New York: Top 5 Wednesday Night Hotspots

imageWednesday. The week is half over, half remaining, or half in the bag. Doesn’t matter. These five spots are shutting it down.

1.Chloe 81 (Lower East Side) – Next contender for title of the new Beatrice is blissfully not in the West Village. 2. Blue Owl Cocktail Lounge (East Village) – Undercover basement lounge for pretty professionals taking it down a notch for the night. 3. Pink Elephant (Chelsea) – Gangsters, models, and house. Where one goes, the others must follow.

4. Kiss and Fly (Meatpacking District) – Aer space resurrected. The only way to fly. 5. Marquee (Chelsea) – Still packing in six-foot Slavic princesses and the suckers who love them. Since 2003.

Industry Insiders: Mory Traore, Model Magnet

“I Hate Models” promoter Mory Traore waxes on why his parties have the most runway talent, ditching the police force, turning shit into gold, and how to combat corruption in Africa.

Point of Origin: I’m from Guinea, West Africa. Came to New York as a student and got a criminology degree from John Jay College. Then I was working for New York Department of Investigation for about seven months until I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to do. Basically it was a military organization with hierarchy, orders — not the kind of place I function well. I didn’t have freedom. I’m really creative and I couldn’t use it, so I took off and went to Eastern Europe and traveled. And I thought, “OK, when I go back to New York what am I gonna do?” I was in Romania on a train at night writing these things down and I said, “From here on any job I do: no stress. What makes me happy? I love to party. I love beautiful girls. I love to travel.”

I wrote all this down. And I said, “All these things here are things I have to get paid to do. That’s the only way to get a job that makes me happy.” So I started model scouting. I was calling agencies and traveling and telling them if they wanted to pay my travel costs, I will bring you people, then we’ll sit down and figure out the rate or the percentage. So that’s how I got started.

So right around that time, I started promoting a little bit at the club Life. That was the first night I did. I told Steve Lewis, who ran it, that I wanted to start promoting, and he said, “Are you sure?” He told me, “I think you can do it. You know so many people.” They were just paying me per person at first. I know myself. I always do this kind of thing. I want to prove myself to people. I make people depend on me. Once you do so well that their night depends on you, then if you leave, their night is nothing, and you can ask for anything. And I always get it. No promoter gets more than I do, because I know exactly the value of what I do. $1,500, $1,000 is not what I do. What I do is I sell you an image, and this is the image you pay me for. I turn shit into gold. I used to do places like Arena, Air (where Kiss and Fly is now). Tenjune. Places like that. You talk to people at Tenjune, they’re gonna say its because of Mory that they got to this spot. This is what I sell.

Occupations: Right now I do six parties Tuesday through Saturday. I work five nights and one of the nights is two parties. Tuesday’s at Tenjune, Wednesday at Kiss and Fly, Thursday at Tenjune again. Friday at Highbar first, then Bijoux later that night. And Saturdays in the Hamptons at Lily Pond.

Are you at all your parties? Always. My main principle for myself is I have to be there. Unless I’m traveling. That’s another concept with working in a group because most clubs are stealing people that work with me cause they want to break me. Like Ricardo that used to work with me. Or Justin Melnick, or Nicky P. All these guys were working for me, and they come and take them away thinking they’re gonna weaken me. But it’s like the Africans say: If you want to kill the snake, you have to cut the head, not the tail, cause if you cut the tail it’s just gonna regroup and go on. And now what I did is I have a big team of about six trusted people. My brother Fontaine cause nobody can take him away. [Some Italian promoters] work with me now to replace the Italian element in Ricardo. I met them in Ibiza, saw them working, so I know they know how to do things. I just had to train them in the New York style.

What is that style? I know you have a big model crowd. What sets your party apart? What we do is not just the models, it’s a fashion crowd. We do focus more on that. Most promoters have a little circle of models that they go around with, but we go for the quantity of the quality. We try to get the most model girls. A lot of them.

Would you say you are the king of the models in New York? People say this. People tell me I know more models than anybody else. But I don’t know because I don’t go to other parties to make a comparison because most of the time I go to my own party. Because if I’m having my own party one night, I won’t go to another person’s party that night. I think about it the reverse way. What am I gonna think if I’m at my party and I see [a rival promoter] at my party? I’ll think, “Their party probably sucks if they are at my party.”

So of all the parties you’ve done over the years, what’s your favorite? That little shitty place Suede. Friday was just insane over there. And also Air.

Was the Suede party with Danny A? No, he was doing another night. We never did the same night together.

Do you ever work with other promoters in conjunction on the same party? I usually tell the clubs — cause we charge them a lot of money — if you want to hire other people, that’s fine, but you don’t need it because not only do we bring the models, we bring the bottles, you know. And we have all the regular [people], the masses. Like the text messages I send. I have three thousand numbers in my phone.

Those texts (which are quirky, slightly absurd, and often include the word “model” in some way) are pretty memorable to say the least. Who writes them? I do! (laughing) I just think about regular things, certain things you read or something and turn it around. Someone says something funny, you twist it around. You’ll have a conversation, and I remember it and write it down. I have a little book where I write them down.

Do you have a backlog of texts? Yeah.

Do you recycle them? Rarely, because people remember them, so I try not to (laughing). I had a book full of them before, and I lost it in Cannes. I was so pissed. I had so many because I was on vacation, so I had time to write a lot of them.

What other places do you like to hang out? I know you said you don’t go to other peoples parties necessarily. I go, usually when I have to. Because sometimes the girls want to go to another place if they don’t want to go home. I party for basically work, and of course I have fun and I enjoy it, but when I don’t have to party, I try to go home and sleep to conserve my energy. Especially when you work six parties a week!

Projections: I have a party in Milan for Fashion Week with Muse magazine, and then my birthday in Paris for Fashion Week with Major Model Management. And then we have a party for “I Hate Models.” We made 900 T-shirts with the “I Hate Models” logo, and we’re gonna give them to all the models to wear.

Tell me about the model dinners. It’s usually mainly models that we invite. Again, we do the quantity of the quality. We try to invite anybody that wants to come, but they gotta be models. We can have like 40 or 50 girls. We get 50% off, and we pay for it. We prefer to pay … it’s better than the regular model dinner.

The girls already eat 50% less. What’s 50% of a salad? Exactly. It works for us. When you have these buffets, people don’t feel special. It’s like you’re a cow. I wouldn’t want to come to a dinner where someone invites me, and someone just puts some food on your plate in front of you. We tell them we want the menu. We know the models don’t eat that much, so we get the menu and get 50% off. We’ll pay for it. Sometimes it’s a lot, like two or three thousand dollars, but we think about the future. All the girls that go out with us know the things we do are really good — it’s not shitty things or low-quality stuff.

How is your relationship with the modeling agencies? Good relationships with most, but a lot of the agencies don’t want their girls to go out. So we have relationships with the girls directly. With the agencies, we’ll do special parties, special events. Some bookers will call me once in a while if they want to go out, and they bring some girls. But we don’t depend on the bookers.

Side projects? When I was in Africa last time, and I go very often, I started looking at the possibility of starting a charity. There have only been two regimes since 1958, both very corrupt governments. Corruption is institutionalized. So even if there’s a new regime that’s very conscious of [eradicating] corruption, and it took 50 years to create that culture of corruption, it’s going to take another 50 years to deprogram that culture. I think the path to development is Internet and technology. It has to come to everybody, like it did in China, or Eastern Europe, or India. That is how you get into the global market, so you don’t have to go through the government to get things done. It’s essential. So I’m looking to work with a company to start bringing computer technology to my country because I want everyone in the whole country to get on the Internet, for people to see what’s happening in the rest of the world, so people will be empowered. So that’s something I’m looking to get involved with.

What are you doing tonight? Kiss and Fly. So you want to kiss and fly tonight? You might fly away with a girl.

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.