Bottle Service Lives On: Judge Blocks Bloomberg’s Large-Soda Ban

Judge Milton Tingling proved that you can fight City Hall when he overturned Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s ban on large containers of sugary sodas. Using words like "arbitrary" and "capricious," nightlife’s favorite judge stopped the insanity hours before the regulation went into effect. The rules would have banned carafes of mixers used in bottle service, forcing night spots to have containers of 16 ounces or less instead of the usual double that. What that means is tables designed to accommodate a bottle or two, ice buckets, napkins, glassware ,and mixers to name a few would be unable to handle that load, and alternative systems would be needed.

The regulations would not in any way stop the delivery of sugar-containing mixers, but it would just make that delivery more problematic and costly. Most clubs do not serve 100 percent pure fruit juices with their bottles, so orange and cranberry juice would also have to be poured from smaller vessels.

Clubs were scrambling to find smaller containers, and all sorts of other adjustments were going to be needed to comply. The size of tables needed to be rethought and possibly extra personnel hired to bring what patrons needed.

This law was silly. No one drinks out of a carafe, and it’s obvious that said container is meant for multiple patrons. I’m all for educating people about the harmful effects of sugar, and advising people to only drink diet or water. However, there is a great difference in keeping children away from large containers of sugary liquids, and it’s another thing to force adults to stop having what they want.

Where does this end? Surely the alcohol is as dangerous as the sugar. Surely the staying-up-late can be harmful, same with the noise and the possible unprotected sex. Passing laws that infringe on lifestyle is dead wrong. I agreed with the smoking ban because secondhand smoke hurts other patrons and workers, but secondhand sugar is not a reality. Kudos to Judge Tingling, and here’s hoping Mayor Mike’s threatened appeal is lost.

What on earth is happening down at Bow. Closed already, sources told me the place on the Bowery where Crash Mansion offered local and national bands is needing a rethink. Finale and The General are doing just fine, but Bow in the same building has Travis Bass bowing out.

The other day I wrote a story that things over at Butter Group were not exactly hunky dory. This got a response from the players there that my sources are wrong and that everything is actually hunky dory. Sources are sources, and I did write I was unsure of the validity of their remarks. I wish those guys a ton of success as I have only the greatest affection and respect for them. I look forward to a redone Butter, and the new programming I hear from all sides will happen at The Darby. When I went back and asked one of my sources about the story’s accuracy, they replied that they would stand by their statements, but that the normal state of things over there is confrontational – but somehow they always deliver a great product.

Photo Courtesy of Bon Appetit

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Catching Up With Catch

The thing about Monday nights at Catch, that  EMM Group staple in the Meatpacking District, is that you could cast your line anywhere in the joint and hook a gazillionaire or stooopid-hot hottie faster than you can say "I used to do this at Butter.” Last night I went to their Monday night shin-dig, the heir of the Butter Mondays that reliably entertained us for a decade. I know I’m a little late to the game but my Mondays are reserved for Bingo and bedroom. Armed with some well-heeled friends, we were treated to fine fare and conversation. Table-hopping is the norm. I noticed the cork and sound treatment on the low-ish ceilings, put there to keep the socializing bearable to those actually trying to eat. Every table was a scene to be seen. Celebrities dined with their posses while tycoons were tycooning. Tables of beautiful girls picked at the menu.

We had traveled in a chauffeured car from Bingo at Hotel Chantelle, and noticed how dead the streets were as Manhattan has already emptied out to the fantasy playgrounds of the last-gasping summer. The bon vivants at Catch were in no rush. They truly believe that the party always starts when they get there. Every table was a success story. Every table was offered food and drink suitable to worldly tastes. This crowd was in no hurry to get elsewhere as they all knew full well that they had already arrived.

We were whisked upstairs to the roof like we were Elvis by a staff who probably could handle even that. The place was crammed with the beautiful.  I shook a lot of hands and kissed a lot of cheeks. It was deja vu…all over again. The never-ending party of the party set. The endless supply of luxury bottles. The eternal flames of the sparklers. The plush banquette, the music, the girls du jour and the girls of yore mixing it up with the swells who were spending the GNP of small countries for these females’ affections – or maybe just a minute, or three, of their time. All this while hipsters are starving in Bushwick.

It’s always the little things that tell you that management has shown the staff the way to this naughty nirvana. Like, an hour in, when I thought I had lost my jacket and a nearby security guard immediately noticed and helped me with a flashlight. He found it at the table next to mine, moved by a model type who wanted to get up there and dance and didn’t want to soil it. He assured me that I could put it down again and that he would be watching it. I believed him. I noticed a few promoter types keeping it on the low to help maintain the illusion that this was happening organically.

As the bottles popped, we were surrounded by the smiles of the party girls, the b for beautiful, but not quite campaign models so I-can-be-out-this-late girls, and the genuine grade-A bonafide girls. Our table was a spending table and I assume the one next door was an "image" table put there to assure us that we were indeed at the end of the rainbow. The six-foot Russian blond, possibly looking for that proverbial pot of gold often found at ends of rainbows, was apologizing to me for something she didn’t do. Amanda laughed at my naiveté. That girl or someone just like her is always there. She was there before she was born.

Bottle after bottle with their 4th of July-esque flares sizzled by. They moved through the crowds like Olympic torch bearers bringing expensive wheat juice to players who long ago earned their gold.  Jeroboams of champagne and their beautiful, happy, delivery systems passed by every few minutes, The sparklers lit up the ceiling, a signal for one rich suit to show off to the next and buy yet another bottle for their table of worshippers. DJ Politick was taking us all to that mindless frenzy we need to justify the love. I was told he was a DJ AM protégé. I was told he’s a big deal in LA. He was a big deal last night in NYC. I don’t usually enjoy the style of music offered by mixed-format types, but he was real smooth,and his mixes of stuff I don’t like into stuff that I love made me enjoy it all. This guy is…superior.

Catch Mondays is killing it and it couldn’t happen to nicer guys .I chatted up owners Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum who are living proof that nice guys can indeed finish first.

EMM Group Opens The General, A Sure-Fire Hit

I’ve was invited to the friends and family opening of The Generalthe new restaurant from EMM Group at Bowery and Spring. EMM is Eugene Remm, Mark Birnbaum, and Michael Hirtenstein. They are the force behind Abe & Arthur’s, CATCH, CATCH Roof, CATCH Miami, Lexington Brass, SL, SL East, Tenjune, Chandelier Room, Revel Nightlife, FINALE, and Bow, and lots of other stuff. Bow and Finale are the other parts of the Spring and Bowery space that once housed Boulevard and Crash Mansion. Executive chef Hung Huynh of Top Chef fame offers up modern Asian cuisine in a red-chaired gilded wallpapered paradise. All the inside-info is here.

Opening up this time of year is interesting. Most operators look to open in the early or late stages of spring or fall, and with 300 seats, there will be a lot of kinks to be worked out. Groups like EMM have fewer kinks than most.  Opening now allows the place to hit its stride as the nice weather and affluent snowbirds return. They can do no wrong in my book. The General stretches the Bowery strip from its previous above-Houston Street border where joints like Daniel Boulud’s DBGB, Gemma, Peels and many others serve neighborhood residents and well-heeled visitors. This is not the Bowery of my youth. Little Steve Lewis trivia: my great uncle was one of the famed Bowery Boys.

Most clubs reported near-normal attendees for the week after New Year’s but much lower revenues. People went out but seemed to be tapped or burnt out.  For all except for the very top operators, New Year’s Eve is a loss when you account for the naturally slower nights preceding it and the after-effects. I’m still beat up from all the rushing around, and Christmas bills are still being paid. Getting me out requires special coaxing.

Many people obviously get terribly drunk on New Year’s Eve and try hard to slow it down for a couple of weeks. Then there are those resolutions which often include a step back from the boozing. My resolutions always end in a vow to break all my resolutions ASAP. We are still enjoying tourist dollars, but those will fade away as vacation bucks tend to fly to warmer climates this time of year. The cold keeps people in and, well, you get the idea.

EMM group is way ahead of this game. They have a built-in clientele that’s enamored with all their other joints. CATCH is still more than killing it, and the word "NEW" is always a sure draw. The General, a NEW offering from an established hospitality group enters as a sure thing. I’ll keep you posted.

Bottoms Up to Travis Bass’s Latest Nightlife Collaborations

As I told you earlier in the week, there is a lot going on as clubroom continues to play its never-ending game of musical chairs. Thank goodness I was left standing with the silly music playing sans chair many years ago and can quietly watch from the sidelines. Travis Bass, who had such a big hit with Madam Wong’s and Red Egg and those Swedish dinners on Delancey, has taken the revamped Tribeca Grand and made a go of it with a  pop-up bar. He insists it’s not really the TriBeCa Grand because it has its own entrance, but it still is so shhhh, Travis, I mean what’s the point. He also is calling it a pop-up because, like many things in nightlife, the parties come with an expiration date. That date is still undetermined but a guess would put it in mid-November.

At that time, the EMM Group’s much anticipated 199 Bowery space will open. I drive by it almost every day and just love the Monopolgy motif on the construction barrier. EMM’s foray into downtown fabulous includes ex-Collective Hardware maniac Stuart Braunstein and, I hear, ex-White Noise and ex-Mansion man Luke Brian Sosnowski. Luke has a downtown sensibility but also has the ability to sell bottles. This is promising to be a bit of what The Box offered, without the shock and awe. They are looking for talented performance-types, and my guess is that this space will be a hybrid of what EMM does and what these and other players do. It may just scratch that all-things-to-all-people itch that nightlife hasn’t returned to in a bit. The developing cabaret, performance club on Bowery seems highly exportable to cities like Vegas and AC. This is a winner.

Here, Travis Bass gave me all the details about the yet-to-open Bowery spot, pop-up bar, his role in it all, and his greatest weakness.

You launched Tribeca Grand at the close of Fashion Week. Was that a strategy?
We didn’t want to launch the “Bottoms Up” pop-up bar on a high during Fashion Week and then have half our crowd leave for Europe for three weeks, taking us down to a lower note. So we launched it when they were gone and it did amazing! Now everyone is talking and hearing about the pop-up party known as “Bottoms Up.” Now that everyone is back from Paris Fashion Week, we are gonna take it to a higher note!

What goes on here? Who comes? How has this place reinvented itself?
What goes on down there is magical. People have really been able to lose themselves and dance their asses off! The crowd is much of the same loyal fashion/art downtown crowd that we have picked up along the way since Red Egg and Madame Wong’s, with some new faces mixed in that are really into this new concept of dancing a bit and then hiding.

First off… Bottoms Up is not in the Tribeca Grand Hotel, but a world onto itself. You can’t enter through the hotel. We took the space into the basement and turned it upside down and made it the place you come to party and dance all night! Before that, it was a great space to see big bands and go to early parties. We built it out as a place you can go crazy on the dance floor or vanish into all the hidden spaces. It’s a place where you can escape from everything that is happening on the streets above you. We were going to call it “Pop-Up Vegas” as it feels like a casino, in the fact that time there has no meaning.

199 Bowery opens, and you leave. What can you tell me about EMM Group’s latest adventure and your role in it all?
The space on Bowery is going to be amazing. It will be a culmination of everything that my team and I have been doing for the past two years. The space will be like nothing you have seen before and, using the abilities of EMM, we will be able to curate experiences that have never been possible before in our scene.

Are you a promoter? A curator? A director? All of the above? More?
Dictator or Director?? Ha!

I think the best way to describe me would be all of the above, except a promoter. I put together the team and then work with my team to curate the room. I like to come into a space that no one else wants or even thinks about, move a few things around and punk it out for a few bucks so we make the money back the first weekend. 

What are your strengths and weaknesses?
My #1 strength is my ability to surround myself with an amazing team that truly loves each other and will go to battle for each other — Eamon Kelly (Best Friend/Door), Vance Brooking (Best Friend/sweetest human alive), May Kwok (Best friend/DJ) — all three have been with me since Madame Wong’s and Red Egg. Our bartenders Dave Mason and the two George’s have also been with me since Wong’s as well

My weakness is trying to find a balance in life while being in the nightlife industry. Being a healthy person that does clubs is a contradiction of terms. I am in love with the punk rock lifestyle and attitude of doing clubs, and it really hurts the day after.  Like many people that do clubs, we all need to find a balance between the late nights and having a normal life.
 

Why That Recent NYT Nightlife Article Makes No Sense

I’ll be at BOW, 199 Bowery at Spring, tonight and maybe even tomorrow to check out the latest and sure-to-be greatest offering from bon vivant Travis Bass. The 199 Bowery space is an EMM Group foray to the wonderful world of downtown. There is an attitude out there that nightlife needs to deliver uniformity or even predictability for success. EMM group seems to be taking a different approach and should be commended for their effort. A recent NY Times article " A Night Life Veteran Bets On Social Media," is not worth the paper that I didn’t read it on.

Mr. Andy Russell, a former owner at the defunct Moomba – the most overrated club in history – is gathering groups of people to joints around town early in the evening. The creatures of the night will be just stirring or putting on their outfits while Mr. Russell’s crowd gathers at places bound to be chic after they leave. It rants about the acceptance of the same ol’ same ol’ attitude of bringing like-minded people together.

Clubs are wonderful when like-minded individuals mix with people who dress, behave, and generally think differently are thrown in. The "novel" idea of having parties early so that people can be in bed by midnight is not only nothing new, but reeks of old and tired. Jerry and Mimi Rubin did this networking thing decades ago before social media made networking so easy. They drew 5,000 suit-and-tie types that didn’t want to mingle with the hipsters and those "other" types. The OMG complaint about being in a real club which will even have a door policy later in the evening is sooooo lame. This is a way for clubs to get early revenue; it’s been around and forever and there is nothing wrong with it. Andy’s crowd has a right to gather, but why the Times Inc.?. It is a tried and true way for the older set to go out and meet and agree, and it sounds as boring as anything I’ve heard about in a while. Charity events serve this purpose and exist for a good cause. 

This Sunday, a good cause requires the presence of some of these suit-and-tie types and others who want to mingle. The children and supporters of New York Foundling are having a reception at the Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway at 47th Street, where attendees will enjoy a matinee performance of the Broadway show Annie the Musical. Attendees will include:

"Staten Island-based Foundling families, many of whom have never seen a Broadway show, and who have been trying to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The Foundling purchased tickets for the children and their families with money donated from a campaign to support “real-life Annies” across New York City . The Foundling is hosting a pre-performance reception at the Palace Theatre featuring a special performance by students from The Foundling’s charter school in the South Bronxwho will serenade Annie composer Charles Strouse with their own rendition of “Tomorrow.” CNN “Starting Point” Anchor and Foundling volunteer Soledad O’Brien will emcee. (This short performance is scheduled to begin at 1:00pm.) Other guests include the original “Annie,” Andrea McArdle, Annie producer Arielle Tepper Madover, director James Lapine,  and Annie the Musical cast members.

Bill Rudin, vice chairman & CEO of Rudin Management Company, Inc. and Anthony Watson, chairman and CEO of EmblemHealth, Inc. will be honored for their strong and continuous support for The Foundling."

There are hundreds of events where good hearted people can meet and mingle with like-minded types.

A dinner for non-like-minded people will celebrate artist Kevin McHugh as he heads to Art Basel 2012 with all those Art-y Basel types. The dinner hosted by Patricia Fields, Wendy Williams and DJ Danny Tenaglia will be at THE OUT NYC, 510 W. 30th street, where thinking outside the box is encouraged. Kevin’s art is Pucci-inspired and will be previewed at the soiree. DJ Alex Perez’s sounds will dance around the conversation. 

Last on today’s list of things to do and, of course, not do will be Saturday’s “Wildchild” party at 107 Suffolk St., 11pm. Pal Ian El Dorado will DJ. My friend, Facebook and otherwise, Joy Rider will host and I can’t miss it. There, I will bask in rock and roll and hang with like-minded people that I like.

Where I’ll Be This Halloween

The major news of the day is the merger between EMM Group and Pacha over at the soon-to-open FINALE. They’re looking for performance artists and staff that can do more than just sling drinks and, as I have said, I think this is the shape of things to come in NY nightlife.

This Wednesday, Terry Casey and his inevitable sidekick Chris Graham will start their Sub-Atomic Wednesdays, a house music affair, at Lil Charlie’s. At the opening, they will DJ along with special guests Nelly Munoz and Niki McNally. I love the space and adore Terry and Chris, so I’ll be there. They have a big Halloween planned. They asked me to DJ the top floor that’s open to them for the holiday but alas, I will be at The Griffin along with Chrissie Miller and Michael Cavadias.

Lest I forget a special birthday shoutout to Jamie Hatchett who celebrated at Pink Elephant last week. I am still living out of suitcases as my new apartment is readied. I am getting to some things, but not to everything. Jamie is one of the good guys in the business who will surely finish first. 

WTF?! This Fall’s Nightlife Gossip

I remember my first date with Jeannie LoVullo like it was yesterday. She chewed a lot of gum and said "what the fuck" a lot. This weekend was like a date with Jeannie LoVullo; my movers, who were indeed shakers, were chewing gum and saying "what the fuck” a lot. They got me saying it. I didn’t have time to go out but did answer the phone and heard bits and pieces of what seems like a great game of musical chairs. I’ll get to the bottom of all this faster than you can say "wtf," but for now you will have to accept these moist and fuzzy tidbits. I hear that Nur may be leaving The Electric Room on his way to the newly remodeled TriBeCa Grand. My source who is usually unreliable swears it’s true, citing contract endings and stuff like that. I also hear that Travis Bass will also bring his special brand of whoopee yippee yay nightlife to TriBeCa. This may be a temporary thing, as he is slated to be a honcho over at the 199 Bowery space that EMM Group is developing for November. OK, OK,. I’m pausing for a WTF…

I heard that Jamie Mulholland was all set for that bank space on the corner of Houston and Essex which has, for years, been so many things to so many people. Now, this other group is there doing something irrelevant, and I’m not sure what’s going on with Jamie. He would be the perfect fit for what is an imperfect space. I’ll find out WTF is going on and tell you when the time is right.

 Also, I am told that Vala Durvett has taken over the job of putting asses in seats over at the almost new Bishops & Barons. They kicked Danny Kane and his crew out for lack of performance, according to another fairly unreliable source. Translation: they opened at a bad time, withered during the summer, and kicked their team out as the season began. Vala is a good fit for this joint as its 14th Street East location is a tough destination. Bishops is located right between the IHOP, and they just opened Bait & Hook, my pal Div Patel’s (formally of Nest) seafood joint. WTF, Vala has her work cutout for her, trying to hook people over to a hood where no man has gone before. Good thing she knows a lot of women. It can be done; Beauty Bar has been there since WTF – the last century. I’m sure I’ll get some calls to clarify, and so I will.

Moving has been one big WTF and I’m a bit frayed. I’ll be at BINGO as usual tonight to get my mojo back, and if I win I’m just gonna yel…you got it.. WTF!

Drink Your Perfect Bloody Mary: Lexington Brass Launches New DIY Bloody Mary Bar

Now that Midtown East’s classy American bistro Lexington Brass has launched their DIY Bloody Mary Bar, weekend brunchers everywhere can drink Their Perfect Bloody Mary. The Sunday & Saturday afternoon addition equips you with your own little checklist of ingredients – from spirit to rim to spice – that you mark with a pencil, hand to the bartender, and watch (and salivate) as they make their mixing magic with your choices.

For $9, you can choose between sauces like Worcestershire, Tabasco, and/or horseradish; yummy little toppings like pickled okra, pepperoncini, and celery; and even an additional $5 upgrade to the big boys: Grey Goose, Sapphire, or Avion.

It’s fun getting what you want, isn’t it?

Get the inside-scoop on Lexington Brass, & follow Bonnie on Twitter here

EMM Group’s Sweetest Weapon: Pastry Chef Thiago Silva

Arriving ravenous to an interview with a renowned pastry chef was a bad idea. I knew it the moment Thiago Silva – the 28-year-old Brazilian executive pastry chef behind all OF EMM Group’s restaurants –  placed a massive, glazed green tea donut and mini honey jar before me, and uttered three little words: “It’s cream-filled.” With that, I was off to the races, cutting open the donut, scooping up the green tea mascarpone cream, drizzling the honey all over its lemon honeycomb-topped self, and leaving no crumb behind. Thiago wasn’t fazed. It’s most patrons’ natural response to the signature dessert at The General – EMM’s newest hotspot: an Asian-inspired bar, restaurant, and downstairs jazz lounge.

But at The General, the doughnut doesn’t stop there; the Bowery spot has become known for Thiago’s most nostalgic, breakfast creation: cereal-topped doughnuts. Yes, doughnuts topped with Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs, or Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and filled with their respective cereal creams. “A lot of people think I was high when I came up with the idea,” Thiago says. “But I wanted a breakfast item, so I combined my favorite breakfast cereals with my really great doughnut recipe.”

The doughnut recipe is another wildfire idea Thiago’s concocted that’s become EMM Group’s top-ordered dessert across all their restaurants. On the sweets menus of their spots CATCH NY, CATCH Miami, Lexington Brass, and Abe & Arthur’s, you’ll find one signature doughnut. For CATCH Miami, it’s their key lime doughnut. At The General, it’s green tea. For the rest it changes, with flavors like pumpkin and peaches and cream.

But Thiago – the man who grew up in Astoria and ironically bellowed “Feed me, feed me, Seymour” in his star-turn as the man-eating house plant in his high school’s production of Little Shop of Horrors  – brings more than doughnuts and plated desserts to NYC. He’s also a master of cakes, known for creating outrageous cakes for EMM’s clients, most notably a four-foot-by-four-foot 16th birthday cake with a confetti cannon, fog machine, and lights. Suddenly, the chef doubles as an electrician.

“I googled how to do the electrical and wood work for the cake,” says Thiago. “And that’s what I love about making cakes – you never make the same cake twice, you never know what kind of order you’ll get. It’s a collaboration with the client, and you’ve got to deliver and make it memorable.”

Thiago, who’s had no formal culinary training, has made lots of memorable cakes for folks you might recognize: Brooke Shields, three cakes for Sofia Vergara, and the entire New York Giants squad, the day after they won the Super Bowl.

“That was the best, they’re my team,” says Thiago. “And Sofia is funny; she told everyone at the party that she stayed up all night making the cake.”

But nowadays the chef is staying up all night for a whole new reason: he and his wife have just had a baby boy. Full name: James Brenden Silva (adorable video here).

“He’s my favorite kind of sweet,” Thiago says. “Him, and tiramisu.”

The General

Learn more about chef Thiago Silva, & follow Bonnie on Twitter here