With Christmas finally behind us, the club world races towards its biggest payday and biggest headache: New Year’s Eve. I always looked at New Year’s Eve as an opportunity to make a statement. I always booked a big act and great DJ’s with the philosophy that I would get everyone left in town to come down and have a great party, while those who had shipped off to exotic lands would be aware of our greatness from afar. With that in mind I booked Grace Jones (often), Isaac Hayes, Eartha Kitt, Sandra Bernhardt, Debby Harry, Psychedelic Furs, Cab Calloway, and many other great acts to extend our cachet to the next year. The cold hard winter looms and revenue streams dry up. Money made during December and on the Eve will help venues get by. Most joints opt out and let a company like Joonbug handle New Year’s Eve. Joonbug and other event companies pay flat fees and sell tickets to their fan base. The worry and work of promoting the night is farmed out and a guarantee replaces the anxiety. This year I was booked early as a DJ for Marble Lane at the Dream Downtown. Jonathan Schwartz has taken over the entire joint and is hard at work filling multiple rooms. Besides little ol’ me he has the DJ duo The Chainsmokers, DJ M.O.S., Francis Mercier, and Joey Greiner. I just got word that Nas will be hosting. This sounds like fun. I caught up with Jonathan and asked him all about it.
Taking over the Dream Downtown for New Year’s Eve is ambitious. How did you come to the decision to do this?
Last year, I took over part of the Dream Downtown (the Gallery Event space and Marble Lane) and we sold it out easily and ended general admissions prices at an NYC all-time high of $1k per ticket. So we thought this year OFFER MORE, make New Year’s Eve an entire property event including: The Gallery & Marble Lane (pictured) hosted by Nas with DJ’s Steve Lewis, MOS, The Chainsmokers and more… PH-D with DJ Phresh overlooking the Manhattan skyline, and "Below the Dream," our most intimate space for 125 guests, featuring music by DJ Cameron Smalls. I figured now we have something for everybody.
Each of the rooms has an established year-round identity. Did this identity affect programming? What is going on in each venue?
Gallery is an awesome raw event space. It screams "cool" and "big room fun experience" to me. Past events here have included the Victoria’s Secret show after-party and Marc Jacobs after-party, so this was the perfect room for me to have Nas host later in the evening and let The Chainsmokers play their big room house to bring in the new year. Marble Lane is a restaurant by trade, but when transformed into a lounge for New Year’s Eve makes for an amazing set up. Marble Lane became the "it" place to hang last year at the Dream Downtown first annual New Year’s Eve event with music by Questlove and DJ Reach. This year we keep the cool with Steve Lewis, and the amazing mash-up set of MOS. PH-D is New York’s top rooftop space, boasting everyone’s favorite weekly Saturday party, "Sunset Saturdays." PH-D is one of the best rooms you could ever spend a New Year’s Eve in, with the view of New York City and the amazing hospitality they provide. Below the Dream will be for those who want to go out on New Year’s, but keep it super sexy and intimate without the big room hassle. DJ Cameron Smalls will be there with a mash-up set of hip-hop, rock, electronic music, and more, keeping this room the most private cozy spot in the building. By embracing what each room has to offer, the Dream Downtown is the #1 destination for its versatility, and this was the vision from day one. Party, sleek, intimate, rooftop views, great music, great service, is what the Dream Downtown will offer.
How do you get the right people into the right venue?
PH-D has its own ticket type, allowing tickets buyers for PH-D access only for the rooftop. Gallery and Marble Lane have their own ticket types for general admission and tables. Below the Dream has its own ticket type as well. But of course, we do have limited all-access passes available which will get you into any room on the property.
What is your role at Strategic Group?
My role has evolved over the years, handling our headlining DJ’s, promoters, VIP guests, marketing, really anything to improve the business while working with the team (Noah, Judy, Andrew, Rich, and many more) on the latest focus: gearing up as a partner for Marquee NY, coming in 2013!
Are you learning the back-of-the-house stuff, or is marketing/promotion your ambition?
My goal is to become a "360 operator" and learn more each day. Very few people in our business are 360 degrees in their understanding of both front and back-of-the-house hospitality. I’ve learned a ton about back of the house the past two years but will continue to learn more until I’m a complete 360 guy. I think I’m getting close.
What is the vibe this New Year’s Eve? Is it is escapist, celebratory, reflective, bonkers?
The vibe this year is cool and celebratory. Be in the cool NYC party with the best DJ’s, best crowd that’s in NYC on New Year’s, and hosted by Nas. New Year’s is celebratory and our lineup, promotions, and Nas is just very cool, I don’t see anyone else doing what we have created here. Seems to me its either go to a cool hotel party, or an EDM concert like Armin Van Buuren at Pier 36.
Why the hell did you hire me for New Year’s Eve except for this article?
Had to hire Steve Lewis when it got presented to me as an option by Adam Alpert of 4am DJ’s. I actually think Steve that you were The first DJ I confirmed on the event. An article is great of course, but when you have a guy like yourself who has been to about 30 New Year’s Eve events, I entrust the music in Marble Lane to you and DJ MOS.