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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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.

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. 

Sandy Relief at Pacha & The Bottoms Up Controversy

You can’t throw a rock without hitting a benefit for Sandy relief efforts and so it should be. The other night, a singer in a sleazy place proclaimed her performance was to help with Sandy relief. A friend who wasn’t born yesterday quipped in my ear that "she just renamed her cat Sandy.” "Hmmm," I replied more brilliantly than it reads. I’m sure there is some of that, but these days I am believing in people. One person I can always believe in is the brilliant producer of The Love Show and an inspired performer in his own right: David F. Slone, Esquire. Last night, his Love Show, which happens every Thursday at Hotel Chantelle, before Sam Valentine’s Generation Wild party where I DJ along with him and Luc Carl, ran way over, as performer after performer had the crowd in shock and awe… and stitches. They passed the hat and raised some loot and the spirit was wonderful. Every cloud has a silver lining and without trivializing the pain and suffering still afflicting our neighbors. Sandy has gotten people working together again for a greater good. The Obama election has helped turn the mindset from the fears and loathing a Romney win would have meant. The Love Show benefit gave 100 percent of the money collected at the door  to The Brooklyn Recovery Fund to benefit Sandy’s victims.

Angela Harriell & The Love Show Dancers!
Harrison Greenbaum: Award-Winning Comedian/Magician – Comedy Central’s ‘Comics to Watch’ and winner of the Andy Kaufman Award!
Kissing booth with everyone’s favorite late night lover, Manchego!
Award-winning quirky songstress, Jessica Delfino!
Performance genius, Eric Schmalenberger!
Tight harmony singers, The Shirtwaist Sisters!
Vocal powerhouse, Corn Mo!
Sweetheart of the Sideshow, Lady Aye! 

Eric Schmalenberger slayed us as Miriam, his alter ego whom I personally like way more than Eric. In a drunken drawl, Eric…er, Miriam proclaimed "Hella fun night. My only fear is tomorrow I’ll give the NY Blood Bank blood/vodka.”

The highlight of the show was when my editor Bonnie Gleicher, out on her blind date with the debonair Craig Clemens who donated $500 to MS for the privilege, pulled a large sword out of the throat of Lady Aye. Do not try this at home.

Next Wednesday, Nov.14, I will be a guest bartender at Pacha for their gianormous HELP HEAL NEW YORK Sandy relief benefit. The DJs I can mention include DANNY TENAGLIA, FRANCOIS K ,SUNNERY JAMES & RYAN MARCIANO, SHERMANOLOGY, DANNY AVILA ,D BERRIE ,AUDIEN, HARRY CHOO CHOO ROMERO, SHAWNEE TAYLOR (live) ,CARL KENNEDY, HECTOR ROMERO, DAVID WAXMAN, CEVIN FISHER,, THEO, HEX HECTOR ,PAUL RAFFAELE, CODES, ROXY COTTONTAIL ,SAZON BOOYA ,DALTON ,SIK DUO, CARL LOUIS & MARTINDANIELLE ,PAIGE, BAMBI, THAT KID CHRIS. There are many more , but I’m sworn to secrecy. Eddie Dean and Rob Fernandez (RPM) are always spot-on in their bookings, as evidenced by them asking me to bartend.

The Greater New York Red Cross will receive 100 percent of the proceeds from door, bar, and coat check. Doors will open at 5pm and stay open till 5am. If you do come to my bar, order beers and simple drinks or else you’re going to have your own private little benefit. For the record, I entered the business as a bartender . How long ago??? Well, back in that day when you ordered vodka on the rocks and it came in a stone mug  poured over pebbles. And it wasn’t Grey Goose.; it was Grey Pterodactyl.

Oh and on another note. I’m going to a "sneak peek" preview of BOW, that much anticipated EMM Group entry at 199 Bowery, shared with FINALE. Travis Bass, ex-Madame Wong’s and Red Egg and recently Bottoms Up is doing the inviting. They say the place isn’t quite done and neither is Travis nor me for that matter so it might be fab. I’ve told you that I think this place might be a game changer and I’m anxious to see how right I am. Even if I’m only 10% right,  tonight, I anticipate much more as BOW is only part of a 20,000 square foot hospitality entry being unleashed by EMM at 199.  Travis always delivers. I heard that his off-again on-again incarnation Bottoms Up at the Tribeca Grand was often off-again because the hotel people didn’t much like the wear and tear Travis’ crowd inflicted on the furniture and decor. Now that sounds like my kind of party.

Tuesday’s Night Soirée

Tuesday, Baby Tuesday. Thats actually the name of the longest running Tuesday night soirée, which now berths at Finale (199 Bowery.) Tonight it’s a Wilhelmina Models night and that will surely bring all the boys to the bar. I will be out and about tonight, so you may see me in my finery. You see, I will be all dressed up with someplace to go.

Tonight I will head to the Milk and Honey weekly at the Soho Grand because Susanne Bartsch says I must attend this party or regret it till end of days—it’s like that from someone who knows what she’s talking about. I mean, who is more fabulous than Susanne? I hear silence. What a great phrase. Susanne says the Dairy Queens are the cheeee-it, the top bananas, the cream in my coffee, gee whiz kids, amazing, spectacular…unbelievable. She didn’t really say anything like that, I paraphrased. She’s way too classy to chat like that. She actually said:

Hi, Lewis, Steve.  

‘FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN, WHAT AM I TO DO? DO YOU KNOW THE DAIRY QUEENS? THEY’RE ONE OF MY FAVORITE NEW DISCOVERIES … COME SEE THEM MILK A FEW LAUGHS AND HOWLS OF ASTONISHMENT FROM EACH AND EVERYONE IN THE AUDIENCE WITH THEIR OWN BRAND OF DANCE DRAG COMEDY AND MUSIC ‘

She goes on to say that if I don’t see them here I will in the future I will be: 

PAYING TOP DOLLARS FOR THEIR SOLD OUT ENGAGEMENTS AT THE GARDEN BEFORE LONG.

Johnny Dynell will DJ. After that, If I’m not completely exhausted or culturally shocked, I will scoot over to Gin Palace (95 Avenue A) to catch Bunny Von Lau’s Fashion Club. Bunny brinks Carol Sharks and Jeffrey Thomas along to support. This will be a decidedly sexy crowd in an intimate setting. Sounds like trouble for Lewis, Steven.   Image via

EMM Group’s FINALE Brings The Edge Back to NY Nightlife

FINALE, the long-awaited EMM Group entry at 199 Bowery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, has finally opened – and it’s a game changer. This is a place created by a well-heeled, bottle sales-based group with creativity at its core. To those who pooh-pooh bottle service and blame it (and Rudy Giuliani) for all the terrible things that have ever happened to New York nightlife, I say pooh-pooh to you. Without bottle service, burgeoning rents, insurance, and salaries would have buried nightlife. The problem is that clubs banking for big bucks have catered to the bores with black cards, a scene that’s unbearable to the artistic set. FINALE embraces the downtown scene with performance types on staff, and bartenders and waiters dressed and ready to perform at the drop of a beat.

For far too long, entertainment in major nightclubs has consisted of little more than a forced smile from a wannabe model rushing through the crowd holding a fiery stick while a DJ plays tracks the rich dudes and their lady friends love to hear over and over again. But FINALE offers the hope that, in an effort to set themselves apart from the pack, operators will once again employ creative types to define their brands.

Back in 2007, The Box thought outside the box with its Did-I-just-see-that? brand of entertainment. For some, it went too far, but The Box is still there, and Sleep No More and other nightlife fringe concepts are bringing in creatives and spenders in equal measure. Their devotion to pushing downtown artistic programming has been justly rewarded. FINALE offers an opportunity for the public to expect even more. If it continues its success, other operators will follow its lead, and maybe the suits and ties will no longer dictate club programming. From my experience, once you start traveling towards the edge, a great deal of the public becomes interested and wants more.

EMM provides balance as they balance their bottom line. The artful mixing of downtown with the swells has worked for eons and is working at FINALE now. Plus, having a management team that’s in tune with the times helps.

Some words from the founders:

“Nightlife in New York is a bit stale at the moment—nothing new or different has opened in several years,” says co-owner Mark Birnbaum. “Both the timing and the new Lower East Side location of FINALE are perfect to attract new customers who don’t go to the Meatpacking District or Chelsea to eat and party, while bringing many of our current clientele along with us.”

“Moving down to the Bowery puts us in a unique position,” adds partner Eugene Remm. “Just as Bungalow 8 emerged on West 27th Street, and Lotus took root in the Meatpacking, we hope to be the first to bring an entirely new concept to the area. With this project, we break away from our current mold and create something entirely new on all fronts, from our music format to the location itself and the ways in which we can creatively program the entire space.”

Whether the big spenders will continue to be comfortable heading that far downtown to experience an increasingly weird mix of entertainment—and whether the creative set will keep emerging from their Brooklyn lofts to lend artistic authenticity to the nightlife venue—is far from certain. But with success stories like Abe & Arthur’s, CATCH, SL, and Tenjune in their portfolio, EMM’s Birnbaum, Remm, and partner Michael Hirtenstein are just the men to turn the mix into magic.

The Top NYE Parties In NYC

Look, don’t stress. Who cares that your trip to Miami fell through, your sister announced she’s visiting, or your best friend you were going to eat Chinese food with bailed on you for a guy she met on the F train. It’s okay. You can still reclaim an unstoppable NYE night and New Year at one of these top New Year’s Eve parties in NYC. From rock anthems, to tarot cards, to monkeys, to lavish five-hour open bars – we’ve got you covered, and you will be okay. Tipsy and making as many poor decisions before your resolutions as possible, but okay.

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