Remember Soho? That downtown Manhattan neighborhood south of Houston Street that once was poor and squalid, then became industrial, then artsy, then posh, and then treaded water while the economy did the Macarena? Well it’s back in business in a big way, having just received a ringing endorsement from restaurant and nightlife entrepreneur Jon Bakhshi, who chose it over the Meatpacking District as the location of his newest hotspot, RSVP, which opened last week on Watts Street with chef Seth Levine manning the kitchen. The restaurant and lounge serves lunch, dinner, late-night bites, and cocktails from noon to midnight during the week, staying open until 2am Friday and Saturday. We chatted with Jon B. to get the scoop on the exciting new addition to the neighborhood.
I woke up, had my cup, and I dragged a comb across my head, and I read the news today (and yesterday) — oh boy,about a lucky man who made the grade, and though the news was rather sad, well I just had to laugh … The Jon B-Mike Satsky URL story had heads shaking and tongues wagging as the blogs took pleasure in what appears to be a lowlife clubland grift. Jon B is by all accounts a very successful club operator with a number of properties and a lot more coming in the near future. He is absolutely dedicated to defining himself as an honest, intelligent, and gifted club/restaurant operator. But the blogosphere is buzzing with negative reports of a below-the-belt hit on Iron Mike Satsky. According to the reads, the Greenhouse gang took the provocateurnyc.com domain and had it direct people to the Greenhouse website. Provocateur is the new spot my designer pal Lionel Ohayon is producing for Mike and partner Brian Gefter. Mike and Brian had a winner over at Stereo before it was shuttered. After my successful mediation last week between Chichi212.com queen Brittany Mendenhall and Unik Ernest, who she called the “MC hammer of nightlife.” I was feeling very Bill Clintonesque. I called Jon B and said, “You have your new restaurant, Juliet, named after your mom, with top chef Todd English, and it just seems ridiculous to have this petty game play out online.” He agreed and told me to come meet him at Juliet.
When I arrived at Juliet, Jon had already spoken to Mike Satsky, and peace was made. Mike told Jon he never compared the Greenhouse crew to “Payless” in relation to his future boîte. Jon explained how an ambitious “intern” had grabbed the URL as a joke. Jon told me, “There’s no point in playing childish games … I’ll give it to them as a gift.” We were sitting in Juliet, co-owned by my friend turned enemy turned friend again Todd English. Todd and I had a “childish” fight in the blogs a bit back, but now he has expressed genuine interest in rekindling our friendship, and I am feeling peaceful myself. Jon is taking a conciliatory approach as well, and Todd and I will be having dinner real soon. I’ve been in Juliet a lot lately. It is a very ambitious design with a great deal of reflective surfaces. The columns, low walls, banquette backs, bar … even the floor is mirrored tile. It’s not my thing as it feels a bit cold to me, but Jon told me “it looks great with the lights down low.” Sounds like my last girlfriend.
A couple hours later, Mike Satsky responded to a call for comment. Mike usually shies away from talking to bloggers, and I was honored that he felt I was to be trusted. He explained how “Jon’s Greenhouse and what I do is very different, like apples and oranges.” I said some clubs might be heaven for some folks and a nightmare for others. Patrons at Pacha or Cielo wouldn’t see the value of a Jane or Avenue, and for the most part vice versa. They all are great clubs. Mike says “there’s plenty of room for everybody,” and his door at Provocateur will be like Fort Knox”; it will be “a place like no one has seen before … I will not disappoint.” Rumors of a just under $5 million build-out and acoustical treatments to protect hotel guests from noise being done by a former NASA engineer were not addressed in my conversation. Mike said they will open “in around four weeks, maybe as much as six.” “There’s room in this town for everyone, every type of club … Jon is doing something completely different, and I wish him well.” Provocateur is already proving to be provocative.
Remi Laba and Aymeric Clemente have gotten the go-over at the Merkato 55 space and will make a go of it without Kiss & Fly and Bagatelle partners David Graziano and Corey Lane, who are themselves making a go of it without them over at Gansevoort 69. This sounds like an incident waiting to happen, but all are really great people — and as long as Jon B’s “intern” doesn’t get into the mix things, will remain civilized.
The Mark Packer acquisition of the Au Bar space, across from his totally successful Tao, seems to be complete. Sources say that old Park Avenue South brand Canastel’s will be the restaurant entity, while the rest of the space may be a lounge or corporate event space. It’s a can’t-miss, as it could easily survive on the overflow from Tao.
GoldBar had a little facelift, with a couple of well-placed disco balls, a tweak of the mesh curtains, and an overall dimming of the lights making the space a bit more frenetic. I hung out with door king Jon Lennon while a beautiful crowd of fun-loving and well-heeled patrons partied hardy inside. GoldBar remains one of my favorite places, and Jon Lennon has really stepped up and made the place his home. Here is a hotspot which handles its door in a way that the Jane Hotel should take note of. Avenue and 1Oak as well are uber-desirable places to get into, as much so if not more than the Jane. They control their door, have few patrons outside, and control the uncontrollable cab honking outside. The Jane’s problems outside are solvable, and I understand that they are taking big steps to do just that. I’ll be there later to check it out.
Lastly, Paul Sevigny finally returned from his Rome concert in partnership with Deitch Gallery. In response to rumors I reported that he would be joining the crew at the Standard, he says, “I wouldn’t be caught dead walking through the Meatpacking District.”
With the end of the summer underlined by chill winds and daily highs hovering around room temperature, the business of nightlife is readily anticipating the opening of some new businesses. Between now and the drop of the ball on New Year’s Eve, a club space odyssey will change nightlife as we know it. Although it isn’t raining money, there is enough of a drizzle to support new growth in a constantly evolving and extremely vibrant scene. These new contenders are diverse and seem organized to succeed. In no particular order, here are nine spaces that will soon be on your lips and minds.
1. and 2. Abe & Arthur’s and Simyone – Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum hope to answer all questions about their success. The much-anticipated restaurant with the club down below will look good due to the extreme design talent of my friend Lionel Ohayon, and it will taste great because Franklin Becker is the real deal. Eugene and Mark have enjoyed massive success at Tenjune being themselves and not worrying too much about the other guys. This will surely be a case where nice guys finish first. Location, location, location is a mantra often forgotten by people who have opened in strange locations and are most often forgotten. The old Lotus space on 14th street will enter the Standard– and Jane-invigorated Meatpacking District and be a smash
3. The Nell’s/Richie Akiva joint – I can’t tell you much cause I’m sworn to secrecy, but my partner Marc Dizon and I are very pleased with the developing renderings and the commitment to excellence shown by the Butter/1Oak crew. Yes there will be food upstairs and a joint downstairs, and that’s all I will say except that the space is wonderful with no columns upstairs and great high ceilings, and I’ve been wanting to get my hands on it for 15 years.
4. Quattro at the Trump Soho – Nicola Siervo, Karim Masri, and Rony Siekaly will take their Miami game to Mr. Donald Trump’s Soho hotel. I am always skeptical when Miami players try to bring their vibe to New York. Miami is a straight up tourist town, and vacation money always flows more freely than most other kinds. Yet these three know tons of people and can route their A-listers to their New York incarnation just like Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss service their Tao clientele in Vegas and then in New York at Tao, Marquee, and now Avenue.
5. Serpentine – Patrick Duffy — that fun, fun downtown flier — will bring the straights to the gays and the fashionistas to the hipster dipsters. There will be more fun on day one than all the months of Mr. West combined. Where Mr. West suffered from attitude as well as longitude, Patrick’s brand of real smile, laugh, and dance will surely purge the doomed bottle boîte of its bad vibes. The in crowd will travel west, east, north, or south for Mr. Duffy and his genuine approach to a good time. This will be a very hot place for the cool cool crowd
6. La Pomme – A full Fashion Week calendar of events speaks volumes of this 26th, 5th and 6th redo of Ultra. They are working hard, and that’s a very good beginning. Lots of places think getting open is the hard part. I see this being a reliable entry for a no-nonsense dance-and-drink crowd that isn’t being serviced by the uber-trendy or modely joints. It will host great parties, serve solid drinks, people will be treated nicely, and it will survive and even thrive while other more touted joints can’t pay their bills.
7. Mr. Black – The move into the Room Service space seems a no brainer, but I’m committing right now to a trip to Williamsburg when Stuart gets his new (I can’t tell you the great name yet) place open. Getting me out to Brooklyn is no easy task since I’ve sworn off the dead cows at Luger’s, and no that isn’t a fancy cocktail, but Mr. Black is old school — seriously hot sauce.
8. Red Velvet – The new alcohol-in-things-other-than-cocktails trend continues with this skinny spot with possibly fattening alcohol-enhanced cupcakes. I hear Steve Hanson is going to offer milkshakes that will make you rattle and roll over at the old Hogs and Heifers space — Bill’s Bar & Burger — but that may exceed my daily caloric intake. My firm is doing the Red Velvet design because we have a definite sweet tooth for the players involved. We also think it will be hot. I’ll talk about the design real soon — just need to dot a few eyes. Without sugar-coating it too much, I predict you will think it sweet.
9. OK, there’s more than nine. Hell, the Standard Hotel has four; Todd English and Jon B will offer HRH and its Persian theme; Double 7 will open with Will Regan and David Rabin creating a hangout for adult nightlifers; my pals Anthony Martignetti and James Willis are doing something with that space just south of Southside; and Provocateur will bring cold-weather relevance to the Ganesvoort. I hope Emma Cleary gets to open up a real place, real soon so I can see her more than just Mondays at her “Don’t Feed the Models” party at Katra. I’m hearing nice things about Su Casa, and Ainsworth will keep Matt Shendell’s posse in a place where they belong until Dune reopens next summer.
A while back the often maligned but generally easy guy to deal with Jon B of Home/Guesthouse fame was looking for a new spot to hang his hat. I steered him into what is now the Greenhouse space. I had been designing the property for the shelter crew of Timmy Regisford and Merlin Bobb, and it turned out they needed a partner. I felt strongly that the space, which has been a nightspot since pre World War II, was ideal — an easy-to-get-to cabaret downtown with few neighbors. A home run. Jon told me I was nuts for a couple of months, but then moved in.
I didn’t end up doing the design, as Jon brought in his guy Antonio Di Oronzo. I did do much of the layout, bar placements, and such, but this award-winning design is all Jon B and his vision of a “green” club. Dipster-hipsters don’t necessarily embrace the joint, but it does make money — not an easy task — and downtowners swarm to Kenny Kenny and Susanne Bartsch’s “Vandam” parties every Sunday. For the fashion-gay crowd, it’s the only game in town.
The area is so isolated from Manhattan civilization that it doesn’t really have a name yet. Realtors often dub it Hudson Square. I have seen HoHo, which stands for Houston/Holland, as in the Clifford Milburn Holland Tunnel. BrooHoHo includes Broome Street into the mix. North Tribeca, West Soho, and South Village are also tossed around. My favorite is WeVar for west Varrick. Whatever it’s called, it’s about to be a different hood real soon. A half-dozen or more projects in development will give Jon B’s isolated outpost some company
The well-documented Trump Soho collaboration with Miami superstars Nicola Siervo, Karim Masri, and Rony Seikaly will bring the sexy set to the hood. Quattro and all the food and beverage joints at the Trump will skew the monied jet-set crowd a little down and to the left of their current Meatpacking District haunts. Four-star chef Daniel Boulud will open on the corner just north of Greenhouse with his new restaurant. City Winery across the street is open, attracting a mixed bag of yuppies and confused revelers now … but it could easily attract dreaded promoter types to its comfy confines and make a statement. Even the Vandam Diner has a liquor license, and there’s a buzz about it too. Up the road a bit at the Sheridan Square, an Egyptian crew headed by Mino, Romy, and Greenhouse bottle host Sammy is gearing to go. This is supposed to be super hush hush, or hu-hu as we say these days. Also very hu-hu is the forgotten Movido space. It’s getting looked at, my source tells me, by a French crew. This group is giving it a shot despite being saddled with a 2am liquor license. They are trying to get the 4am working but are running into HoHo community board opposition.
That’s a lot of activity for an area without a name. Maybe that’s the way it has to be. New development is everywhere as the banks see fit to contribute cash once again. Operators must look at the elbows and corners of Manhattan where developers aren’t digging in if they are to obtain licensing and stay in business. For potential residents, this Vandam strip is a horror during the day, as hundreds of thousands of cars make their way back to mainland America. But the honking and pollution are almost gone by the time the party people are going out. Whether it’s WeVar or HoHo, it figures to be the next MePa (Meatpacking) or OuCh (Outer Chelsea) in time for Christmas. We will all ho-ho-ho-ing in HoHo.
About a year and a half ago, Jon B took me to see a space called Opus 22 and asked me for my thoughts. I told him to pass on the property because of its location. He didn’t exactly pass but didn’t run with it either, farming it out to PR honcho Danny Divine and DJ Jus Ske. They hired Antonio Di Oronzo who did Greenhouse to do the design. That’s an award winning design, but I always felt what Opus 22 became — that is, Mr. West — was hideous and not very functional. When you create a joint off the beaten track, you have to be real good all the time. Consistency becomes a very important goal. Located in the pot belly of Manhattan, on 22nd Street just east of the Chelsea Piers, Mr. West proved to be a club too far.
Although only a five- or six-minute walk from Marquee and the 27th Street mall, and a five-minute cab ride from the Meatpacking District, it just seemed like the area was a suburban no man’s land. With nothing around, people showed up on off nights and were forced to cab it out. They never returned. The advantage of being in a club mall is that it’s easier — and without a cab fare, cheaper — to give a joint a second try. If it wasn’t popping the first time around, you might sneak back in while nearby the next night.
For new operator Patrick Duffy, the location is perfect. His last venture was the super chic and super secretive Serpentine, an invite-only adventure which attracted the mix of people that kept me in fine clothes and nice apartments for years. Uptown, downtown, gay, straight, all ages, lots of fun with forward-thinking DJs. Serpentine will now slither into the Mr. West mess along with a restaurant called BES (“Boutique Eating Shop”). Patrick Duffy is a clever fellow with a large and supremely loyal following. He’ll make a go of it.
My man Bugsy is hosting a comedy night called Chuckle for a Cause to help raise money for underprivileged kids who have little to laugh about. It’s at 8pm at Citrine, which I have been calling Latrine after they fired door guru Ross Hutkoff two days before his kid was born. They gave him back a night and are holding this important event, so it’s Citrine again.
My pal Mimi Margalit celebrated her birthday at Jane last night. The club is faced with a dilemma . The Jane doesn’t have a doorman until club hours or around 9pm. More and more people are arriving real early and sitting it out inside to avoid the tough door; the early business is grand, but when the summer ends, they’ll be wanting the administrators instead of the administrative assistants — the gallery owner rather than the gallery receptionist. It’s my favorite joint, and I hope it lasts. Mimi was a bit tipsy and was nicknamed Marinated Mimi for the evening. She wants to hook me up with a nice Jewish girl. I told her I would consider this idea providing the girl has no living relatives. It’s an awful joke but I’m sticking to it. Oh, and my spy tells me that Abe & Arthur’s looks delicious. Chef Franklin Becker will make sure it tastes delicious too.
The good news came via BlackBerry from Eddie Dean in Ibiza. Pacha won its hard-fought battle against the NYPD, who seemingly would stop at nothing to close the club down. I had sat in the back of the courthouse and listened to arguments from both sides, and although I was extremely biased towards the defendant, I tried to be objective. But I couldn’t find a case in the government’s case. It all seemed to get down to the concept that although Pacha was taking extraordinary measures to prevent drug sales on its premises, the sales continued. The police case seemed to be that the continuing operation of the mega-club was a drain on the department’s resources. These resources would be better spent patrolling the nearby hood. All doughnut jokes aside, the argument didn’t seem to impress Judge Joan Madden, who threw it out. I read the verdict, and indeed there are stipulations that make this less than a 100% victory for New York’s last real mega-club; but for today, it’s a reason to be cheerful.
Monitoring, continued searches, and security cameras are required, and this seems to be a reasonable course of action. I have obtained the verdict and offer it you here. Oh, and Eddie says the good folks over at Pacha Ibiza read this column, so here’s a shout-out to them. Pachas thrive in 25 or 26 cities around the world. It’s nice that Judge Madden says we can keep ours. Although Ibiza may be an extreme case, a great many places in this world embrace nightlife as an integral part of their fabric and tourist culture. Overseas house-heads coming to New York this summer have had virtually no outlet since Cielo was shuttered till September. Lets hope the police will play fair. They have in the past had their undercovers call drug dealers to make buys in clubs, then busted the club for allowing sales. That’s un-American and unfair. They have allowed known dealers to operate in clubs to “prove” that they could deal without getting caught, putting patrons at risk. That is unbelievably dangerous. What if someone had died from these drugs?
The police have been accused by many of punishing Pacha for hosting the after-party for the Puerto Rican Day parade; this annual party follows a city-sponsored celebration, yet an incident three blocks from the club brings the wrath of the police, who say that party should not have been booked. This, many say, is racism — and I agree. Judge Madden seems to have discounted the police theories of what is happening up on West 46th Street, an area devoid currently of neighbors but not developers’ ambitions. By the time the celebration for this court victory subsides, the weekend will be upon us, and invariably the police harassment of a lawful, tax-paying business will continue.
Moving on: Word comes of the raiding of super-exclusive very hush-hush after hours spot Serpentine. A special friend sent me the word:
the place got raided gay pride weekend after a belligerent friend of a guest got nasty and started spouting homophobic rants. He’s the one who called the cops. Patrick ended up spending the night in jail. It’s too bad some asshole had to ruin it. I went a few times and really loved it – thinking – this is exactly what ny needs right now.
The backlog of liquor licenses has reached a point where the governor’s office is stepping up. As reported in DBTH, a bill to allow joints to operate while their permits are pending is on Governor Patterson’s desk. DBTH made the observation that community boards would be up in arms over this. To clarify, the fast-track temporary license is only for those places that have already received community board approval. An attorney in good standing will self-certify that the financial disclosures and background information and other important stuff are in order. This is an intelligent reaction to a bureaucratic backlog
There is more to the Jon B closing of Home and Guesthouse than previously reported here and elsewhere. Good old Jon just didn’t turn in the liquor licenses. He cooperated in the transfer of these licenses to landlord Harlan Berger in consideration of a reduction of back rent. The community board approved this transfer. Behind this whole thing is real estate developer Igor Ger of East 11th Street. What is to be done with the 530 West 27th Street property which once simultaneously contained Home, Guesthouse, Spirit, and Bed is unclear. “A fabulous concept” is in place. I asked who the designer might be (fishing for some work) and was told “you are, you dummy.” Ah yes, I remember it now. My partner Marc Dizon has been developing the space. We had a bunch of sit-downs and did a presentation a while back, but we do a lot of these and only about a third ever get past the concept phase. It indeed slipped my mind. Marc was laughing at me all day yesterday. Late night dates are distracting and confusing me he claims. When my design hat allows my writing hat to speak more of this, I surely will.
Exactly five years to the day after opening, Jon B’s 27th Street mainstays Home and Guesthouse have closed. The presence of mounted police, klieg lights, and general harassment by authorities of all patrons wanting to party in Outer Chelsea (OuCh) proved too much. Almost 100 employees found out yesterday afternoon that they were no longer working at the venues. I caught up with Jon and asked him why he closed so suddenly. “I feel terrible. I took care of everybody as long as I could, even when times were tough for me. Yesterday I had to pay a bunch of fines, and I didn’t have money in the account. I had to close — there was no other option.”
He took me back to 2005. “Between Home and Guesthouse, Spirit, Bed, Cain, Bungalow, Pink Elephant, and whatever they called that space where Suzie Wong’s is, we had over 10,000 people on a weekend night visiting the block. Now it’s down to about 2,500 … that’s not enough to sustain a business. We were open seven nights a week for almost five years. I wish it could have lasted longer.” I asked what happens to the license and the lease. “I guess it goes back to the landlord.” Jon’s original landlord was Robbie Wooten, who opened the megaclub Spirit in his newly acquired 530 West 27th Street building. Spirit was a disaster. It wasn’t embraced at all by New York clubgoers, even though the formula was a smash back in Robbie’s Ireland. Massage tables and candles and all sorts of positive vibes and good karma didn’t excite anyone. The restaurant and healing center soon gave way to Jon Bakhshi, a self-proclaimed B+ promoter, who came in and almost saved the day(night) at the doomed club. Spirit would re-open but was such a bane to the area that transfer of the entire space to Jon B was denied. The local community board thought reducing the number of people coming to their precious OuCh district was necessary. The reality was that Spirit had gone “urban,” and neither the community nor the local police precinct was going to allow that.
A few years before, when Amy Sacco boldly built Bungalow 8 where no man or woman had built before, the block was the home of D+ hookers, pimps, and johns in cruising cars. The city granted fast-tracked cabaret and liquor licenses to owners and basically shut down access to these licenses everyplace else. The clubs in turn brought the fast lane of C-list celebrities, models, and bottle buyers to a block which had been a pimp and ho track. There was an excitement, a vibrancy — new construction everywhere. Licenses were given to anyone with a pulse. The city had solved its clubs-in-residential-neighborhoods problem by creating OuCh club ghettos in the Meatpacking District. These derelict neighborhoods would be gentrified by the multi-million-dollar investments in nightlife. They were basically killing two birds with one stone. The clubs wouldn’t be waking up the old ladies in the neighborhoods because new club investment would be drawn to the easy licensing and one-stop shopping of the disco-light districts being created. This would turn what was essentially red light districts into areas for art galleries, restaurants, and nightlife.
A couple years ago, the area was rezoned so that developers could build condos. The clubs were now a nuisance, and a tide of police and civil authorities used the unfortunate but vaguely connected death of Jennifer Moore as an excuse to get this real estate back into the hands of the developers, who saw the clubs as a non-selling point. Robbie Wooten sold his 530 property, once the home of Bed, Spirit, Home, and Guesthouse, to a group led by man about town Harlan Berger. There were stories about a film center, a hotel, and even a real nice club where Jon B’s “B crowd” would not be welcome. These A-list plans had Mark Baker and other A-list operator types swirling all around. The last few years have seen allegations and litigations between Harlan and Jon B, as the precious liquor licenses rested with Jon. Now Harlan has them, and the economy seems right, and that Highline thing is really bringing flocks of nice day people to the hood.
There were many flaws in Home and Guesthouse. I designed the places with my partner Marc Dizon with a total budget of around half a million dollars. Jon got a lot of bang for those few bucks. The legacy of Home and Guesthouse will be their survival for five years. They rode the wave of the model/bottle boom and crashed into the beach when the economy sagged and fair play and decency lagged in club/police relations. They were the last of the clubs to make “no fur” part of its dress code. They never were great clubs, but Jon B would always tell me that he was making more money than those more celebrated joints around him. The bottom line with Jon was always the bottom line. Why shouldn’t that be a reason to be cheerful and a mark of success? I will say that Jon prides himself in always paying his employees and honoring his debts. The closing of his clubs hadn’t really hit home to him as we spoke throughout yesterday. “I can’t believe it, but it’s been a pretty good run, and I’m proud of it,” he finally said.
The high and mighty plans of the Opium Group out of Miami to create and sustain a high-end club in the Mezmor Building space are officially dead. Mark Baker has left M2. I won’t get into a he-said she-said debate on what happened. Mark told me “that the split was mutually agreed upon and that Joey Morrissey — a friend for 20 years — and myself still maintain a great relationship.” Mark believes his run at Mansion, now M2, “has been a great success”; through impossible times the club has survived, and most felt that was impossible. But I suspect that surviving, although a noble ambition, is not what they had in mind a little more than a year ago. The big dreams of a circus-like atmosphere where the beautiful people celebrated the sweet sounds of success while popping bottles to the sweet sounds of world-class DJs proved fleeting. Yes, there were many moments where the Euro set had a blast, but downtown didn’t understand it and mostly didn’t come. The dream of a mixed bag of the best of every class in New York was never achieved.
Mark says he hasn’t “looked at another opportunity for over a year … Joey Morrisey has an incredible vision” for going forward with M2. He says that he may even do one-offs at the mega-club. Ever the gentleman, Mark will always say the right things . He took a deep breath and told me, “Everyone needs to know when it’s time to move on.” For Mark, moving on will begin with heading to Moscow to host the Russian Nightlife Awards. It’s his second go at this; he’ll also host a mega “I Love New York” event in the Russian capital. Then it’s back to New York for the Hamptons season. He can’t speak to which Hamptons venue will get him right now, but he’ll let us know. Mark also told me that the long -waited return of Double Seven will indeed happen this September. The big story in his future is the collaboration with Jon B and Barry Mullineaux who are killing it over at Greenhouse. Mark brings his uber-high-end crowd to the emerging fabulous peeps at Jon’s properties. I believe this collaboration is exactly what is needed for both parties. I’m sure there will be future openings based on this deal.
Finally, I would like to add that Mansion, M2, or whatever never lived up to the expectations I had for it either. However, it’s still standing, and in these unprecedented times, that’s an achievement. Unfortunately the business model for Mansion was in the European bottle crowd. When the economy bludgeoned that scene, Mansion was doomed to a lower-rent niche.
Word comes from one of those talkative birdie types that Peter Gatien has been ousted from his throne at his Circa nightclub in Toronto. My source was vague on details except for a “he’s definitely out,” and that the “two lawyer/investor partners” had acted because Peter was “up to his same old shit.” At this time I’m not sure what “shit” he is specifically accused of being up to, but there was just so much of it in the old days. I’m promised details sometime today, but although it’s no secret that Peter and I have had a “confused” past, I honestly don’t enjoy hearing this news. As I’ve said before, though it seems that he deviated far from any reasonable set of management practices in his reign as club king in New York, there is little doubt of his brilliance, daring, and vision. Things didn’t exactly work out as he planned here, and again I’m sad that this may be true for him in his native land. I never went to Circa, but I heard wonderful things about it and was impressed by the Kid Robot decor images that I’ve seen online.
Onto another fairly controversial topic: A recent article in the New York Times has pointed out the consumption of thousands of dollars worth of bottles at the Merkato 55 and Bagatelle weekend brunches, which has raised a few questions. Is the Obama bailout going to bring back bottle service? The flailing economy had just about forced clubs to rethink their reliance on the Grey Goose crowd, but it seems like the bailout may be providing these patrons with some extra spending money again.
I spoke to a few owner types to get their feel, and most said that they were still struggling, but that business was also up recently. Greenhouse owner Jon B. pointed out that January and February have always been slow months. “Hopefully with the bailout and the change of weather people will feel more confident about spending,” he said. Eddie Dean over at Pacha said that his club was “still making deals, and early-bird specials with no sign of improvement yet.” Owners at all the places I spoke to said that revenues are down between 15 and 25 percent from last year.
Last year, as I remember it, was a monster year, but to expect that kind of action in an unusually long and cold winter — and in a down economy — would be a bit short-sighted. Management got used to bottle service padding their bottom lines, and those who have not adjusted by cutting staff or finding other revenue streams (like door fees or specialty drinks) are suffering. But while most owners have mourned the loss of bottle-service, many have seen it as a blessing since creative types have returned to the business with new energies and great parties. It is my observation that there are many great nights/parties, but there is no truly great club. The country has been in an uproar about the bonuses paid to A.I.G. executives. with an angry president ordering his minions to make it stop. I can’t imagine the reaction when it’s taken to the next level — when people realize that the loot is trickling down to the frat boys once again and is being used to buy tables at the city’s trendiest nightclubs. Can the goose be put back in the bottle? Merkato 55’s doorman, Matt Oliver, had this to say: “I generally ask bottle service customers for their credit card and ID. I’ve never asked them how they got the money in the first place. But maybe I should start.”