The guys who brought you the beer-swilling sporty, fratty funhouse Porky’s, as well as the posh and exclusive Eldridge, are on the precipice of adding two more haunts to Manhattan’s repertoire. Amidst a year where the deafening sound of local shops and staple nightspots permanently closing their doors was heard citywide, Cole Bernard and Jason Lawrence of Status Nightlife have been working tirelessly and ambitiously, to open not one, but two new doors. Jason just made Gotham magazine’s list of 100 Hottest Eligible Bachelors, so the ladies have the opportunity to check him out whilst sinking their teeth into some liquor-laced cupcakes at new spot, Red Velvet; but not without stopping by The Yard first to watch the boys at the bar watching the boys on the field on giant flatscreens.
What’s up with your new spots? Cole Bernard: We have two new spaces. One’s in the Flatiron District, opening Halloween weekend. It’s called The Yard. It’s the former Porky’s space. The other is called Red Velvet, which will open at the end of the month as well. It’s on Rivington Street in the Lower East Side. Jason Lawrence: The Yard is an evolution of a New York high-energy, spirited, fun nightlife party bar. We brought a well-known artist in to do some interior cosmetic work. We’ll focus on a lot of happy hour stuff and then lead into nightlife. CB: We have a great lineup for Halloween weekend to launch the space. It’ll be decorated in multiple murals done by Darren Boerckel. Also designing is Steve Lewis, and he’s amazing.
How do you draw inspiration for a new nightclub? CB: With The Yard space, Darren has been on board with me though the last couple projects. So, I gave him the name and the goals I wanted to reach and said, “Darren, run with it.” He can paint the lights out of any place. JL: With Red Velvet, it was more drawn from us loving the area. We love the Lower East Side. It’s hot; it’s vibrant. It’s very in and yet still very up-and-coming. There are artists and galleries and restaurants and nightlife, and then real estate destroys the area. We thought it was a great area to make our stamp on. That’s what we intended when we opened The Eldridge, and that’s what Red Velvet will capture as well. Conceptually, we had the image of a very sexy, intimate lounge. We wanted high energy, high spirited, but we also wanted to add a little twist. We decided to partner up with Baked By Melissa and Charlotte Voisey, the famous mixologist, to come up with some spirit-inspired cupcakes for the lounge.
How did you two become partners? JL: I owned a PR firm in Miami when we were introduced. CB: Jason and I kind of have the same mindset. We see what the business is all about. We understand that it’s about creating a brand where people can come any day of the week.
Describe the prospective clientele at these new venues. CB: The Yard is going to be a mix of your neighborhood folks to your party bar crowd to your NYC night clubbers. It’s a place where you can go after work to unwind, have a beer and a burger. Then, on Friday and Saturday night, it’s a fun, high-energy bar where you can have a good time and get loose. JL: Bring your birthday group out. Bring your bachelor/bachelorette party out. Get a little wild
What are your door policies? CB: The Eldridge, which we opened in September of 2008, has been a great success. It’s a small space, so we do limit the amount of people that come in. Naeem Delbridge keeps a great flow and runs the door really well. Everyone from your models to your socialites to your downtown hipsters comes. Eldridge is a great space, and that’s why we want to continue the success that we have had on the LES with Red Velvet, which is just a block down. JL: Red Velvet will be far less pretentious. I want it to be more inviting to locals. If there are couples in the area that read about Red Velvet and want to check it out and come down for a cupcake, they’re not going to get stress at the door. I want to share the space and the experience with as many people as we can. The space will dictate. There will be times when it will be a little more difficult to get in because my capacity is 120, and I can’t let everyone in. That being said, I want a lot of people to have the Red Velvet experience. CB: But do expect a stricter door policy on busier nights.
How is it that you’re popping open two new clubs during a recession? JL: Denial helps a lot. CB: My theory on the recession, in any business — especially in nightlife — whether it’s a high-end sports bar, a nightclub, or just a hole-in-the-wall dive bar, you have to give people a reason to come. You have to create a niche product and a brand that gives the customer a reason to want to come out and spend money. Both places are designed and catered to individual customers to give them an experience they’ll remember.
What do you do for fun? JL: Work is fun to me. My lifestyle is fun to me. I try to keep a good balance between the social aspect, the family, and the friends. CB: Opening two spaces at once pretty much took over my life. I’d say, hitting events, going out to dinner and drinks with friends, going to the movies, the usual stuff. Is there a lot of time for that? No, but I try to find time for it.
Are you single? CB: I’m single and mingling. JL: I’m seeing someone.
Does being a club owner make it easier to score with the ladies? CB: Obviously, it’s an advantage. But it’s a lot to handle when you have girls flocking your way. When people ask me what I do in the spaces, sometimes I tell them I’m a bathroom attendant. I don’t like the ownership role. But yes, it does give the single guy an advantage
Long-term goals? JL: I want to expand to other markets and other cities and continue to build the brand. I’d also like to continue to build my relationship with Cole and other people we bring on board. I want to keep creatively coming up with ideas that work and bring longevity. CB: Jason hit it right on the nail. I want to bring Status Nightlife Group to a recognized brand. I want to start a family sometime in my mid-thirties, so that’s in the back of my head.
What does it really take to open and maintain a nightclub in New York? CB: New York’s a tough market. There are so many places. It’s not just, “Hey I’m gonna invest a half a million dollars or a million dollars to open a place and just crush it.” Five years ago? Yes, when the economy was booming. Now there’s so much competition, you really need to bring a concept and bring in operations. You need to bring the whole nine to the table with you. JL: If your ego’s driving you, you’re going to have big problems. This is a business that’s built on relationships, trust, and experience. It takes a lot of different people on your team to make anything successful. Fortunately, I have a good team, and creatively, we click. CB: For The Yard and Status Group, we brought on Amanda Mitchell of Southern Hospitality PR. She focuses on The Yard and on Jason and me personally. Then there’s Matt Hein of East Side PR. JL: Matt used to run BNC and Harrison & Shriftman. He brings a lot of experience and know-how. The bottom line is: we trust these people. They have our best interests at heart.
What are your go-to places in New York? CB: I’m a big fan of La Esquina, Macondo, and Apizz. JL: My good friend Eugene Remm opened Abe and Arthur’s, so I’ve got to give him a plug. I like our spots. The key to our success is that we create environments that we like to participate in and I think that’s crucial. You have to be able to have fun in your own environment.