Industry Insiders: Kevin Crawford, Private Partier

It’s all about turning ideas into reality for Kevin Crawford, who produces events for discerning clients at some of the most elegant and exclusive spots in New York, including  AVA Lounge and The Bar at the Dream Hotel and Inc Lounge at the Time Hotel. We caught up with him to learn how he got into the events business, and how he stays on top of it. 

Where are you from?

I was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and lived in the area until I was 24.  I was really into music at a young age and that is probably why I ventured to clubs when I did. I would always bother my grandpa for money to go buy vinyl records every week.  I think if I wasn’t doing what I do today, I probably would have been a DJ.

How did you get into nightlife?
The first club I went to was a place called Area and it was a party for Paloma Picasso. My friend Luis Nunez, who worked for David Lachapelle at the time, had taken his younger brother and me out that evening and I had never seen anything like it.  I was totally hooked. I tried a few different careers out over the years (booker at modeling agency etc.) but somehow always came back to the club.
What was it like working for (BlackBook nightlife columnist) Steve Lewis when he was a major nightclub owner and operator?
Working for Steve was a monumental experience. Nightlife in NYC was at its peak and there was so much going on every day, whether we were dealing with a temperamental Grace Jones who wouldn’t go on stage, or getting him up at 5am to appear on the Joan Rivers show (he loves telling that story), every day was something new and exciting.  If I told you what I learned from him I would have to kill you but it was an experience I look back on fondly.
What exactly do you do now?
I currently have an exclusive in-house deal at three venues operated by Loungebars Management — Ava Lounge /Rooftop and The Bar at the Dream Hotel and Inc Lounge at the Time Hotel — where I manage all events and marketing. In 2007 I started a small event management / production company called Kevin Crawford Inc. I wanted an outlet to produce bigger, more creative events like fashion shows, premieres etc., which had been dream of mine since I started in the business.  I was fascinated by the supermodels and always had ideas of what I would do if I could produce a fashion show. I was able to achieve that goal which was invigorating and exhausting at the same time.
What is an average day like for you, if there is such a thing as an average day?
Who wants to have an average day? In the morning I read all the blogs and papers to see what’s happening in the world. Most days are spent in the office fielding calls, negotiating with clients, and running around to the venues conducting site visits.  I have at the very least between two and five events per week, so some afternoons are spent prepping for them, and every day is different. I also like to look for new and exciting opportunities for the lounges so we can create an atmosphere that people want revisit over and over again.
How is it different managing events at rooftop bars and lounges compared with indoor spaces? 
The major challenge with an outdoor space is Mother Nature. Thankfully we have a backup at Ava Lounge so if it rains, we can certainly accommodate the client in the indoor portion of the venue. Convincing people it will work out is sometimes a challenge, but in the end after a beautiful night and a great event, it’s a good feeling seeing your client ecstatic with the outcome and asking if they can hold the space for another event.
What’s the secret to your success? How do you make it work in such a competitive space?
The secret to my success has always really just being myself.  I love making people laugh and I really feed off of people so if I have a new client I try and make them comfortable in the first few minutes of meeting them. We usually hit it off right from the start. It’s then that I know the event is going to be great and I’ll go the extra mile to make them happy.  I have clients that I have been working with for over 10 years and I know what they like and expect, so as long as the lines of communication are open, the rest just happens.
What do you enjoy the most about your job, and what are some of the challenges? 
I really enjoy closing a big deal and making the client see that it was worth it.  I have such a great team at the lounges and they really make my job that much easier. I am a people pleaser for sure so if you’re happy, I’m happy.  The challenges I face sometimes are working with difficult clients who, no matter what you do, you cannot please. I don’t like those days but I try my best and that is all one can do.
What are some of the trends you see for summer 2012? Any cocktail trends you’re staying on top of?  
Right now we’re working with a new company called Liquid Lab NYC. They are an up and coming mixology company that has created a few new cocktails for our summer menu.  I think people want a variety of options so we’ve created a pretty diverse menu with something for everyone. One of my favorite drinks right now is a Tomato Basil martini – it’s delicious and perfect for a rooftop in the summer. Another trend they’ve turned me
on to is spherification, which is the culinary process of shaping liquid into spheres or balls like caviar.  We’re going serve mojito balls using this process at our summer launch party and think the trend will carry on at major events and other venues.
Many people would like to do what you do. What advice would you give a young person who is interested in working in nightlife at a high level? 
I never wanted to own my own club. Working in nightlife is a tough business and it’s extremely fickle. I basically found the element of it that I enjoyed and could also make money, but that wasn’t without a struggle.  I learned from some amazing people so my advice would be to stay in school, find out what you love about nightlife and what you see yourself doing, and then work really hard to achieve that goal. Oh … and don’t drink too much.
Finally, what do you do to relax when you have some time off?
Lately when I have free time I’ve been venturing out into different areas of entertainment. I’m currently assisting a friend who is shooting a music video and getting to learn about lighting and set design. I’ve also always been drawn to editing and think that is something I would do well.  I also love to travel and recently went to Tulum, Mexico with 10 friends for my birthday.  I’m most happy when I’m surrounded by friends and family, cooking, laughing, and just having a good time.
[Photo: Marko Kalfa]

Stevie’s Ark: Who to Save in NYC Nightlife

And the lord said to Noah, come with all your household into the ark, for I have seen you to be righteous (upright and in right standing) before me in this generation.” Genesis 8

Have you noticed the rain? We watched the lightning from the lobby entrance to the Rivington Hotel and counted 1 alligators, 2 alligators, 3 alligators, 4 in a super-scientific attempt to determine how far away the magnificent bolts were from my merry band of Sunday travelers. Then it was upon us, and I said to my flock, let us flee unto Spitzer’s and partake in friendly fare. So we went to Spitzer’s. I had the PBLT and the rest had salad. My arteries must be getting hard. The downpour came at us hard, and we huddled with the masses and drank and ate and waited and watched in wonder. Mother nature ain’t happy. The busboys tried to lower the windows, but it was a slow go, and the windswept rain wiped out the first two rows of diners. We got a little wet, but we were an intrepid band, and it washed away the sweat of shopping and strolling. I bought a cool hat at Still Life. The rain was traveling sideways in torrential sheets, thunder and lightning were right above us, and we didn’t have to count critters to understand that. It was a rain of biblical proportion, then it ended in sunlight — and then it happened again yesterday.

It’s been a seriously rainy last couple of months. It’s been cool too. I know, I know, I guess if my writing/designing career doesn’t work out, I could try to be a weatherman, but one has to seriously wonder if those scientists Al Gore’s using didn’t get their educations from that guy on TV who teaches you how to make money selling stuff on eBay. We joked of building a great ark and plotted to take two of every job in clubdom. Who would I save? I’m not taking into account breeders and non-breeders … doesn’t seem like Noah did either.

Owners? Well for sure I’d grab Eric Foss (Lit) and Paul Sevigny, who will, I’m sure, open something biblically amazing soon. I’d consider Eddie Dean if the wise judge rules favorably this week and the Pacha owner is still in business. I’m sure there would be considerable pressure to bring Noah Tepperberg because of he’s name-appropriate, and maybe the ship needs to actually make money. I’d ask Richie Akiva and Scott Sartiano, but it’s a boat and they’re jet-setters.

The door would be my boys Wass and Jon Lennon. No way they would have let mosquitoes and roaches in the first time around. For DJs, I’d go with Cassidy because who else would throw in a Dolly Parton tune; and I’d sacrifice a lamb to get Junior Vasquez because he makes me happy and will do the 40-day-and-40-night gig easy — he’s done gigs like that before. For bottle hosts, I’d grab Denise Robinson and Jayma Cordoso. I know, Jayma — you’re an owner now — but if you don’t want to get on the boat, let me know. You’re the best bottle host in town, and that owner slot is crowded.

For events, I’d ask Francis X. McHugh and Kevin Crawford. I’d bring Patrick Robinson and Julie Park to manage the whole thing — somebody’s got to get the bussers to sweep up. On security, it’s Luke Petit and Jeff Craig because I trust them. Waitrons: Lelanea Fulton and Ayana Frazier. It’s gonna be a 40-night excursion, and I’m gonna need a bunch of bottles with lots of smiles. These gals have great … smiles. The bartenders for real sure are Seamus Regan and Blaze. For promoter, hmmm, maybe we only need to bring one promoter. OK, if we have to bring two, it will be Kenny Kenny and Emma Cleary. I know, Emma, you’re an owner, but I really liked your Monday-night Femme Fatale party at Katra, and these days almost anyone can call themselves an owner. Nightlife blogger? Well since it’s obvious to anyone who knows me I have never had much interest in self-preservation, I’d opt for Rachelle of Guest of a Guest and Brittney of ChiChi212. I’d ask Scott Solis of Down by the Hipster, but I think he would be thrown overboard before we left port.