Jayma Talks Lavo Brunch

If you talk to any owner about to open up the hottest place in the universe, he will tell you that his place will bring service to a “whole new level,” and that very few can hope to understand what he’s talking about. For the most part, few really reinvent the wheel. The service experience is pretty standard on the high end. The places that understand their particular niche, and the heroes of that niche, become fodder for Page 6 items for years. The money just flows like Grey Goose from a bottle waitron’s skilled hands. The Strategic/Lavo crew do what they do better than anyone. When I say that I don’t mean to imply that they’re better than the Butter/1Oak crew, or the Provocateur gang, or even the Kenmare/Don Hill’s dudes. Each of these groups have their own way of doing it, saying it, playing the game. Each of these groups have their own followings. Now, there’s a lot of overlap as the hob-knobbers hob knob around.

They say that behind every great man there is a great woman. In an industry with very few female players, Jayma Cordoza is as good as it gets. She is a bottle selling machine. She has taken her Euro/South American/big spender clout to Lavo, and is now with my pal Andrew Goldberg, and of course those great men Noah, Jason, Mark Packer, and Rich Wolf. She is curating a brunch for the uptown sect. Traditionally loaded with loot, this uptown scene has been catered to by less stylish uptown joints. They religiously travel to the downtown hot spots where they like to slum. Lavo brings the high end Vegas/NY service schtick north of the usual borders to 58th street. It enters the lucrative and crowded brunch fray with location as an advantage.

Always a smile, always genuine interest and enthusiasm. You make us all feel wanted or like an old friend. What drives you? Creating amazing guest experiences. That’s what everyone wants; a shared experience with their family, friends, and people they meet.

Where did you grow up, and how did you come to this? I’m from Curitiba. It’s the largest city in the southern region of Brazil. Its population is largely descended from Italian, German, Ukranian, Russian, and Polish immigrants…So, I’m actually much more European than one would expect. I came to the US to study Biology and learn English. How did you start—where, and what was it like for you? I started at a restaurant called Boom in SoHo, where I told the owner, Rocco, that I was an experienced bartender. He soon found out I wasn’t, and he fired me, but he later rehired me to work at Boom Bistro in the Hamptons as a host. I did everything: I was a nightclub coat check, hostess, maitre’d, waitress, bartender, and a cocktail waitress. What advice would you give to a pretty young thing on how to become a great bottle waitress? Exceed all expectations. To do so, you should think as if you were hosting a party for friends and family at your home. That means looking your best, making sure all your guests are comfortable, and going out of your way to make them feel special. I don’t think of anyone as my client. They are always my guest, and in doing so, some become my friends, and others I consider family. Be motivated and hold passion in your role, I personally love what I do. Putting great passion into anything creates a positive drive to push you to succeed. You must be authentic, and genuine, or you will lose all credibility with your guest. How has bottle service changed in the last five years? Where is it going? I think in principle nothing has changed. Bottle Service was really just a smart way to provide better service (no waiting for a waitress to serve you a drink). As time went on, grandiose presentations became more common. Which, to be honest, isn’t for everyone, but at the same time it can be very creative and a fun way to create energy at a guest’s table, and the club as a whole. I know everyone thinks it’s done to generate profit, but happy guests always make the best business, and that comes via service.

Lavo is open – its no longer a theory. What is really working in the room? What was adjusted as you guys saw the room actually functioning, and were there some pleasant surprises? There are so many things that work well for the room, at the restaurant and the club. The beauty of the room is that you can see everything that is going on. It’s an ability that gives each guest a vantage point of what’s unfolding around them. The only adjustment we’ve made was, initially we thought we would need more people to give the right feel to the room. When we hosted some smaller events prior to the opening, we realized the room really worked better with less people than anticipated. For me, a pleasant surprise was at Brunch this past weekend. Lavo has these large yellow lighted windows inside the restaurant …it gives a beautiful nighttime ambiance during brunch, providing an energy I haven’t felt anywhere else for brunch. You are always a woman amongst a great deal of men in this biz— why is that? Will women soon emerge as a force in the biz? And yes, I know about Amy Sacco and a handful of other successful ladies. Amy is amazing. I think women are naturally better equipped to host. We’re more nurturing and attentive by nature. Women, for decades, have shown they can excel in business, but this business requires a certain toughness that you don’t see in corporate environments. So, it takes a very unique individual. You know, it’s what they say about Fred and Ginger. Sure he was great but she did it all in heels while dancing backwards. I don’t even know what my shoe repairman thinks I do, I drop off my Alaia, or Christian Louboutins, and he looks at me like I might be an axe murder. How many contacts are in your Blackberry, and is it your primary way of communicating? How do you handle the volume of calls and needs of your clientele? I live on my Blackberry. I deserve a sponsorship or my very own line of Blackberry’s. I get BBMs, texts, emails, and all my phone calls via my Blackberry. I probably get over 800 types of communication per day. I haven’t counted how many contacts I have on my phone, but let’s just say if you’re in my contacts. You’re keeping good company. What makes LAVO Brunch different? Well lets start with the team: Noah, Jason, Marc, Rich, and Andrew Goldberg. Need I say more? Collectively, many years of experience in the hospitality world. There’s something very special about brunch. Our first experience,and memories of brunch are as kids for holidays, and family gatherings. It was a joyous occasion. You had to get dressed up, there was a decadence, and spectacle to it. I think Andrew has done a great job of curating the brunch, so if feels like you’re at a European Brunch with a New York twist. It captures the wonderment of what a brunch should be: a build up, starting with an amazing meal, and conversation that then transforms as the afternoon goes on to music and dance.

What kind of people would I expect to see at brunch? Really, you’ll see a mixture of all worlds colliding on a Saturday afternoon. During the week, one tends to stick to their neighborhood. But on weekends, I think people like to explore the city, as they have more free time. So, I expect you’ll find diversity.

What is your favorite item on the menu? My favorite food is the raw bar. I love Oysters, but don’t forget I’m Brazilian, and we love our meat, so the Kobe Beef Meatballs with whipped fresh ricotta cheese, too. But I like my traditional fare, so don’t look the other way, or I’ll be sneaking a bite of your French Toast. A glass of Rose always make brunch complete

The Emperor’s New Column

Each morning, as I coffee my way to awareness, a blank Word doc stares at me. There are mornings, as I’m sure regular readers and editors understand, when I have little to say, or no time to say much. Sometimes it’s a matter of, “If I don’t have nothing nice to say then don’t say it,” while other mornings, the great story I went to sleep with wasn’t so great in the light of day. Yes, that does describe my dating before Amanda. Sometimes I have nothing to say because I promised not to say anything, even though the other blogs are all over it. As a designer involved in some projects of interest, I can often only read about what I’m doing, as non-disclosure agreements gag me from telling you the truth. Because of my schedule getting a half dozen joints open in September and another six ready for construction, I have internal debates that go like this: “Eat or write,” or “Sleep or design,” or “Breath or…” Well you get the idea. My desk is a heap of unopened envelopes, piles of notepads and gadgets with voices on them, half-empty cereal boxes, wood, wallpaper, stone and glass samples, and a very large cat.

Today I am meeting the players over at Lavo NY. I will sit down and chat with Noah Tepperberg, Jason Straus, Jayma Cardosa, and Rich Thomas. After the ”oohs and ahhs” and “how nices” and other obligatory wonderment at seeing a grand place for the first time, we will all sit down and chat. Part of that discussion will be about how they market their joints so that they compliment—not compete with—each other. Lavo principals also include Rich Wolf and Mark Packer. Who works where/owns what is too complicated to get into at this time of the day, but besides Lavo NY, these people operate Lavo Las Vegas, the Tao entities in NY and Vegas, Marquee, Stanton Social, Avenue , and some others. Not stepping on each other’s marketing feet is a great feat.

Part of the solution is defining the space for a specific type of crowd. From all reports, Lavo is being built for the Euro set and Midtowners. It could probably thrive just on the overflow from Tao across the street, but will most likely be defined as a playground for the jet set. Top tier organizations with multiple venues strategize how to not only secure the piece of the pie they are familiar with, but also how to secure compatible crowds. Moving and feeding multiple promoters, DJs, and management, from one venue to another, saves money. The ability to bring crowds common to one place to a soft night at another one of your properties spells success. The Tao Group will certainly not want to loose the Euros and South Americans that frequent Avenue, but will want to service them better at a joint built just for this crowd. At Avenue, the very fun Tuesday nights curated by Paul Sevigny have added enough diversity to legitimize the place for some downtown crowds without scaring away the base of monied players found there every night. The change in programming on Tuesday does “turn off’ some people, who avoid that night but come on another. This helps the venue last longer, as patrons don’t burn out so fast. I wonder if Lavo will have a night where downtowners will feel comfortable. The old adage is that downtown never goes uptown, while uptown will “slum down.”

In days of yore, clubs were often built to be populated with an exclusive but diverse crowd. Today, specific spaces service specific scenes. Spots today are often run by successful promoter types who parlayed the investment capital of friends and clients into small lounges, restaurants, or clubs. Most of these people hang with like-minded pals and rarely delve into other habitats where “different” types party. Diversity in nightlife is commonly missing. The addition of the two house haunts I mentioned yesterday will not change anything. Clubs like these—and Pacha and Cielo—don’t often acknowledge that music other than house is legit. With the exception of Webster Hall and Marquee and a couple of other joints, I am hard pressed to think of a place with more than one viable dance choice. There isn’t a place where diverse music on different dance floors mixes with people from all walks mingling and making each other tingle. The Kenmare is the best at mixing the crowds, but its music is not as diverse, and it is intimate and conversational rather than grand. 1Oak often offers musical diversity and crowds from different cultures, but it’s one medium-sized room. Every time I read about someone talking about bringing it back the way it was, I watch them build something for the way it is now. I think that’s a good idea, actually, as the mixing of musical genre’s, different classes of people, different sexual predilections, and different views is a job for a great operator. Although there are a few people out there capable of going this route, these respected fellows seem to be un-inclined to do so, or satisfied servicing their own core crowds. It could be done,,,but I’m not coming out of retirement.

Cain Mutiny: Playing for a New Team

I attended the one-year anniversary of Avenue last night and it was indeed all things to those people. I popped in to pay respects, and was overwhelmed by a beautiful, relevant, and successful crowd. Although I always feel more comfortable in dive bars and hipster hangouts, there is no denying that Avenue, in it’s brief existence, has captured the hearts—and cash—of the bottle/model crowd. All things table service were honed and perfected at Noah, Jason, and Mark Packer’s joints, Marquee and Tao Vegas. While others have added their personal touch to the art of plying the goose from the ganders, as Carly Simon once put it, “nobody does it better” than this crew. On the way in I stopped to chat with my old friend Wass Stevens. As we talked about the ‘this and thats’ and ‘what have you been up tos,’ we were interrupted from time to time by a steady flow of the beautiful, the rich, and the connected as they passed through the velvet ropes. I asked him who was inside and he said, “everybody,” and proceeded to name names. Indeed, it was a cast of bold-face names that had your humble author shocked and awed. We don’t repeat the named names here. The old adage is, “those who can’t, teach,” and I stand by, “those who can’t write, gossip.”

So this is what I heard. I heard a rumor that Jayma Cardoso of Goldbar, Surf Lodge, and Cain fame is in deep negotiations with Avenue, Tao, and Lavo owners about moving her beauty, brains, and bottle-selling chops over there. I would presume it would be over at Lavo when it opens. Is this a Cain mutiny or just a natural flow of extreme talent from one successful empire to another? The thing about rumors is that they are sometimes exaggerations, and since we don’t gossip here, it’s nice to get a second or third confirmation. The thing with those confirmations is that they can sometimes be traced to the same source, so they are often nothing more than the ripples of the same rock thrown in the water. When I asked my sources where they heard the gossip, it turned out to be the same guy, so I went straight to the source.

Jayma called me back and told me that although nothing has been signed—“as of yet”—she “has an offer,” and is “in negotiations with owners, Mark Packer and Noah Tepperberg.” She also added that “nothing is 100%, but I’m very excited.” I asked her what was to become of Goldbar and Surf Lodge and she assured me that, “I’m still going to take care of my babies.” I called her ever-gracious partner Jaimie Mulholland, and asked for his take. He told me they were “exploring their own things,” and that “all have grown from their shared experience,” and that “We will, of course, always be close friends as we concentrate on our own things. We all have our own decisions to make.”

The move, when it happens, is of major significance. Jayma is one of the premier bottle-pushing entities in this business. Her clientele is vast, with a large following of South Americans and Euros. She is adept at training staff and bringing other waitrons with rich followings to the tables. The girls with connections tend to flock together, because most joints pool their tips. Waitresses don’t like to work in places where their bread and butter is spread amongst other waitresses who aren’t bringing good tables to the table. When everyone is pulling in big fish, they share tremendous amounts of tip money. A good crew can take home thousands each, on a single night. Jayma would fit perfectly in the NY-Vegas empire, which showcased itself at Avenue last night. Her assertions that this deal isn’t done, notwithstanding that it is a deal that will be done, because it makes sense.

If indeed her and Jamie are exploring their own things, then this is the right fit. With Noah, Mark Packer, Jason Strauss, and company, she will be among old friends who offer her a place where her customers will feel comfortable. She will be part of a professional team, with players similar to herself, working almost as hard as she does. It feels a little like Derek Jeter going to the Mets, but like our favorite shortstop, there are only a few teams big enough and ambitious enough to handle her. Like Derek, Jayma just can’t play for a team that isn’t winning, or in the rebuilding process. I must re-emphasize that the deal isn’t done, and we must give the players a chance to jostle and negotiate the final terms, but this deal feels like a winner for all parties.

The club gods giveth and the club gods taketh away, as former Marquee nightclub GM, Patrick Robinson has settled in at the new restaurant Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva are building on 14 the street and 8th. Patrick was the operations guy over at Marquee, which was Noah, Jason, and Mark Packer’s success story for about 6 years. He has returned from an extended vacation, and is getting that joint ready for a summer opening.

Industry Insiders: Wesley and Spencer Vultaggio, AriZona Tea Titans

First, AriZona Beverage scions Wesley and Spencer Vultaggio re-energized the iconic iced tea company their father Don started in Brooklyn eighteen years ago, making it a mainstay for thirsty Americans across the country. Now the Vultaggio boys, two hard working bon vivants with a taste for top tier nightlife—and burritos—are taking the company global along with a cadre of forward thinking pals and fresh ideas. First stop: Bali.

Point of origin: We both lived and breathed the business since we were little kids. Our dad’s very old school. He doesn’t believe in giving anyone a free ride. You have to learn how to drive a fork lift in this family or you’re not a real man—going on the truck with the sales people, working in the warehouses, the whole gamut. We learned the whole business over the years, from the ground up.

Wesley, AriZona Beverages creative director, on re-energizing the brand: “I started in 2004 full time and tried to get the company to modernize a little bit. My father is this amazing marketing genius but he doesn’t have a computer, doesn’t have email. My first project was to overhaul the website, which was nonexistent, in order to reach out to the audience we’ve amassed over the past 18 years since the company was started in Brooklyn.

On liquid remedies: We take great pride in the quality of our beverages. For the newest line, AriZona Rescue Water, we partnered with Twin Labs. We use real-deal vitamins from a national brand as opposed to other vitamin waters that use generic vitamins that you don’t really know where they come from. They really do help with a hangover!

Wesley, on hospitality ventures: I opened up Cain with some friends after college—with Jamie Mullholland, Jayma Cardosa and the crew, which was the hottest spot in the city for a while. Then we opened up GoldBar. A few years ago I partnered with some other friends from college and opened the restaurant Charles.

Spencer, AriZona’s Director of Brand Development, on burrito expertise: I’m hooked on Torrisi. The eggplant parm sandwiches are to die for. Sticking to Soho, I just had a burrito from Calexico the other day. Delicious. I’m a burrito connoisseur. I’m working on a burrito restaurant. We’re looking for space right now in New York, though it was inspired by a place in Boston where I went to college.

Welsey, on beating the hundred layer lasagna: I’ve been going to the Boom Boom Room quite a bit. Kenmare is good and it’s in my hood, Soho. I’ve been sticking to my hood lately. Raoul’s and Blue Ribbon are some of my staples. Lure on Mercer is a hidden gem; the burger’s amazing. Last night I went to Del Posto for their hundred-layer lasagna. A little over-hyped. And it was actually not enough! I ordered two orders of it. When it came out I thought, is this really it?

Spencer, on George Lopez: Information spreads like wildfire now. George Lopez made a comment on Twitter, ‘I went to buy an Arizona Iced Tea and they asked me for ID, so I bought horchata instead.’ So that got re-tweeted like I couldn’t believe and the next day I contacted him and said, ‘We’re born in Brooklyn since 1992, always been, and we’d like to send you some iced tea.’ The next day he actually apologized on Twitter, and everything got picked up by the media, so it actually worked out.

Wesley, on expansion beyond the US: One of our main focuses this year is international expansion. We’re in Canada and Mexico now, where we became the number one Iced Tea in less than two years, and now we’re moving into South America and Central America. Just this year we started to produce in Russia, the Netherlands, and Germany. We’re moving into Asia and looking for partners there. There are obviously tea drinkers there and they have very high standards of what tea should be. The international side is something we’re very excited about. Coming back from Japan, we stayed at the Bulgari hotel in Bali—just a different level. And the people are the nicest. That’s the spot. Of anywhere we’ve ever stayed, they really got it.

Photo: Patrick McMullan Company

Industry Insiders: Rob McKinley, Good as Gold

Rob McKinley — part of the team responsible for hotspots GoldBar, Cain Luxe, and Surf Lodge — began his design-oriented career behind the scenes at fashion house heavy-hitters Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan, and Giorgio Armani. After a shift into nightlife, the GoldBar concept stemmed from McKinley’s fictional idea of a European count obsessed with anything and everything gold. The golden boy met with us to discuss keeping his bar alive, the fall of the Meatpacking District, and those guys across the street at Southside.

How did GoldBar come about? My partner told me about the space, and I told him that I had a concept which would work really well. For me, creatively, the idea was to create a bar inspired by some of the grand hotels in Europe — Paris and Rome — but without the hotel. I wanted it to have the old-fashioned, traditional style of service and the formality of those bars and then almost poke fun at it and make it overly decadent. It came into being when we picked the space and we had gold leaf everything as soon as you walked through the door. The skulls were inspired by the catacombs in Paris. Little by little, it came together while working with all the different artisans, fellow workers, and artists.

Do you worry that GoldBar will lose its coolness factor? Luckily, we have a pretty cool crowd which has been mostly consistent. It has to do with the style of our service. Bottle service isn’t required. It’s all about the cocktails and the unique design. Even though the bar is over the top, it’s not just a trend, and I think it can stand on its own two feet. It’s also about the music. All the music we play has deep roots.

What do you think in terms of longevity? Even thought this is a nightclub, if people ask me what I do, I say I’m a designer, and I have a bar and a hotel. We pride ourselves on our cocktails. Those bartenders behind there are serious business. We want to be here for 10 years, for 15 years. We want it to become a good, solid place where people will always be able to have a drink and listen to good music.

How do you keep it innovative? We change the drinks every season, and we have great bartenders. They really know their game. Quality is a big part of what we do. My partners and I are all on the same page when it comes to that, and there’s a lot of attention to quality and detail. We have all fresh-squeezed juices, and the ice is all hand-cracked everyday. And yes, I oversee all the music. That’s something that we have to constantly question ourselves, but luckily all of our DJs are really brilliant, and a lot of them are musicians.

What are your busiest nights? Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. On Sunday, there is a younger, sort of rock hip-hop vibe.

What’s your relationship like with your partners Jamie Mullholland and Jayma Cardosa? I think we’re all a little bit nuts in the best way possible. We all get a kick out of each other, and we respect each other within the realm of our business. I think that’s the most important thing. We’re all very good at what we do.

Who does what? I handle all of the creative stuff, which consists of the musical direction, any invitations we need to do, and obviously the decor and lighting. Sometimes even the garnishes for the drinks. I go nuts for the small details: olives, incense. I’m a freak about the specific French incense that needs to be here all the time. I do the graphic design and the uniform design for GoldBar, Cain Luxe, and Surf Lodge. Jamie does the operational stuff, and Jayma is great at getting people here, being front of house and the host.

Any quibbles during the process? Always. If we didn’t, then something would be wrong. I probably get nagged about money the most. Jamie is always telling me to watch the money, but ‘m the designer, and I like things a particular way. They’ll ask me, “How much is the incense again?” We always manage to figure it out in the end.

Do you have any formal training in design? No, not at all. It’s just something that I love to do. I always ask my assistant (a graduate of Parson’s school of design) questions about how you’re really supposed to present and format things. Let’s just say I always find my own way to do things.

Besides your own places, where do you hang out? I’ve been going to Café Select a lot recently. I like the food, and I love the coffee. The little bar at the back is really great as well and kind of a little getaway. The music is really great. Sant Ambroeus in the West Village is one of my haunts. It’s a great café for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with excellent food, great coffee, and great desserts. There are really interesting people there all the time from all walks of life. Do the Meatpacking clubs, including Cain Luxe, have any hope of redemption from the bridge and tunnel crowds? Bridge and tunnel isn’t so bad. I’m bridge and tunnel deep down inside and always will be. When I was 16 and 17 years old, I was going to clubs in the city. It was just a different attitude then. We were going where the music was great and where the people were fun. And then it became a lot more velvet rope, and there were different requirements to get in. It still can be very good, and a lot of people will go. If it’s a good party, it’s a good party. Best GoldBar night? I remember one night we had nine different DJs in the DJ booth. We had two DJs on that night, and the rest came as guests. We all knew each other, and we were just going song for song. It was myself, DJ Kiss, Chris Liggio, DJ Cassidy, DJ Nice, DJ Ruckus, Tony Touch, MOS, and Damon DeGraff. The rule was: only one song. So, it was really tough because one song is your bridge to the next song, but we just had to keep it in that same vein all night. We also did an amazing masquerade party here with free-flowing Dom Perignon. The invites were these really beautiful boxes with hand-painted Venetian masks. How does Southside fare as competition? It’s cool. I was at Southside the other night. I think it’s like anything else. I had a good time. Music was good. We’re two different things.

Favorite celebs to step foot in GoldBar? A bunch of them, but we won’t talk about them. It was a great honor for them to be here, but what’s even more of an honor is when they come back. Ian Schrager was here a bunch of times, and that was a big deal for me — being a designer and him being the Studio 54 guy — and all. Lenny Kravitz comes a lot, and the only reason I can say this is because he wrote a song about GoldBar for his last album called “Dancin’ Til Dawn.” Giorgio Armani came one night, and that was big for me because I used to work for him.

What’s your dream venue? I want to do a resort similar to Surf Lodge but in the mountains. Snow Lodge, if you will. I would love to do a spa someday. A super-duper spa inspired by some of the natural springs and baths of Italy and Scandinavia.

Who’s your dream guest? I’d love to have any one of the Rolling Stones here. Or have Stevie Wonder put a piano smack dab in the middle of the room and play all night long.

Photo: Joe Termini

Industry Insiders: Aalex Julian of Tenjune

Tenjune door sentry Aalex Julian dishes on the K-Mart of nightlife, the old chicks and thugs who don’t make the cut, “animals” who grab asses, and why some nightlife vets are toast.

Point of Origin: I’ve been working the door at clubs in Manhattan for almost six years. I started doing a lot of special events, for Lizzie Grubman, other PR groups. I did the Jay-Z event in the Hamptons. I knew people like Jeffrey Jah from going out. Some people resent me because I befriended the right people.

Instead of starting off as a security guard or something, I started off at a good level. A lot of people get hired and fired, are around for three or four years. When I started, I was working at Rehab, which was one of the top places at the time. The first door that was my door was Below, on 19th Street in 2002. Then I went right to Rehab. Then Bed, Cain, Guest House, Pink Elephant twice (on 13th Street and when they opened on 27th Street). I opened Home, I opened Guest House. There’s been a few more, but that’s the chronology. I chose to leave 27th Street before it got as bad as it’s gotten.

What do you think changed? I think [Home and Guest House owner] Jon B is the K-Mart of nightlife. When I started at Guest House, we decided with his partner Ronnie [Madra, now of 1Oak], we all agreed it would be a high-end, selective place. Within two months, Jon B started flipping the switch, letting in thugs, letting in a guy who was threatening people. It sounds like you’re very into keeping your standards. You have to be. I have a lot of friends, but I have even more enemies because I hold my ground. With every team that I’ve worked with, the fact that I hold my ground [at the door] has either been what they respect the most or what leads to a parting of ways. I’ve worked with everybody. But now I don’t need to go through the headache of opening a place unless I’m sure it’s going to be a hit. I believed in Tenjune from the beginning. Without getting into specifics, I make a good living, I get a lot of perks. During Fashion Week, I’m one of the first people they call, and I’m shopping with editors and stuff. I get a lot of free stuff. Everything has evolved now from only nightclubs, to more of a lifestyle. People call me to ask where to take their clients. Is that just you, or Manhattan nightlife in general? I think for the higher-end, yes. There are some people, without naming names — [unlike] the people at 1Oak — [these others are] high-end people but they’re sleeping till 2 o’clock in the afternoon, they’re drunk five nights a week. You know who works hard and who’s just passing the time. Nightlife is really reflective of society in general. You have your slackers, and you have your hard workers. I have my differences with Noah [Tepperberg, of Marquee and Tao], but I can’t deny the gentleman that he’s a hard worker, and that’s why he’s successful. I can’t deny that. At the same time I can look at someone like Rocco Ancarola [of Pink Elephant] who’s been in this business forever and is just barely hanging on. There are people who have been doing this for way too long and they’re burnt out, and it’s obvious to everybody. I tell some of the waitresses [at Tenjune], this business is like a ferris wheel: It’s a great ride, but you want to get off before you get thrown off. If I turn away a beautiful girl one night, there are gonna be two more the next night that are younger and prettier. We’re probably the only city in the world that has that. So you don’t buy into the notion that New York is over and London is the new “It” city? I haven’t had the urge to go to London. There’s something about New York that makes it what everybody else wants to be. You can go to Toronto to fake the backgrounds or whatever like they do in movies, but you can’t fake the Lower East Side, you can’t fake Soho. I can say that because I’m a New Yorker. We have something that just can’t be duplicated.

Occupations: I’m director of VIP services for Tenjune. Eighty percent of the night, I’m at the door expecting celebrities, clients, models. I do the seating arrangement of the floor. I keep track of the minimums (who’s spending $1,000, who’s spending $4,000). A lot of this business is based on the come-back. If you have someone spending $1,000 every once in a while, that’s one thing. But if you can keep that person coming week in and week out, that’s how you make your money. We just happen to do it better … well, Marquee does it as well — they’ve been at it longer — but that’s what sets us apart from other clubs. We have so many repeat [guests]. The main reason I do this job is the freedom it allows me. The only regret that I have is that I’m the only person in the industry that gets paid to say “no.” I’m respectful about it, and I don’t talk down to people, but people think I’m nasty or rigid — but I’m not. I’m playing a role.

What’s your worst experience with jilted clubbers? This is the first summer in four years I haven’t been at Cain and Pink Elephant in the Hamptons. Last summer I had an issue with this one thug-type guy who showed up with a couple other people. I let him in, but one of his friends was this big, sweaty, 350 pounds — it just wasn’t a good look. Anyone who was inside wouldn’t want this guy rubbing up against them. I didn’t let him in. He said, “Look, I know you’re here, and you’re gonna catch a beating for it.” Two weeks later, in the Hamptons, I’m inside looking at the room [before the club opened]. And one of the security guys runs in and says, “Listen, don’t go outside.” The guy was out there with 15 guys waiting for me. These guys aren’t kids, they’re pushing forty. It’s like, grow up already.

Everybody always talks about how it’s all about money, and if you can buy your way into clubs, you can always get in. And that’s not true. I can’t tell you what Wass Stevens does at Marquee, or what Armin [currently of Socialista] used to do at Bungalow 8. I can only tell you that … well someone commented on my New York magazine interview that I’m the “King of the Bottles.” I can tell you flat out that’s not the case. I’d much rather sell a table for $800 that’s gonna be a good crew and be respectful and fun inside than someone who offers $5,000 and behaves like an animal and pisses off tables around them or starts fights. Frankly yes, if I see a beautiful girl outside, I’m going to let her in, and I’ll buy her drinks all night because she’s going to add something to the party whether she’s buying something or not.

So the goal is the party as a whole? Yah. Tenjune is almost two years old, but it’s still a viable product simply because it’s a good party. Yah, there might be smaller places that are more selective, and bigger clubs where you’re not going to have a problem with anyone you walk in with, but I think most people are going to pick Tenjune over most other places because it’s always a good party. You might go to 1Oak and see 50 people, and then what? You have to get in a cab and go somewhere else.

I’m not a promoter, I’ve never been a promoter. It’s a very different role. The job of promoters, whether they’re owners, managers, whatever, is to get people to the door. I can’t go to work unless they bring me a good crowd of people [to choose from]. The owners have to trust me, and they do, to let in people that are going to add to the party and not detract from it. In almost two years at Tenjune, we haven’t had a single fight. If you look at the money that we’ve made and the money that 1Oak has made … in fewer risks that [we’ve both] taken because [we’re both] so selective, well, they wanted to be so selective, they’ve had more problems than we’ve had in two years. Some promoters and I argue that they’ve brought all these people and I’m not letting them in, and my answer to that is look: The checks never bounce. I have a proven record. My job is to gauge who’s coming in and who’s not. I do seating too. Working with Jayma [Cardosa of Cain, GoldBar, and Surf Lodge], I went from just running a door to seeing how critical it was to know how to sit a room. I decide where the promoters sit, where the big clients sit, who goes to VIP, who doesn’t. It’s a lot more than Ben does at 1Oak who just lets people in and then there’s a manager inside and then a floor manager. I make much more of a hybrid decision. But it’s critical.

Side Hustle: I’m exclusive with Tenjune. A lot of friends ask me, “Why don’t you work at different clubs on different nights?” and yah, maybe I could make even more money doing that. But clubs are all about consistency. Let’s say I work Tuesday/Wednesday with someone, and Friday/Saturday with someone else. When I get back on Tuesday, I don’t know who they let in on Friday and Saturday. Then I have to either clean up their mistakes or make up for people they didn’t recognize.

Favorite Hangs: I love to travel. I’m looking to go to South Africa, I’m going back to Brazil in October. I just bought an apartment, so I’m going to go look for some art. Asking me if I like to go out in the city is like asking the chef if he likes to go to restaurants when he’s not working. Going out can feel like work. It’s flattering [when people recognize me from Tenjune or other clubs], but still. Then there’s the other side of it. I was in Williamsburg at a deli getting apple juice in the winter, and the guy behind the counter’s like, “You’re Alex, that doorguy for that club in the Meatpacking.” We [at Tenjune] had just done the victory party for the Giants for the Super Bowl, and I guess I didn’t let this guy in. People take [getting turned away at a club] like I’m slapping their little sister around or something.

Do you think that’s indicative of who’s going to clubs in Manhattan now? They’re a more aggressive group of people? I think it’s indicative of people who don’t get in, who shouldn’t get in. And that reinforces the need for people like me who will stand their ground and be selective. I have had people come up to me and say “Oh, you have to let this guy in, he’s a super VIP,” and I didn’t. They got mad, but an hour later, in line, the guy is grabbing girls’ asses. I’m not going to take chances. I’d rather know who someone is.

Industry Icons: I have a lot of respect throughout. I’ve learned a lot from people like Steve Lewis, Jeffrey Jah, Dirk Van Stockum, Mark Baker. There’s a bunch of other people. I mean this respectfully, but truthfully, as much as I’ve learned from [other nightlife people’s] success, I’ve learned even more from their mistakes. It’s like if you’re walking up an icy block, and you see some people make it, and some fall, I know where not to walk. Sometimes you need to see someone you look up to fall, so you can say, wow, if he can fall, I can fall too. There’s someone I won’t name but who’s stuck around [in the business] way too long. You can only be in this business if you’re going to exit gracefully. Otherwise you’re like the girl who’s gone out too long, who was cute at 22 but now she has the injections and the lifts and is mad I don’t want to let her in anymore. It’s one thing when you’re 23 and you’re tipsy and giggly — it’s another when you’re 43 and sloppy drunk. It’s not a good look.

Frank McCue who runs the place under the Gansevoort [G-Spa & Lounge] for Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva [currently of Butter and 1Oak], he’s great at what he does. He told me one time, “I respect you and I respect Armin, but you guys do a thankless job. If you let someone in nine times, they may never thank you. But if you don’t let that person in one time, it’s like ‘you’re such an asshole”’. It’s just thankless, but you have to deal with it. Known Associates: This is the first time I’ve worked for Mark Birnbaum and Eugene [Remm]. I’ve known Mark for six, seven years. I just met Eugene when we opened. Working with them happened over three or four days. It was very quick. I had told Pink Elephant like a week before that I was leaving, then I opened Tenjune two weeks later. I didn’t like the direction 27th Street was going. Even though I know everybody [in the nightlife business], that’s not who I hang out with. You’re not going to catch me at Butter on a Monday night. Partly because of the drama I get when I go out. It’s embarrassing if I go out on a date or with friends and have to deal with that. I love Jayma Cardosa. I’ve know her about eight years. We happened to work together at Cain, but it was a genuine friendship. We like each other.

Projections: A lot of people with financial backing have asked me over the years when I’m going to open up my own club. And my answer to that is: I like the freedom that my job allows. I’ve been fortunate enough to make a very comfortable living without having to spend all day in an office staring at a computer screen. I take three or four weeks off during the winter and go to Brazil or Southeast Asia to hang out. You can’t do that when you have a 9 to 5 job. It’s not for everybody.

The dilemma for me now is, do I open my own place, or not. There might be a chance for financial growth, but at what cost? [At my own place] maybe I couldn’t take a month off a year. If someone falls at a club now, they don’t sue me, they sue Mark and Eugene. They have to put the fire out. That’s a lot of weight. That’s a decision I have to make in the next year or two. I’m not going to be doing this 10 years from now. Where do you hope to be next year? In nine months I’m going to do something new, and it’s going to be a hit. I hope that it’s going to be with Mark and Eugene, but my deal’s up with them in September, so we’re going to sit down then and make some decisions about the future. I do have two other projects I’m looking at. One in the Meatpacking, and one here [in Soho].

What are you doing tonight? Tonight I’m going to the screening of Pineapple Express, and then we’re hosting the after party at Tenjune.

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.