The Top 10 Industry Insiders of 2009

We did it last year, when this interview series was borned, and back then our pal Rachel Uchitel was #2 to a doorman. No more! Half a million pageviews later, Rachel, you’re second to none, but we’re retiring your number. It’s time to make way for the class of 2009.

10. David Chang The master of Momofuku can do no wrong. 9. Rochelle Gores Shopkeep of LA’s fashion-forward Arcade, Gores wants to close the book on boho-chic. 8. Mourad Lahlou Lahlou knocks ’em dead from San Francisco’s Aziza to Iron Chef. 7. Eddie Dean After a series of legal woes, Dean’s Pacha club in New York owns the night once more. 6. Wass Stevens Arguably New York’s most well-known and professional doorman, Stevens has transitioned upward into running the show, not just the guest list. 5. Rachelle Hruska The queen of Guest of a Guest sure knows how to get her name out there. Now quit accosting us at parties! 4. Richie Akiva, Jeffrey Jah, Ronnie Madra, & Scott Sartiano The boys of 1Oak are the supergroup of NYC clubland. 3. Paul Liebrandt The prickly chef from New York’s Corton has no time for your foolish questions. 2. Poplife Miami’s nightlife mandarins continue to throw one of the hottest parties in town. 1. Josh Wagner Our most popular interview subject for the year also hails from Miami, running the bar-side show for Morgans Hotels; he declared 2009 the “year of the bartender,” and he was demonstrably correct.

Stevie’s Ark: Who to Save in NYC Nightlife

And the lord said to Noah, come with all your household into the ark, for I have seen you to be righteous (upright and in right standing) before me in this generation.” Genesis 8

Have you noticed the rain? We watched the lightning from the lobby entrance to the Rivington Hotel and counted 1 alligators, 2 alligators, 3 alligators, 4 in a super-scientific attempt to determine how far away the magnificent bolts were from my merry band of Sunday travelers. Then it was upon us, and I said to my flock, let us flee unto Spitzer’s and partake in friendly fare. So we went to Spitzer’s. I had the PBLT and the rest had salad. My arteries must be getting hard. The downpour came at us hard, and we huddled with the masses and drank and ate and waited and watched in wonder. Mother nature ain’t happy. The busboys tried to lower the windows, but it was a slow go, and the windswept rain wiped out the first two rows of diners. We got a little wet, but we were an intrepid band, and it washed away the sweat of shopping and strolling. I bought a cool hat at Still Life. The rain was traveling sideways in torrential sheets, thunder and lightning were right above us, and we didn’t have to count critters to understand that. It was a rain of biblical proportion, then it ended in sunlight — and then it happened again yesterday.

It’s been a seriously rainy last couple of months. It’s been cool too. I know, I know, I guess if my writing/designing career doesn’t work out, I could try to be a weatherman, but one has to seriously wonder if those scientists Al Gore’s using didn’t get their educations from that guy on TV who teaches you how to make money selling stuff on eBay. We joked of building a great ark and plotted to take two of every job in clubdom. Who would I save? I’m not taking into account breeders and non-breeders … doesn’t seem like Noah did either.

Owners? Well for sure I’d grab Eric Foss (Lit) and Paul Sevigny, who will, I’m sure, open something biblically amazing soon. I’d consider Eddie Dean if the wise judge rules favorably this week and the Pacha owner is still in business. I’m sure there would be considerable pressure to bring Noah Tepperberg because of he’s name-appropriate, and maybe the ship needs to actually make money. I’d ask Richie Akiva and Scott Sartiano, but it’s a boat and they’re jet-setters.

The door would be my boys Wass and Jon Lennon. No way they would have let mosquitoes and roaches in the first time around. For DJs, I’d go with Cassidy because who else would throw in a Dolly Parton tune; and I’d sacrifice a lamb to get Junior Vasquez because he makes me happy and will do the 40-day-and-40-night gig easy — he’s done gigs like that before. For bottle hosts, I’d grab Denise Robinson and Jayma Cordoso. I know, Jayma — you’re an owner now — but if you don’t want to get on the boat, let me know. You’re the best bottle host in town, and that owner slot is crowded.

For events, I’d ask Francis X. McHugh and Kevin Crawford. I’d bring Patrick Robinson and Julie Park to manage the whole thing — somebody’s got to get the bussers to sweep up. On security, it’s Luke Petit and Jeff Craig because I trust them. Waitrons: Lelanea Fulton and Ayana Frazier. It’s gonna be a 40-night excursion, and I’m gonna need a bunch of bottles with lots of smiles. These gals have great … smiles. The bartenders for real sure are Seamus Regan and Blaze. For promoter, hmmm, maybe we only need to bring one promoter. OK, if we have to bring two, it will be Kenny Kenny and Emma Cleary. I know, Emma, you’re an owner, but I really liked your Monday-night Femme Fatale party at Katra, and these days almost anyone can call themselves an owner. Nightlife blogger? Well since it’s obvious to anyone who knows me I have never had much interest in self-preservation, I’d opt for Rachelle of Guest of a Guest and Brittney of ChiChi212. I’d ask Scott Solis of Down by the Hipster, but I think he would be thrown overboard before we left port.

Junior Mint! The Return of Vasquez

imageWas the moon in the 7th house? Did Jupiter align with Mars? Is peace really guiding the planets and is love steering the stars? Is this the Age of Aquarius or the rebirth of DJ god Junior Vasquez? The answers were provided this past Sunday night at a memorable Memorial Day party at Cielo. Junior Vasquez performed at a level befitting his legend. Fernando, our favorite door demi-god, walked me into the DJ booth to say hello. Entry into Junior’s booth is a great honor, which I was reluctant to accept as I recalled Junior’s aversion to such invasions. Fernando whispered in my ears “He’s back,” and I disagreed because he is different now.

Junior once took the mic and told the audience that he wasn’t going to play until all the fish were off the dance floor (a reference to the fag hags, lesbians, and other women who had come to be part of the greatest party on earth). He once laughed and corrected me when I asked him if this actually happened — he told me what he actually said was far worse. The old Junior was the undisputed best DJ on earth. Then, the world changed: clubs closed, the music went in another direction, and the worshippers dwindled … some just withered under the pressures of a decade or more of partying, and some just settled down and didn’t do it anymore. Then came depression and bad management. One “in the know” fellow told me it got so bad that Junior had to buy his own records back from his management.

The old Junior isn’t back. The demons have been purged, discarded, and abandoned. Just a look at him and you could see how his face has changed. He’s relaxed and happy with a new boyfriend and new management. A “school of fish” — a bachelorette party — settled right in front of my table to the right of his booth, and this incarnation of Junior was pleased to meet them. They gave him their “penis necklace,” and he honored them by wearing it. He played the Donna Summer classic “I Feel Love,” and we all knew that we could. Song after song spoke of love, unity, and peace. He could still punch like that other J.V., and the crowd cheered and reached for the sky as they were swept away in his new vision. It was beautiful that night in Cielo. The room filled with familiar faces reveling in the love pouring out of their Junior. We always suspected that he loved us. It was a closely kept secret that he loved us like a father loves his unruly children, for that’s what we were. Junior demanded that his thousands of fans — with so many attitudes, foibles and personalities — give up their much-protected and sought-after individualism to unite in giant, orgasmic rushes on his dance floor.

I’ve known Junior for over 20 years. I booked him at The World when he had an act called Ellis D., and that must have been in 1988. Over the years, Junior has gathered a rough, tough, no-nonsense, no-quarter reputation. At Sound Factory or Twilo as the crowds poured in, they would ask, “What kind of mood is he in tonight?” That has been his positive rep as well as his negative. If in the right mood, he was the best by far; but sometimes when he wasn’t in the right mood, he’d be even better. He was an orchestra leader, the boss, the king, or the wicked bitch of the best; he lifted the crowd high in the air and squeezed them, lectured them, told them who they were. He taught them how to rise as one entity in the power of a track. This was every Saturday night at places like Twilo or Sound Factory. It wasn’t a club night; it was a lifestyle.

Back in the day, he would whip us into shape; now he lovingly shows us the way. I was texting Pacha chief Eddie Dean about what was happening. Eddie was in Tao Las Vegas for a monster Eric Morillo-DJed party. Eddie was happy that Junior was so on. A friend pointed out that Junior was playing a Danny Tenaglia track, while another reminded us that Junior had once had Danny tossed from a club as an invader. Pacha instigator Rob Fernandez offered that “last night a DJ saved my life,” as Junior kept a crowd which had planned to slip away to Algeria on the floor until the end.

It ended with that Tracy Chapman song and a standing ovation. He raised a beer and saluted the corners of the room with a peaceful, professional, calm face. He was satisfied. Months before, I had interviewed him and he was searching for himself, not sure where his head was or where he was going; he revealed to me a human side that few were allowed to see. He seems to know who he is now. Maybe he doesn’t have to be the stadium act or the king of kings. Maybe now, just playing a great set to a loyal and appreciative crowd is satisfying. The anger is gone, yet the passion remains. Moments before, he had played the house anthem “Devotion.” The lyric “I want to give you devotion” was a tribute to a loyal crowd celebrating the legend — a god who for so long had prided himself and indeed separated himself from the crowd. Now he was no longer that god, but a man who seems to have found himself in the truth that he is no better or no worse than any of us. Junior Vasquez seems happy with this role, and the set that I heard on Sunday night was nothing short of legendary.

Pacha Sweeps Club World Awards

The Club World Awards winners were announced yesterday, and New York’s Pacha won five awards including “best super club.” If you look through the list of winners, many of the categories will have little relevance to the average reader, since technical awards take up at least half of the list. Still, all of this is very relevant to the people who plan and actually build nightclubs. The trophies voted on by industry experts (including me, your humble servant) show investor types and club industry insiders that these people know what they are doing. Besides “best super club,” Pacha was recognized for “best one-off event,” “best resident DJ” (Victor Calderone), “best resident lights” (Timmy Lights) and “best DJ set” (David Guetta). David Guetta, incidentally, is spinning this Friday night at the 46th Street joint, which after three years stands at the top of the heap not only in New York but also in the rest of the country. I said it (my votes were shown here last week) and a panel of 11 other players agreed.

This isn’t about whether or not Paris Hilton or Leo like to pop bottles at a table; this vote is about big sound, amazing lighting, booking world class talent, handling crowds of thousands, and surviving in an environment that doesn’t favor your very existence. There is no club that comes close in these parts. I caught up with Pacha honcho Eddie Dean and asked him what he saw looking back, and what he sees looking forward as he sits on this mountain of current success.

I just got back from South Beach, where we had an amazing Winter Music Conference. We hosted several sold-out events on the beach as well as downtown with all of our New York City residents, such as Victor Calderone, Danny Tenaglia, Boris, and Jonathan Peters, along with many special guests. We also took over the Royal Palm Resort for the week and made it the Pacha South headquarters. We had all of our up-and-coming DJs spinning poolside during the day and in the lobby all night. It was surreal; after just three years, to be able to do so many successful things was really rewarding. On another note, we won many awards. We won five Club World Awards including the most coveted “best super club” in North America for the third straight year (record). In a world where clubs come and go so often, just to be around after three years is great, but to be recognized by your peers as the best is so rewarding. We also won the official WMC award for “best club in the U.S.” So it was a clean sweep for Pacha. Everywhere you looked in South Beach, you saw Pacha Cherries, I was so proud. When I look back on how much we have accomplished in the last three years, I can’t believe it. But in this business, you can’t spend too much time looking back; there is always a new guy coming along trying to take what you have. I work harder today than I’ve ever worked before. I know what it took to get here, and I have no intentions of letting anybody come take it away without a fight. Our lineup gets better and better every year. We are getting offers all the time to expand, but I have seen so many clubs fall apart when they try to expand. My objective is to make Pacha the best club it can be and try to get better and stronger every week. It would have to be a great opportunity for me to consider expanding.

Congratulations to Eddie and the Pacha family and to all the other winners and nominees. There are a great many people whose names don’t appear on Page 6 or even on blogs like this who work very hard so that you can have a great time.

Gatien Out? Bottles In?

Word comes from one of those talkative birdie types that Peter Gatien has been ousted from his throne at his Circa nightclub in Toronto. My source was vague on details except for a “he’s definitely out,” and that the “two lawyer/investor partners” had acted because Peter was “up to his same old shit.” At this time I’m not sure what “shit” he is specifically accused of being up to, but there was just so much of it in the old days. I’m promised details sometime today, but although it’s no secret that Peter and I have had a “confused” past, I honestly don’t enjoy hearing this news. As I’ve said before, though it seems that he deviated far from any reasonable set of management practices in his reign as club king in New York, there is little doubt of his brilliance, daring, and vision. Things didn’t exactly work out as he planned here, and again I’m sad that this may be true for him in his native land. I never went to Circa, but I heard wonderful things about it and was impressed by the Kid Robot decor images that I’ve seen online.

Onto another fairly controversial topic: A recent article in the New York Times has pointed out the consumption of thousands of dollars worth of bottles at the Merkato 55 and Bagatelle weekend brunches, which has raised a few questions. Is the Obama bailout going to bring back bottle service? The flailing economy had just about forced clubs to rethink their reliance on the Grey Goose crowd, but it seems like the bailout may be providing these patrons with some extra spending money again.

I spoke to a few owner types to get their feel, and most said that they were still struggling, but that business was also up recently. Greenhouse owner Jon B. pointed out that January and February have always been slow months. “Hopefully with the bailout and the change of weather people will feel more confident about spending,” he said. Eddie Dean over at Pacha said that his club was “still making deals, and early-bird specials with no sign of improvement yet.” Owners at all the places I spoke to said that revenues are down between 15 and 25 percent from last year.

Last year, as I remember it, was a monster year, but to expect that kind of action in an unusually long and cold winter — and in a down economy — would be a bit short-sighted. Management got used to bottle service padding their bottom lines, and those who have not adjusted by cutting staff or finding other revenue streams (like door fees or specialty drinks) are suffering. But while most owners have mourned the loss of bottle-service, many have seen it as a blessing since creative types have returned to the business with new energies and great parties. It is my observation that there are many great nights/parties, but there is no truly great club. The country has been in an uproar about the bonuses paid to A.I.G. executives. with an angry president ordering his minions to make it stop. I can’t imagine the reaction when it’s taken to the next level — when people realize that the loot is trickling down to the frat boys once again and is being used to buy tables at the city’s trendiest nightclubs. Can the goose be put back in the bottle? Merkato 55’s doorman, Matt Oliver, had this to say: “I generally ask bottle service customers for their credit card and ID. I’ve never asked them how they got the money in the first place. But maybe I should start.”

Industry Insiders: Eddie Dean, Pacha Honcho

The owner of the flagship Pacha in New York on international clientele, the rough lifestyle required for nightlife connoisseurs, and flushing out the phonies.

When you’re not partying at Pacha, where are you? I always find myself at Sushi Samba on Seventh Avenue. I love the outdoor roof. It’s a great place to entertain. I’m forever hosting people from South America and Spain there. They treat us well, and the food and the vibe is great. Asia de Cuba has great service, great food, and a great energy. I like Henry’s End in Brooklyn at the end of Henry Street. The owners are real wine connoisseurs … they search the globe and feature five reds that are unique. Just had a great meal at Dovetail, another great spot.

How did you end up here? I knew I wanted to have my own business, but I didn’t know it would be a nightclub. The opportunity presented itself. We put together a business plan to open this little bar in Bay Ridge, and then we owned about 15 places. It’s a lot of late hours, a lot of grueling work, but it’s what I do. I have moments when I’m tired and want to do something different — and then I realize that I love the people, the experience of making people happy, of employees doing well. We’re the biggest nightclub in New York, and everybody’s trying to take us out, so you need a strong constitution to come in every day and keep on fighting. It’s an exhausting battle. I was 24 when I opened my first place, and 28 when I opened another couple of places. People sometimes ask me my secret: I think long term and don’t take short cuts.

Who do you admire in the hospitality industry? The first thing I think of is longevity, not the flashy guys who are in for six months. I think of Jeffrey Chodorow and Steve Hanson. They’re successful with different restaurants with different menus in different neighborhoods. Promoters who have been successful owners include Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss from Marquee and Mark Packer of Tao. And then there are people who get into this business for the wrong reasons and muck things up.

What’s a positive trend you’ve noticed in nightclubs? I think what’s going on now is economical. The economy is going to separate the men from the boys. Over the past couple of years, people have become so money-driven that they don’t care about quality, just about how much they’re going to make before they produce anything. So, as tough as the economy is, it will flush out the phonies. The strong will survive. It will bring the quality up because there will be more good people working in fewer places. We’re making adjustments here, but we’ve buckled up and made some tough decisions. We have a viable product — a world-class nightclub — and DJs around the world want to play in a successful place more than ever.

And negative things? We don’t have enough unity in nightlife. Some people feel that it would compromise relationships, and others feel it’s getting too close to the competition. There’s too much at stake not to unify. We would get a unified voice to get the positive things that we contribute to the city to overcome the negative image. People are quick to report negativity. If there’s an arrest, if there’s a problem somewhere, it gets reported — and it’s really not fair, it’s a one-sided story.

What do you love about your joint? There’s nothing better than to be here on a Friday or Saturday night to hear the accents from around the world. More than half of the people here on New Year’s Eve were from Europe and South America. They came to celebrate at Pacha . That’s the greatest compliment of all. My doorman speaks four different languages, just to accommodate the questions from people who don’t speak English.

What is something that people might not know about you? I’m obsessed with sports. I’m a big Mets fan, but if Derek Jeter was in the club, I’d love it — he doesn’t take short cuts either. I could watch sports day and night. I watch ESPN six nights in a row. I love college sports, but right now none of my teams have had the best year. But I’m a fan, so I’m eternally optimistic. Ballplayers will come in here, and I’ll be introduced to them. I’ll tell them about their careers because I’m a statistics nut, and sometimes it spooks them.

What’s on the horizon? I’ve had several places over the years, but Pacha is a full-time project, and anything going forward will be more and more Pacha stuff to expand the brand throughout North America. The economy means we’re proceeding with caution. I take it very seriously. It’s a big responsibility, and we’re doing everything we can to keep from laying off people.

More M2, Ministry of Sound, & Mountains of Debt

imageJoey Morrissey seems firmly in charge of M2 as of this writing. Yesterday’s interview and today’s were done before the media tsunami over the name change; many are saying that Mansion is out of business, and this semantically may be true, but the new M2, under the control of Joey, Artie Arboleda, and nightlife hero Mark Baker goes on. I spoke to Joey Morrissey last night and asked him to clarify some things.

He told me that he had come into Mansion as a promoter, but as he learned more about the bankruptcy court case, he saw an opportunity and made some moves. The Crobar debt has stifled any real progress at Mansion — one construction company alone was owed $12 million, with less than $3 million paid back to date; another partner was owed $2.5 million. You get the idea. Joey and crew rolled in with some cash, bought up the debt, and have become the lead creditors. On top of the old Crobar debt, Mansion had put in an additional $3 million for its build-out and launch. They were entitled to first money out, but with cash-poor creditors threatening foreclosure, Joey’s “white knight deal” saved the day.

Joey has no delusions that M2 will be a club of the Palladium, Studio, or Tunnel stature. “Those days are over,” he said, but he still “believes in a mixed club” and that a mega-club offers “more bang for your buck, and that’s becoming very important.” He looks around the club scene and says that Tenjune, Marquee, and Kiss & Fly are “all the same”. He saw in this massive space — which because of its high ceilings and lack of columns used to house the Macy’s Thanksgiving floats — an opportunity to get maybe the last mega-club we will see in a very long time. He told me “this type of space can’t be done again easily because it would cost $30 million to duplicate nowadays.” So M2 goes forward. I wonder if Joey and crew are contemplating some of that $825 billion that President Obama is tossing around. Why not a clubdom bailout? It could happen.

Check out the rest of my discussion with the Mansion boys and The Ministry of Sound about their new, weekly show launching this Friday night:

So the show will be every Friday night, which is really fantastic. Where are you headed next? What’s the next New York City? Andy Horsfield: We’re in discussions in Las Vegas, Miami, and we even expect to go as far as Mexico and Canada as well.

Have you discussed this move with Eddie Dean (of Pacha)? Lainie Copicotto: Actually, Eddie came to one of my client’s gigs a couple months ago, and I’ve been very good friends with Rob Fernandez since I was a kid promoting. We have nothing but love for them, but Pacha and Mansion are completely different worlds. There are 25 million people in New York. If we can’t find a couple thousand people, we’re not doing our jobs. AH: My thing about it is that there’s nothing worse in the city than having that one dominant club, and that’s all there is. Mark Baker: I know those guys over at Pacha, and they’re great guys. We’ve had no cross words between us, we’ve had no fights over DJs — we have something different, and we’d like to keep to the mold we have. We know our clientele, and I think there’s a tiny bit of crossover, but not really. I think it’s a different market and a different feel. Sometimes it’s really difficult to define what a fun club night is, but what it comes down to is that we’re trying to create an atmosphere that when you walk out of the door at the end of the night, you say, “Holy fucking shit, that was a really fun night!” That’s all we’re trying to create, and whatever we have to do to get to that is what we’re going to do.

What will be the difference in sound between the new M2 vs. Pacha? AH: I think the Ministry Sound here in New York is a lot more vocal driven, a lot house-ier and a lot sexier. The stuff that goes on at Pacha is very tribal, progressive, trance — it’s a lot harder and it’s a lot younger. Mansion with the Ministry of Sound is a more of a late 20s to early 30s audience. They’re a little more mature.

There’s a worldwide slump in the economy. What are your price points, and will door admission become more important to you? MB: The first question I asked when Artie put all of this together was: How much are we charging? I was expecting a $35-$40 ticket, but the tickets are $25. That’s standard club price … there’s no increase in price, and I think that’s a bargain. You’re not just getting one more club DJ, you’re getting the whole show and the whole Ministry experience for $25. That’s no more than a regular cover charge.

Has the change in DJ pricing over the years affected the way you book shows and run the door? MB: There are many talented, incredible DJs out there who should command a decent figure, but let’s be realistic. When you’re a club that’s not Amnesia or Pacha in Ibiza that has 8,000 people at $50 a head (which by the way I think is somewhat of the beginning of the demise of Ibiza, these crazy rates), we have to turn down DJs that are asking for $50k or $60K. I’m not saying that we didn’t want to do that DJ, but it’s just physically impossible for us. We have a regular Friday and Saturday night that makes a certain amount of revenue, and adding a big-name DJ is great for the club, we’d love to do it, but it’s just not cost effective anymore to pay that much money. I think the business has been spoiled somewhat, and everyone needs a reality check. During the Winter Music Conference when you have huge shows, the DJs can get that much money because they can charge at the door. We don’t do that in New York because not everyone gets charged, so it just becomes impossible for us to pay monster numbers for DJs and see any kind of pocket on the night. I just think there is a time coming where people will have to become more realistic since we’ve lost all our sponsor dollars from alcohol, so now all the revenues come out of our door receipts. There is an adjustment coming, it’s on the way, and these guys at Ministry have accepted and moved with it. LC: The thing about the Ministry of Sound is that it’s about the quality of the music. You don’t have to be recognizable to the point where you’re being chased down the street by paparazzi. You just have to be good, and we believe that we book the best musicians — not just DJs, but also the musicians who are going to be performing on those evening.

Good Night Mr. Lewis: Going Big!

With the re-launch of Webster Hall tomorrow with DJs Kascade and Cassidy — on the very same night that Pacha celebrates its third anniversary with Eric Morillo — the question arises — is a new era of the ginormous club upon us? I’m handling the redux of the 137-year-old Webster Hall with my partner Marc Dizon and our team. It’s been a wonderful experience but a ton of work; I’m so beat that I can’t speak, and that’s 80 percent of my game, but hopefully it will look great for you guys come Saturday night. Webster and Pacha are different animals; Pacha is dealing mostly with one circuit DJ after another, while Webster has the big DJs on the main floor and four other DJs playing different genres of music in satellite rooms.

The theory of the big club is that with volume, the common costs that often bring a club down are covered more easily than in a small joint. Publicists, managers, accounting teams, clean-up crews, and tons of other costs run relatively the same whether you hold six hundred people or a thousand. But the high-end potential to make money is far greater in the big joint, which grabs the huge corporate events; a place like Webster is used two hundred times a year for concerts. You can charge at the door, and many, many people don’t mind that if you give them something worth paying for. The real question now revolves around bottle service.

The bottom line in so many places has been, for a very long time, dependent on the sales of bottles of Goose and other potent brews. With the table service mentality waning, clubs must turn to admissions to make up for their losses. Can the smaller clubs get people to pay? Marquee does a great job of it, and as of a week ago Home has begun to charge with great success. Others will follow in swift succession.

I think Webster will be a blast, and I hope you all come down to see it. I’ll be there, and then I’ll head up to see DJ Morillo late. Oh, and Mansion is still with us long after many had predicted it would not be. I think that the public — bored of the model dropping the bottle service (with attitude no less) — will begin to consider the big spots as getting a bang for your buck becomes ever more important. On the verge of Pacha’s third anniversary, I had a chat with co-owners Eddie Dean and Rob Fernandez to see how things have worked out for the ginormous club:

Guys, congrats on three years. The first year was pretty hairy … there was a lot of competition with Crobar, but now Crobar is ancient history, and you guys are still here. Eddie Dean: True … actually I think all three years were hairy. The club business is always going to be hairy no matter where, when, or what.

So how is Pacha different now from when you opened it three years ago? Where you are now? ED: Well I think we’ve definitely attained a level of respect globally; we’re now a destination for world-class DJs. If you’re anybody coming through New York, you want to play at Pacha, and I think we had to earn that. A lot of DJs could play anywhere they want, but they wait, they really want to see that a club is going to be everything it’s supposed to be. Rob Fernandez: Even someone like Danny Tenaglia … I tried to get him to play here, and he wouldn’t play here for ten months. He wanted to see how Pacha would be, to see if it turned out to be up to par. And now we’re the club of choice for all the big talents.

How is the economy striking you? ED: We’re definitely starting to see the effects now. Up until recently it’s been okay, but now around the holidays as people have less expendable income, they’re going to really pick their spots. They seem to come out for the bigger parties, so certain weeks when we may not have a high-profile act, they’ll choose that weekend to stay home. But hopefully everyone is coming out this weekend for the anniversary. RF: We try to have an event here every night because people are jaded, they don’t have money, so we’ve got to make it worth it for them to leave the house.

Are you lowering your prices for drinks and admission? ED: We’ve definitely created options for admission; we have several different ways for getting in for free, reduced; there are all sorts of incentives that we do. We definitely offer table specials, where we didn’t at one point, and we are offering drink service at tables on certain nights. We even offer non-alcoholic packages now for people that may not drink, but want to sit.

How about the bottle service? Is it diminishing? ED: It’s becoming scarce because there are less people to pick from. There are less people who are spending frivolously; I think they’re really being careful. Some people may want to fix up their house instead of buying a new house, or they may go out once a month instead of three nights out of the month. So I think that stands true with tables — a guy who used to get a table every week, now he gets a table maybe once or twice a month.

Are the DJ prices going to come down? RF: Not as much as we would’ve liked, but they are coming down out of necessity. But its funny — for the really big DJs, it makes them more valuable because you know if you have someone like a Tiesto, it’s a sure thing that people are willing to pay more for these guys. So it seems like their prices aren’t going down. ED: The haves and the have-nots just like everything else. There are certain DJs that have earned a level of respect, and they kind of still name their price, but everyone else, they’re just hoping that you’re going to book them again.

At the end of three years, there are three large clubs left: Pacha, Mansion, and Webster Hall. You are the only international club, but do you see the other clubs as competition still? Or do you think that you’re off on your own doing something unique? RF: At the end of the day, there’s always going to be somebody, and it might be a big club, or it might be a small club that’s our competition.

What small club would be competition for you? RF: Even Cielo for example; they’re down in the Meatpacking District, but if they have the right talent on one night, they can hurt us. I remember the night they had Steve Lawler. I look back during last summer, and a lot of people who come to this club on Friday nights went to Cielo that night. So it can be any little club. ED: Or it could be a special event, like Paul Van Dyk playing at Roseland Ballroom. RF: So for us, we just focus on what we do, because there’s always going to be somebody coming along. It’s never going to be easy, and we can’t really pay so much attention to our competition. We have to pay attention to what we’re doing.

You’re DJ-oriented; do you do well when you have a great DJ, but not as well when you don’t? ED: No, we just promote differently — we try to reach different audiences by tailoring our promotions differently. In a club this size, we’re constantly trying to turn the page and find new angles and new ways to reach different audiences — that’s a nightclub by definition, you’re somewhat of melting pot. We still pride ourselves on reaching all audiences here. On Friday we had more of a Chelsea crowd in here; Saturday night we had the Martinez brothers and a little different crowd that night; so we try to mix it up a little bit. RF: If we have a whole bunch of different crowds coming here, then they feel they can come here any night.

Well that’s the question — whether or not a large part of your crowd comes no matter what? RF: Well, I think that if we do a night with the Martinez brothers, then one night is a techno night, people will know that any night they come here there’s good music. And it may not be their bag exactly, but they’ll like it and they know it’ll be good; it’ll be top notch, no matter what the genre. ED: We figure if we reach out to everybody, it’ll bring up the club as a whole.

And three years in, you guys have the North American franchise of Pacha. RF: Montreal, San Francisco, Miami, Vegas, Puerto Rico …

Is that what we’re talking about? ED: Well right now we’re being cautious and trying to learn from some of the other guys who grew and expanded too fast. We’ve turned down several opportunities in Miami and multiple opportunities in Las Vegas. We’ll do what we feel is right when the time is right. We’re not compelled to just open a club and expand because that’s what people think we should do. RF: Some of these opportunities are pretty attractive on the surface, but when you look at it a little more … ED: I’m not looking for a good deal — you’ve got to get an unbelievable deal, because good deals don’t cut it anymore.

And does it have a lot to do with not diluting the brand? ED: That’s part of it. We know how hard it is to run a club here in New York, so to double the size of our capacity we really need to be sure that it’s going to work. I think that if you spoke to me three or four months ago, I would’ve sad that the next logical step would’ve been Miami, but now I think Vegas has emerged as the next logical step.

Vegas seems to be the next logical step for a lot of people, but of course things aren’t that great out there either. ED: No, I think that if we do something out there, it’s not going to be small — and if we were to enter into any sort of agreement in the very near future, that we would probably be looking two years out, if all the economic predictions are correct (which will be the first time ever). I think that would be good timing.

So you’re basically getting close to a deal right now, and two years from now the build-out would be done, and that should time with the end of current economic crisis? ED: If I had to say so, yeah.

So on your third anniversary you’re looking west, like Horace Greeley said? ED: That’s right.