Beauty Mark: Exhale Gansevoort

Gansevoort Park Avenue was conceived throughout as a self-contained world,” Michael Achenbaum, President of Gansevoort Hotel Group, told the press of the Park avenue addition. Indeed, the sort of things that bring you to Manhattan in the first place—shopping, dining, nightlife—come built into the property’s experience. Especially attractive is its full-service Exhale Spa.

In addition to Ristorante Asellina, a Cutler Salon, and the Lacoste boutique, Exhale spa offers an experience unique to the usual amenities of a hotel. It’s a full-service spa, certainly, but it’s one that offers rather unique treatments that inspire more of a “get off your ass” sentiment on top of the usual “sit back and relax” mandate.

Take for example their Fertility Program. Not exactly a passive spa experience—not exactly a passive anything. This take-charge item on a diverse menu includes consultations with an expert in the Berkley Method for Reproductive Wellness at $250, with subsequent sessions scheduled for $135 each. How appropriate, then, that your room is just steps away?

There’s also the highly acclaimed proprietary Core Fusion classes (which include Core Fusion, Core Fusion Sport, and Core Fusion Cardio), yoga classes in the mind-body studio (Music Yoga Flow and Core Fusion Yoga), a rejuvenating infrared detox chamber (“infared detox chamber” doesn’t exactly pair well with the word “rejuvanating” in my book—minus the times I’m willing to indulge my inner masochist), and a pool.

This is Exhale’s fifth location in New York City, and it offers a full menu of tried-and-true facials and body treatments as well as some hotel package deals.

Head to Toe Package If you’ve partied a bit too much at Asellina, or just need to hit the restart button on life, this package will knock you back into place. It starts with a heart pumping mind/body class, followed by a signature spa treatment, and ends with a poolside beverage. Total Package: Two reserved seats by the pool or sundeck Valet Parking for one night only Two pool-side cocktails or smoothies One Exhale Mind & Body Class Choice of 60 Minute Fusion massage or 60 Minute True Facial Price: $696* for booking with a Superior room, and $1,026 for Suites

The New Carlton Hotel Brings Back Old New York

When I first started writing this column, one of my primary goals was to give my readers an insider look at some of the industry’s leaders, and how they approach the business. Some of these people are relatively unknown, as they allow the successful properties and brands they’ve created and promoted do all the talking. Most appear occasionally as a bold-faced name in a newspaper or magazine. Peter Chase is a player. He’s the founder of BPC, which develops and manages creative hospitality concepts. His concepts have included: Skybar in Miami Beach, Wunderbar at the W Montreal, MGM Grand Casinos (MGM, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Borgata) in Las Vegas, Detroit, and Atlantic City, as well as Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, and the W San Diego.

When Ian Schrager needed to replace the irreplaceable Rande Gerber back in 2000, he sought out Peter to manage and develop bars at each of his hotels. He has overseen fourteen bars in nine hotels, spanning New York, London, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. He has also overseen the creation of several new ones.

I spent three hours chatting with him at the Carlton on Madison and 29th the other evening. I could have stayed for eight hours. Peter knows what he’s talking about, and finds himself poised to do even greater things. He is very aware that the ancient, though wonderfully redecorated hotel finds itself between the uber-hot Ganesvoort Park Hotel and the seriously hip Ace Hotel. He’s gearing up to embrace the crowds that will be passing by his door: He understands their needs, and will entertain them. He is one of the unsung heroes of the industry, and today I am singing his song.

Ian Schrager brought you in to replace the irreplaceable Rande Gerber. How did you approach that impossible dream? Ian and Rande had a relationship going back quite some time. I respect what Rande has done, and continues to do, but I think Ian was excited to create outside of that relationship. What we accomplished at the Clift with the Redwood Room, the re-interpretation of the Morgans Bar, and the complete transformation of the Whiskey into the Paramount Bar makes that evident.

Rande and I come from very different backgrounds. Rande was a former model that got into the bar industry, and I am someone that worked within the hospitality industry, and went to Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration. Beyond all of the extraordinary creative aspects of working with Ian, I approached the “impossible dream” from a business perspective. I set out to implement better systems, controls, reporting, and several initiatives to maximize profit from every drink served.

I worked for Ian and Steve Rubell, and learned a great deal. What did you take away from that experience, and how do you apply it nowadays? I know that many of the things that I discounted or infuriated me about their style/personally applied when I had such opportunities. I never got to meet Steve, but I feel like there were several talented people Ian employed to help him create his vision. I learned so much from Ian that it almost seems that I learned nothing. So much of what Ian does can’t help but resonate and change the way you look at bars, restaurants, and hotels, or for that matter, everything. Ian has a way of instilling in you his perspective on service, music, design and style. He often accomplishes this through intense demands, but as the saying goes, “you can’t make diamonds without a lot of pressure.” Eventually, you change (for the better, I might add) and forget what you thought was acceptable before. His vision is his own. Many have tried to replicate it, some with success, but there always remains just one original. I use this valuable resource every day in operating my businesses, and owe a great deal to Ian for teaching me to view things differently. Sometimes the fates bring the right person to the right place and time. The Carlton finds itself on a strip between the new Ganesvoort Park and the highly successful Ace Hotel. What are you doing to exploit this moment? Having lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, I have watched its evolution. Back in 1904, just before the NYC subway opened, the Carlton (then the Seville) Hotel opened and helped turn the neighborhood into one of the city’s most elegant locales. The original bar from the Seville is still intact, and has hosted luminaries such as Frank Sinatra and “Diamond Jim” Brady. A block away lies the remnants of Tin Pan Alley, where much of the world’s greatest music was written and produced. The Breslin Hotel, now the Ace, opened the same year as the Seville, and was part of what was known as the “Avenue of Hotels.” Today, with the renovation of both hotels, and the addition of the Gansevoort, I think that we are seeing a re-awakening of the 29th Street hotel corridor. I have always treated my competitors like neighbors. There is plenty of business for everyone, and if we support one another we all stand a better chance of succeeding. Let the Gansevoort and the Ace do what they do best, I wanted to pay homage to the history of the area, and offer a connection to its storied past through music.

Having spent countless hours in what was originally the Café at Country in the Carlton, I always knew that its center bar needed to be removed and filled with energy, be it through people, or in this case, live music. The Salon as it is now known is the entry point for all things Millesime. It acts as a portal to another time. Upstairs, we have our seafood brasserie, and across a glass bridge, Bar Millie, which will soon open. It will feature burlesque images from the turn of the century, and views looking down onto the stage. Bar Millie will be a place where you can make a reservation for a table, and come and sip cocktails with friends. A lot of places charge a cover, or pack the room to help offset the expenses of the musicians. We work with musicians, and allow them an elegant space in which to showcase their talents.

A phenomenon in the current era is the synergy and possibly the necessity of solid NYC nightlife in hotels. Tell me your take on that. How much is food and beverage driving your hotel, and will that now increase dramatically? I operate bars in W Hotels, and consult for casinos: there are few things as important to a hotel or casino as its food and beverage offering. I do not know if Ian and Steve invented it, but they certainly exploited it to the fullest. When a new hotel opens people are not going to immediately rent a room. They will pop into the bar, or grab a bite in the restaurant, and then promote the property given their experience. This puts heads in beds, and safe guards the real investment: real estate. The press will only write about a hotel when it opens, but they’ll cover any celebrity sightings as long as someone communicates with them, be it the venue itself, a cell phone picture from a customer, or a random tweet. If it is from the venue itself, this can be a double-edged sword. As a policy, we do not actively pursue press regarding our customers unless they are at a function where it is understood that their picture may be taken. Celebrities know this as well, and use certain venues to garner press when it suits their needs. Additionally, restaurants and bars are the perfect locations for movie premieres and charity events. These bring press, cameras and celebrities, which only adds to the properties cache. In the six or so months since we have been open, we have already hosted TV film shoots for Curb Your Enthusiasm, House Wives of New Jersey, an after party for the band Rammstein, listening parties for NE YO and Estelle and the several charity events including one for Artists for Peace and Justice, hosted by Paul Haggis. The word “boutique” in regards to hotels seems to be very last century. Is there a new word? Will most hotels have to go chic to remain relevant and occupied? I agree that the term sounds very outdated, but as a concept it’s still relevant. The problem started when hotel companies and designers started calling something “boutique” but only regurgitated previous design work. Boutique should represent true individuality within its local context. This only happens when passionate people are involved in every detail of development.

Unlike the Gansevoort in the Meatpacking, the Gansevoort Park was designed and pre-engineered with hospitality, food, and beverage in mind. Carlton is a much older property. What steps are you taking to retro-fit protection for your hotel guests against the sounds and such that successful watering holes inevitably bring? At the new Gansevoort Park they have added separate elevators to access the upper bars from the hotel, and seem to have situated the bars away from guest rooms. This means no more intoxicated guests on elevators with families staying at the hotel, and no more non-guests on hotel floors causing safety issues. When they built the Carlton they constructed it in such a way that sound from the bars does not disturb the hotel guests. Bars and clubs can be a tremendous asset to a hotel, but it is vital that veteran operators and professional audio engineers are involved in the design and construction phases, or you can end up with costly renovations, or lost room revenues for decades.

Tell me about Salon Millesime. The idea with the Salon was to create a sophisticated platform for progressive artistry and extraordinary musicianship. My partners and I have handpicked our talent from all ‘walks of life’ including students of the Juilliard School of Music, DJs, and well-regarded, established artists. The Salon is our doorway into the hotel. Everyone works off of their laptops or phones, and they are doing this in coffee shops more and more. People who have been laid-off, or are self-employed, are looking for a place to be able to have a meeting or get work done over a cup of coffee. During the day we offer a relaxing environment to do this and at night, sip wine and listen to our interpretation of Voix de Ville, the voice of the city. The Salon menu features casual French and Mediterranean inspired cuisine by my partner Chef Laurent Manrique. We installed a state-of-the-art Bose sound system for an unparalleled musical experience. Nightly performers include artists from far corners of the globe to nearby neighbors. N’Dea Davenport, Swizz Beatz, Nickodemus, Estelle, Grammy winning rapper Pras, Grammy winning singer Ne-Yo, and Brooklyn songstress and Si*Se have already graced the stage. When not performing live, there is a select roster of DJs like Carol C from the band Si*Se, and DJ Sir Shorty, a veteran of the city. I invite guests to gather and sip artisan cocktails like the French 75, or perhaps the Night & Day—my version of the Manhattan—a portion of whose proceeds supports VH1’s Save the Music.

We wanted to evoke an intimate music venue with hints of the history of the area’s past. The team came from Redhook Brooklyn and was lead by Doug Fanning’s DYAD Studio. Doug chose to transform the space with stylish mix of leather banquets, tiger print chairs, and glossy ebony cocktail tables with bronze inlays reminiscent of the early Café Society interiors. He also custom designed the oversize light shades reminiscent of old Vaudeville stage curtains. Designer William Calvert, a longtime friend, created a luxe cocktail dress for the servers.

How does Millesime and the other food and beverage spots in the hotel interact with each other? We chose to create one iconic name, Millesime, with multiple concepts feeding into it. Since no two guests are alike, we created an offering that appeals to each guest’s unique needs and desires, as well as those of our local community. Beyond the Salon we have the Lobby Bar, a dimly lit saloon where you can “belly up” to a magnificent mahogany bar dating back one hundred plus years to the original hotel. Order a scotch, eat a burger, catch a game on the flat screen TV, or just people watch as hotel guests arrive from near and far. Just around the corner from Millesime, across a 30-foot glass bridge, will be Bar Millie, a reservation cocktail bar. Reminiscent of an old French sitting room, it is an ideal perch for relaxing, chatting and drinking with good friends. Leather-bound chairs, metal screened burlesque images, a handcrafted marble bar, and traces of the past hang in the air like ghosts of prohibition. It’s a nostalgic portal to an era when automobiles had curves, women were dames, men wore hats, and a deal was sealed with a handshake. The room, with its vaulted ceiling and wood panels, is a place that encourages you to linger over drinks and trade glances as music wafts throughout. Seven hard shakes with a cocktail shaker and you’re transported back to the splendor of Broadway, Tin Pan Alley, and luxurious hotel lounges. It’s a trip back to the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby,, and watching William Powell coach the bartender on the proper way to shake a martini in The Thin Man.

Future Pool Parties, My Birthday Tonight, and Michael Alig Soon

I’m being drawn to the area surrounding the Ganesvoort Park Hotel more and more. Development and action in that area seems to be increasing. The Ganesvoort Park Avenue’s entry is a much improved version of its Meatpacking namesake’s design. It’s southern MPD entry was retrofitted to accommodate the success of its rooftop, and, of course, Provocateur. As food and beverage drives certain hotel brands, the venues will be designed with their restaurants and watering holes soundproofed, accessible through street and internal doors and passages. They are increasingly integral to success—driving room rates and attracting desired clientele, and even distracting certain “types.” The bars, restaurants, lounges, and the pool area at Ganesvoort Park were built with this mindset, and not with afterthoughts.

The Gansevoort Park did not build for clientele to be stuck in basements, or in places where the noise of their success makes whole hotel floors un-rentable. Ganesvoort Park understood this before ground broke, and was designed to have minimum impact on hotel guests. The effort and thought put in is paying off, and we will be even more evident if we ever see warm weather again in this town. The pool scene, when the sun betrays the snow, should be hot. Yesterday’s brunch at Asellina on the ground floor was wonderful. The design by my friends over at iCrave is inspiring. I followed the advice from the charming and attentive staff and enjoyed the Swordfish Carpaccio, and will come back real soon. My travels and travails took me to Goldbar to meet up with Jon “the Lover” Lennon. I needed to show him my latest two tattoos, and see the one he is filling in today. No Homo. Amanda was with me to see, and, of course, show hers off. I was going to get a very “Deppian,” tat that read “Winona Forever,” but after seeing her in the Black Swan, it became apparent that that little joke won’t fly, as she is a really bad joke at this point. After all the bearing of flesh and ink, we settled down at a table to drink our bottles—of Diet Coke—and chat with old friends. Goldbar’s Sunday night soiree is still strong after 3 ½ years. DJs Sinatra and Jesse Marco were slashing and burning through rock anthems mixed, mashed, shaken, and stirred over Hip Hop classics. The enthusiastic and sexy crowd wanted it all. I still can’t lift my left arm over my head as a result of some subway steps that resembled a ski slope. Amanda asked me why I would ever want to lift my arm over my head anyway, so I just won’t do it. Problem solved. With a smart girlfriend like that, I may even cancel my health insurance. I did alright slipping and sliding, until I didn’t, which resulted in a dislocated shoulder after hitting a post. It’s back where it should be now, but hurts. I put my new tats on that arm so I don’t notice the shoulder pain as much. Problem solved. I’ve heard of snow blind, but I think I’ve been rendered snow dumb. I will be celebrating my birthday tonight at Bingo at the Bowery Poetry Club with Murray Hill, Linda Simpson and their crew. I think my editors, and maybe you, are getting tired of me plugging the place, but it’s more fun than anything, and I’ll stop when they come. There was a time when my birthday was a glamorous affair, with complicated invites, sumptuous feasts at swanky restaurants, and maybe even some friendly celebrity performance with bottles, smiles, and laughter at an unbelievably fabulous club. I used to be Steve Lewis, and that brand demanded such a shin dig. My new brand, as Uncle Steve the writer, or Steve Lewis the designer, needs a great deal less spectacle and adulation than Steve Lewis Club Impressario.

Facebook gives access to my birthday and yours to all the joints around town. Assistants go through lists and offer me and you free birthday parties as a way of promotion. I guess it fills up rooms on cold nights. I have enjoyed the requests, and the ones from owners who have offered their places, stocks of booze, and services, but I think I’ll be where I love it. Bingo, then BBurg for dinner with my tattooed friends, probably at Lodge. The birthday promo gimmick is an old play. Michael Alig and I saw it being done at an old and awful club years ago. Alig thought it a great idea and I green lit the concept, using one of our innumerable lists. It wasn’t a birthday thing, just a “you won a free party for you and your friends” thing. I didn’t pay attention, and Michael mailed out to one of our lists that had, like, 10,000 names. I think he got 2,000 positive responses, with each response comped, and open bar for an hour for 20 friends.

The thing about the open bar scam is that bartenders can only pour booze so fast that, after a certain point, it doesn’t matter if you have 200 people trying to get a drink, or a thousand, as the bartenders are maxed out. That’s why bottle service really took on. Instead of 8 bartenders, you make your patrons do the pouring as well, and you end up with 30 bartenders. Getting the stuff out of the bottles fast is the whole idea. Anyway, the story goes that something like 20,000 people showed up at the RedZone that night, and chaos ensued. He was talented at that. For those keeping track, he’s up by Canada now, moved to a lower level Medium Security prison. It’s a definite improvement, except too far away for a day trip visit. I’m going up soon, and will send him all your love and hate.

My mind should be less numbed mid-week, as the bottle with 0 refills is getting light. I have some spectacular stuff to tell you about, but after I deal with the condition my condition is in.

Gansevoort Park Avenue Coming Soon

The Gansevoort Park Avenue, one of a number of notable new hotels coming to New York in the coming months, will soon be opening its doors. The hotel is slated to debut on August 2, and there’s a low, low (said in cheesy TV voice) intro rate of $275/night. After that, the regular rack rate is $395, so get it on the cheap while you can. Just what can you get at the Meatpacking madness hotel’s new location?

First, rooms. You get a lot of space for your money. The hotel’s 249 rooms average 475 square feet. Even the entry-level superior rooms are 350 square feet, palatial for New York. There are 400 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, Hi-def LCD TVs, iPod docks, free Wi-Fi, and all the other nice stuff there’d better be. The style is modern but warm, with contemporary four-poster beds and a muted, gray-and-neutral color scheme punctuate by splashes of chartreuse and fuchsia. Of course, you’re not coming to the Gansevoort just to relax in your room.

There’s a rooftop indoor/outdoor pool twenty stories up and a Plunge Rooftop Bar and Lounge, just like the MePa location. Downstairs, a restaurant called Asselina will serve “half-portions and finger-foods to meet our various clientele’s dining preferences.” Perfect for models! A bar called Twenty33 will serve infused liquors. There will also be an Exhale spa, offering its signature Core fusion class to work off those half-portions.