A First Glimpse At What’s Opening and What Never Should Have Closed

A very fat – or is it phat – quiet cat is out of the bag. I am sworn to secrecy about Toy, the new Tony Theodore/Koch brothers-driven spot in the Ganesvoort Meatpacking. I was graciously and quietly given a tour the other day while workman readied the Jeffrey Beers-designed space. I promised to keep it all on the low but once a PR firm sends out invites… it’s time to talk. Toy looks like it will be fun to play with. My goodness that was corny but expected I guess. Daniel, Derek, and Tony gave me the $2-tour and I was impressed. There is a wonderful outdoor space, an oyster bar and multi-levels and faceted mirrors all over the ceiling, fabulous blue booths and ebonized tables, and the whole place is better suited than previous incarnations to embrace those seeking the good life down in the Meatpacking District.

The event the PR peeps are hawking is this Monster Diesel party Thursday night. No, that’s not a truck and an energy drink soiree rather it is the clothing company announcing the launch of its "Noise Division" and a headphone company. Noise at the event is offered up by Theophilus London, Solange Knowles, and Brendan Fallis. I promised everyone I would attend and will do so.

On Saturday night I was hobnobbing at Snap and Stash where bon vivants gathered to watch that wonderful fight where Tim Bradley whipped Manny Pacquiao. After the fight, the models, promoters, and owners poured into the street and then over to Darby Downstairs. I heard Ryan Gosling and a slew of others like that attended. I didn’t see them in the crowd. I did get to chat up a bearded Leonardo DiCaprio who I hadn’t seen in a minute. He used to hang with us at Life and other joints we ran. He’s as cool and down- to-earth as ever and it was great to small-talk with the big star. I don’t much like to talk about celebs in clubs, but when they’re on the sidewalk talking to me I figure it’s OK.

After all the hoopla, I joined my party downstairs at Snap for a bottle of Beau Joie Champagne. My group included Jenny Oz Leroy of Tavern on the Green and Russian Tea Room fame. It’s amazing to me that this city pushed her out of Tavern, the joint her dad created from nothing and now, years later, the building is rotting. It’s a testament to bureaucracy gone bad and it’s complete and utter bullshit from the pencil-pushers involved.

Tavern was part of the fabric of this town. It was weddings and galas and lights and magic. It was visited and revisited by generations. It was memories. It was jobs and tax revenues from one of the highest grossing restaurants in the country, until Vegas exploded the undisputed truth in restaurant revenues. It lays empty, and every warm summer day underscores the huge mistake made by this administration. Admit it fellows…admit that you royally fucked up, dropped the ball, blew it, and beg Jenny to take it back.

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New York Opening: Toy at the Gansevoort

As most kids even know, toys are for playing, food is for eating. But the Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC Hotel‘s new restaurant Toy (with Susur Lee protege Doron Wong at the kitchen’s helm), by its very moniker, seems to be encouraging a blurring of the two.

Indeed, the Jeffrey Beers-designed eatery serves such fun sounding dishes as shrimp toast cigars, hidden lobster dumplings, and long bone short ribs. Some rather histrionic graphics and a wild mirrored fractal ceiling only add to the sense of restaurant-as-wondrous-entertainment. There’s an oyster and sushi bar, as well. But grab a seat on the outdoor terrace, to take in the best fun of all–the ever glorious show that is MPD people-watching. 

Clooney, Gosling, & Everyone Else: Your TIFF Party Wrap-Up

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival was touted the biggest in years, as far as pure star power goes, with the trifecta of Clooney, Pitt, and Gosling topping most people’s to-stalk list. If last year was any indication, Grey Goose Soho House would again be ground zero for all things A-list, and it was, with The Ides of March duo and a host of others descending on the members only club’s weekend pop-up on Saturday night. The venue–3 levels of typical Toronto loft, exposed brick walls and floor-to-ceiling windows–was retrofitted to suit Soho House’s sophisticated but comfortable palette: pillowy, velvet couches, rustic lamps and table sets, and tribal rugs strewn across the hardwood floors. The party, which was officially the post-game for David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, quickly achieved shit-show status when Clooney arrived with his ex-girlfriend-to-be Stacey Kiebler, as lesser stars lined up to greet the couple.

But the real star of the night was Win Butler. The Arcade Fire frontman (with his ethreal date Regine), had Hollywood’s elite geeking out, and in particular, Blackbook cover boy Alexander Skarsgaard, who was spotted showing Butler footage he had shot of Arcade Fire on his phone while a nearby Bono chatted with Clooney, most likely about future let’s-save-the-world initiatives. Upstairs in a battle of crushes old and new, Gosling took on Dave Matthews in a game of ping pong, while lovebirds Chris Pratt and Anna Faris, and Kate Mara and Max Minghella,looked on. And though Pitt didn’t show, his Moneyball co-star Jonah Hill did, and was seen chatting with Keira Knightley, probably about how to handle all those eating disorder rumours.

The sheer wattage of Soho House was hard to match, especially after Harvey Weinstein closed it out Monday with his annual bash. But we have to hand it to the folks at Blackberry who mounted a valiant effort at King West’s newly-renovated haunt Brassaii, for a trio of nights that doubled as the perfect pre-drink spot for Soho House’s late night shenanigans. Tops of the three was the after party for 50/50, the buzzy cancer comedy (trust us, it’s good) starring Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Both leading men showed up to fete their premiere, along with co-stars Anna Kendrick and a very pregnant Bryce Dallas-Howard, who was a good sport all night despite being as big as a house. Speaking of good sports, Rogen who came off as one of the most approachable stars throughout the fest, happily obliged photo-seekers all night, while his beaming fiance stood by and watched.

So with Soho House and Brassaii establishing themselves as the biggest star magnets of the fest, the Gansevoort Hotel’s partnership with the low-key Toronto speakeasy goodnight provided a low-key but just as exclusive alternative to the usual TIFF red carpet clusterfuck. Although “Goodnight Gansevoort”, as it was dubbed, started with typical TIFF bombast–we were chauffered to the festivities in a shiny black BMW X6–the Moet and Belvedere sponsored evening was much less Hollywood, much more Toronto scenester than the typical TIFF bash. But after standing around awkwardly all week, guzzling double vodka sodas and hoping that tonight is the night Emily Blunt finally notices us, Goodnight Gansevoort’s deluge of equally wasted Torontonians (most in really short skirts) proved to be a welcome relief.

Checking Out the New Downtown Dream

The culture of nightlife and the culture of hotels is about to change. For years, we have discussed the advantages of nightlife finding a protective home in the bosom of a hotel, with all its services, amenities, insurances, lobbyists, lawyers and all that expensive stuff that operators in non-hotel-based joints need to pay for on their own. Hotels are more than ever before driven by their food and beverage establishments. Plus, they come packed with rooms filled with guests who have the best money there is: vacation money.

Vegas has taught everyone that vacation money flows faster than the local variety. The rebirth of Nevada’s desert paradise was built on a shift from hawking gaming to emphasizing the attractions of their clubs and entertainment.

In New York, Ian Schrager drove home the concept of boutique hotels. The Gansevoort took it to new heights with its roof pool and exclusive Provocateur lounge. Food and beverage was driving its whole shebang. Andre Balasz took it all to the next level with The Standard. But lately, Morgans Hotel Group, with its new Mondrian and re-energized Hudson, has upped the ante.

The collaboration between TAO Strategic Group and the Chatwal father-son team of hoteliers redefines the art and the business of both nightlife and hotels. It is a game changer. The Chatwals, fronted by the fabulous Vikram, have had success with their Dream Hotel uptown, the Stay, and many others. They have pushed their nightlife/restaurant program to drive their places. Greg Brier operated Amelia and Aspen Social Club, designed by me and mine. He has had some success with Aspen, which is still under his control. Greg is my boy, but he isn’t TAO Strategic Group. To list all of TAO Strategic’s properties would require that second cup of coffee, so I’ll just offer some: Marquee (NYC and Vegas), Lavo (NYC and Vegas) Tao (NYC and Vegas), and Avenue. They are entwined in Beauty & Essex, Stanton Social, and even Artichoke Pizza. There’s projects everywhere that are hush-hush for a minute. Now, the Chatwals, with all their connections and experience and desire, have turned to them to make the food and beverage drive for their new Dream Downtown. It will take a dozen articles to describe what I saw when Noah Tepperberg showed me the place yesterday. Construction workers for contractor Carlo Seneca, who for my money is the go-to guy for this high-end construction work, were scurrying around to get it done. Private events start early next week, with the magnificent roof due on the 15th. Carlo will finish. His team takes pride in their work and he’s a guy who says “I’ll make it work” far more often than “I’m not sure I can.”

Noah told me about players to be named later, to help sell the place. He doesn’t need them. I’ve heard these names on the street, even though Noah wasn’t talking, and they’re all major, but the place is the perfect place at the perfect time with the perfect operators, and in the perfect location.

The pool is unreal. Noah says it’s perfect for at least 5 hours a day. The staff was being trained as I toured, and were all bright and eager. The design is genius. The one thing that was emphasized to me was that it wasn’t the attached-at-the-hip Maritime Hotel. Both places have those unique porthole windows. The dream team of designers/architects at Handel chose to clad the building in super-chic metal and bring back the ‘hole’ theme throughout. Most noteworthy are the holes at the bottom of the swimming pool, which has lobby-goers looking above. It’s the place the stuff that dreams are made of.

Things I Like: Stella, DVF, Nuela & Gansevoort Park

Fashion Week is upon us, and I just don’t know what to wear. Last night, fur and leather were certainly not an option as I attended the PETA Fashion Week Bash. It was hosted by a man who always knows what to wear, Tim Gunn, along with the beautiful actress and Daily Show correspondent, Olivia Munn. Special guests included long time PETA proponent Russell Simmons, and actress Taraji P. Henson. Henson, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her part in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, poses without anything to wear in the latest PETA “Fur? I’d Rather Go Naked” campaign. She spoke about growing up unable to afford fur, but refused to buy it after becoming aware of the cruelty behind it. Ironically, the gala was held at the Stella McCartney boutique in the “Meatpacking” District.

Stella is a long time supporter of animal rights. PETA hero Dan Mathews remarked how wonderful it was to be having this event at a highly successful boutique where the designer has opted not to use fur or leather in their designs. I have known Dan since the Tunnel/Spa days when the clubs I was associated with would not allow people wearing fur inside. Dan talked about how far the awareness of the cruelty behind fur has come, and of course, how much more there is to do.

Tim Gunn is obsessed with personally getting designers to opt out of using fur. I had a great chat with PR goddess Kelly Cutrone, who helped put the event together. Kelly was my PR back when I needed someone to shout my name from rooftops, so you can blame her. Also on hand was the fabulous Jenny Dembrow. I guess it’s not PC to mention one charity with another, but I’m sure PETA won’t mind. Jenny is a honcho over at the Lower East Side Girl’s Club. They need people to go to their site, Girlsclub.org, and vote for Lynn Pentecost, their fearless leader. A $50,000 grant from the Diane Von Furstenberg is at stake. Here’s the scoop:

“The DVF Awards was created in 2010 by Diane von Furstenberg and the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation to recognize and support women who are using their resources, commitment and visibility to transform the lives of other women. These are women who have had the courage to fight, the power to survive and the leadership to inspire.

Honorees receive $50,000 in support of the organization (U.S. 501c3) with whom they are affiliated from the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation to further their work. Each year, four awards are given to women who have demonstrated leadership, strength and courage in their commitment to women’s causes.”

Every vote counts, and it only takes a few moments to help the Lower East Side Girls Club get this loot. They help young girls, when often there is no one else around to guide them. Jenny, a former club kid, dedicates her life to helping these young ladies. She and Lynn and their small band are often the difference between helping a bright mind have the opportunities to reach their potential, or having them fall by the wayside. As I left Stella McCartney’s event, I eyed the Diane Von Furstenberg complex across 14th Street and was thankful that these 2 great designers where doing so much to help others with the power their success has afforded them.

After the soiree, we hoofed over to Nuela to have dinner with old friend and restaurant PR extraordinaire Kelly Blevins. That very afternoon I had lunch with Hotel Ganesvoort operator Michael Aschenbaum, and he was raving about the place. There is much to rave about. Michael demanded I try the ceviche, and I accommodated him gladly. It’s the best I’ve ever had. Nuela is located where the dearly departed Sapa used to be. I used to visit Sapa frequently when I was building Select and finishing Gypsy Tea. Located on 24th Street, just east of 6th Avenue, Nuela is charming. The block has changed since those days. There are no longer hordes of clubbers in various stages of intoxication annoying diners, which was probably the reason Sapa suffered. Gypsy, at the old Eugene’s nightclub space, has gone through a multimillion dollar renovation and is now an Indian restaurant, Junoon, which I have been told rocks on the weekends. Nuela executive chef Adam Schop’s offerings were as colorful and exciting as the interiors done by Angel Sanchez and Christopher Coleman. Cocktails were done by Alex Ott, who describes himself (with good reason) as “ alchemist/master mixologist.” The drinks were delicious, and, of course, non-alcoholic for this old warrior. The mission statement of Nuela is “Exuding unique flavors, hospitality, and the unbridled passion of South America, with refinement and style.” I would say “mission accomplished,” but that line has been used.

After dinner Amanda and I needed a stroll, so we popped over to the Ganesvoort Park to see what Provocateur’s Michael Satsky and Brian Geftner were doing with the private room Michael Aschenbaum had showed me in the afternoon. The amazing lighting Derek Vasquez was installing while Michael toured me was paying dividends at night. The crowd was enjoying the property in general, which now features an area for special guests and their special friends. I like the Ganesvoort: The intelligence and effort put into both its food, beverage, and nightlife options and how they interact comfortably with their main business of running a hotel. I like it, and I’m going to continue to say so.

Gansevoort Parks Itself In Midtown

The bottom of the luscious swimming pool at the much-anticipated Gansevoort Park hotel has an enthusiastic gal painted on its bottom accompanied by the words “I’m Waiting.” Everyone is waiting and expecting this wondrous addition to 29th Street. It will soon join The Ace and Mario Batali and so many others in an East/West corridor of luxury. The Gansevoort Hotel in the Meatpacking is a success that keeps getting better. The renovation of many of the hotel’s public spaces and the additions of Provocateur, Tanuki Tavern and now Carte Blanche, has taken the property to a new level. Owner Michael Achenbaum, like all luxury hotel operators, is a perfectionist. As my assistant Alice Urmey and I were toured the Ganesvoort Park yesterday afternoon he was constantly, and always in a very gentlemanly manner, instructing workers to do this or that and paying attention to the smallest details. He even stopped to remove some fool’s chewing gum from a flawless glass tiled column. He is as excited as any new father about his new gem. The ICrave-designed restaurants and bars are simply stunning. There are balconies everywhere, outdoor decks and color and light. It’s a forward design that is both chic and accessible. It’s for a smart set that demands smarter service and amenities as the boutique hotel industry learns form itself how to thrill it’s guests.

We retreated from the saws and hammers of the frenetic crews to a sprawling, luxury suite to do this interview. The property’s sound is by the world famous Lord Toussant, who did Pacha’s legendary system. He is an artist, and worker bees were scrambling to prepare for his arrival. He is one perfect piece for the perfect puzzle that Michael and his team are creating. We talked for hours and I’m sure we could have gone on for days. Greatness comes from enthusiasm, talent, experience and smarts. Michael Achenbaum is all that.

You renovated the lobby of the Meatpacking. Everyone makes mistakes or underestimates or overestimates real conditions. You are not daunted by these errors. You recognize them, and you adjust, you change, you perfect, and invariably the end result is ten times better than it was before. You recognized the way you built the space wasn’t the way it worked or should’ve worked, and you made an adjustment. Let’s talk about this adjustment. We realized that when we had done that hotel, our experience previously had been more of Holiday Inns and Hiltons as far as hotels. When we did that front lobby originally, we didn’t have a true understanding of the idea of the social environment for your front lobby. Especially with the interaction with what we have with our rooftop, it became a very difficult space and it never really fulfilled its potential to become a separate social entity. By doing the renovation, we felt that by using ICrave, who do lounge and restaurant spaces, we would create a space that was incredibly guest-friendly. That particular renovation wasn’t done on its own, it was combined with eight million dollars worth of renovations that we’ve done to our food and beverage in the past year: Bringing in Michael Satsky and Brian Gefter to do Provocateur; Jeffrey Chodorow doing the Tanuki space; Renovating the rooftop where we put a lot of time and effort into tearing out Plunge and creating a new feel and sensation with Deborah Anderson’s art and the light boxes on the wall. We really tried to reinvigorate that space even though our numbers were up last year.

It’s arguable that in the last ten years the major trend in hotels has been the importance of food and beverage. You have taken this to a different level . Not only do you have lounges, clubs and restaurants driving your hotels, you also have pools. This is unique to your group. We look at a lot of our competitors, and there’s a reason why clients go to the various hotels. I don’t always agree with everything they do and they don’t always agree with everything I do. Not on a personal level, but just on a business level. We try to balance the fact that we have a huge food and beverage component, as far as our revenue sources, with providing a higher level of service in our opinion, than most of our competitors. When you look at our numbers, over 75% of our profits come from the rooms business. It is actually quite different than a lot of our competitors, where I think their profits really come out of their food and beverage. One thing we do gain from having a Provocateur, a Tanuki, Carte Blanche, the new lobby bar, the renovated Plunge, is that it brings renown to the product and helps push your occupancy. And when you push your occupancy you can push your rate. And that’s what we’re really trying to do—get that undercurrent of velocity on sales of your rooms so that way you can achieve a higher room rate earlier. If you don’t sell your room until very late in the game and you’re only selling them three days ahead of time, you end up having a very difficult time raising your rates and you end up selling them below what you could have otherwise achieved. For example, going into August we were already 63% sold for the entire month of August. We now have the ability to push our rates on those last 37% of our rooms. It sounds crazy, but I’ve run 96% occupied for almost the last four months.

The word Gansevoort is a very strange word. Before, when people would go to Florent, which was the mainstay on Gansevoort Street back in the day, no one could ever pronounce it right. When you were calling it the Gansevoort hotel, was the difficulty of the name a consideration? It wasn’t actually my first choice to be honest. It was my architect’s choice, and I will give him credit, Stephen Jacobs. He suggested it because when we bought into the project, and we ended up buying out our partners, we started to attend meetings about land-marking the district. The area is actually a landmark district called the Gansevoort Market. It’s not actually called the Meatpacking District, even though it’s always been referred to that way historically. It’s almost like calling your hotel The Soho if you were in Soho. At the same time, we were very concerned that people would be unable to pronounce it properly, but I believe that one of our greatest achievements was something written about in the Post. The New York Post ran a brief story about the top places in New York City as far as drop off and pick up points for cabs, and the number one besides the airports in all of New York City was 18 Ninth Avenue, which is our address. It’s not only people coming to us, though a lot of them were, it’s also a lot of people who just say take me to the Gansevoort Hotel in the Meatpacking District as a launching point for wherever their evenings will take them.

I absolutely do that. I know my cab driver knows where it is, and no matter where I’m going over there, whether I’m going to Spice or getting my hair cut at Bumble and Bumble, I say take me to the Gansevoort Hotel. What’s great about that for us is one, it’s in the back of your mind, and two, that people know how to pronounce it now. That was one of the things I loved about it, because I thought people must know how to pronounce it if everyone knows how to get there now. It was a scary thing at first, but we also felt that it was the intent of the hotel, the intention of our design and everything was to create an experience that would attract a lot of people from Europe, from the West Coast—that kind of clientele. We felt that was an appropriate use of that name. Stylistically, we did a lot of things that tied back to it being Dutch. The actual font of our logo is a Dutch font. There are a lot of details that most people aren’t even aware of. Gansevoort actually means forward goose, the lead goose. So we have a little goose that comes on the bed and quacks.

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You just discussed the clientele that comes to the downtown Gansevoort. Now you’re opening this one on 29th and Park, which is an area that I’ve been visiting for years. Is there going to be a difference in clientele at the two hotels? The perception of the downtown hotel is that we’re almost all transient and media, but at the same time we are 35-45% corporate under normal circumstances when the market is stabilized. Group business has historically been about 5% of our business. We expect that to continue. We do expect there will be some cross pattern because people are going to want to experience the new hotel, but there’s a clientele that always wants to be in the Meatpacking District and there’s a clientele that always wants to be in Soho. There’s going to be a clientele that wants to be there no matter what, because socially that area is very specific and very special. As the Whitney and all of these other places come down there, it’s just going to get better. But at the same time up here, we think that this hotel, with the design we’ve done, with room sizes, the finishes, and the overall product that we’re building here, we feel that this hotel is truly designed to compete with the Peninsulas, Four Seasons, and Palaces of New York City, rather than being considered a downtown hotel stylistically. What we’re trying to do here is provide, from lobby to guestroom, a Four Seasons experience. Service-wise, room appearances, and amenity-wise. At the same time you have the social options of a downtown hotel. We don’t think anyone has ever done that in New York City.

There’s a bunch of hotels being put up along this 29th Street corridor. 29th Street was historically one of the worst whore-ridden blocks in the city. This was a very bad block. It can’t be worse than what the Meatpacking was (laughs).

But the neighborhood has completely changed and continues to grow. When you look at Soho and Tribeca, these areas excel because of the physical layouts of the buildings. It’s lofts and townhouses, whereas the East Village is tenements. It’s now a growth neighborhood. Is that why you’re here? Do you see 29th and Park as the next neighborhood? As far as location-wise for our clients, it’s a great fit right between the downtown market and the uptown market. Being able to have somebody who is able to go to meetings fifteen blocks away, right in Midtown, is a great bonus to our clientele. At the same time, we definitely saw it as a growth market, just as when we went into the Meatpacking District we felt there would be a lot of growth around us. A perfect example of that was one time I met a real estate broker, and he didn’t know what I did, and I asked him what he was working on. He said he’s moving a client that is similar to a Paragon from another city to New York, and he said he’s moving them to Park Avenue South. I asked him where on Park Avenue South, and he said he wants to be near the new Gansevoort, but not so close that he pays the premium. We really believe that with us, the Ace, the new Batali coming in, and some other major players coming into this market, you’re going to see a huge pop in this area. We had faith that if we came, others would follow.

In Las Vegas, retail definitely drives hotels and in turn the casinos. It’s less so with the properties in New York. If you look at the Meatpacking District as one giant mall with the clubs and everything like that, you have these great stores around it. But over here on Park Ave it hasn’t been the case. Lacoste is committed to having a store in the hotel. How much will retail drive hotels? I’m very interested in doing this store because it’s a very unique concept and I really believe in Steve Birkhold’s vision of where he’s taking his brand. For me, it’s a great brand association because he’s going to be doing not only his classic look and yearly changes in that look, he’s also going to be doing partnerships with major designers to do special edition products with us as well. He’s also going to be doing special edition shoes designed by well-known Japanese designers.

You told me that you and Andre Balazs are different players, and sometimes disagree. What are the differences between Andre Balazs’ approach and your approach? As far as the food and beverage, we have different perspectives on it. Andre does most of the food and beverage in house, while we’re partners in our food and beverage operations. But I really respect the knowledge that others who have been very successful in their industry bring to the table. Their branding adds value to my property. I think it’s worth having a better pie and maybe having a little bit smaller piece of that pie, than having a pie of crap. Maybe that’s not the nicest way of saying that (laughs). From my point of view, I want to ensure—because you have to remember it’s not just your restaurant and it’s not just your bar. It’s your room service, your catering, and all those things. As much as people think you can put something together and just do it yourself, a lot of times you just don’t do a great job. The first person to ever do it successfully was Ian in partnership with Jeffrey Chodorow doing Asia de Cuba and all of these different concepts together. Ian clearly saw the value in bringing in great operators to do work with him. He changed the whole business model to food and beverage being a driving factor in your hotel product. I think a large part of that was Ian’s background of having been at Studio 54 and understanding that being the social center of something was so relevant. Up until that time food and beverage was a losing department for almost all hotels in the world. Almost no hotels made money on it, and they certainly didn’t make money on it if they took into consideration capital cost. Usually when people would see the value in a hotel’s food and beverage, they would ignore the fact that there was a huge capital influx that had to go in initially, and they wouldn’t take that into consideration by giving no return to the owner.

Most hotels just put in food and beverage because they need to service the clients. They have to have room service, so you might as well have a restaurant and hope for the best. Ian changed the whole game by creating a place where the food and beverage was a social center. I think there was a lull in this for a few years after, and it’s coming back really strong right now with the Bowery, with us, with Ace. Hotels and the different environments set at the hotels are becoming the social centers of the city.

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You’ve built the downtown Gansevoort and the Park Avenue Gansevoort from the ground up. Being a perfectionist, you’ve learned a lot of lessons from the Meatpacking Gansevoort, such as sound proofing, locations of elevators, and bathrooms. There were a lot of problems downtown, which you adjusted. I’d like to point out that most of these problems were due to success beyond reasonable expectations. The property is so popular that elevators and hospitality were originally unable to handle the needs. What accommodations or adjustments were made in design at the Park Avenue location for food and beverage? We have a three-level rooftop with two interior levels and one exterior. We over-elevated the hotel. We have two express elevators to the rooftop that have seven thousand pounds of lift and they run high speed. Our elevators are going to run express from the ground to the rooftop. We no longer have those elevators stopping and also they don’t interfere with my guests’ hotel experiences because they’ll have their own separate elevator from the lobby. These elevators come off of a separate entrance, which is another factor. We’re not having a line outside of the hotel entrance. We’ll have the line on the Park Avenue side with a separate entrance and a long corridor where we can have guests wait as well. And then you release them from that corridor to the elevators, both of those elevators running express. The express elevators literally take twenty or thirty seconds to get up there. We created back corridors from one side of the hotel to the other, so that both staff and patrons always have access, and are never caught on one side without bathrooms. We did far more bathrooms per guest than we had originally done with much higher-end finishes. We built an indoor/outdoor pool. That way it’s truly usable all year round. I’m not a huge fan of indoor pools, so by having it the way we set it up, the indoor pool opens to the outside pool. During the summer it’s completely open air, and if you’re using the interior portion of the pool during the winter you can actually dive through the door and come out on the outside. You don’t have to have that chlorinated sensation when you’re in the pool. We built a full kitchen on the roof so the service and the speed at which patrons get their food is far greater. We built many more bars, and each space has an outdoor area right off it, so if people want to smoke they do have that option rather than us telling them they have to go downstairs or find one spot on the roof where they can smoke. The fact that we built five interior spaces on that roof plus the indoor venues gives us the option to hold several events at the same time. I can now run an event on the entire penthouse one, and still have penthouse two and the roof deck available for something else. I can take the Red Room, which is one of our event spaces on that rooftop, and sever it from all of the other spaces. That way I can still have a private event there for 100 or 200 people, but the rest of the rooftop is available for other events or standard bar service. It gives me much more flexibility by being able to divide up the space.

Does the term “boutique hotel” have any meaning anymore? Not really, in my opinion. I think the world has bastardized that term to the point where it really just means a stylish hotel, or a hotel that is in large part food and beverage driven. I’m 249 keys—how boutique can I truly be? We feel that we offer a high level of service and style, and a lot of social options, but I feel that to be a true boutique hotel, you have to look at hotels like those in England. Tim and Kit from the Crosby. Their hotel is in London, with that bed and breakfast kind of service, though a higher level of service. They were really elegant, smaller, and had 75 keys. When you start getting into hotels that are 150 to 300 keys, it’s very hard. When Ian did the Hudson while he was working at the Morgan Group, he totally flipped this concept on its head. He took a concept of what was boutique, and truly made it fun and stylish. That’s fine, because it doesn’t matter what you call something, it’s the experience the guest has that’s far more relevant. As long as you’re providing a certain level of service and that experience you come to expect, I don’t care what you define me as. I’d prefer to be called luxury.

Luxury is a good word. I’ve been to the Hudson recently, and it’s amazing. It’s better than it ever was. Where are you going in the next five to ten years? Where is this brand going? We’re going to try two things. We want to grow through third party management deals and development. The problem is the product always has to exceed what I’ve done originally. I look at the original Gansevoort and I think it’s a great product and I think it more than suits its market, but I always want to do better. As you said, people in my industry are perfectionists. I look at it and I say, we’ve built a great product, but we can always do better. There are other projects that we are in discussions with about building Gansevoort quality products, but at the same time we are looking at creating a sub- brand. This will give us a little bit more flexibility, because I don’t necessarily have to have a full rooftop pool, or I don’t have to have a full service spa. I could have just the gym. I need that flexibility because I won’t do a Gansevoort without certain amenities. I will never build a product that will disappoint my clients if they come to a Gansevoort property. Some of my competitors have been much more willing to take on many different products, and that’s a different business model and I understand it, but I want people to know what they’re getting when they book my rooms. That’s why I’m very adamant that Gansevoort maintain a different level, and then I’m willing to look at alternative products that will still be vibrant and fun and offer the same level of service, but maybe don’t offer the full array of amenities that a Gansevoort would. That’s another direction we’re thinking of taking, not only our own management development, but also third party deals.

Another thing Ian has done, and we talk about Ian because we both love him and he’s such a genius and innovator, Ian has attached residential to his hotel. Is there a possibility you might do this with future developments? We had done that in Miami, and that was the problem with the project. As a hotel, it was perceived as very successful, but it was cross-collateralized with 255 condominiums that I couldn’t sell. Of those 255, I sold half of those and people walked on their contracts. It’s not that I wouldn’t do residential along with it, but my preference because I am a long-term holder, would be to do a beautiful rental job.

Tell me about Carte Blanche—the ups, the downs, your aspirations. The name is an apropos name for what we’ve created, because we feel that it’s a little bit of something for everyone. You have the opportunity to go in there and there’s so many different things you can enjoy there. You have an outdoor deck, you have a pool table, you have a seating area with a lounge feel to it and DJs in the front lobby. You have a deli counter where you can take out, a seating area, where you have tables and that area. We feel that it hits a number of different constituencies that would enjoy that space, and really revitalizes and invigorates that corner.

It makes you more accessible to the public. Many times you have to go into a hotel lobby to experience it. This being on the corner, the brand isn’t so intimidating. I eat at the Peacock Alley at the Waldorf constantly because it’s a great little place to have a meeting or rendezvous. But no one would ever think of going to the Waldorf to have a meal. The brand is intimidating. A trendy hotel can be intimidating but with the High Line and the shopping bringing a diverse clientele you’ve made the Gansevoort more accessible. The fact you had people walking in, whether it be guests, children with their parents, beautiful models, and they see a pool table, it’s something that draws you to it. It’s an opportunity for people to meet and socialize around this environment. That’s what we really wanted to create, because as I said earlier in our discussion, I felt our original design was proper. It shouldn’t be proper; it should be comfortable and entice you in. That’s what I want for my lobbies. While the new one here, Gansevoort Park, is very beautiful—the furniture is far more comfortable than the furniture in the first hotel. There’s a fireplace—it has certain elements that are going to draw you in either way. That lobby, I felt I couldn’t find a seat that I felt comfortable in. I always felt disappointed that we had not done a more appropriate job of catering to our client. I feel that this new product really does. Jeffrey Chodorow has done a spectacular job with the food—a really unique menu with crepes, carafes of mixed drinks, a great bar menu—and there are all of these different ways to experience it. The food is tremendous and we feel that the price point of what we’ve given is something that is appealing to the neighbors in the area, the businesses in the area, and also to our clients. When you go out to most of the places in the Meatpacking District it’s quite expensive, and this is an alternative that’s a little more relaxed and price sensitive.

Arthur Dozortsev Reflects on a Lifetime in the Alcohol Biz

To the thousands who have laughed and smiled with him, Arthur Dozortsev is Arty. He sells booze and is one of those thousands of people who make a living off the nightlife industry even though they don’t actually work at a club, bar, or restaurant. When the city or state changes a law a little, or a joint gets closed or isn’t allowed to open, there is a ripple effect to our local economy. Arty is on that second ripple. He rolls deep, showing up at clubs with herds of models and players. He’s the kind of guy that smiles even when he is mad or hurt. When he was throwing big soirees back in his Kremly vodka days, they were packed with all the right sorts. I had coffee with my friend at Prince Street Catering, and asked him what he’s up to.

You have been around quite a while, but burst onto the scene hard with your product Kremly Vodka. Tell me about that experience. I have been in New York for over 35 years, and yes, Kremly Vodka was an amazing experience. I was basically doing marketing, sales, PR, product placement, you name it. It was great because I met the best people from all over the world. I was working with every hot club and restaurant in New York, Florida, California and a lot of places all around the world, so that gave me the ability to be around really great people from all industries.

Is it hard to launch a vodka? It is always hard to launch a liquor brand. Back in the day, when we launched, we really didn’t have as much premium vodkas as today, but it was an uphill battle from the start. It was a lot of tastings, a lot of events, a lot of word of mouth, a lot of hard work. It was very difficult for us, because we were a private company with limited resources going against giants like Absolut and Stoli, but we made a stand in the industry.

You were born in the Ukraine. Tell me about your transition to the “American” way of life. Yes, I was born in the Ukraine, but I dont remember much cause my family left when I was 2. It was very difficult for my family. My dad didn’t speak English and had no money. But working hard in the country and being honest and loyal, my dad became very successful in the food and caviar business, which led us to get into the liquor business, so I guess as far as I can remember, I was more of an American then a Ukrainian .

Tell me about Forever Young. Forever Young is a joint venture between my good friend Seth Greenberg and my company, in creating a new line of wines called Forever Young. Both Seth and I have a great infrastructure, and we both decided it would be a great idea to launch a great line of wines with a fun approach behind it .

You sell product to some of the hottest places in NY. Name some of them and tell me what you are selling. We work with places like Tao, Sparks Steak House, Rue 57, Serafina, Casa la Femme, 1Oak, Juliet, Provocateur, STK, Dos Caminos, Mari Vanna and many more. Most of these places carry our wines by the glass, which we import mainly from Spain, Chile, Italy, Argentina and Germany. As far as the products they are mostly the common wines people drink.

The SLA has banned a great deal of the promotional money distributors and liquor companies used to be able to give for events. Tell me about the laws for this, and how it affects you. The SLA is always trying to enforce tougher laws which in a way I think is sometimes good. It keeps the industry honest, or at least tries to. We are not really affected by it because we really don’t give away promotional money. As importers and distributors in NY, we are able to offer the best prices in town, so I guess that’s our niche in the business, great wines at great prices

Is the climate for business in NYC getting better or worse? The climate for us as a company is great and very upbeat. There are over ten thousand liquor licenses in the city and we only work with 10 percent of them, so we have a very big opportunity to grow. Personally, I think the climate is a bit stale. Being in the city for so long and going through some of the best times the city has been through, I feel we need to step it up a bit.

Where do you hang these days? 1Oak is great, and Provocateur is a lot of fun but, but there is nothing to compare to the days of Tunnel, Limelight, Mars, or even some as early as Life on Tuesdays. I guess I am spoiled. My favorite place right now is Provocateur in the Gansevoort Hotel. Other wise I am at 1Oak, Juliet, Soho House during the day, and I love this new restaurant BES in Chelsea , amazing food. And u can always catch me at Ciprianis.

Rooftops, Gardens, and a New Summer Solstice Opening: Café Colette

Yesterday, June 21st, was the worst day of the year for vampires and nocturnal creatures. The longest day of the year started with sunrise at a ghastly “you better carry sunglasses in your pocket or purse” 5:24am and ended at a “how can I eat dinner while it’s still bright out?” 8:31pm. Of course, it’s all downhill from here, until December 21st, when we see the weak winter sun at 7:16am and let it go at 4:31pm. At a friends-and-family lunch at Café Colette at 9th Street and Berry, I spoke to my friend, super model Alex Linquist, about a trip he’s making to Stockholm where it’s basically daylight all summer and darkness all winter. How can there be a nightlife when there is so much daylight?

The summer brings extra heat to a club’s bottom line. Besides the traveling regulars and the weekend Hampton escapees, there is the added pressure of a shorter night. This time of year we only get 9 hours of night out of a 24-hour day. These are long, hot, muggy days, and they can be very physically taxing. People often opt for dinner and then home, with their flat screen, air-conditioner, and cool sheets. An added dilemma is the emergence of the rooftop party during the day and at night. With romantic views of our metropolis, this back-to-nature approach to nightlife and a few brave stars are taking a huge chunk of loot from customers’ wallet. 230 Fifth Avenue, with the Empire State Building looming, has dominated this scene for years. The emergence of the Rooftop at the Ganesvoort hotel, and, of course, the roof at the ultra chic Standard, leaves joints with no view—let alone no windows—hurting. Many outdoor places are compelled to close their roof top spaces relatively early, and there is a buzz about legislated limitations and industry standards. But for now, a proper rooftop soiree is the answer many club patrons are looking for.

Regular clubs sometimes get a late night rush from the early closing of nearby roofs or backyards, but they are only slammed for 2 or 3 hours this time of year, and must squeeze as much loot from their patrons as possible during the brief window. My design firm is in conversations with 4 different ownership groups about developing roof projects for next year. The development of outdoor properties will accelerate until it becomes passé, or is stopped by city agencies, who seem determined to stop everything.

For me, I’ll accept a little less night and a lot more brunch, for now. Café Colette offers me yet another inspiring place in New York’s most inspired borough, Brooklyn. I’m now in BK at least 3 nights a week, and sometimes 6. It is all things to all people, and as I look around Manhattan, I’m hard-pressed to find places that get me through the night. I know I’m a little late—my friends are relentless with their “I told you so’s,” which is always countered with a few “better late than never’s.”

Manhattan just doesn’t provide me with as many reasons to be cheerful. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great place to visit, but I don’t think I want to live here anymore. My friend Julie Park has a piece of Café Colette. She is currently cross commuting from her downtown apartment but will make the move as well, eventually. She has worked everywhere from La Esquina to the Maritime to the Thompson L.E.S. She hooked up with my man Zeb Stewart at Brooklyn’s Hotel Delmano and Union Hall, and that was that. They brunched me on Sunday as they put the finishing touches on the place just before they unleashed it on the public.

Julie was gushing over her “baby,” asking everyone about everything, making it just right. Zeb pointed to a vintage fan that was the inspiration for the design. The place is fabulous, with a stamped tin ceiling, concrete bar face, and zinc top. They clad an old fridge in zinc as well, and polished molded concrete for the tables. We bathed in some of the 900 minutes of sunlight sneaking through the southern window. We ate everything they put before us and had amazing Stumptown coffee and flourless chocolate cake at the end. Zeb brings a winning smile, enthusiastic conversation, and a love of collecting classic cars to his joints. Julie brings systems learned from Serge Becker, Jason Pomerantz, Eric Goode, and Sean MacPherson. She knows her shit. Café Colette is wonderful and it is now officially open.

Industry Insiders: Josh Katz, Vibe Creator

Josh Katz is the co-owner and founder of EL Media Group, a premier custom music provider and audio/video installation company. Along with his partner Ernie Lake, Katz works with hospitality and nightlife venues worldwide customizing music programming to create a client-specific atmosphere and soundscape.The transition was close to seamless for Katz, a music business veteran, and EL Media Group is expanding rapidly—almost solely by word of mouth. More on the concept after the jump.

Background: I’ve worked with literally thousands of bands. I did sales and marketing for BMG; I worked at Jive Records and helped launch Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys. I always had a passion for music from my childhood growing up in Roslyn, New York. I was seeing music non-stop. Then I went to college in Ithaca and I promoted shows there all the time.

First concert: It was Asia when I was 10 years old.

On the foundation of EL Media Group: I met my partner Ernie Lake about 13 years ago. When I was working at Jive Records, I was marketing Backstreet Boys and all that teen pop. Ernie was doing remixes at the label. About six or seven years later, we hooked up and started doing new compilation record CDs. At this point, we’ve done over 300 of them. We sell CDs in close to 50,000 hotel rooms: the Hard Rock Las Vegas, The St. Regis, Tao, Hotel Gansevoort and Thompson Hotels.

On the scope of their operations: The CDs are how we started, but that matriculated and came back into everything we did. The people we made CDs for came back to us and said, “How do we get this music to play in our lobby or our restaurant or our rooftop?” A light bulb went on and we started doing programming. I went out and started finding the best DJs everywhere and getting them to work on programming for us. Through word of mouth, it just took off. We defined the company at the same time that the whole meatpacking district was coming about and we started doing music for everyone there. We reached a point in ’06, ’07 when we were turning away business. We were just so busy. One of the biggest things is that I’ve spent a significant amount of time on is scouring the city and Miami and Vegas finding the best DJs—recruiting them to work for us and setting up music for various hotels and restaurants. That lead to the next progression, which was putting in sound systems. The people we were doing music for would call us and say, “Oh listen. My speakers aren’t working or this or that.” Before we knew it, we were outsourcing all of that. It became so much outsourcing that we went and bought an AV company. That’s where we are today. We do a background music service. Some of the biggest clothing chains have called and said, “You know what you’re doing for them? We want it.” They realize the importance of it.

On replacing DJs: [This concept] replaces a DJ. In the past, it’s been Muzak or just shitty music in the background. We’ve been the pioneers of putting great music into retail stores, restaurants, and hotel lobbies and making music a part of the overall experience where its not just background anymore. We call it music styling because it’s part of the overall venue. We try to stay involved in the whole design aspect.

On the process of creating the vibe: Right now, I’m working with a casino in Vegas and it’s all about the overall concept of the venue. When you walk in the door, what are you going to feel? What’s the feeling you want? It comes down to your senses. What’s it going to look like? What’s it going to smell like? What’s it going to sound like? That’s a big part of it. We try to get in on the early stages of the people putting the design together and we try to understand the overall brand and what they’re trying to achieve. Then, we create music playlists to create a mood. We do the music on a streaming system, and it’s different for breakfast, lunch, and dinner time, depending on the needs of that venue. Then, the CDs we create incorporate the music from the lobby and extend it into the room so guests can take it home.

Recent projects: We’re working with Five Napkin Burger, doing a place in Long Island City for them. And Food Park at the new Eventi Hotel. We just did Prime Co. on the Upper West Side, the new Gansevoort on Park Avenue and STK Midtown.

Go-to places: I’ve been really into Provocateur. I always love Nobu 57. I just love the whole vibe and the food in there. I enjoy Avenue. I definitely like Bagatelle. I really like Philippe and The Palm in the Hamptons.