APL, The Wooly and More: My Party Whim

I’m back to not doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and just doing what comes up. Like the 2 year anniversary of Griffin, the club my firm Lewis and Dizon did, but which I actually did very little of because I was off doing something else. Even though it bears my name, I have never gotten around to being there. Something always comes up—or goes down, I suppose. Sometimes I can’t remember which it was or wasn’t. I guess something came up last night—but with all this confusion, maybe I got confused and the event is actually tonight. If it is, I’ll try to remember to attend.

I sort of remember not liking someone over there, or them not liking me. But that was then and this is now, and the person or incident is lost in the corners of my brain. I’m sure the person wasn’t important enough to dislike anyway. So I will go tonight, unless it was last night. Two years is a long time in nightlife, and they should be congratulated, I think.

Speaking of last night, I had a blast! I was all busy getting APL, that joint we designed on Orchard Street, absolutely completely finished as it really will have some sort of opening tonight. Little details, like hooks for ladies’ bags under the bar (I always forget to do this until the last second) and framing all those signs (reminders to everyone to not drink while pregnant, not to smoke ‘em if you got ’em, and to be of the proper age, and all that). It looks cool. I was in and out all day—annoying everyone, getting in the way, drinking delicious cucumber concoctions, which I was told were virgins but in retrospect I realize that everyone lies about that, and bringing people by who I was sure would say nice things about it to me. I was telling them all to be brutally honest, knowing full well that they aren’t that type.

I rushed over to the Confettisystem’s Lights Up! opening at the W/—— Project Space at 141 Division Street. I thought the event happened on Tuesday, and was happy to find out that it was last night. The installation took up about 300 square feet, and the crowd spread over 3,000 square feet of neighborhood. A brutally honest friend told me I wasn’t hip enough to understand what I was seeing, and I decided he might be right. I certainly wasn’t taking him to APL, to be brutally honest about that. It was a great opening with a ton of very young, old friends. I kissed cheeks, glad handed, and was brutally honest with everyone about how great they looked and how exciting the things they are working on sounded. The show is better described by those who were involved:

Nicholas Andersen and Julie Ha of ConfettiSystem debut a new public installation and a new collection of designs. Presented in collaboration with W/ — Project Space and United Bamboo, 
CONFETTISYSTEM’s new collection, Lights Up!, further explores the duo’s practice of transforming simple materials into objects that occupy the space between the ephemeral and the permanent, evoking a sense of nostalgia and lighthearted fun.

 They transformed the W/ — Project Space into a theatrical storeroom filled with the fantastical objects and wardrobe used in theatrical production. A video collaboration with director Jon Leone, shot on location at Creatures of Comfort in New York, will also be screened as part of the exhibition.

 CONFETTISYSTEM has previously collaborated with United Bamboo on several stage designs for their fashion shows, as well as an ad campaign featuring artist Terence Koh; Leone has directed videos for Animal Collective, Ariel Pink and Beach House.

It was off to Hotel Chantelle with a herd of hipsters for cocktails. To be brutally honest, the previously alluded to cucumber concoctions had left me a bit between the ephemeral and the permanent, and I was in an excited state. The roof is so close to being ready and I’m so excited to ask people how much they truly, honestly love it. Chantelle was popping and I hung out with my cutest friend Stephanie and her friends who she referred to as “her Gays!” I showed them the roof, and they were completely, brutally honest—telling me how wonderful it was. The handsomer one—or maybe it was the other—said it was like Paris with a view of the Williamsburg Bridge. He so got me. I promised to absolutely invite him back when it’s done, which might be as early as next week if the contractors behave with brutal honesty. They rarely do .

Somehow I ended up downtown at the Woolworth building where my young old friend, Eric Adolfson, was hosting the after party from that art show at his joint, The Wooly. Eric was part of my merry clan when he was but a wee-lad. It was established that I had completely corrupted him when he was in his Wonder Bread years, and that he had caught the fever which, of course, butterflied into a dream and passion. That’s the way it is: being a nightlife impresario, you can’t get enough. The warning on the side of that cigarette pack says “don’t get or take more than you can handle.” I unfortunately always skipped the fine print. A gentleman in the crowd recognized me from that Limelight documentary, which apparently is still being previewed short of it’s August debut. I wonder how you all will think of me when you see me in that. I was brutally honest, and not very subtle anyway, Eric has it so together at Wooly. He’s a bright guy surrounded by the brightest people, and the Wooly is just wow. It’s everything I ever wanted and worked hard to create. Every time some follower complains that there is nothing to do at night, a friend leads me to another gem. I had heard only good things about The Wooly, but it takes great things to get me to the Financial District. I can’t wait to go back. Eric and I talked about wallpapers, couches, tables, and such, and the future plans. We will talk about all that when it’s the proper time.

Nightlife Celebrates BTTF with Drink Specials at Cielo, Griffin, and Taj II

Most New York nightlife denizens either feel like they’re too important to stand in line, refuse to go anywhere that’s not the “It” place of the moment, or spend their evenings staring blankly at one another—or all three. So it’s refreshing to be amongst a group of people who’ve chosen to go out at night to make a difference. Last night, members and supporters of the Breast Treatment Task Force (BTTF) gathered at Griffin to kick off a month-long promotion in partnership with nightlife favorites like Cielo, the Griffin, and Taj II. The program collects profits from the venues’ specially designed signature cocktails to raise money for BTTF’s local program, which facilitates free mammograms, diagnostic follow-up, surgeries, and cancer treatment for patients without health insurance in NYC. It’s an example of how nightlife can serve a real purpose.

Now, when you head to Griffin and purchase their signature French 75, or Taj II’s Budina, or Cielo’s delish Ocean Dream, you’ll be imbibing for a reason. The proceeds from these luscious cocktails go to to a local New York woman in need. You can get these cocktails (that come in conjunction with a special donation line on your bill, so you can add any extra amount at your leisure) through August 27th.

image Executive Director Janice Zaballero, right, with Co-Chair Amanda Dell.

image Lilly Kim with friends.

image Dr. Julia Smith, BTTF Medical Director with Dr. Janna Andrews and former BTTF Board Member, Paulina Rogawski.

image Red Hot PR and Scallywag & Vagabond contributor Ricardo Garcia, with friends.

image Janice Zaballero with BlackBook’s Cayte Grieve.

Party Tonight: Have a Drink, Save a Life at Griffin

Tonight Kage Consulting — a nightlife powerhouse firm that holds venues like Griffin and Cielo in her arsenal — and BlackBook will be at Griffin from 7-9:30PM, fêting the Breast Treatment Task Force (BTTF), a local nonprofit that facilitates free mammograms, diagnostic follow-up, surgeries, and cancer treatment for patients without health insurance in NYC. Instead of simply asking for donations, BTTF has partnered with three of Kage’s favorite cocktail masters, Griffin, Cielo, and Taj Lounge, to bring you specially designed cocktails. A portion of the proceeds from the masterful mixology goes straight to a local New York woman in need. Details on the kickoff event and cocktails after the jump.


The women who find help from BTTF are patients who do not qualify for Medicaid, living between 250%-400% of the poverty level ($26,000 – $41,000 for single person household, $35,000-$56,000 for two-person household). If you put these stats into perspective, many of the women we know—young and old, especially those in the creative fields—would fall into this bracket. But New Yorkers can help by drinking up.

The Griffin French 75: Gin or Cognac, Lemon, & Champagne. image (Photo )

Cielo Ocean Dream: Bombay Sapphire, Orange, Cranberry & Pineapple Juice. image (Photo)

Taj Lounge Budina: Kettle One Vodka, Cucumber, Lime, & Mint image (Photo)

On top of this delicious donation, each location also gives patrons an opportunity to donate money to BTTF by adding an additional line on the bill for donations to be added. Cash and credit cards are accepted. Donations in the following amount provide this detailed care in full:

$25 = Provides One Hour Patient Coordination $50 = Provides Two Hours Patient Coordination $100 = Mammogram/Ultrasound for Uninsured Patient $250 = One Clinic Visit and Diagnostic Mammogram $500 = MRI for Uninsured Patient $650 = Core Biopsy for Uninsured Patient

Come by the Griffin tonight from 7-9:30PM, and pick up our June/July issue with Kylie Minogue (an inspiring breast cancer survivor, herself) on the cover. The drink promotion continues until Friday, August 27.

Fresh and Oxy-Clean: Making Music with Roxy Cottontail

Everybody I speak to who is opening a joint starts with “We’ll have great DJ’s and the best service in town.” Very few actually know what they’re talking about on either subject. With some exceptions like Lit, Santos’ Party House and of course the music-based clubs like Pacha and Cielo, good music means they will hire a DJ who plays what the crowd wants to hear and is known to their crowd. Some might argue, “Isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?” Well, sort of. My viewpoint has always been the DJ is number 1 an entertainer, but almost as importantly, an educator. The pandering to the model/bottle crowd has resulted in a musically ignorant club scene. The people spending loot want to hear familiar mixes from familiar DJ’s to go along with the familiar faces that service them in familiar ways. Songs are played to death and then played some more. It’s mainstream music to a mainstream crowd that celebrates the superficial and obvious.

Nightlife has been stripped down to the basics. It’s ‘how much money do you have?’ ‘How hot are you to look at?’ Rich clones dressing in clone outfits and nobody wants to bring in the clowns anymore. Clubs have become a big business with layers of regulation and paperwork necessary to keep places financed and functioning. The artists and playboys who used to seek out the edge have given way to the business types who are comfortable in a safe middle and beautiful and safe crowd. How can anyone blame them? It’s all good. There is nothing wrong with this formula and there is always Brooklyn, where entire neighborhoods strive for creative diversions. And yes Brooklyn has it’s share, albeit different sorts, of clones.

I eternally wait for a club to have it all. Real, forward music that I won’t hear when I drive my car and a solid social scene where I can meet all types of interesting people. It will have to be sexy as well. Sexy, of course, is an opinion and my opinion is: there aren’t many sexy joints in town. There is a difference between having a lot of sex and being sexy. The model, bottle, table scene just doesn’t push my button— I eternally seek the lowly places and the crowds looking for adventure and whatever comes their way. Predictable isn’t fun. Today I talk to Roxy Cottontail, a DJ, a female, an innovator. She fills up rooms with future perfect music and a stylish crowd that just can’t stand too much else. If someone really wants to “start with the music,” I’d call Roxy and Justine Delaney and only a handful of others to get this party started right.

Roxy Cottontail sort of sounds like a drug that I never use. Why did you call yourself Roxy Cottontail? Roxy was a nickname that I had for a really long time since I had a band in high school called The Fox Deluxe. I don’t know it just kind of—well Roxy—and it was kind of an online message board name and my avatar was Roxy Cotton. Then I came across Peter Cottontail and I was like, “Roxy Cottontail, I am a little bunny.” And it kind of fit so it’s a mixture of rabbit, drugs, and booty.

2 out of 3 of my favorite things: You are a DJ and you are also a promoter. As a DJ, what kind of music do you play? I play everything. I play some house, some electro, disco, rock, indie rock, I play everything.

And you promote? Did you started off promoting yourself as a DJ having your own parties? No, I started promoting other DJs like Diplo and Low B. The Hollertronix Party was the first one I booked at 9 1/2. I moved to Philly after 9/11 because I went to Pratt and then I moved to Philly because I wanted a job. I was doing design and I wanted to just get away. Then I discovered these DJs and just started doing parties with them.

Where were their parties in Philly? It was at the Ukrainian Club, the Ukie Club. It was legendary because the beer was really cheap and it was like this big sweaty dance hall. They were doing something really unconventional with crunk music and dance music and 80’s. I don’t think it was really happening anywhere else. This was in 2002 and 2003.

So you were promoting other DJs and then what happened? Yeah, I was promoting Diplo and Low B and Spank Rock, who was an MC from Philly. I started booking his first shows in New York. I moved back— I only lived in Philly for a year, I was kind of bored. I came back and I started promoting them heavily—Spank Rock, Amanda Blank—I did the record release party for Kid Cudi too, for Day and Night when that came out. That was at Le Royale like 3 years ago.

What do you like about the club scene and what do you not like about it? I love music and I love bringing people together.

Well, that’s the standard answer but what do you like? What clubs do you like? I love Santos, I love Sway. Sway has been my living room for the past 6 years. Now I really like Bar 13, I’m working there now too. I love, like, the sound system there and I like 1Oak.

Do you go to 1Oak or do you do business there? I have, I have DJed there before and I’ve gone to hang out. I love GoldBar.

I love Goldbar too. Now, you’re a woman and you’ve been in this business a long time. 5 years ago we discussed how hard it is to be a woman in the nightclub business and now it’s 2010 and it’s just as hard. Tell me about that. I think it’s just the same. The only women in nightlife that I’ve had to look up to were like Justine D who pretty much put me on. It was a completely different music than she was doing, mine was definitely more hip-hop and 80’s electro-based, so she kind of gave me the confidence that I could able to do it.

Justine Delaney is Justine D and I guess she’s the director of Le Poisson Rouge which is the old Life space that I had. Justine worked with me there. I remember when she was promoting there. And Jessica Rosenblum too. I can think of other women, but not a lot.

Not a lot! I mean half the population is women and about 1/25 of the population is women working in clubs, something seems wrong. Why do you think that is? It’s just male dominated industries are hard.

What makes this male dominated? We’re supposed to be so liberal and forward-thinking in the club work, why do you think it’s true that we obviously are? I think probably men would feel, they would not want to lose power.

So you’re doing a party with Lady Fag, tell me about that. That’s Thursday nights right? Yeah, we met through out friend Jason, who’s a photographer. He was like, “You two are my favorite people in nightlife,” and he’s gay and her crowd is gay and mine is straight hipsters, so it’s a really amazing mix. We did it at La Pomme and we realized it was too far uptown and we didn’t want to do bottle service so we had to find a new space.

So where are you doing it? At Bar 13. Michael Magnan is our resident DJ and then we have guests and guest performers. This last week Spank Rock performed, he tore the roof off, he’s such a good performer. Then this week we have this crew from New Orleans. So it’s like Gulf Coast bounce music.

Stop there. Tell me what Gulf Coast bounce music is? Well, the Gulf Coast is like Florida and Louisiana and the music they make is like—

Slick and oily? What?

It’s an oil spill joke. Never mind me. Is it house? It’s house but it’s like—it kind of reminds of me GoGo from DC but it’s also dance and very gay-chanting and super up-tempo.

You spoke of crunk music? Now what is crunk music? It’s southern hip-hop.

You have always been on the cutting edge of music. When I was programming clubs and you were just starting out, we’d say Roxy knows her shit. We’d put you in and we’d try to get your DJs to play to musically main stream crowds. When I go to your parties it’s mainly a hipster crowd. Do you ever want to break out and have this music play to a broader audience? Eventually that does happen because I was screaming Baltimore Club like six years ago and no one was playing that in clubs, and now you hear a DJ play a full Baltimore Club set.

Give me an example of a Baltimore Club set. Well, Doo Doo Brown is a famous one, but Samir’s Theme is like the anthem that everyone samples. And that’s like a song that was taken and redone in many ways.

I’m asking you all these questions and I guess when I was running clubs I knew all the answers but I’m out of it. Are most of the club operators out of it, musically? Not playing, not aware of this kind of music but just going for the same old same old? Yeah, most clubs are in line for the same old thing, but like, Sway is really open-minded for me to bring in the newest genre of reggae, of house, whatever it may be.

Because few are playing very little forward at all. I think Santos does a really good job. And I think Sway has done a really good job.

Santos is one of my favorite places. I do hear great sets, there are amazing DJs out there.

Give me five great DJs in New York City and I’m not going to hold you. Start with you. Me and five: Michael Magnan, Melo X, Holy Ghost, Sinatra & Ni** Sky. So you go to 1Oak and you go to what other “mainstream” clubs. Yeah, I went to Griffin on Sunday and I’ll go to Griffin to hear Eli Escobar spin, but he hates that I’ll go to the commercial parties that he spins.

Eli has a good reputation as a DJ and the thing about him is, only the few times I’ve heard him play, he surprised me with something the other guys aren’t playing. But you know I will go there and bring a client or whoever, like someone I’m working with, and I’m booking a party for Manny so I’ll do like a guest hosting thing, it just depends.

Anything else you want to add? I think that’s good.

My Home Is My Kastel

The much-anticipated opening of Kastel in the Trump Soho had me and my pal Stretch Armstrong on the 1’ and 2’s. That’s DJ jargon referring to the equipment we disc jockey professionals use. In this case it was 1’s and 2’s and 3’ and 4’s and so on, as state-of-the-art, up-to-the-minute gear, was of course installed. All the DJs that came by coo’ed something like, That’s the new blankety blank or the new thingamajig. The new stuff had me baffled, fluxed and perplexed for the first 30 minutes of my set. When Stretch showed up and needed to get his Serato (another DJ pro term) hooked up, it was all too confusing. The booth became packed with more “glad to lend a helping hand” dudes than Jenna Jameson’s table at a porn convention.

Your humble servant moi was DJing like he was playing Twister, reaching through wires and arms and flashlights to tuck DVDs of questionable taste under, over and through the crew. I did the first hour and a half and then Stretch and I ping-ponged back and forth one record at a time. He made me look good. I remembered him to be the first person on the scene to use the Serato and telling people it was the next big thing. He said he was actually the second. Management wants to keep the volume down and the energy up, but not out, as it is a lounge. I found it fun to work at. The only problem with DJing there once you get used to the new stuff is the DJ can’t feel or hear the room from the booth easily.

Kastel was packed with an opening night crowd of beautiful well-dressed people and of course some of my friends. It was suit heavy and refreshingly older than most of the joints out there. The owners and operators of half the joints in town came by to check it out. They saw a perfect place to steal their early crowd. The theory seems to be that Kastel will serve the post-dinner/pre-club needs of New York city’s finest. It should easily find that niche. It’s small enough and very well appointed by the Rockwell Group of design professionals. Yesterday I asked my thousands of Facebook friends what the first song should be for this Trump hotel nightclub. I received many suggestions, some of which I will be able to print here. Tons including the real “E” Eric Weinstein said “Money” by various artists. Others offered the Talking Heads “This Must Be The Place,” or “Another One Bites The Dust,” “Eye Of The Tiger,” “Banquet” by Bloc Party, the Star Wars Theme, “Heart of Glass,” “Praise You” by Fat Boy Slim, “Let’s Dance” or a Marshall Jefferson house track. Mega star DJ Mark Kamins suggested Gil Scott Heron”s “The Revolution Will Be Televised.” Someone suggested “I Wish I Could Be There,” but I didn’t know if that was a song or a come on. The final answer was “Let The Good Times Roll” by the Cars, because that’s the way I roll.

I loved the gig, the room, the party, the very helpful staff and most of all Nicola Siervo, and Nicola Schon and Rony Seikaly and Karim Masri who honored me by letting me DJ. I also have to especially thank Manny Del Castillo who offered me the gig. Manny is a managing partner of Griffin. He has accepted the position of Music/Creative Director for Kastel & Bar D’eau. I asked Manny if this put him in a conflict of interest situation with Griffin, and he said “I would like to stress that I’m Reda’s right hand, creating concepts and coming up with the vision for all his venues, Room Service & Griffin. I’m trying to get away from the promoter/promotional director stereotype. At Griffin I was responsible for bringing in Dizon & Lewis (that’s me, yes it’s a very incestuous business) for the design and Milk and Honey for cocktails, amongst other things.”

Playing the Name Game with New Spring Openings

A weekend toiling in my backyard saw hyacinth rearing their beautiful little heads from the recently thawed soil. The beautiful weekend weather roused them, and us, from our winter hide outs. Spring is near. In a flash it will be everywhere. With it comes a shift in the nightlife mentality, as spaces with outdoor spaces sweep the leaves and soot of winter from roof decks and patios. Traditionally spring is the time to open a new joint. Operators generally like to establish a crowd and reputation before the summer takes the A crowds to their summer retreats. Tourists will come to the city and replace migrating New Yorkers. If a club has not created a buzz and dollars for itself before this exchange of DNA, then it may wilt in the summer heat.

Places like Marquee and Pink thrive on tourists who remember these joints from a few years ago when they were more relevant to the New York scene. Most will be unaware of the glories of the newer Avenue and Provocateur. The internet revolution has made the marketing of a place a great deal faster and accurate. Many club operators with strong marketing teams think that opening by April doesn’t matter as much as it once did. Opening as late as mid-May still gives them time to tell the crowds that they are open for booziness.

I am often asked to reveal which projects my firm, Lewis & Dizon, are working on. Many feel I give hand jobs to joints that we are working on, favoring these places over the next guys. I don’t think this is true as I have blasted places that we did work on, like Webster Hall and Griffin, and have sung the praises of places that we have nothing at all to do with, like Lit, Beatrice, the Jane and many more. I try to report things as I see them without conflicting interests. My rule of thumb is, if I would say it if I wasn’t associated, then I say it. I do hold back on stories about some places I’m working on at the request of owners. It sometimes irks me when another blogger beats me on a scoop when I have the keys, but alas, wearing a few hats will create these confusions.

I will tell you what spaces we are getting ready. In Carl’s Place, Long Island, the finishing touches are being put on a mega restaurant/lounge named Sugar. I don’t like the name, as it was once the name of my pal Patrick Fahey’s downtown spot. I don’t choose the names of most joints but we’ll get to that. We’re also finishing up a Greek restaurant called Beba on Spring Street, where the misguided Fr.og space once lived. We are in construction over at the old Nell’s space on 14th street and 8th avenue. This restaurant lounge will be brought to you by the Butter/1OAK crew. Its name is super secret, even to me. We are in the last phase of the build out for a comedy club on 78th street and Broadway called Stand Up NY. This is our first comedy club and it is a totally different experience. We are focusing on the intimate relationship between the comic and the audience with every seat in the house too close for comfort and using sexy materials to make the place more couple friendly.

We are about to begin construction on a high end restaurant/sports bar on 14th and 8th. We are gearing up to deliver the 146 Orchard space to top Chef Camille Becerra. We are identifying materials and finalizing concepts for a roof, for a Memorial Day opening for a Brooklyn restaurant on the hush hush. We are designing a mega club out in Vegas, which I’m just dying to talk about, but I can’t yet either. Other projects in the early phases of include a Jersey joint, a Lower East Side restaurant revamp and a hotel in Miami. We are also retained to do a joint for DJ John B, but have nothing to say on that subject right now. We are negotiating a number of other deals with a number of dreamers, but the delicacy of these discussions and nondisclosure agreements will keep me silent for now. The “we” is me and my understated partner, Marc Dizon. Where I never shut up, Marc speaks as if each word he utters means a day off his life. Our team includes, but is not limited to, Delia, Natalie and George, who work 18 hour days, but wouldn’t have it any other way. If this is a bit of a puff piece for me well, you can’t have it both ways. If you want me to tell you what I’m working on to clear up misconceptions and conflicts of interest, then its going to sound like me blowing my own horn.

In almost all cases, clubs, restaurants, bars and lounges share some of the same problems in getting open. Besides finding a space, raising the money, bringing in the players and navigating bureaucratic hurdles, it is the always exhausting to search for a name. Names are found off Google, shampoo bottles and in books by Blake, Shakespeare and Hunter S. Thompson. Mother’s maiden names are revealed, hip movies are watched and lists of ancient or foreign clubs perused. The search for a name means 3am texts with names that seem perfect in dreams. Marquee was called Select until about a week or so before it opened. The process is all consuming and sometimes ends with Twilo or Mr Fuji’s Tropicana or Life or 1OAK. Life was a great name that I had stored for years. My pal Kelly Cole, reminded me of this as we grabbed a Bleeker Street boite: “Butter was gleaned from a customer who brushed against my new Gucci leather and said “BUTTER.” It was a eureka moment that got her a bottle of champagne.” Plaid was universally considered a horrible name, but looking back to the generation of hipsters that ended up wearing nothing but plaid, I think the moniker wasn’t the problem with that joint. Spa came from the old school name of candy/newspaper joints like “Gem Spa.” I always have lots of places looking for names. Any ideas? And don’t get fresh- Fresh has been used already.

Industry Insiders: Roberto Vuotto, Hookah Master

After a five year stint owning the Chelsea restaurant Naima , Roberto Vuotto is reintroducing himself as General Manager of the brand spanking new triple threat, Veranda. The bi-level West Village space is a restaurant, discothèque and hookah lounge all rolled into one, and Vuotto, a Capri native who came to New York as a busboy over 10 years ago, has the substantial task of making it all run smoothly. With his latest endeavor, Vuotto hopes to keep the hookahs lit and the music thumping for the next five years, and the five after that too.

Describe your job as General Manager of Veranda. I coordinate a lot of things — from the opening of the kitchen to the lounge. We have a hookah lounge, so this is my first experience dealing with that. We have two rooms, which right now are opened as part of the lounge. Very soon one of the rooms will be opening as the restaurant.

What kind of food will Veranda serve? It’s going to be Contemporary/Mediterranean cuisine with accent on Middle Eastern. We hope to secure the chef to the Saudi Arabian royal family. Because this neighborhood is really demanding we want to make sure that the kitchen is perfect and ready. When you start doing fusion, it’s difficult to makes sure everything is executed properly. We want to feature simple dishes that are done well. There are going to be a lot of seats and in the summer there are an additional 126 seats outside. So, it’s best to keep it simple due to the high volumes.

After owning Naima, why the switch to management level? In these economic times, owning a place is a huge amount of responsibility in terms of making everything square at the end of the month. It was a good run and we had a lot of fun. We didn’t do as much business as we hoped and it wasn’t worth it for me for the amount of work that I was doing. Thankfully, I was able to sell Naima, and at the same time I had this offer from Mino Habib who I worked with for ten years at Le Souk and Max in the East Village.We started working on the same block on West 27th street when he was managing Suzie Wong and I owned Naima. He mentioned to me that he was about to open a big place and I was ready to sell, so it was perfect timing. I really wanted that challenge of something new and bigger.

Who in the business inspires you? Keith McNally. I had a chance to go to his first place before I was even living in New York. He started with a nightclub, which was what I did in Capri, Italy. Then he went on to open Balthazar and Pastis, etc. so, I admire how he set up his operations and marketing.

How did you end up in New York? I worked in the club business in Capri for many years and I had clients from New York. I had a lot of friends living here and I would come once a year. Eventually I was offered a job in a restaurant so I decided to stay.

What positive trends did you see occurring in the NYC lounge/restaurant business over the past year? With the economy the way it is, rents have gone down so there is more of a chance for people to open without having a huge amount of expenses and people are able to find a space they can afford. I’ve been seeing many new lounges and clubs opening recently. When I opened Naima, it was impossible to find a storefront in Chelsea. Now if you walk around, you see much more available.

Negative trends? Lounges and restaurants make a lot of revenue from corporate clients, but that’s not happening anymore because the first thing companies cut is the entertainment and dining. That’s what happened at Naima.

What do you hope that Veranda will bring to NYC nightlife and the neighborhood? I hope to bring something new, which is a culmination of a restaurant with a hookah lounge but very upscale, offering bottle service. In this neighborhood there isn’t a place where you can have dinner and then walk down a hallway and dance to electronic Middle Eastern music. We’ll bring an exotic element to the neighborhood, not only in dining but also in late night as well. Where you go in New York there is always the same music so this will be something new and more particular.

Go-to spots? When it comes to Italian food I’m very picky. My favorite restaurant is La Masseria. It’s a very classic Italian place in Midtown. I go out to 1Oak on Sundays, and I also go to Griffin and The Gates. Another place that I love is Onda down at the Seaport.

Rachel Uchitel & Tiger Woods: The Club Connection

So my editor wanted me to write something about Tiger Woods. I thought it was a stretch. I write about clubs and his wife maybe swung a golf club at him. Then it was explained to me that there was some sort of connection between Mr. Woods and club icon Rachel Uchitel. Rachel and I met for the first time when she was dating Tao/Marquee/Lavo partner Jason Strauss and was the director of V.I.P. Services out in Vegas. I remember her being very insistent that I get that title right, so I hope I did. Uchitel was beautiful, intelligent, articulate and driven. Did I say beautiful? She was the go-to gal for tables at hotspots like Pink Elephant, Dune, Marquee, Tao (Vegas) and most recently Griffin. I asked some of her close friends about the allegations of her affair with the Tiger. Although her friends say “probably,” I could not confirm the affair. I got a lot of “I wouldn’t put it past her” and “she rolls in those kinds of circles.” I did get one reliable “she told friends she was friends with him.” One in-the-know type said, “She told me she was splitting to L.A. to avoid the papparazzi camped by her door. I love her to death, but she makes things tough on herself.” Then I did some checking on Mr. Woods just to see if the “homewrecker” label being tossed around had any validity. It seems Mrs. Woods might have a lot more to be teed off about.

The allegations of Rachel driving a wedge between the married couple seem silly. I am not a gossip columnist but I did ask around “certain circles.” These “circles” scoffed at the idea of Tiger’s innocence. I was told that over the last three to five years, many a jet was occupied by Mr. Woods and his entourage, with an ex-working girl tasked to provide beauties for the beasts. Come back tomorrow for more on the working girl in question — a lady based out of Chicago who is a regular “pal” of one of Tiger’s inner circle. “The jets would touch down in L.A. or Vegas or wherever the party was,” said my source. I asked if Mr. Woods was partaking in the girlie action? She responded with “duh.”

The superstar celebrity meeting the beautiful girl in the club story seems old hat. Why are we shocked when a Kobe or a Michael or a Mel Gibson or a senator is caught with his pants down? The Spitzer thing was kind of beyond the pale sick because he was prosecuting those kinds of crimes while partaking. But everyone in clubdom knew Ashley and her ilk and their resumes. Why is the world at large shocked? I mean, there aren’t too many average joes affording $1500-an-hour call girls. These gals are hitting lots of famous chit.

Rachel is being painted as a homewrecker, and it doesn’t seem fair. It takes two to tango. And if the shock, jealousy, and moral indignation of the shamed wife is entertaining, it’s still strange. When watching Tiger toss clubs around and scream at people at televised golf tournaments, does it seem like he’s a person who cares about others’ feelings or plays by rules of decency and decorum? Did his wife expect that he would play on a one-hole golf course? Egomaniacs take what they want and live by their own rules. Rachel is a doll, and I’ve always admired her strength and professionalism. She has survived the unsurvivable and thrived when others would have withered. She will come out of this on top and someday fulfill — what I have been told — is her dream, to own her own joint. I have a great name for it but will keep quiet for now. I heard old Tiger isn’t saying much. Good for him. I will borrow a few lines from Miss Daisy Eyebright to guide him: “If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek, five things observe with care: of whom you speak, to whom you speak, and how and when and where.”

Speaking of secrets not being kept well: The closing of Civetta, its renovation, and the December opening of a restaurant commandeered by Nur Kahn and Paul Sevigny is the talk of the town. I attended the closing-night party at Civetta Saturday night, and everyone was saying it out loud. Nur was in denial when I reached him via text. His comment is, “I wish I had a dollar for every time someone suggested that Paul and I were opening a new restaurant/bar together.” I’m going to send Nur a buck and Paul as well. I’m hoping and suspecting that it’s all true, and I’ll have a place very close to my home to stumble home from. Civetta was ill-conceived. Opening an Italian restaurant with attitude on Kenmare and Mulberry is like bringing “superior” sand to the Sahara. I loved everyone there and I would pop in constantly. I was told the irony is that the joint was “actually making money,” but an insider told me its “complicated menu and the recessionary times doomed the place.”

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Rachel Uchitel Speaks: “I Don’t Appreciate My Name Being Dragged Through the Mud”

Rachel Uchitel is an accomplished nightclub VIP operations manager who’s gotten rather famous, rather suddenly. In a bombshell National Enquirer story that’s yet to appear online, a young lady from Las Vegas named Ashley Samson alleges that Uchitel, a friend of hers, has been enjoying a months-long affair with decidedly married pro golfer Tiger Woods; tabloids even speculate that Woods’ car accident this morning occurred after he fought with wife Elin Nordegren over the revelations. The media’s going nuts over the scandal, so we called Uchitel and asked for her side of the story. “I’ve had better days,” she began.

On the merits, it seems a little implausible that someone who makes a living serving the nightlife needs of celebs (see her VIP lowdown on New York’s Griffin lounge) would be so comically indiscreet. For now, Uchitel is keeping more mum than she could be on the advice of counsel, but she did have a few choice points to make:

● “I don’t appreciate my name or what people think of me being dragged through the mud by people who don’t even bother to research what or who they’re talking about … they should research who these stories are coming from, who they’re believing as a credible source. Not to mention that it’s in the National Enquirer.” ● “I totally deny the Enquirer story. They did contact me about it, but they didn’t use any of my quotes or any of the information I gave them. They make it sound like I said those things, but it’s all other people saying I said things.” ● On the story’s report that she followed Woods to Australia and was observed checking into his hotel and riding the elevator to the 35th floor, where Woods had a suite: “There’s just no possible way I could have done that. You can’t just walk into a place like that and ride the elevator to a floor with someone like Tiger Woods on it without someone seeing you and stopping you.” ● On allegedly sending racy text messages to Woods: “If you talked to any of my old boyfriends, and I’m sure they all hate me, but they’d all confirm that I don’t sex-message. I don’t do it, I don’t know how to do it.” ● On Ashley Samson, the “close friend” of Uchitel’s who provided all the information to the Enquirer, along with another unnamed source, both of whom supposedly “passed” a polygraph: “I’ve met her twice in my life. We’re not friends. I’m just speculating but it seems like someone else is telling her what to say or manipulating her. After all, she got $25,000 for this.”

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