshold where you move from being a normal dinner reservation to being considered private dining or group dining. Now that person can go on Dine Private and immediately see what’s available on a certain day for a specific amount of people. That saves a lot of time. And you can do that for a party of 8 or a party of 300 people.

Are the price minimums negotiable? The whole idea is that the price that you get through us is almost the post-negotiation price because what we’ve done is create a way for the restaurant to price their room more efficiently. We hope that this creates an efficient marketplace. The goal is to save people money. For years, the private dining business was very opportunistic — they would size you up and see what kind of price they could get out of you. Now they realize that it is their benefit to be up-front with their pricing because they get better responses from their customers.

How has the customer reaction been so far? The customer reaction has been incredible. For anyone in the business of planning events, this is kind of the answer to their prayers; such an immense time saver. Instead of having to call a variety of venues to check on availability and pricing, they can get real time availability using our search engine in a matter of seconds.

What are the stipulations for the restaurants you feature? We chose the group that we chose to launch the site based on people that we thought were, in terms of their private dining practices, somewhat diverse, but were also set up to work through this and perfect the product with us. It’s not meant to seem like those are the only places we’re working with. Right now we’re working on signing up everyone from 20-person restaurants in the LES to different Mexican, Chinese, and Japanese restaurants — really all over the place at a variety of different price points. For us, all you need to have to be on Dine Private is a private room or real estate that you’re able to have a private event.

How are you marketing the site? Right now we’re working with a lot of people in the events business, whether it’s from concierge services to people that work within the big banks or law firms on the admin side to help plan events. We’re directly targeting them and their consumer through a variety of consumer benefit systems, and we’re also going to do some special events.

Are you still working day-to-day on Always Hungry? Now I run Dine Private on a day-to-day basis, but I still do Always Hungry and oversee everything there. Right now I have both.

Do you ever get any criticism on the top five lists? We don’t get too much criticism, but I definitely get emails all the time about it. It’s definitely something people love to discuss and argue over. It brings up great conversations and sometimes someone will bring something out of left field that changes my opinion.

And then will you edit the list? No. Once the lists are done — they’re done. But we’re always trying to do new ones to make them more and more accurate.

How many nights a week do you eat out? Seven. And most lunches, too. I’m lucky enough for it to be my business, so a lot of time it’s business related, but I would be doing it regardless.

What are your go-to spots? I have a different favorite for everything. For Italian I love Michael White at Marea, I could have the octopus and bone marrow pasta anytime. I love Del Posto, I love what they’re doing at Locanda Verde. For Chinese, I love Chinatown Brasserie.

Where do you go out after dinner? Recently I’ve been going to the Boom Boom Room. When I’m not there, sometimes I go to Southside, Avenue, places like that.

Fresh Start: New CV, Opium Group Redux @ Nina

A weekend of springlike weather brought optimism and a few mosquitoes to my downtown abode. It was a weekend of new construction — a fresh start for so many things. The trickle of growth in clubdom has become a torrent, with my design firm getting an inquiry a day about our services. Gossip down below in subMercer was that Serge Becker’s new subterranean versian of Chinatown Brasserie will make dim sum available for Thanksgiving. Lovely Day has recovered from its fire and is slowly returning to the neighborhood mainstay it was before. Also in the hood, Jon Lennon celebrated the second anniversary of his GoldBar on Ssunday. By the end of the day today, I should be signing a couple of more contracts — maybe even three more, as the recession is officially over in nightlife.

However, New York City is not enjoying an unemployment rate around 10%, with no relief in sight. New bar, restaurant, and club construction provides much-needed jobs for building trades. The spaces will provide thousands of service jobs. Cab drivers, delis, and local business will get a boost as well. The state seems to have recognized this opportunity to get people off the welfare rolls and onto the taxpayer rolls. The “new” SLA has been tasked to streamline the licensing process. Community boards have eased up on their mindless rejection of all things nightlife, and thumbs-up have become commonplace.

The closed 105 Rivington space — a splinter off of the Rivington Hotel — is getting a redux. It will be called CV, as in the roman numeral for 105, the address. My company has been tasked to make the place a warm, comfy space to hang with a “Meatpacking” aesthetic. Partners Jed Stiller, Alex Masnyk, Jordan Harris, Matt Isaacs, and Matt Levine will have no problem filling the small lounge, which has a capacity smaller than its address. Gerald Bunsen and Zev Norotsky join as in-house events staff. They have brought some of the management and staff from Spring Street boite Upstairs, including door dude Wayne. Jed Stiller told me, “This brings the trend towards hotel-driven lounges to the LES. The Rivington is a celebrity-driven hotel, and we expect to service the high-end guests of the hotel as well as our friends.” The place will be open seven nights from 10pm, and small food will be served. Partner Matt Levine has had success over at the Eldridge and working with the Rivington as of late. If my wallpaper guy gets motivated, the place will debut in the next few days.

Word comes that the Opium Group will take another bite from the Big Apple. Their last bite was a bit wormy, with Mansion falling way short of expectations. They seem to be thinking small and will take a version of Miami success story Louis bar-lounge to Soho. This Avenue-style spot might (according to my source) be called Nina. The hospitality dynamic in Miami has always been a bit different from NYC; vacationing Europeans and northerners seeking heat spend cash differently in Miami than they do in New York. It will be interesting to see if the Opium Group has learned from its failure at Mansion and will adjust to the New York state of mind, or if they will try to shove nightlife as they know it down our throats once again. Will they recognize that they must assume some of the blame for Mansion’s demise, or will egos continue to point fingers at everyone else? It is true that they emerged as the recession melted black cards, and this time the economy seems to be going the other way. They and dozens of new joints are speculating that a bottom has been reached and that they will catch this new wave of cash and not crash back into the beach.

Rioja Restaurant Week: Spanish Sauce on the Cheap

imageFrom April 26 to May 2, New York’s getting an obscure holiday — Rioja Restaurant Week. It’s like Normal Restaurant Week, but instead of being inspired merely by New Yorkers’ inherent desire to eat fine foods on the cheap, it throws oenophilia into the mix. La Rioja, an autonomous region in northern Spain, produces a full range of wines … rosés, reds, whites. Riojans claim their wine pairs better than any other in the world, and to prove it, they’ve set up a bunch of deals with a few participating restaurants all over Manhattan to get the word out.

For example:

● A 25% discounted bottle of Rioja at Stanton Social, Veritas, and The Mermaid Inn.

● A $50 prix-fixe at Chinatown Brasserie, Tailor, and Flex Mussels.

● Call for changing Rioja specials at Lure (where you can also use your BlackBook iPhone app to get a sweet happy hour deal), Smith’s, Las Ramblas.