The snows have finally melted and we are enjoying glimpses, moments of spring. Soon it will be 70 degrees and upwards from that, and people will seek cocktails and friends on rooftops around town. One of my favorite rooftop spots is the space atop the Empire Hotel. After years of success, the space has been redone and new management has been brought in to relaunch it as Level R. It will open this coming Thursday, May 1. The venture is a collaboration between Perk Hospitality, Indayo Group, and Jeffrey Chodorow’s China Grill Management. I’m not sure what that all means entirely but it does mean that the fabulously successful Tony Theodore will be present and nightlife player Barry Mullineaux as well. I caught up with Barry and asked him all about it.
What was the thought process on the name?
We wanted to tie in the theme of the venue, which is the view of not just the sunset and the skyline but also of Lincoln Center. We also wanted to keep the Empire Hotel’s theme relevant so we came up with Level R. It’s the rooftop level of the hotel, so Level R kind of just made sense.
What is the programing… music… crowd…?
We expect to cater to the after work crowd that comes for happy hour to catch the views at sunset as well as the nightlife crowd, and of course we intend to host a ton of private events. The sunset after work crowd will be professionals mixed with hotel guests and really anyone who wants to enjoy an early cocktail and the view at sunset. The after dark, nighttime crowd will be your typical mix of good looking downtown nightlife go-ers and of course our celebrity clientele will come out often as well, so basically, the usual suspects. We are going to have a tight door policy in place and a strict dress code in compliance with the Empire Hotel, just like anything downtown. Entry will be at the doorman’s discretion. We are going to do a lot of unique entertainment aspects during the earlier sunset cocktail hours I mentioned such as a live Jazz band on Mondays and on the weekends, sunset parties with a great mix of lounge music (think Café Del Mar mixed with top 40 and rock music). Of course we intend to bring in the best DJs to play an open format set on Thursday and Friday nights, whether it’s 4 a.m., SKAM, DGI, or out of town DJs, and on Saturdays we are going to book bigger names from the EDM world and it will be our house night.
Rooftops already do well in the summer, and the Empire is enclosable, for the most part. We had a cold winter. Will you keep momentum going into the next one?
Yes, the rooftop season is upon us and we have had some crazy weather this winter. Level R is made up of two terraces and an indoor space. The larger terrace has a retractable roof, so we can operate rain or shine and still offer the great view with the panoramic glass windows. The east terrace with the iconic Empire Hotel sign on it is open air and will have cabana-style outdoor seating, all of the outdoor furniture is brand new and will be great for the earlier crowds, the weekend crowds and private events we host. The walls out there are great for projecting so we are going to do screenings too!
Tell me about the opening this Thursday.
We are not doing a traditional style “big” opening launch event. This renn=ovation came together very fast so we are going to ease our way into it and get people familiar with the space, but at the same time we expect to see some of the trendy downtown nightlife crowd coming uptown. We will have a bold face name to host, press and industry tastemakers but we really just want to introduce everyone to the space and the great new menu.
Is your bottle service geared to the big spender?
Considering we are in a hotel and on a rooftop, our prices are much more reasonable than most nightclubs, but at the same time we carry all the high-end brands for bottle service We will offer more competitive pricing since our hours are 5 p.m. – 4 a.m. and we will have a variety of customers coming in.
How will the staff be trained to gear up to your crowd? What is your service philosophy?
The staff will be a good mix of veteran nightclub staff along with the Empire’s highly trained staff and China Grill Management’s staff. The goal is to offer excellent hospitality so we have put together a team that will offer just that! Having a diverse staff coming from various hospitality companies, we can cater properly to all clientele, whether it be a high-end bottle service table or hotel guests during happy hour or a private event.