Why Michael Alig Is Still In Jail

Friday evening was spent going back in time as yet another camera crew sat me comfortably and asked me about the Club Kid era and specifically the murder of Angel Melendez by Michael Alig in 1996. An hour turned into three as the story of that very bad thing that happened back in the good old days continues to be a hot topic. One thing that I tried to get across was that although Michael and his cohorts were indeed a colorful cult that jumped in front of every lens and went out of their way to be seen and heard, there were many other players succeeding in creating wondrous nights at all the Gatien venues outside of Michael’s scope. Disco 2000, the insane Wednesday party that everyone refers to and remembers, was only one night a week at the Limelight.

Michael’s influence on the other nights at Limelight was limited. There were four clubs running simultaneously in that empire: Limelight, Palladium, Tunnel, and USA. And although Michael deserves a great deal of credit for mucking things up at the end, he certainly had a run of brilliance that could have and should have been remembered for creativity and fashion and a good time had by all. His Times Square design executed by Eric Goode at Club USA was iconic. The mixing of his club kids with the ravers, the model crowd, the art crowd, and the hipsters at Tunnel and Palladium looked easy at the time, but is rarely duplicated today.

Michael remains locked up. He continues to fuck up in jail and continues to delay his inevitable return to the street. I think he is afraid to join the living. I haven’t seen him in a while. His constant antics, which have resulted in more and more time behind bars, have pushed me away from his drama. I have decided to visit him soon now that he has been moved closer to home. Friends who have seen him recently say he is in good shape both mentally and physically. He is in solitary again but should be out in December.

Anyway, this afternoon these good folks are looking for club kids, people who were there then to talk on camera. It’s just today so hurry up. Dig out the clown nose and put on the polka-dot makeup. They want to go back… again. Here is their story:

Calling all Club Kids

Date: Monday November 19, 2012
Afternoon: 2:30PM – 4:30PM
Discovery ID is revisiting the Club Kid era that lead up to the Angel Melendez murder of 1996. The show will include an interview with Michael Alig and other fabulous people from the era. Producer Steph Watts is looking for Club Kids to come down to Secret Lounge (525 W. 29th St.) from 2:30pm to 4:30pm on Monday, November 19 to reminisce on the time. Feel free to email Libby Segal for more details and to schedule a time:  libby.segal@liontv.us

To contact Michael Alig:

Elmira Correctional Facility
Michael Alig #97A6595
P.O. Box 500
Elmira, New York 14901-0500

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.

Industry Insiders: Darin Rubell, Gallery Cat

Darin Rubell is transforming the Lower East Side, one arts and culture venue at a time. The owner of Gallery Bar and Ella (opened last fall with partners Josh and Jordan Boyd) is no stranger to the ins and outs of nightlife. Let’s just say it runs in the family — his cousin is legendary Studio 54 owner Steve Rubell.

How’s business? Business is great. Obviously, it’s tougher during a recession. Over the past six months, bars I initially thought were recession-proof have turned out not to be. Everyone has to work a little harder to maintain.

How have you adjusted to become recession-proof? We started a half-price happy hour at Ella. Our cocktails were normally $12, and we started a $6 Happy Hour, which has been tremendously successful. It’s every night from 6-10pm. The response has been great. We have live jazz as well.

How has the clientele at Ella changed since you opened last year? When you first open a place, you have everyone who’s keeping up with the Joneses coming in, and then as the months go on, it starts to become more neighborhood people and more people who actually like the bar. Having regulars is always nicer.

What’s the story with the piano lounge downstairs? It’s a very intimate room, holds around 60 people. We’ve had incredible musicians. Just last week, Ben Taylor — who is James Taylor and Carly Simon’s son — had a video release party, and did a live performance. We love big name bands, but we also like to find acts that are on the cusp. For instance, Diane Birch, who’s been all over the place, was doing a weekly showcase downstairs over the past four months. We have another band from Miami called Big Bounce. It’s a two-man group, with Brandon O’Hara, a guy who plays the piano, and a beat boxer. They come up to play here once a month.

What’s going on at Gallery Bar? Gallery Bar is two and a half years old now, and it’s equally as successful the date it opened until today. It’s a really diverse space, and it lends itself to a lot of different things, whether they’re corporate events, fundraisers, or charities. Every month we change the artist, so all of the art switches.

Did Gallery Bar influence the opening of Collective Hardware? The Lower East Side has always been a place where artists would go because it was very inexpensive, and then everyone started to get priced out of the neighborhood. The art side started to fade for a minute. When we came into the neighborhood, there weren’t a lot of galleries down here. After we opened the space there was a huge influx of artists. It became an artists’ hangout. Galleries in the Lower East Side started opening, slower, slower, slower. Now, I do a map also of all galleries on the LES, and I had 99 galleries for the last one. I had to limit them down to 55 for the purpose of the map. The New Museum is also a tremendous push for art down here. I think that Collective Hardware probably saw this and recognized that this is also, once again, a booming area for art.

What’s the story with your maps? I originally tried to make money off this map and I thought it’d be a great marketing tool. And I realized that it’s very difficult to get money from all the galleries, because these people are moving from other areas because they can’t afford things as is. Then I decided that I was still going to do it because I think it’s necessary, and I was sick of having people come into Gallery Bar and asking about other galleries in the neighborhood. After a month or two, I started to see people walking around the neighborhood with them. I swear to God, every day, I see somebody with that map. It’s important to try to create some unity down here. In Chelsea, all the galleries are in a three-block radius. In the Lower East Side, they’re not. I’m from New York, and I still get confused in the Lower East Side.

True that you’re thinking about expanding Gallery Bar into other cities? I think that a lot of people have tried to combine art and nightlife and have done it unsuccessfully. What they’ll do is they’ll have a dark bar, and then ask artists to put work on the walls, and it gets lost in the environment because there’s a lot going on in a bar already. The concept with Gallery Bar was to make it a gallery first. We make it look like a gallery; make it feel like a gallery; change the artists every day; have art openings; have art closings. I think that this concept has still never been done, and I’d love to bring it to other cities. We’re talking about New Orleans, L.A., Miami.

How did you meet your partners in Ella, Josh and Jordan? I was managing a restaurant called Chango, and I’d hired Josh as a bartender. When Chango started to slow down, we’d always start bouncing ideas off each other. We started writing business plans, and I, at that time, had really wanted to open up a restaurant. Josh really wanted to open up a bar. I actually opened up Mercadito, and he had opened Plan B, and about two years later, we started to think of new projects. I found this place on Orchard Street, and we thought, “Okay, now’s the time.” Josh and Jordan are brothers, and I’m like the third brother.

What’s one piece of advice that you’d give to aspiring restaurateurs or bar owners? I think that a lot of the people who want to get into the business of restaurants and bars have this fantasy about what it’s going to be like. You can’t just walk into it and think that because you want a place and have the money to open up a place that it’s going to succeed. I think like anything, it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of knowledge of the business in order to have success.

Besides hard work and knowledge of the business, what has made you and your partners successful? I think we genuinely love what we do, and any time you love what you do, you’re going to do well. I really believe that.

Who else does it right in nightlife? I really admire Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode. Their design is always so incredibly spot-on, and their properties always seem larger than life.

What are your favorite spots? I’m simple in the fact that I love Lil’ Frankie’s. I like Supper. If you can accomplish something, and make it very simple and inexpensive and for-the-people, then you’ll always be successful. I don’t really like going to the fanciest restaurants and feeling uncomfortable. I feel I’m my happiest in a place that keeps it simple.

Industry Insiders: Larry Poston, Room Service Provider

Larry Poston officially opened the West Village resto Hotel Griffou with business partner Johnny Swet on July 1. Poston made his name in New York restaurant circles as a manager at Pastis and the Waverly Inn, and Swet gained his hospitality know-how at Balthazar and Freemans. Most recently occupying the 9th Street space was notorious speakeasy Marylou’s, but the name of the new joint is after the original, French 1870s occupants. The modern dining rooms are themed as a salon, library, and artist’s studio with a French-inspired classic cuisine menu. Poston gives us an inside look at the new spot.

What are you focusing on now that you’re open for business? My business partner Johnny and I are really priding ourselves on great food and great service. That’s what we know. We’ve learned from Keith McNally that no matter all the fanfare and no matter what comes in, great food and great service are the only things that keep them coming back ten years down the road.

How did you first meet Keith McNally? I started waiting tables at Pastis in 2000, so I interviewed with Keith. He hired me, and I worked there for six months and then moved out to LA with dreams of being an actor. I was a pool boy at the Chateau Marmont for four months. So that was my West Coast experience. I hated LA. I came back and started waiting tables again at Pastis. They promoted me to manager on the floor, and I worked at Pastis for six years.

Most important thing you learned from McNally? Keith had been a maître d’ when he first started out. He taught me a lot as far as what to look for with people, and he would say, don’t just seat the people in front of you with the suits and the flashy money, because they always get a table. Look behind them and see the nervous couple or the little old couple or the funky-looking group that doesn’t always get a table, and seat them. That adds to the room and also keeps that eclectic mix of New York going. You don’t always want suits, you don’t always want fashion people, you don’t want all of any one thing. I would love to have Mick Jagger over here, some drag queens over there with a rock band and then some Wall Street guys. That’s what keeps it interesting. That’s New York to me.

Then you worked with another legend, Graydon Carter. It was just that time, that point of trying something new and spreading your wings and getting out there. And that’s when I met Graydon Carter over at the Waverly Inn. That was a whole other aspect of service and learning people because that’s a man who is like maître d’ to the stars. He’s the epitome of a host. It’s his room, and he knows where everyone should go. I got to know a lot of names at the Waverly Inn, obviously.

What’s the Waverly’s secret for remaining A-list over the years? You have Eric Goode and Sean McPherson who know restaurants, and they also have their own chic clientele of people who they bring to any project they’re involved in. You get that mixed with the energy of Graydon Carter and all these amazing A-listers in there for a great dining experience. You get the mix of a person who knows the people and the people who know how to run a restaurant. Once, I was telling a friend some of the names who went in the place one night, and he was like, “So, what you’re telling me is, if the Waverly was to explode right now, it would be the end of civilization.”

What’d you take from that experience to opening Hotel Griffou? How to deal with certain people. There are a million different personalities here in New York City, and then you have a certain amount of clientele that is …

High maintenance? Well, the great surprise is when the ones you expect to be high maintenance aren’t. It’s just having to deal with personalities. Higher-end personalities have higher expectations. You learn how to coddle egos in a way. I think that’s what the Waverly taught me: how to really deal with egos. That’s a good way to say it.

What came first for Hotel Griffou — the concept or the space? Johnny and I talked about doing this for awhile, and we had a concept. We had this place over in the East Village at one point, because we were thinking of modeling after some of those southern juke joints, speakeasy-type places that have great names like the Playboy Club or the Lizard Lounge. But you have to walk into a space that feels right. Johnny worked at Freemans, and I worked at the Waverly Inn, and both those places are very unique — Freemans is down that alley, and the Waverly Inn is at the bottom of a townhouse. In New York. It has to have a special vibe or a special space, then the bones were here and boom. I was never here for the Marylou’s experience, but I’d heard these amazing stories about what was here before. We’re hoping we can return it to some of its past glory.

You’re obviously alluding to that with the name. Hotel Griffou was what is was in the late 1800s. It was owned by this woman by the name of Madame Marie Griffou. It became this real mecca of ideals, artists, writers, and poets. One of the true stories is that Mae West actually did come here after her indecency trial, which is funny.

How long has this been in the works? From embryo to now — about two years. We initially started construction this past February.

What’s your favorite part of the interior? I can’t really choose. The inspiration Johnny and I talked about was an artist’s town house. There’s something about the feel of the salon, and I like the studio because of the crazy art and all the work that’s been contributed. Johnny spearheaded the design, but it was collaborative, and all the work that was contributed was by artist friends.

How much input did you have in the menu with chef Jason Michael Giordano (of Spice Market)? Johnny and I had ideas of what we wanted on the menu . We wanted those traditional dishes. Classical American cuisine is what we called it, and then we discovered that this place was owned by a French woman, and we had to throw a French nod to the cuisine. We wanted a signature dish, which is the lobster thermidor fondue.

Is that the most popular menu item? Yes, as well as the poutine, which is French fries with duck confit topped with a little buffalo mozzarella. It’s amazing. Also, the fried seafood basket, which is something from home. I love fried food, fried fish, cod, fried shrimp, fried oyster, with chips, we’re calling it Calabash, we’re not going to call it Southern, but yeah, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a mix of some rich dishes and some light dishes. We thought that the idea of a great restaurant was that you can go here three or four nights a week and always have a new experience.

True that the pork cutlet recipe was found on the menu from the 1800s here? It’s very true. We have a sautéed pork cutlet recipe that was on the original Madame Marie Griffou menu from 1892. They’re sautéed, lightly breaded with this delicious pork gravy au jus with green beans. They’re delectable.

How was your soft opening? It was great because we invited a lot of industry people that we’d worked for and trusted their opinion. We got really good feedback and notes that we can take with us to keep improving. You get a little anxiety about your peers coming, and knowing you’re going to really hear the truth — which can be unpleasant, but always necessary. The bottom line is that everyone was pleased with the look, the feel, and the vibe of the place, which is important.

Where do you go out? I like Norwood a lot, and Little Branch. As far as dining I still love Indochine and also Peasant.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Photo: Scott Pasfield

First Look: Jane Hotel & Ballroom

I entered the historic Jane Hotel (see gallery) and was hit by a wave of nostalgia. It was here that I tried my first attempt to make money at clubbing. It was at that time a decrepit hotel with a balcony all around. Hotelier/proprietor Sean MacPherson showed me where this upper level was. “It was kind of silly, as it blocked the windows.” I told him that my deal was revenue-sensitive and that I actually jumped behind the bar to replace a rather slow (in many ways) bartender. Even then, I wouldn’t tolerate incompetence. It was a rough punk crowd with mohawks, torn jeans, and stomping boots. I think the Undead, a band I managed, were on stage, or was it “Khmer Rouge”? Time and impatience burn brain cells. The party was tattooed in my cerebrum when a leather-clad hardcore menace leaped from the balcony onto the bar as I served up a couple of brews. It was bedlam, and lots of fun.

I caught up with Matt Kliegman, who, along with Carlos Quirarte, will run this spot for Sean and Eric Goode. Matt and Carlos are coming off the mega-successful The Smile on Bond Street. They are to the north-of-Houston creative set what Gitane is to the south . That’s good food and a meaningful hang among neighbors and friends who think that art, beauty, and style are important, especially at a meal. The Smile is doing breakfast and lunch right now, but they’re waiting on a beer and wine license before they delve into dinner. A private dinner party last week had all the eating blogs buzzing. Matt said he liked the way it felt but will patiently wait for the license to get it right. Meanwhile, the Jane Ballroom is opening next Tuesday, and it’s the real deal.

Coincidentally, Matt had a year-and-a-half stint as a party promoter in his youth, and it was here that he ruled the roost. My dear friend Pavan suggested the remote SRO-type hotel as a venue option. Now, Matt and Carlos cater to what I describe as a post-hipster crowd — that’s peeps who lived the tragically hip lifestyle, but their careers and social and even economic circles now ask for a different type of nighttime boite. It’s a creative crowd, or those who are drawn to that crowd.

The Jane is stunning. It is brilliantly functional. It is fun. I love every inch of it. It is comfort taken to a new level. It is to me a cross between the old Spy Bar and Rose Bar. Wass Stevens said to me the other day, when describing the magnificent Avenue, where he hosts the door: “If you don t remember Spy Bar, maybe you don’t belong.” I think the Jane Ballroom will appeal to a broader crowd, and that analogy really won’t apply here — but I just wanted to quote Wass. There are lots of hiding places at Jane. I was surprised there wasn’t an outdoor space, but then Sean showed me one under development. Jane Ballroom is a lounge with the feel of a grand hotel lobby. It’s the kind of place where I would order a sidecar even though I’ve never tried one. There will be a Monday movie night from “up the river,” and maybe something live on Tuesday. The place will open at 6pm ’cause it’s got those chops — and it will go late because the public will not want to go home, ever.
The Tragically Hip Tickets

Sound Ideas: Daniel Agne of Funktion One

What clubs offer that bars and lounges generally don’t is sound and DJs. There are a few guys at the top of the heap in the sound world, and Daniel Agne is one of those guys. If the sound is crisp and clear, chances are that the club owner spent a great deal of cash to make that happen. As a designer, sound considerations are a day-one thing. The open entrance to the mezzanine level at Marquee with no apparent break to stop the bleed from the main floor was a major design move. The padded ceiling and columns and front of the bar at Home overcame the tremendous bounce from the hardwood floors, brick walls, and concrete ceilings. Joe Lodi hid bass speakers behind banquettes and added a scoop that pushed the sound where it needed to be. The club world is never as easy as people think, and I hope this interview with Daniel gives you insight on the process of sound installation

You do the sound at premier nightclubs, putting in DJ booths, speaker placements, etc., making the room sound great. What’s the name of your company? The company is called Sound Investment and Divine Lab, and we’re often regarded as Funktion One in the US. We do sound, video, lighting, and entertainment technology

People say places like 1Oak have a great sound system because it has a Funktion One system. What is the history of Funktion One? We have access to essentially every type of loudspeaker, amplifier, and processor in the market. We’ve done many AB tests over the years and continually do them when new products are released. We base our company on the confidence that we are designing using the highest-performing equipment possible within the design budget allowed. Funktion One loudspeakers are the core of our systems because we feel that they are the best possible speaker available. Period. They are the result of a holistic design process that prioritizes overall system integrity as apposed to monetarily based design directives. In Funktion One, we found a philosophical approach that runs congruent with that of our own. Tony Andrews and John Newsham at Funktion One have achieved audio excellence by combining decades of technical experience in cabinet and speaker design with a passion for fidelity. By fabricating the speaker drivers in-house, Funktion One is able to precisely tailor the response of each loudspeaker model, using mechanical adjustments to cure mechanical problems instead of leaving it to electronic equalization after the fact, which does not address the root cause of the problem.

In the last ten years, we’ve seen a breakout of DJs and talent, so instead of getting $5,000 to $10,000 a night, DJs are now getting about $40,000 to $50,000. How is sound technology keeping up with the DJs, and how do inventions like Serato and the fade away from vinyl affect what you do? It makes it much more difficult to produce a quality result because technology was once difficult for the common man to obtain. You used to go to a recording studio as a privilege because it was an expensive and exclusive process. You would be there with trained professionals with standards and experience, so you had great quality equipment in experienced hands, and only the best of the best got there. Now, every busboy and their brother is a DJ because the cost of producing music at home is cheap, since they’ve found ways to make the products inexpensive. With all of these mass-produced, lower quality products, on the professional end we have more availability with producing higher quality and better sound systems. But we’ve also been crippled because with this highly accurate, super-loud system that can reproduce whatever comes into it accurately, we have loud distortion and poor-sounding tracks.

What’s the solution? The solution is education, as with any sort of technology. New technology can come in and dilute the waters, but there will also be a backlash — a purist approach that promotes the philosophy of “Well, okay, that’s great that you all started downloading and transferring diseased tracks everywhere.” It’s an education process, but it is starting to be socialized and realized, so there is common knowledge now that when you’re downloading the tracks at low bit rate and you’re paying less for it, that’s not a good thing. That’s like being a race car driver and buying a cheap engine.

What places have you done sound for in New York? Cielo, 1Oak, we just finished the Griffin with you and Marc Dizon, and we did the Crobar system when it became Mansion (M2). We work with Sean McPherson and Eric Goode. We do a lot of their hotel work; we just did the Jane Hotel with them, The Bowery Hotel, The Maritime Hotel; we worked on Mr. West, and we did the basement for APT.

You did Cielo, which is one of the premium dance clubs, and you did 1Oak, which is a different type of club — it’s a lot of mash-up, hip hop, and not as house-heavy as Cielo. Are there any adjustments you make for a club like 1Oak as opposed to Cielo? For Cielo, I have the luxury of tuning for complete accuracy and that’s what my approach was with it. With a venue where you are going to have a more eclectic DJ pool and format, you have to tune your systems to take out some of the things that would be adverse depending on what they are going to play. So if I knew on a system that everyone was going to play good music, I would tune it a little bit differently.

What do you mean by “good music”? I’m talking about the quality. When you get into mash-up and stuff like that, it’s absolutely highly diseased tracks that are being transferred. It’s like the plague — this person now has it and 37 people have transferred it — it just doesn’t sound great. It’s compressed, and it’s cheap downloads in the first place. To a certain point, there’s nothing you can do; we are working on a certain proxy to reintroduce and grab elements that are salvageable, but it’s difficult. 1Oak is more consistent than other places with having good DJs, and obviously Cielo is also because Nicholas Matar had a rhyme and a reason when he set out to do that and he did it. My design firm Lewis & Dizon just did Griffin with you, and when they brought you in, there was a conversation about how the sound was going to work within the design of the room. I’m sure that Nicolas Matar of Cielo was designing the shape of the room and seating with sound in mind from day one. Was it the same with 1Oak? Ronnie Madra, Jeffrey Jah, Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva were both very very adamant that it had to have a great sound system. I think that our company takes a tremendous amount of pride in working with designers. We appreciate the aesthetics of a room, and we’ll go to great lengths to try not to violate that. Sometimes it’s a wrestling match, but we try to come up with custom and unique solutions that would not violate what the design and functionality of a room needs to be. With 1Oak it was actually quite a process with the design to get to where we were, but they did the things they should have done; there were a couple things we were fortunate about, and they did allow me to put things where I needed.

1Oak has a vibrant social scene, and the seating area generally has less sound so that people can speak, while a place like Cielo has great sound in every spot of the room. How do you do that — is it a challenge for you? What you do is have your main focus area, and then off of that you’re doing fills and trying to timeline it to be coming off of the main system. It’s a delay, when you timeline something — you have a system that is going to be your main system, it’s going to be the loudest area, and you’re just trying to accent that.

So what you’re saying is that even in a small room, if the sound is not properly balanced, you’ll hear echoes? Yeah, shorter distances show up as confusion because your brain doesn’t process it accurately, and it’s a disruption instead. At greater distances it’s actually referred to as the Haas effect, but you start to then discern that there are different starting points, or it’ll be like an echo, or it has its own beat to it because it literally starts to get disruptive.

You hear this in a lot of big spaces like Capitale, where you have high ceilings and hard surfaces. Yeah, that’s a room slap echo, where it bounces of the walls.

Clubs are being built everywhere in the city, residents are moving into club districts, and the co-existence of clubs with communities is becoming a big issue. How much consideration is given to the leaking of the sound to the street? It’s important for every single job, and the earlier on in the process that we can get involved with the design and the layout, it really benefits the project. It is obviously a really heavily weighted factor, and every club owner does know that because it is an Achilles’ heel. It can put a club out of business sometimes — does so even if they are running it properly. There’s an issue of how you can achieve that unless you’ve really painstakingly designed the space, or if you have the luxury of sound space within the venue.

You fortunately work for good people; do you turn down a lot of jobs? I do, more often today than I used to, because I’ve learned that despite your best intentions, your efforts are going to end up being inhibited by the personality of the owner. You have quite a reputation; there are two or three people in the city who are talked about in the same breath as you, but sometimes people buy you only because they want your brand, for the vanity of having it. There will be pitfalls. I’ve learned that through Spirit. I was promised a lot when we started that I never got. He [Spirit owner Robbie Wooton] didn’t accept our input, and I should’ve turned that job down. He made a promise that he didn’t keep as well. When I said, “This isn’t enough sound,” he said, okay, “I’ll tell you what, when we turn it on, we’ll have some time and if it’s not right, we’ll get the rest of the parts.” And then when it got to that point, he didn’t do what he said he was going to do, and none of those factors come up when people talk about it or. People don’t consider that part; it’s just your reputation.

When people come in and they hear you did the sound, they’re expecting value, and if you can’t give it to them, you shouldn’t be doing the job. Yes, he turned around and spent three times as much for a different sound engineer and also used the equipment that I already had in there. So he had mine, plus three times as much, so I thought, okay … that’s fair. So, in that I learned a valuable lesson, which is to understand what the result is going to be for the risk you are incurring and figure out if it’s really worth it. Because it took me a lot of time to repair what the impression was of that work.

Summer Nights: Changing of the Guard

A game of musical chairs is being played by most of the major promotional entities as the summer roof season is upon us. While the highly successful 230 Fifth will still dominate this market just as the Empire State Building dominates its incredible view, some places remain unsettled or don’t have a clear opening date due to a myriad of problems. Highbar is getting a quick polish, while the roof at the Stay Hotel is still under construction. Mixed reports come from Cabanas and The Park, and the highly-touted Above Allen will finally get to open its windows amidst hopes that the sound spill doesn’t disturb too many hotel guests and nearby residents. Daemon O’Neil, Rose Bar’s patient, sweet, and very good-looking door guru (not to be confused with Damion Luaiye), is packing his clipboard and heading over to the Bazaar Bar at the upcoming Trump Soho hotel. The economic downturn, a weak dollar, and a laundry list of safety issues make travel abroad a lot less attractive this season. I hear reports that Hamptons summer rentals are sluggish, yet the Surf Lodge in Montauk is riding high.

I caught up with super duper and uber owner/outdoor space promoter Jeffrey Jah of 1Oak and other fabulous places, and he told me he was bringing back the “changing of the guard” at Groovedeck at Hudson Terrace this summer. “With Groovedeck, we’ve assembled an insane team from Bijoux (Dimitry and Francois) to Pavan and the 1Oak team. We’ve booked the Hamptons Magazine summer kick-off party as well as Lydia Hearst hosting the last International Film Premiere event.” I asked Jeffrey how the whole outdoor summer club thing started for him.

It’s pretty simple … the first real outdoor parties were “Groove on the Move,” with Mark Baker and I back in the early 90s, moving from the Central Park Boathouse to Tavern on the Green, and then permanently at Bowery Bar with Eric Goode and Serge Becker. There really were no other outdoor parties; then in 2000, I moved to Pier 59 Studios and created the deck with Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva — that’s where Remi Laba and Aymeric Clemente were given their fist taste of club promotions. They were low-level maitre d’s. In 2003, we were forced to move it to BED (the same team), and then they tried to get smart, and Baker, Remi, and Karim sold them on a cheaper deal without the 1Oak crew, but they were done after four weeks. We missed two seasons, and we’re now back at Hudson Terrace.

I asked Jeffrey if the problems with international travel these days, the weak dollar, and pandemic diseases would keep people closer to home. “Yes, the economy will keep people here. New York is the capital of the world. What’s more important is that Europeans will venture more to America with the weak dollar and get more value for the buck. We will see a lot of Euros this summer. New York is resilient, we’ve seen worst times apres 9/11. People want to blow off steam, and if the product is good, they will come again and again. A lot of people are not taking houses in the Hamptons this summer because institutional money and jobs evaporated over the last half of 2008 and first quarter of 2009. Hence I’m betting that we will see a much stronger city summer.”

I also asked Hudson Terrace co-owner Michael Sinensky about the economic impact. “If you can build one of the nicest venues in New York City, people will come out to escape what’s going on in the world. In this economy, you have to really service the customer and think outside the box to keep your patrons entertained, happy, and feeling satisfied enough that they’ll come back. I don’t think it’s all about having the best promoters and DJs and strictest door anymore — I think that’s a formula to stay open 6 to 12 months. Hudson Terrace wasn’t built to follow the models-and-bottles formula and meet their steep table minimums. Instead, we’ve taken pages from our other successful eating and drinking establishments such as the Village Pourhouse, Sidebar, and Vintage Irving, with offerings like pitchers of sangria and margaritas.” They’re pitching a happy hour concept from 5-7 p.m. I’m proud to say that Hudson Terrace was designed by my partner Marc Dizon.

The roof parties and a stop-start economy will get us through the heat of summer. An added value is that outdoor parties are generally blessed with quieter music, as sound travels and Manhattan gets more crowded by the minute. The music played in most clubs theses days — especially the clubs catering to these particular crowds — has stagnated. The isolation of Hudson Terrace and Jeffrey’s commitment to play it a little forward should educate a crowd to new tastes. Steven Greenberg’s 230 Fifth bans hip hop altogether in favor of mostly rock fare. This space is the highest-grossing joint in New York nightlife history. I know only a little about music made in this century, but I do know this: The crowds I DJ to these day are growing, and my CD collection isn’t. I play almost an entirely rock set, and there seem to be a lot more people interested in it than a year ago. Oh, if you want to hear me DJ or toss an egg or discuss clubdom, I’ll be at 38 Howard Street off Broadway tonight; I go on at 12:30 a.m., right after the bands.

Good Night Mr. Lewis: Earth to CB4, Noah Tepperberg Is Your Friend

New York nightlife blogs are abuzz with revelations that Noah Tepperberg is trying to turn Tenth Avenue eyesore Earth into a high-end restaurant-lounge. This is good news for those seeking a fashionable bite to eat far from the maddening crowds. It’s also great news for residents of Community Board 4, who will benefit from the loss off a promoter-driven, low-level club — which Earth became from day one — and the introduction of a savvy operator like Noah. This small, exclusive restaurant and lounge will anchor 1Oak, as well as the still amazingly beautiful Park, without Earth attracting the B, C, and D-listers. There will be no place for crowds to linger and annoy the neighbors; they will seek like-minded individuals in other neighborhoods, with no imminent return of Red Rock West or Roxy in sight. With a strong food element as well as a strong operator, CB4 members will get what they want, as the three remaining spaces will be run by three of the strongest hospitality operators out there: after Noah, it’s Eric Goode, Scott Sartiano, and Richie Akiva. This 1-2-3 punch of operators will dominate the area and clean up the block. In fact, let’s take an exclusive look at Noah’s proposed menu for the new joint.

But first, goodly CB4 members, consider further: There will actually be less foot traffic, as quality — not quantity — is these guys desire. Noah will not want to compete with himself up at Marquee; instead, he’ll service the parts of his crowd who’ve gotten older and see dining as a better nighttime option than clubbing. The investment of effort (and money) is a good sign. As I’ve stated so often, the good operators will thrive in this atmosphere and expand their professionalism, which includes goodwill, sane security, and long-term investments, while the wannabes will be expunged from the scene. Let us all hope that full board approval is forthcoming, as well as a collective pat on the back … a citywide smile for good days and nights to come. And now, that menu.

Salads Seared Yellowfin Tuna Nicoise Salad – $14

Caesar Salad – $13 chicken $5 additional

Panini Asparagus with Fried Egg – $14 Black truffle vinaigrette

Grilled Steak – $16 Caramelized onion, mushrooms, gruyere

Grilled Cheese – $14 Cheddar, swiss, tomato, truffle oil

Slider Trio’s Reuben Stuffed Knish – $19 Corned beef sauerkraut, swiss cheese

Chicken Parmigianino – $18 Cibatta, friend parsley

Kobe Burger – $21 Mustard glazed bacon, machengo, bbq

Sides French Fries – $9 Parmesan, truffle oil

Fried Zucchini Strings – $9

Spinach Artichoke Dip – $10 Corn chips

Trio of Spreads – $12 Hummus, baba ganoush, artichoke, warm pita Coconut Shrimp – $10 Peanut dipping sauce

Industry Insiders: Chris Barish, Martini Park Ranger

Martini Park and Marquee co-owner Chris Barish on underage promoting, the power of the water-sipping celeb, bringing club culture to suburbia, and growing up with the Governator.

Point of Origin: I’m from New York. I started throwing parties at my parents’ home when I was young. We’re talking really young, like 15, 16 years old. You know, there used to be fun clubs in New York. They would have an off night, and I would come in and make a deal with whomever the owner was, because either they were failing a bit or they wanted to make a little extra money. I’d promote to the various people I had met in grade school who had then graduated to high school. When you think about it, we were really young, and I can’t believe these clubs would let us do it. It was New York, and it was a different time, different era, different laws, and a different mayor.

Occupations: I started off investing in Moomba because I just knew that it would be a great success. Jeff Gossett (Moomba owner) had become a good friend and asked me to invest. It became my little playground. In the last 18 years nothing has reached that level. It was celebrity heaven. You had to be in in to go. Which was the opposite of what I ended up doing with Light in midtown.

Light opened September of 2000. I remember we opened on a Tuesday night. There were maybe 20 people in the room. I was nervous. Then Thursday night, Charlie Sheen, who had stopped drinking, did me a favor and came in and only drank water. By 5:30 that evening, there was a line wrapping all the way around the block.

We opened Light Vegas a year later in the Bellagio — same name, but a nightclub. We did something that Vegas had not done in a long time. We flew in over 30 movie stars, athletes. We got a business Boeing jet and flew up Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Jeff Gordon, and Sting. Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards were there and happy. We got press everywhere [for that]. We then opened up a place called Caramel at the Bellagio and a place called Mist at Treasure Island. When I turned 30, I got a nice offer by the Bellagio to get bought out after only being open two years. By 2005, I started scouting locations around the country (for Martini Park). I felt like there was a need in the marketplace for people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and on for an upscale nightlife experience that starts after work and leads into the rest of the night. We’re a hospitality-driven nightlife experience for everyone — for people like me. It’s a playground for grownups. We opened in a [Dallas] suburb called Plano, Texas. Then opened up in Chicago and now we’re about to open in Columbus, Ohio, in late October. We will open three to four next year.

Side Hustle: I love film. I produced a short film [called “Kill the Day”] for a very talented friend. I like to play tennis. I’d like to be a yogi, but I can’t really find the time. I’m a new daddy now so everything changes.

Favorite Hangs: When I’m not traveling, my home away from home is Da Silvano. Besides Silvano, I’ve been a fan of Raoul’s for 20 years. When I did go out before [my wife] Michelle’s pregnancy, I’d go to Soho House, Rose Bar, and Waverly Inn. I know it sounds predictable. My favorite old school bar is Merc Bar. It will never close. John McDonald is the owner and a good friend.

Known Associates: I admire, respect, and am good friends with Mark Packer, the owner of Tao. I think he’s one of the best operators out there. Noah [Tepperberg] and Jason [Strauss] from Marquee are colleagues and great friends of mine. Also, Steve Hanson from B.R. Guest Restaurants. He owns about 17 restaurants in the city. He’s a friend who I can email or text, and I know within an hour he’ll text back. Also, my father (Keith Barish) was in the film business and produced 18 films. When I was 12 years old, I walked down the stairs, and there was Arnold Schwarzenegger. He and Dad did The Running Man together and became partners in Planet Hollywood. He did this great thing for my engagement party. He warned me, “First come the engagement ring, then the wedding ring, then suffe-ring.”

Industry Icons: Steve Hanson is someone I want to emulate. He works day and night. I’m naming friends, but they are also people in the industry. I’ve seen a younger generation do great stuff. For example, I’ve watched Jason Pomerantz from the Thompson Hotel do his hotel expansion and he does a very good job. Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson. I don’t know Sean, but I know Eric really well. Here’s an example of someone who started off in nightclubs, had success in restaurants, and now has the Bowery Hotel and the Maritime Hotel. His taste is unbelievable.

What are you doing tonight? I’m going home early from work and I’m testing out our stroller. My wife and I are taking baby Bea out and seeing if we can get our Yorkie to fit in the undercarriage so she doesn’t feel left out.

Photo by Chelsea Stemple.