The Empire’s New Groove

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.

Empire-rooftop-East-Terrace Empire3

Opening for the Fabulous Mel DeBarge Tonight at the Empire Hotel Rooftop

This is going to be short and sweet – well, maybe splendid. Fashion Week is making me weak and it’s just starting. I shoulda, woulda, if I coulda attended the Ami James Pop-Up Tattoo Shop thing at the Empire Hotel yesterday but I was otherwise distracted. Besides, I will be at the Empire Rooftop tomorrow night DJing, and being north of 23rd street two times in a week is… problematic for a BBurger like myself. I’m opening for the fabulous Mel DeBarge. Mel and I have a long history of being in the same room and other things more times than I care to discuss. He is a great DJ and I am honored to be mentioned in the same breath and invitation with him. Kirill is taking pictures and he somehow always manages to shoot me on my good side -not an easy accomplishment. I’m on from 9pm to 11pm, although the invite says doors open at 10pm. Either that’s an error or someone has heard me DJ before or they want me to provide rhythm for the wait-rons as they set up. I’m excited about this and Fashion Week in general.

Nur Khan, who never ceases to amaze me, is living up to his hype with two Fashion Week explosions. I’m not going to say much about it because I figure about a million more people than can actually attend will want to. He’s got The Kills one night and Guns N’ Roses another. If you want to go, you figure it out; I’m not going to help you except to let you know it’s on and it’s real. Fashion Week realness with Nur Khan.

Fashion Week Has Taken Over NYC

Fashion Week is all around us and I just love the way it conveniently ends at Valentine’s Day. I am a romantic and will concentrate on making next Thursday wonderful. This week, the most fabulous clubs, bars, and lounges are swelling with the most fabulous people. Fashion Week and that pesky Groundhog signify the near end of the cold, economically-incorrect winter. The top-tier patrons will jet off to exotic lands for a minute, chasing the fashion – but the thaw is coming. The spring, where every club cleans up both literally and in cash, looms. Starving stylists are flush this week and even the C-rated models that promoters exploit can be seen working.

As DJs are in high demand, even I have a busy schedule. I will be DJing tonight at Hotel Chantelle and Saturday at the Empire Hotel Fashion Week party, which I did last year as well. Tuesday I am at Toy for a fabulous Fashion Week event hosted by BlackBook, which I will detail on Monday. Wednesday I am at EVR early for an after-work soiree. Thursday I will paint the town red for Valentine’s, surely ending up at Marquee for the opening night of Susanne Bartsch’s and Patricia Fields Valentine’s Day Ball. This is the premiere of Susanne’s game-changing Catwalk Party.

Of note, long-time absent DJ/headliner Sister Dimension returns for this gala. All the unusual suspects will gather, including  that bon vivant Paul Alexander, Michael Fragoso, Marco Ovando, Jordon, Jessica Love, and all sorts of accessorized etceteras and other denizens of the night. Patricia Fields is busy. She will be celebrating her birthday at the launch of Christina Visca’s T@TOY this Sunday from 6pm to 10pm. DJ royalty Johnny Dynell, Louie Vega ,and Lady Bunny will do it up. Toy is at the Hotel Gansevoort on 9th Ave. and 13th St.

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What Nemo Did For NYC Nightlife

Stage 48, 605 W. 48th St., is currently being used as a live music venue until, according to a source, "it gets all its licensing together" sometime in mid-March. An insider told me that John Blair, now an outsider at XL nightclub will bring his thing to Stage 48 on Saturday nights. I am currently involved with a cosmetic redux of the lounge at XL, so conflict of interest plays a part here. It does happen. I know about the planned Friday at Stage 48 as well, but will keep things tight until the time is right to blab about it. I hear the place has three floors and a sick rooftop.

I will be DJing at Toy tommorrow night for a Blackbook Fashion Week gala. I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow. I guess I don’t feel like talking to you much today.. I saw Beasts of the Southern Wild last night at the wonderful Williamsburg Cinema. I think it’s the best picture of the year, maybe of the last five years…like that. Then again, I also loved Warm Bodies which I also saw this weekend. OMG loved it!. The snow destroyed Friday around town but left most stir crazy, and Saturday boomed everywhere. The winter can kill nights and owners must be prepared to accept losses due to weather.

I DJd Saturday at the Empire Rooftop to a packed house who wanted to hear house, hip hop and EDM mostly, and not my rock offerings. Great room with a great, long bar, ample seating for the masses, good food, and professional and friendly service are what keep this place hopping. It has a solid, well-dressed crowd every time I go.

I have stopped doing my Thursday night Generation Wild party on Thursdays at Hotel Chantelle. They recently cancelled the basement pogo party, and I felt it was time to leave as a sign of solidarity to that. I’m busy enough with a new Wednesday after work residency at EVR, and will soon announce a new rock and roll adventure. I’m going to sip my Yerbe tea and head to a job site. I’ll be better tomorrow.. Go see Beasts …now!

The New Year’s Eve Hotel Roundup

Planning on getting out of the house for New Year’s Eve? Of course you are. And if you don’t feel like going home that night (falling into your own bed can be a little anticlimactic after popping bottles all night, don’t you think?) it’s the perfect night to indulge in a hot hotel escape. There are a lot of offerings around the country, but these are come of the most exciting.

For their friends in New England, Boston.com rounded up some great last-minute deals. All Kimpton properties, like the modern boutique hotel Nine Zero are half-off on Jan 1st to make the most of your long weekend, while the upscale XV Beacon is offering a bottle of Taittinger to stay in and enjoy in front of your in-room fireplace, after checking out the city’s First Night festivities or else a reception in their wine cellar and fireworks on the rooftop terrace, followed by brunch at Mooo and late checkout at 2pm. They’re also featuring some deals at the Hyatt48 in New York, and The Joule in downtown Dallas.

Another Southwestern property we can always count on to go big for a holiday is the W Scottsdale, who’s making a weekend of it with their $2,012 “New Year’s Eve Fiesta Bowl VIP Experience.” Football fans kick off the four-night weekend stay with top hats and Champagne in their room, a vintage-circus themed party throughout two of the hotel’s venues (be sure to get onto the terrace for the midnight fireworks) entrance to the Fiesta Bowl block party on January 1, and two club level tickets to the game on January 2. It’s just one of the many W-hosted New Year’s soirees; check out your local location for details on theirs.

The club hoppers at Guest of a Guest have put together a great roundup of parties for the night in New York City, including several hot hotels—it’s showgirls and circus performances before an indoor ball drop at the Tribeca Grand, Debbie Harry hosting at the Standard, and a massive open bar at the Empire Hotel rooftop, as well as other festivities at the Jane Hotel and the Soho Grand.

Grey Goose Outside Insiders: Herbie Gimmel, Fully Loaded

Herbie Gimmel spent over a decade performing in various rock bands before landing his first hospitality gig as a bar manager at B.E.D. nightclub in Miami, where he was mentored by owner Oliver Hoyos. The North Carolina native then moved to New York to manage the bar at the Gansevoort Hotel’s rooftop lounge, and four years ago he assisted with the launch of the Empire Hotel Rooftop Bar & Lounge. Now, as general manager, Gimmel is responsible for everything from promotion to organizing live music events and generating new business.

What are your responsibilities as general manager at the Empire Hotel Rooftop Bar & Lounge? My day to day involves a variety of tasks from marketing the establishment, to generating new business, and maintaining the clients lists that we already have. The Empire Hotel Rooftop Bar & Lounge is not just a nightlife destination; we also put on music events with Jazz ensembles, for example. Currently, I’m working on a movie themed night, and toying with other similar ideas.

How did you land your first hospitality gig? I had been in the music business since I was 17-years-old, playing in different rock bands across the country until I was about 28-years-old. After that I befriended Oliver Hoyos, the owner of B.E.D. nightclub and he moved me down to Miami. I worked as a bar manager there and learned the business from him, then a few years ago I moved to New York and remained in hospitality.

Where did you end up after working at B.E.D.?I worked for Jeffrey Chodorow at China Grill Management as a bar manager at the Gansevoort rooftop. And after doing that for awhile, we opened the Empire Hotel rooftop together four years ago.

What has your job taught you about entertaining guests at home? The most important things are being in a gorgeous space with good music and good people, and certainly having a cocktail or two, to make the moment right. I love having a good time and making people happy. Throughout my life I’ve loved throwing parties—whether it’s a house party— and having the responsibility of making my guests feel welcomed.

How do the summer months change the flow of business? The pace changes dramatically, we triple our business in just three to four months. And there’s not much time off for anybody in the rooftop business because it has definitely grown in the seven or eight years that I’ve been involved in New York nightlife. At B.E.D we were the only ones with that feature, but at Empire we’re one of many, so it’s definitely more competitive. But I think the Empire has a lot to offer; great views, all different types of spaces, and a great location.

Will there be any new cocktails featured on your summer menu? Strawberry Fields: 2oz. Grey Goose Le Citron flavored vodka ½ oz. lemon juice ¾ oz. simple syrup 2 muddled strawberries Top with Prosecco Garnish with strawberry

Bryant Park vs. Lincoln Center: Out with the Old, in with the New

Last night the “fashion set” bid the tents at Bryant Park adieu and turned the runways into 1Oak– a look that came complete with dancing models, Moet and Ronnie Madra. I put “fashion set” in those very convenient quotations because partiers were more of the “drinking set,” as apparently none of the people who had spent the most time under the big top- the fashion editors, designers and front row stars- could muster the nostalgia necessary to say goodbye. That and Calvin Klein was having his party somewhere else.

(‘DiggThis’)In any case, a big stink has been made about what will happen to NYFW when it moves to Lincoln Center in the fall, farther away from the Garment District and all of those downtown fashionistas. Will more designers choose to show off site? Will downtown-dwelling stars and fashion mags decline to travel all the way to the Dakotas? Will New York as a fashion capital lose its international cred from the lack of a centralized location if said designers continue to show independently? Will the Lincoln Center give fashion credibility as an art form? Deep stuff, right?

These are all really important questions that I’ll leave to be answered by the Sunday Styles (or teen bloggers writing from Arkansas who seem to have just as much validity). I’m more interested in figuring out how the “fashion set” will defile transform the UWS nabe into fashion land, what tequila hole Michael Kors will turn to for a pre-show blackout, what hotel the cast of Jersey Shore will take over, what unassuming quaint pub Kate Moss will put on the map, if they do so choose to journey north.

Hot spot for over-worked fashion editors to cry it out after getting snubbed by the Wintour. Old: Ruby Tuesday. Distance: Just over a block from Bryant Park, on 7th Avenue. Why: The food chain provides many carb options, something the editor has been abstaining from for half their life, and an atmosphere one can be sure is totally free from fashion peers. Let the floodgates open- Fashion Week is tough, but easier with cheese, breaded and fried. New: Central Park. Distance: One block east of the Lincoln Center. Why: What better place to run to in a fit of rage and “why me?” than freaking Central Park? The editor will feel as if they’re starring in a weepy Woody Allen film; scorned woman turning away from all she knows to find answers in the woods of Manhattan! The drama! Bonus as an ego boost when they find smirking at tourists in flip-flops easy from their perch on Prada pumps.

imageHot spot for models to gorge between shows. Old: Crumbs 42nd Street. Distance: In Bryant Park. Why: If you’re making up for a week’s worth of calories, you should at least be eating something pretty and within walking distance from your next call time. New: Magnolia Columbus. Distance: 4 blocks north of Lincoln Center. Why: The fact that they are Carrie cupcakes (for models still infatuated with SATC) makes the walk to gorge worth it. Besides, models never make call times.

imageSpot for designers to have a pre-show stiff one. Old: Cellar Bar @ the Bryant Park Hotel. Distance: Pretty much on top of Bryant Park. Why: Cellar Bar is a sophisticated rager, perfect for sophisticates in need of numbing nerves and their publicist’s front row choices. New: Candle Bar. Distance: Roughly 8 blocks north, or one subway stop from the Lincoln Center. Why: Gay dive that’s a nice counterbalance to the frat-tastic bullshit of the Upper West Side. And we all know how progressive the fashion world is.

imageCheesy fashion-themed bar big with tourists. Old: Stitch Bar and Lounge Distance: 3 blocks south, 2 block west of the Bryant Park tents. Why: They have cocktails named Anna Wintour, Silk Scarf and Stiletto. This place screams “Girl’s Weekend!” New: None, yet. Maybe Rosa Mexicano will change her name to Rosa Cha of the occasion? Why: While there are quite a few Jazz or Opera themed bars, the UWS is prime for fashion to make its mark. Right locals? Anna Win-tini could be on the menu at any given bar hungry for tourists.

Hot meal ticket that is completely booked come fashion week. Old: Aureole Distance: Nestled between Conde Nast and Bryant Park. Why: Charlie Palmer’s house of indulgence is right next to Vogue. This is a quick dinner on-the-go for a busy Voguette. imageNew: Bar Boulud. Distance: Just past Broadway, right in the Lincoln Center’s wheelhouse. Why: “Location begs Lincoln Center spillover, i.e. middle-aged Philharmonic fans and ballet families.” Replace this i.e. with middle-aged fashion editors and PR families.

Photo: Gothamist

A Gift List for Clubdom

The ghosts of Christmas past drive me to self-analytical frenzy, that gets mixed in with the shopping and the holiday greetings whirlwind. Then there’s the, “I love her, she loves me not, she loves me, I can’t stand her 75 percent of the time” pantomime. That leads into who? what? where? New Year’s Eve desperation. With work and traffic, money runs and non-stop Christmas muzak, I think I’m starting to lose it. Gonna leave you to your thing and I’ll go do mine. Before I go, I’m going to give some clubs some uncle Steve advice: What “should” each club want for Christmas?

Avenue: A deep breath. 1Oak: Another year like this one. Or better– like the year before, as the recession comes to an end. Boom Boom Room/18th floor: A laugh track and a high-speed money counter. Bungalow 8: A real deal redux and a neighborhood revival. The Jane: Another chance! The Beatrice : Clarity. Rose Bar : A Basquiat and a big hug. Provocateur: Patience and humility. Simyone: Diversity to go along with all that quality, good looks and charm. Rdv: A “stay true to your school” t-shirt. Cielo: A moment away from cops and courts to concentrate on the real club side of things. Pacha: The same plus a VIP host who knows everybody in clubdom and gets them to come. Lit: A clone for Mr. Foss and a swiffer sweeper. Apotheke: More of the old (crowd) and more of the same (delicious cocktails). Greenhouse: One clear public message besides the green thing or the green thing and chain of command. Juliet: A new lighting concept and lots of fabric. Hudson Terrace: The Copacabana. The Eldridge: 25 more square feet. M2: A real good old school club night with lots of familiar faces. This place rocks when filled with good peeps. La Pomme: Time to build its own crowd. GoldBar: A gold medal for Jon “the legend” Lennon and a little more light. It’s too dark to appreciate the crowd. Marquee: Glass and maybe a once a month huge DJ and a clearing out of the furniture. Webster Hall: Convictions. Southside: Brotherly love. Ella: A little respect. Gansevoort Roof, Highbar, Empire Hotel: Eternal sunshine, endless summer. The Box: Moist towelettes and more Patrick Duffy.

Who am I to tell all these young studs what they may or may not need. But I do remember something James Brown once said: “I taught them everything they know, but not everything I know.” Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Chuck Bass Joins the Hotel Gold Rush

TV is simply a place where people go when they get tired of thinking. — Kevin Devitte

The three-day weekend left me limp but bored, so I attended a Gossip Girl dinner with friends. I have an impossible work week ahead of me and wanted to get my mind out of the business and back in the gutter where it belongs. However, there was no escape for me, as the storyline of “the greatest show ever” had Chuck Bass buying a club. He spends the show trying to obtain a Patrick McMullan photo of the king of nightlife, Sean MacPherson. In the real world, Sean and partner Eric Goode are building one great place after another. The Jane Hotel, the Bowery Hotel, and the Maritime, as well as B Bar and the Park. These joints will soon be joined by a couple of new locations. A very secretive pal of mine tells me that Sean and Eric very secretively just started building something on the southeast corner of 2nd Street and 2nd Avenue. My source is a very quiet guy. It’s as if every word spoken takes a day off his life. If that was me, I’d have been in the ground 25 years ago.

Anyway, I asked my source if he was sure it was Eric and Sean, and he answered “yes.”

Sean had a couple of lines in praise of the prized Patrick McMullan photo presented to him by the ambitious Mr. Bass. He also stared wide-eyed at his devious assistant when Chuck exposed her as the “blank” she truly is. The best way to describe Sean’s acting ability is to say he’s a really good hotel/club/restaurant operator. In the end, Chuck Bass decided: why just buy a club? Why not go for the whole thing and buy a hotel? So he snatched up the Empire Hotel. I can’t wait to see what happens next. I want to be on Gossip Girl and write how fabulous Chuck, Blair, and Serena are. Or maybe I can redux that pool deck.

If Chuck gets his hotel, he will be joining an elite group of educated and savvy operators that are now changing nightlife as we know it. Not content to sell rooms with views, room service, and minibars, they are snatching up nightlife to drive their hotel brands. The old hotels only had tourists who needed a bed and such. The new hotels are for New Yorkers. We New Yorkers make the hotels chic, and the tourist crowd brings fresh meat to the table with rooms and room service just a button-push away. It’s all very sexy and chic.

Ian Schrager leads the pack simply because he and his partner Steve Rubell did lead the way. These post-Studio 54 players gave us Morgans, the Paramount, and the Royalton long before the term “boutique hotel” was invented. Ian’s Gramercy Park Hotel set a new standard, as the Rose Bar drove the brand to the New York crowd. André Balazs and his Standard join his Mercer and other properties — he is the big man on campus right now. His Cornell and Columbia education are typical of this new group. The previous generation of club owners have business training instead of André’s humanities degrees. The generation before were dropouts with eyes towards art and women and other distractions. These hotel groups have layers of lawyers and designers and professionals at their fingertips. Thus you have the Donald and his Trump Soho joining the hunt, while Paul Stallings teams with the Eldridge’s Matt Levine to drive his Hotel on Rivington. Jason Pomeranc with his Thompson Hotels makes for a formidable force . Then there’s the Ganesvoort, the Cooper Square, and even a Robert DeNiro entry on Greenwich. And now we have Eric Goode and TV star Sean MacPherson.

Our future nightlife experience will now be accessed by elevators. Will chic elevator hosts be far away? Will table arrangements be made while you ascend ? Will there be keypads in the elevator allowing you to order the Goose on the ride up? Don’t worry too much — there is bound to be a backlash, a return to the intimate and slimy. It always happens. In fact, I’ll tell you all about it real soon.

Speaking of slimy:. The following conversation appeared on my Facebook page. The names have been removed to protect the innocent:

Person c) friends of mine hold the liquor license to the limelight space and are in the process of trying to reopen it. If anyone is serious and knows investors with real money and are willing to see a business plan and hear a proposal let me know. But like I sad please serious people only!

Person b) limelight is going to be an 80 shop shopping place.. Super lame

Person c) that’s what the landlord is pushing for however its not going to happen. like I said if there is anyone with real money willing to speak to myself and my partners about this project let me know! Don’t believe everything you read in the press!

This is meant for those serious investor types cruising Facebook for opportunities. You know, the guys with “real money.” The return of the Slimelight will never happen, and the we need not worry about that. It was a great club for a moment. This thread continued to speak of it and that time as being the greatest days of nightlife. It just isn’t true. The period before — starting with Studio 54 and including Area, Danceteria, Paradise Garage, Mudd Club, and Max’s Kansas City — was far more fun and relevant. The Limelight was a great club, but it had a soulless center of greed and power; it lacked a base in the art world and was far more drug-fueled than most places. Its time has come and gone. I’m going to go visit and buy some socks or something as soon as I can. For the lost souls who want to relive it, I suggest opening up a concession stand in the new Limelight mall. Sell t-shirts and memorabilia and such to those who care. Alas, I suspect few will answer the call . It’s over.

Also: Today is the runoff election between David Yassky and John Liu for the Democratic nominee for controller. Whoever wins today will surely win in November. There will be a very small turnout, so your vote counts. David Yassky is great for what ails us. Please get out and support him.