The New Marquee: Believe The Hype

While the folks in Washington DC struggle to raise the debt ceiling, the good folks of Strategic Group have literally raised the roof on the redone Marquee which opened last night. The roof is now 30 feet high, which is unheard of. The front wall is dominated by a 24-foot LED screen which flashes and pops and keeps the energy up. Costumed go-go dancers did their thing on elevated catwalks while EDM banged on. I said it before and I’ll say it again (probably a few more times): Marquee in New York City dispels the adage, “What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas.” It also knocks down another common saying: “Don’t believe the hype.” Believe the hype people; Marquee NYC is built for speed, sound, and sight lines.

Literally everyone in clubland was there to see what has been hyped as the next big thing in clubland. It seems bigger than before, as volume will do that, though the capacity hasn’t changed. I spent my time chatting up club royalty like Jamie Mulholland, who has had great success with Caine, GoldBar, Surf Lodge, and all sorts of excellent etceteras. Noah Tepperberg tore away from his table of gorgeous jet setters to give me the $5 tour. We posed for pictures on the way.

For the most part, they stuck with the floor plan I helped devise around a year ago. There was some furniture that wasn’t on the plan but Noah told me that’s going since it will be a big room for dancing. shows, and events – with considerably less seating than the Marquee design that was so successful before this latest incarnation. Noah thanked me for my minimal effort, recognizing that I have always had a special attachment to the venue which I helped design a long time ago, in what feels like a galaxy far, far away.

Alacran Tequila honcho Artie Dozortsev chatted me up about his White Mezcal Tequila bottle and the pink bottle he’s hyping for Valentine’s Day. A percentage of sales of Artie’s hot product will go to a variety of breast cancer awareness charities, thus defying another old adage… nice guys can finish first. I hung with Bill Spector and Richie Romero and Paul Seres and Pascal and and and…. I stopped to congrats co-owner Jason Strauss who was herding a bevy of beauties past the door bureaucracy. The staff was brilliant and helpful. Some dude once said, "you can’t go home again.” Baloney! I went to Marquee last night and It felt like home. 

Being the nightlife veteran that I am, (for those that don’t know, I used to be Steve Lewis), I went to Strategic’s other hot property Avenue to see how it was faring on a night when everyone was at their new elsewhere. Avenue was packed with an eclectic crowd. Sam Valentine, a big-haired rocker, hosted a table that wasn’t aware of the hoopla 10 blocks up 10th Avenue. The programming of those who wouldn’t know about Marquee or who dance to the beat of a different drummer…er DJ… was an act of professionalism that should be noted.

Avenue was doing business, maybe not as usual, but busy. Let’s just say it was doing business as unusual. Strategic’s great minds brought in folks to pack the place while most of their efforts and their a-team were occupied with the Marquee opening. To a visitor unaware, it seemed like a great club night. I did a walk through 1OAK, which was gathering steam and ready to embrace the late-night crowd that it always gets. Marquee’s revelers would surely be packing booths in an hour or so. 

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WTF?! This Fall’s Nightlife Gossip

I remember my first date with Jeannie LoVullo like it was yesterday. She chewed a lot of gum and said "what the fuck" a lot. This weekend was like a date with Jeannie LoVullo; my movers, who were indeed shakers, were chewing gum and saying "what the fuck” a lot. They got me saying it. I didn’t have time to go out but did answer the phone and heard bits and pieces of what seems like a great game of musical chairs. I’ll get to the bottom of all this faster than you can say "wtf," but for now you will have to accept these moist and fuzzy tidbits. I hear that Nur may be leaving The Electric Room on his way to the newly remodeled TriBeCa Grand. My source who is usually unreliable swears it’s true, citing contract endings and stuff like that. I also hear that Travis Bass will also bring his special brand of whoopee yippee yay nightlife to TriBeCa. This may be a temporary thing, as he is slated to be a honcho over at the 199 Bowery space that EMM Group is developing for November. OK, OK,. I’m pausing for a WTF…

I heard that Jamie Mulholland was all set for that bank space on the corner of Houston and Essex which has, for years, been so many things to so many people. Now, this other group is there doing something irrelevant, and I’m not sure what’s going on with Jamie. He would be the perfect fit for what is an imperfect space. I’ll find out WTF is going on and tell you when the time is right.

 Also, I am told that Vala Durvett has taken over the job of putting asses in seats over at the almost new Bishops & Barons. They kicked Danny Kane and his crew out for lack of performance, according to another fairly unreliable source. Translation: they opened at a bad time, withered during the summer, and kicked their team out as the season began. Vala is a good fit for this joint as its 14th Street East location is a tough destination. Bishops is located right between the IHOP, and they just opened Bait & Hook, my pal Div Patel’s (formally of Nest) seafood joint. WTF, Vala has her work cutout for her, trying to hook people over to a hood where no man has gone before. Good thing she knows a lot of women. It can be done; Beauty Bar has been there since WTF – the last century. I’m sure I’ll get some calls to clarify, and so I will.

Moving has been one big WTF and I’m a bit frayed. I’ll be at BINGO as usual tonight to get my mojo back, and if I win I’m just gonna yel…you got it.. WTF!

Jamie Mulholland Teases His Return to New York

If you find the weather outside frightful and are seeking a destination that’s delightful, I have an idea. Book yourself a trip to the Bahamas and join the Cain at the Cove 4th Anniversary Party, next Saturday, November 12th. DJ Cassidy will join Stan Courtois from Paris, and the jet-set and Cain flock will be in full force. It could be déjà-vu, all over again. Cain was a legendary club anchoring a West Chelsea gathering of joints that included Bungalow 8, Marquee, and Pink Elephant. Owner Jamie Mulholland has been a little low on the NYC radar compared to then, but his Goldbar, anchored by its smashing Sunday Funday party and man-about-town Jon Lennon, still thrives. His Surf Lodge has just enjoyed its biggest season yet. News comes that something new is in the works, and I asked Jamie all about it, and the anniversary.

Tell me about what you are up to, your lifestyle, and business development? After taking a bit of a hiatus from opening anything new to enjoy my son and family, I have aggressively been looking with Conquest Advisors to open my new concept in New York. I have been refining the concept over four years and feel it is now the right time to do it. I have been spending a lot of time in the Bahamas at Cain at The Cove Atlantis, The Surf Lodge in Montauk, and also Goldbar in New York.

You seem to have chosen surf over turf. Is the life better for you with not so much of a presence in NYC? Ha! No, not really, mate. I am ready to do this new concept and have been working hard at assembling a strong team.

Tell me about the anniversary party. We are celebrating four great years in the Bahamas. We have a great line-up planned on the island for the weekend, including DJs Cassidy, Stan Courtois, and Frank Delour. I am looking forward to celebrating with all our friends that have been supporting us for the last four years.

Talk to me about Goldbar. I am really proud of GoldBar. It has a loyal following that has been with us consistently for four years. A lot of the credit is due to the incredibly warm staff, it is very much like a family. Jonny Lennon has worked hard at the music format and programming, and it is big reason why this venue has had such stamina. I love the venue and think it remains one of the most fun rooms in New York.

In Casablanca, it is said that the fundamental things apply as time goes by. What are the fundamentals in hospitality, and do they always apply, or is change itself fundamental to the biz? Well the business is always evolving, and there are certain things that are always taking different strategic paths, like the marketing and conceptual approaches. But I would have to say the fundamentals of this business, like the service and true hospitality never change, and are the roots of our business. When you look at the current state of affairs in NYC nightlife, you need to assess what is missing and what is in too much abundance.

This is obviously just my view and not necessarily the correct one, but I feel that there is a real lack in creativity at the moment. And I don’t mean that in reference to just design. There are places that we have all experienced that truly are living and breathing spaces, that have a life of their own, a soul. In a city like New York, we should be seeing a lot more than there has been recently. I think our business has become too cookie-cutter and lifeless.

Industry Insiders: Remi Laba of Bagatelle & Kiss and Fly

Monsieur Meatpacking: Bagatelle and Kiss and Fly‘s Remi Laba on boring models, the grub at Pastis, and bringing down the house (music).

Point of Origin: My dad’s American, my mother’s French. I was born in the US and raised in France. I can’t seem to negate my origin for some reason. Nightlife was an accident, to be honest. I was working for a liquor company, Pernod Ricard, and people were constantly asking me for sponsorship, and at one point I said ‘You know what? I’ll comp your sponsoring if my friends can come to your events.’ It grew from there until club owners starting saying they would pay me to bring people to their club. And that’s how we [partner Aymeric Clemente, formerly of La Goulue and Le Bilboquet] started, ten years ago.

We did it for fun until we realized it could really become a business. Everything we do resembles us. We try to create something that embraces the Jet-Set lifestyle in which we were brought up. When we started at Lotus, 8 years ago, Lotus was known for its hip-hop, models, whatever, and they called us and we brought in something very different. We brought DJs from Paris that were more focused on European house, and that brought the whole European crowd in and it became some of the highest generating sales ever for Lotus. We took that concept and moved it to our next venue, Marquee. We were part of the opening team at Marquee, then we did the Deck with Jeffrey Jah and Mark Baker and all those guys. We took it to Bed Roof. We always take that same concept and each time make it a little more complete. Then we opened Pink Elephant, as promotional partners with those guys.

Occupations: Aymeric and I are the main partners at Bagatelle, we’re the partners here at Kiss & Fly, and I’m in charge of all the marketing and PR aspects of the venue. What Aymeric and I do better than anybody else is bring the French ambiance and atmosphere into the venue. So it not only looks French, but it feels French. We’re taking it to the level: the St. Tropez party lifestyle. It’s for people who like to drink great wine, eat great food, and like great parties. Go to Bagatelle on a Monday night and you’ll have a peaceful environment with great food. Then the vibe builds on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and then by Saturday brunch we move into a full-blown party. But we’ll never compromise the food.

Side Hustle: Aymeric and I are partners in marketing company/DJ agency called In The Buzz, that does promotions at all the top nightclubs across the world and also represents some of the top talent when it comes to DJs. We also do consulting in the hospitality industry. That’s what brought us to owning our own venue. There’s 13th Street Entertainment, which basically owns Kiss & Fly, Bagatelle, and our new lounge opening the first week of September tentatively named Bagatelle Lounge. We represent Mitch LJ, who’s the resident DJ at Nikki Beach. Jacques Dumont, who is an older DJ, probably 47 years old, and was the resident DJ at Nikki Beach St. Barths for years. Now he’s our resident DJ here at Kiss & Fly. We’ve had David Guetta play here. It’s not exclusively house music, but the crowd they’re playing for likes primarily house. I think for all of us our side projects are our personal lives. It’s hard to balance that in this industry.

Favorite Hangs: The Hamptons are a big market with high visibility. A lot of people go there, and there are very few clubs to go to. Pretty much only Pink Elephant, Cabana, and Dune. We have a very good relationship with Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss and we host the Saturday night Kiss ‘N’ Fly party at Dune Southampton. But when I go to the Hamptons, I don’t go to socialize. I enjoy the beauty of the nature there. I love the beach at Flying Point, and off Route D in Southampton. In the city, I love going to Bar Pitti. It’s very unpretentious, a great terrace, and always good food. If I’m with a group of friends and want a good, fun dinner, I like Indochine, Bond St., Le Bilboquet; Aymeric used to be the GM there for several years. Bagatelle is a big version of Le Bilboquet. If I’m going to dinner with my girlfriend, I want to go upstairs at Le Colonial. I’ll never have dinner downstairs, it’s too formal. But the lounge is unbelievable.

Industry Icons: Jeffrey Jah and Mark Baker were the first guys to understand the European factor in nightlife. They kind of made us who we are today. I’ve really enjoyed working with those guys. I don’t know if I look up to anyone really. If there are two guys who have had a memorable career so far it’s Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss. We worked with them at Marquee, then at Tao in Vegas. They are very, very hard workers, and what they’ve achieved is remarkable. I would never work the way they do. The way they work is very American. The way we work is more passionate, less driven by numbers.

Known Associates: My current associates are Aymeric Clemente, Corey Lane, Lionel Ohayon, David Graziano, and Jonathan Segal. My past associates are Richie Akiva, Scott Sartiano, Mark Baker, and Jeffrey Jah, Jason Strauss and Noah Tepperberg. We’ve promoted for Jamie Mulholland and Jayma Cardosa at Cain. We’ve basically crossed paths with every major person in the industry. It’s a small town.

Projections: We’ve established Bagatelle and Kiss & Fly in New York. Our next project is due the first week of September, fashion week, which will be the Bagatelle Lounge downstairs of Bagatelle and Kiss & Fly, at which point our 13th Street project will be complete–one restaurant, one nightclub, and one lounge. From there, we’ll move on, not necessarily with the same partners, but we’ll open Bagatelle restaurants and Bagatelle cafes in different cities. Ultimately our dream is to open a Bagatelle boutique hotel.We’d love to open something in Tulum (we’re looking at a property down there). We’d love to open Bagatelle, the restaurant as you know it, in London, Vegas, and San Paulo. We have offers in South Beach, but I don’t think Miami Beach is what it used to be. Though we did go to the Winter Music Conference in Miami for the past two years and did ‘Fuck Me I’m Famous’ with David Guetta at Cameo; that’s very successful.

Do you cater to a different crowd in the summer in the city than the rest of the year?

There’s definitely a different club crowd in the summer, not necessarily in quality. Most of your regulars go to the Hamptons in the summer or travel to St. Tropez, Ibiza, Croatia, etc. But there’s also a lot of tourists coming to New York in the summer who have read about venues and will come out. The truth of the matter is, if you have a good product and run your door properly, you can have the right crowd in your club every single night. If you focus on only celebrities and models and there are eight clubs going after the same clientele, there will be one winner and a lot of losers. But if you say, “Ok, I want my venue to be fun, I want the crowd to be pretty, and I want to generate dollars,” the way you look at things are going to shift. Some people say “Oh, my club is so great, we only have models.” Great, models are pretty, but are they the most fun girls you’ve ever seen in nightclubs? Not necessarily. Energy’s also a very, very important factor. If 1Oak says, “Oh, in the summer we have to sell out because all the good crowds are going away,” well, I’d rather sell out my crowd a tiny bit, but still maintain the level of energy.

Considering you’ve worked with Scott Sartiano and Jeffrey Jah, etc. in the past, do you see Butter as an influence or a competitor?

Butter is known for their Monday night parties. What Butter does on Monday nights, no one else does. It’s a concentration of models and celebrities in a very small space. Those guys have done great at it, they own Monday nights, but that’s not what we do. We’re not model-driven. [The Butter guys] aren’t competitors, they’re friends. We actually go to Butter on Monday nights when we can.

A lot of reviews of Bagatelle are calling you the next Pastis. Do you see yourselves replacing Pastis ever?

No. I think Pastis as a French bistro has had a lot of recent competition in the neighborhood, but we are very different. Most of the restaurants in Meatpacking, their concepts are big. We are very different; we’re small, 90 seats. We have a very personalized welcome. Aymeric and I are here every day. You can create an intimate relationship with the owners, which no other restaurant in the meatpacking can offer. At Pastis the food is average. At Bagatelle we pride ourselves on great food. Our chef Nicolas Cantrel, (who we “stole” from bobo), is a gift from God.

What are you doing tonight? I’ll be at Bagatelle caring to my guests and then dinner with my girlfriend later on.