9 Reasons to Be Cheerful on 9/9/09

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.

Scores Opens for Boozeness

Or is that boobness? I got a call from my pal Richie Romero, who is a marketing director at the new Scores New York on 28th Street, around 8 p.m. last night as I was walking my dogs. “Have you written tomorrow yet?” he asked. My mind immediately went to that mural of Joe Strummer east of Avenue A on 7th Street which says, “The future is unwritten,” so I said, “No.” He told me to grab my camera and run over to him at the joint. I felt like Jimmy Olsen; I got the Canon out (see gallery) and changed my shirt as he promised the entire staff was there, and I am still single, and it was a Monday night, and the agenda till then was a book with a Gossip Girl interlude.

Lionel Ohayon of iCrave fame was hired to redo the old Scores and make it grand, and he has succeeded. Jennifer Goldman, director of marketing (I think I met four of those) was gushing like a new mother about the joint. I asked her about the club, and she told me in about 10,000 words how beautiful it was. Her first sentence: “It’s a Vegas experience for the high-end nightclub crowd, bringing back the heyday of Scores from back in the day.” Her last sentence: “Look, they even put in grommets — grommets on the chairs!”

I got a word in and asked if the economy was bringing a different type of person looking for employment. “A stripper is a stripper, and that hasn’t changed,” she said. “It’s hard to tell if the economy is bringing more of them to New York, as the business is seasonal and the Florida girls naturally migrate north with the weather.” She also pointed out that “bachelor party season is starting and that brings the girls to New York — it follows retail.” She gushed about the pink and blue runway, which I referred to as a magic carpet, and the place went wild. Owner Bob Gans, a real down-to-earth gentleman, liked it, and let’s see if I made history. Jennifer felt (along with everyone else in management) that this place is nice enough to function as a club even if it wasn’t a strip joint. I’m teasing her, as she is quite sharp and brings class as well as an enthusiasm, which will ensure success. Director of marketing Ronnie Sherman told me “the city is ready for a place like this.” I agree. I asked him if they were biting their nails a few months back when the economy was tanking; he nodded a yes, but told me he felt that the upswing is perfect for the opening of this new place.

Will Savarese gave me a copy of his “New American” menu, which will be available until 3:30 a.m. Will did wonders at Le Cote Basque (now Benoit). He was raving about his al torchio pasta with dried duck sausage, and for a minute my mind wandered from the 50 or so beauties who were having their orientation. One of the managers, a savvy woman who has seen a few things, yelled, “You know we’re all not going to get along, but we’re all here for the same reason — to make money!” There were 200-plus employees and lots of recognizable management types telling them how it works, while upper-tier execs listened in. Top management, top designer, top chef, topless girls — seems like a winning formula to me.

Scores New York will have a pre-opening party hosted by Strategic Group tonight, followed by the grand opening on Wednesday.

What’s the Scores?

imageLike a diabetic avoiding a candy store, I avoid strip clubs. I don’t want to want what I can’t have, and even if I could have it, I really truly don’t think I want it really anyway — I think. Anyways, I don’t frequent them, but whenever I would lumber down 27th Street (back when that was something some people did), the guys at the back door of Scores would flag me down and invite me in. They knew I wouldn’t go, but in some old school ritual they extended the invite anyway. My man Clint used to say, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” I’ve got a weakness for women, and as Brian Ferry once said, “Love is the drug for me.” So anyway, I don’t go.

I have been told that my old friend Lionel Ohayon over at iCrave, one of the countries premier design firms, is finishing off this mammary mansion on West 28th Street — it boasts a spectacular fashion show of the future with a light-up glass runway as the main design feature. The runway is married to scores of giant flatscreen TVs where “the most beautiful girls in the biz” will wiggle their moneymakers for a moneymaking crowd. I’ve been told that Bob Gans of Metropolitan Lumber and Penthouse fame has licensed the name Scores for his latest topless adventure. My source points out the that Bob also licenses the name Penthouse for his other joint.

There will be a Robert’s Steakhouse with chef Will Saverice doing the honors. I am told that “this is a big deal and these are the best [bleep]ing steaks in town.” The “honey I don’t even notice the naked girls, I go for the steak” rap will surely work. Richie Romero will assume the title of marketing director, and I asked him what kind of crowd he would be directing to Scores. “An over-25 crowd making well upwards of 100k per year,” he said. He also told me that they have 19 private rooms, and he too emphasized the “great food.” Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss’s Strategic Group is launching the place on May 12, and I may have to go as I hear the food will be great.

When the sky was falling, I heard that the strip clubs were hit hardest because the expense-account, big-bonus crowd was cut down to size. It seems that the bailout has made these kinds of folk flush again, and it’s nice to know that the government money isn’t, as usual, being flushed right down the toilet. It’s refreshing that you can actually see it hanging there on the garter belt of “one of the most beautiful gals in the business.” Liquor? Well, as I said, I hardly even know her — oops, sorry — I hear they have the license in place.

The Top 10 Industry Insiders of 2008

Our Industry Insiders series has covered the personalities that drive nightlife, dining, hotels, and related scenes throughout the world. We’ll continue targeting more movers and shakers throughout 2009, but from the past year, here are the ten people who generated the most fervent reader reaction (both love and — the other thing).

10. Amy Sacco – She may no longer rule New York nightlife with an iron guestlist, but she still has plenty of admirers. 9. Richie Notar – A hometown boy made good, from shirtless busboy at Studio 54 to white-tie hotelier to the stars. 8. Michael Achenbaum – The man behind the Hotel Gansevoort has been known to draw the attention of a hater or two.

7. Lionel Ohayon – His design firm is responsible for the look of many cutting-edge venues. 6. Remi Laba – The Meatpacking District maestro On boring models, the grub at Pastis, and bringing down the house (music). 5. Jeffrey Chodorow – The owner of China Grill, Asia de Cuba, Kobe Club, Ono, and other esteemed global eateries dishes on Ian Schrager, disses on Rocco DiSpirito, 4. Derek & Daniel Koch – The day-party twins build an unlikely empire. 3. Ivanka Trump – Donald’s diamond daughter describes her new hotel ventures. 2. Rachel Uchitel – From losing her fiancée in the 9/11 attacks to running VIPs at some of the hottest joints in New York and elsewhere. 1. Aalex Julian – The infamous Tenjune doorman trashed his foes and became the poster boy for anti-doorman malice.

Industry Insiders: Lionel Ohayon, Design’s Dark Magician

Lionel Ohayon’s ICRAVE has designed and architected some of the coolest bleeding-edge restaurants, clubs, lounges, and hotels of recent years. From New York to Los Angeles, and Las Vegas to Miami, ICRAVE venues draw praise from nightlifers and aesthetes alike — and Ohayon promises more to come.

Point of Origin: “I’m a French Moroccan Jew. I was made in Morocco, but born in Canada where I grew up and studied architecture at the University of Waterloo. After working and studying in Paris and Rome, I came to New York at the bequest of a client/friend who had recently gotten engaged to the daughter of a billionaire and needed help on a sprawling mansion. I never finished that project (I don’t think it’s finished yet); it’s not destined for completion. But I did get a virus in my system called New York, and never left. New York is my junk.”

Occupations: “I do architecture and design and own a design firm called ICRAVE. I do it in places I want to be, with people who have passion and are driven by dreams — not fear — and it’s done best with reckless abandon.”

Case History: “I was once a street vendor. I sold sunglasses and t-shirts. We were really just trying to pick up girls. I just remember always having big rolls of cash. That was a great company because I never took your work home with me. Well … I’m talking about the vending part. After graduating, I started EYECRAVE in Toronto, and instantly found myself designing nightclubs and bars for friends back home. Most people thought that I owned an eyewear company, so I eventually changed the name to ICRAVE. In March, I opened ICRAVE LA.

Current Biz: “I started ICRAVE and O+D Builders with my partner in late 2001. The concept was to control the design process by being in charge of the construction. Our first project to open was Pangaea. Soon after that was a stream of Manhattan’s most successful lounges post 9-11 including Dorsia, B’Lo, Viscaya, Crobar. I feel we are hitting artistic milestones regularly. It’s what inspires me the most. I am a founding partner in The One Group here in New York, which owns STK, Tenjune, and One Little West 12th here in New York; and STK, One Sunset, and Coco De Ville in LA. We are opening STK Miami and Coco DeVille in early 2009 and manage all the food and beverage operations for the Gansevoort Hotel in South Beach. The One Group is opening STK in Las Vegas in late 2009 and a bunch of other projects I cannot yet reveal. I am also an owner of Kiss & Fly and Bagatelle in the Meatpacking District with several other partners and plan to expand them around the world.”

Where do you like to travel or relax? “I love Brazil; I am building myself a beach villa retreat in Bahia. For weekends out of New York, I have a property upstate between Woodstock and Hudson that I absolutely love breaking away to.”

What are you currently working on? “Design-wise we are working a lot in Vegas, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Dubai, and India. Our work is mostly in the hospitality sector, but we’re pretty close to signing a deal to do a house in Beverly Hills, which is a completely new venture for us. We are also designing two cruise ships, which is pretty cool.”

What gives you the most pleasure or satisfaction in your daily life? “I learned a long time ago that the most important thing I’ll ever design is my life and career. I spend a lot of time creating the culture that is ICRAVE. Watching it grow and seeing the talented people who work with me interact in this creative environment is a trip. Being able to do what I love as a profession — and having the ability to make it fun and inspiring — is tremendously rewarding.”

Who are your friends, neighbors, partners, enemies? Famous, infamous, or obscure? Who have you collaborated with? Who do you respect and admire? “All the people you’ve listed know who they are and would hopefully appreciate not being listed, I would think.”

What are your plans for the future? “ICRAVE; Europe, India, Dubai … designing in new media, definitely furniture and product, maybe film. The One Group: a lot of new projects between now and 2012. New venture: I am working on developing a chain of very sexy and exclusive destination properties around the world.”

What will you do next? “Who knows … chill a bit, I hope.”

Where do you want to be this time next year? “On the deck of a sailboat.”

What are you doing tonight? “Flying from London to New York.”

Prime Movers interviews A-listers from the business and leisure realm of nightlife, restaurants, hotels, and more.