Risky Business: Nightlife Pro Lindsay Risk On Joining B.R. Guest and Launching Kibo

When I used to actually run joints, people were often surprised that I did "day" work. They though the night life was showing up at 10pm, acting suave and sophisticated and witty, and then engaging in a spiral of booze and drugs that ended with a crash, burn, rinse, and a repeat. I have met very few successful people in this business that can pull that kind of act off. Those types get left by the cab stand pretty early. The norm in the business is educated, hardworking, creative business types that maintain office hours and desks and have a large support staff. What happens at night is the work of long hours by day, which includes analysis and often lots of risk and soul searching.

When speaking of risk, my mind always wanders to my pal, Lindsay Risk, a nightlife professional who has had enormous success with the Gerber Group until recently popping over to Steve Hanson’s empire B.R. Guest. She is a 24-hour create-a good-party kind of person. When she dreams, the music and the clang of glassware are always there. She wakes up raring to go…to get to her new challenge and succeed. Success drives her car and she is bringing this drive to the old Japonais space. She is, as the song goes, “spinning" this property "right round like a record baby.” She is making the necessary changes while balancing the parent companies’ mantra. She is spinning it all on The Loft, a sexy perch overlooking the restaurant, which has been renamed Kibo. It means "the wish,” or something. Lindsay’s wish is to reinvigorate this great off-Park Avenue property and then move on to the next. Real night-lifers have to keep moving on…to the next.

You have come over to Steve Hanson’s company after a very successful stint working with Scott and Randy Gerber. What is it about you that has these empire builders wanting you on board? And why are you attracted to working for these top-tier companies?
My favorite quote that my father preached was "The best or nothing – that is what drives us.” I grew up with the Gerbers and they will always be my family. They threw me challenges from age 18 to 29 that were, at the time, unattainable, especially "being a girl in a man’s world," but they trusted me. Guest came about when I was the GM at The Living Room TSQ/ Whiskey from 2007-2009. I made relationships with the managers at Blue Fin/Steve Hanson property. I saw the intensity and the perfection of the operation and always had it in the back of my head that "Wow, they really define hospitality." BR Guest took a liking to me, because of my appetite for creation, my ability to invigorate, and my favorite saying: "MIH"-Make it Happen.”

The property you are working on was the once-successful Japonais space of Park Avenue South. How will you reinvigorate this property? What are the hurdles you see before you? What are the pluses of Kibo?
Kibo is a space that is off the beaten path of Park Ave., which is a hurdle, but people find secret underground coves for "speakeasy" cocktails, so I have written this off as an actual obstacle. It is a monster in terms of size and it is absolutely beautiful! The Loft space is a nook that is now unveiled and it has become my baby!  It is simply peerless and slightly secretive. It is a perfect date spot mid-week, and on the weekends it’s not cheesy or pretentious.

You have had some great early success at Kibo. What is your goal with the property?
Our recent success has been a collaborative effort: an amazing dinner by Joel Roubuchon in Kibo, cocktails in The Loft. Most of our guests stay for the duration of the night because the music is that good, but some look for late-night club spots: 675, The Bunker Club. Regardless, the experience at Kibo is sexy, fun, stress-free, and a repeat destination.

Tell me about your music programming. At Gerber, that would have been someone else’s specific job. Do you have more freedom to put your stamp on Kibo?
I was given the freedom to "put my stamp on Kibo.” which has been amazing! We’ve had a tremendous amount of positive feedback in terms of our music selection.

I’ve eaten there two times so far and the experience was wonderful. How do you add a nightlife component without negatively impacting the food program?
The "nightlife" aspect at Kibo is an added component that is rapidly growing. Kibo is a destination restaurant for the cuisine. My vision is a one-stop destination. You enjoy an amazing meal, and then you party in the The Loft with the option of bottle service, a glass of rose, or a cold beer.

What’s In a Name? The Elsinore Gets New Moniker Just Days Before Opening

As reported here and elsewhere, I am designing The Elsinore at 17 Stanton Street  -but is this true? Alas, I must say no. In a daring move to correct a glaring problem, the players-to-be-named-later at 17 Stanton are dropping the name and opting to go with a new one. Named after the castle Elsinore from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the name didn’t get the desired traction, and hours before opening, the change has been made. I am sworn to secrecy about the new brand, but personally like it a lot more. I thought The Elsinore was an awful name and found few who liked it. On three separate occasions, people heard it and declared "they’ll call it El Snore". At BINGO the other night, a nightlife operator said it was "the worst name he had ever heard." I got all defensive but a thousand "I knows" would not have lessened the feeling of emptiness I felt that something I was building would be saddled with "Elsinore".

William Shakespeare, who I will refer to here as Billy, Willy, Will, the Common Bard, or the Bard of Avon said it best with his "What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." I double-checked the spelling of Billy’s last name and got this:
"During Shakespeare’s career as actor and dramatist, variations seemed to have had decreased considerably, and on many documents concerning Shakespeare’s land deals and theatrical company patents, the name is spelled Shakespere, although Shakspeare, Shakspere, Shackspeare, and Shakespeare also appear, often with multiple spellings occurring within the same document."
The 17 Stanton Street space, which is all blue and beautiful, will soon be known by its new name. The Elsinore will soon be forgotten, the sun, the stars, and the moon will rise and set, and the beautiful people will come and drink and be merry and embrace the change as they embrace all change. If they get a little confused or have to think about it too much, they’ll just pop another bottle. The castle Elsinore still stands in Denmark where it always has and will surely remain oblivious to the usurpers and their flock at 17 Stanton.
 
That movie Anonymous, and a whole lot of sharp people (not just internet conspiracy nuts), think Willy may not have written these plays at all. They think this dude Lord Edward de Vere may have been the real author.
 
The new name of 17 Stanton will be revealed today or tomorrow. As the Common Bard once said (maybe): "Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t." Before you go quoting Will at me with stuff like "Lord, what fools these mortals be!’ I’ll sling some Bard of Avon at you: "If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me." I agree, for "therin lies the rub" (attribute to Bill or Lord de Vere, your call). 
 
Will the new name have time to catch on as the joint opens in just a few days? Mr Shackspeare might have said "Boldness be my friend!" This is a bold move by experienced players. I heard their misgivings about the name The Elsinore and quoted Billy Bard at them: "For my part, it was Greek to me." Although something in the back of mind whispered Danish. I continued with another Williamism: "Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once." When asked what the hell that meant, I replied, "I’m never really sure with The Bard of Avon." I dug deep into Bill and spat out, "I am not bound to please thee with my answer." And doubled-up with "Come, gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness"… to confuse them.
 
Someone sent for some CliffsNotes and slung these Bard bows and arrows at me: "The golden age is before us, not behind us," followed by, "If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s cottage princes’ palaces." I googled Will and offered "No legacy is so rich as honesty," and then quickly, "I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano; A stage where every man must play a part, And mine is a sad one." I could have taken some words of Willy and offered them in The Elsinore’s defense: "Tis better to bear the ills we have, than fly to others that we know not of." I could have tried to make them pause, delay them from this deed with some Common Bard stuff like, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." I did not. I agreed with the change. I was sad to say goodbye to "The Elsinore" on some weird nostalgic level, but agree it was just a bad name. I believe that the place and the players will come out of this smelling sweeter than roses without that moniker.
 
The players weighed living with a name they didn’t love but losing some marketing steam or going with something new and grabbing some publicity (like this) to offset that. There is a lot more to this story, but my designer hat is stifling my writer hat.  I have read, indeed, my Shakspere and offer "the pattern of all patience; I will say nothing." I whipped up my Hamlet CliffsNotes and heeded the words from Act V, Scene ii: "The rest is silence."
 
Alas, poor The Elsinore – I knew him. I close with some predictable words from Lord Edward or William Shakespeare… "Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow."

Pink Elephant is Back

Pink Elephant died a slow death during its last incarnation on W. 27th Street. It wasn’t its fault. Located in what once was a club mall, Pink fell victim to the crimes and misdemeanors of its neighbors. At first there was Amy Sacco’s Bungalow 8, the hottest spot in our galaxy. Then Marquee followed and the hood was named OUCH or Outer Chelsea and a tide of clubs followed. Caine was there, and Crobar and Home and Guesthouse and Bed and the very unspirited Spirit. Thousands came as there was something, someplace for everyone. Then there were fights and underage drinking and cops on horseback and Kleig lights and enforcement and harassment and the street was blocked to traffic. Long legged beauties and their monied beaus were forced to disembark taxis and walk down the street to their favorite watering hole. The Louboutins were never meant for the pavement and the swells didn’t want to sashay along with the hoi polloi. Enforcement, spurred by a rezoning of the hood to mixed use (condos and co-ops), attacked and scared the best folks to another friendlier club world: the Meatpacking District.

Pink died, despite the loyalty of its crowd and the abilities of its owners and staff. There were some skirmishes, as loss of revenues and a failing business always expose the worst in people. It left remembered well and now it is back in a big way.

One of my other jobs is club design. In that capacity, I am often brought in to analyze spaces for future use. Paul Sevigny brought me to Love the club on 8th street and MacDougal. He loved it and it almost became a new Beatrice. Alas, that didn’t happen, nor did another incarnation an ambitious new-ish operator had in mind. Pink grabs one of the best available rooms in the city. During the day, the block is heaven for Jersey girls looking to score cheap shoes while their boyfriends shop for bongs and coke spoons. At night, it’s a ghost town, a quick route for cabs to get from west to east. Love was the home to many real great house parties as it became known for its real great sound and distant neighbors.

Their press release talks of ancient gatherings in the space. It was called Bon Soir in the1950’s and the likes of Barbara Streisand and Wally Cox performed. Richard Nixon came by, as did Brando and others. David Sarner and Robert Montwaid will try to capture some of that cachet and that of the Pink Elephant brand. It will be high energy dance music, napkins in the air, and beautiful people. I always thought that Pink Elephant was a fantastic name and also a fantastic brand. The brand has thrived in Mexico and Brazil but now returns home. I was told it will offer "Intimate, elegant, cabaret style entertainment with burlesque shows, paying homage to the Village and nostalgic history when people dressed up for a night out on the town."

Demi Monde: Far, Far Away & Well Worth the Trip

Last Wednesday I accepted an invite from a promoter named Alana to visit and guest DJ at a new weekly party called Dark Kabaret at the very far down and to the left club DEMI MONDE. Demi Monde is located at 90 Broad Street, which is very close to the Staten Island Ferry in what I guess is called the Financial District. I went with Hotel Chantelle honcho Tim Spuches because I wanted his input, but mostly because I wanted someone to split the cab ride with. Demi Monde is an investment. It works hard to make sure that your trip is worth it. The design is slick and modern, the place is laid out well with intimate seating groups lightly separated by Japanese bondage rope dividers. The bar is ample and well-manned. I tried a (non-alcoholic) celery soda and will try to decide between the other house-made sodas, including the Strawberry Tarragon. Grapefruit, tonic, and sarsaparilla on my next trip. Yes, there will be a next trip and probably more after that since I enjoyed my experience at Demi Monde a great deal.

I saw other promoter types at the party, scratching their chins obviously, trying to figure out how to move it closer to civilization or how to make it work for their crowd there. I asked one (who asked to remain anonymous) what they thought and the answer was "it’s perfect…except…" the except being, of course, the location.  Someone said it felt like they were on vacation in some wonderful club, far away. Although the room was filled with familiar faces, they greeted me like they were running into me in Miami. It’s like that.

Like many things in life, inconveniences like distance and toothaches, bad mates, and being short of cash are things people can get used to and I believe this could happen with Demi Monde. The theory behind destinations is that they have to deliver every time. If a person makes that trip and has a bad experience, they are unlikely to try it again. Demi Monde seems to get that and the staff – starting at the door, where Kimyon’s amazing smile greets you, to the not so pushy and friendly waitrons inside – set a tone.

 The cocktails were great and the music provided on Wednesdays by veteran rocker Peate Suzuki was wonderful – accessible but not commercial. There were The Love Show dancers, Adrienne the aerialist, Natasha King and Lena Marquise prancing around on platforms everywhere, and a generally sexy vibe. The crowd was mixed and excellent.

One of the principal owners, Chris Nagy, showed me the ropes, literally, and explained how a club too far will survive. Obviously, making it worth the trip is part of the plan. Wall Street "after-work" parties and special events should pay the bills and the Financial District is one of the fastest growing residential areas. We saw a bunch of hipster types walking their pedigrees as we approached. Demi Monde may be very close to an under-exploited mass of neighbors.

This Wednesday I will DJ a rock set from midnight to 1am and then hang around for more than a minute. Defenz Mechanizm will perform. It did feel like a refreshing vacation, a pleasant experience off the beaten path.

Reuniting The World Nightclub

A Facebook friend asked me if it wasn’t time for a World reunion. He was referring to a joint I ran during its best incarnation back in the day. It had been around before me and survived a little while after I moved on. The World opened, I believe, on September 17th, 1987. That’s a little more than 25 years ago. I’ll quote some poet and say "Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now." I was so sure of what I was doing, knew everything I needed to thrive. The place was famously "gangstar.” Long before hip-hop and house were breaking mainstream, we went with it. We booked Public Enemy for the opening (my notes say I paid them $1200). I was paying big acts of those early years, like Kid and Play and Big Daddy Kane, like $400 to perform. My main floor DJs were David Morales, Frankie Knuckles, and David Piccioni (Black Market Records).

I declined being involved with the reunion thing. Three of the four owners are scattered to the winds, and the 4th, my friend the great Arthur Weinstein has sadly passed. Last I heard, Paul Garcia (who I never dealt with) was up in Martha’s Vineyard or someplace like that. Peter Frank was practicing law up in Kingston, NY, and Frank Roccio had fallen on hard times. He has a Facebook page that says he is living in Brooklyn. I wish him well.

Although I remember it fondly, I have no desire to go back and relive it – even for a night. It might be nice to see a few old friends, but Facebook allows me an occasional "hey, how ya doing," and that’s enough. There will never be another club like The World unless it’s post apocalypse. It was dangerous fun in a wild west kind of hood that was the Lower East Side of the late ’80’s. During the day, you could buy drugs and guns right there in front of the place. The buildings up and down the block were abandoned, and dealers would often cement themselves in and drop their products in tin cans to the needers below. That sort of atmosphere has been outlawed, at least in Manhattan, and although an underground scene still survives in the outer boroughs, it is comparatively safe, almost saccharine.

I wrote a story called “Five Easy Pieces," which named The World as one of the top five places of all time. The others were Studio 54, Area, Max’s Kansas City, and the Paradise Garage. Here’s The World excerpt.

"The World (254 East 2nd Street) was a mess. It was my fault, as I helped run it. It was where house went from the Paradise Garage crowd to the hipster crowd. It’s where hip hop broke out from the streets to everywhere. Public Enemy played, plus Salt-n-Pepa, and Beastie Boys, but also Bowie and Sinead and Bjork and even Neil Young. One night Pink Floyd rolled in unexpectedly and wowed us. It was a place where Keith Haring was arting up the bathroom stalls and Andy Warhol was calming me down. It was dangerous and smart. It was Caroline Herrera wearing a zillion dollars worth of emeralds while project kids popped and spun. Owner Peter Frank says, "The true stars of The World’s universe were the club kids and patrons … when they came through the doors, they became anyone they wanted to be." The building was torn down some years ago. Today the East Side Tabernacle resides on the first floor, while upstairs East Villagers listen to music that broke there  back in the day. Setlist: “Paid in Full” (Eric B and Rakim), “Yo Bum Rush” (Public Enemy), “Saturday Night” (Schooly D), “Open Your Heart” (Madonna), “Brass Monkey” (The Beastie Boys)."

Here’s an piece of an obit I wrote for Arthur after he passed:

"Art passed yesterday, after a courageous fight with cancer. Known to everyone with clout in the nightclub industry, Art was a familiar face for a few decades. He owned and operated some of the best clubs in history. The World, Hurrah, The Continental, and The Jefferson provided thousands of extraordinary nights for thousands of hipsters long before the word was unfortunately popularized. Everybody loved and respected him, even those who were over him. Even years after he had operated anything he could still get Calvin or Ian or Grace on the phone. Grace Jones recently paid a visit to him as he lay dying in his Chelsea Hotel apartment. He told me of hanging with Ian Schrager and David Bowie, who he called the White Knight. He never ceased to amaze me with stories of life in the fastest lane. It wasn’t the drugs or the booze that killed the beast, it was, as Carl Denham once said, beauty that killed him. He was trapped by the drug called clubs, its  kaleidoscope-like enchantment, its vision and pitfalls, and by his camera and his art. Arthur ignored the pitfalls, as he only saw the possibilities."

Consider this a reunion.

Actors Playhouse Nightclub Opens & Disappoints

I was invited to the Saturday night opening of Actors Playhouse, a club in what used to be the Actors Playhouse Theatre, 100 7th Ave. South right off of Christopher St. I had first seen the space  a couple of years ago when James Huddleston was considering it. James was hot off being the doorman of hotspot The Jane Hotel when the hip crowd couldn’t get enough of that space. For all the usual reasons, things didn’t pan out, and James found his gold over at Pravda. The Actors space he showed me was ancient wood, and had antique mirrors and a dressing room maze where people could easily get lost and then deliciously  found. At the time I thought it might be a winner. But a new crew has taken over the joint and they’ve paid no mind to the natural beauty of the room, opting to gut it and slick it out. It doesn’t work on any level.

I was told by attendee Joe "Viagra" Vicari that it was designed by Bluarch, which did Greenhouse and Juliet Supper Club. I didn’t much like either of those, but Greenhouse was affective. Juliet looked worn out way too soon. Anyway, design-wise Actors Playhouse looks like a cheap version of those. The biggest design crime was not embracing the assets the space offered; now it’s cold and lit up like a Coney Island attraction, and the flow is just awful. I could go on and on but my mother told me at dinner last night while we were discussing an entirely different matter that if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything. So I’m not going to say anything.

I will say that Joe Vicari and I have buried the hatchet after many years of wanting to hit each other with one.

Word comes that Matt Levine has grabbed the old Florent space in the Meatpacking. Florent was the in-place for the in-crowd, when they were still butchering cows where high-end clubs, restaurants, and boutiques now flourish.  Back before all that, it was the scenes last stop or – gasp – if you were real in and desperate you might get a bit of vodka in your coffee at 6am. Every ho, bro, and club employee would head there after all the chores were done for a good meal. Tables  werethisclose, and spying on the celeb and his date –  who were almost in your lap – became an art form. It was grand.

Nothing has worked in the space since Florent closed. Matt will come up with something. I have been told by a guy who should know that Matt snatched up the failed Merkato 55 space as well. Everyone in town is pushing and shoving to get an inch in the Meatpacking, and Matt lands two. He either is the wiliest of operators or paid too much. A combination of both is probably close to the truth, but then again what is too much for the area which has more foot traffic than anywhere, save Times, Herald, or Union Square. The Meatpacking District might soon be named the Cheesepacking District, but there still are outposts of elegance to entertain even a jaded old codger like me.

DJ & Promoter Nima Yamini Caught In The Act & Sevilla

Kinky, bizarre, theatrical things are happening at Las Vegas’ new nightclub The Act inside the Venetian Hotel, and last night, Nima Yamini elevated the craze to a whole other level with his open-format DJ set. Tonight, April 19th, the co-founder of Avenue A Soundcheck lands in San Diego, at the Latin-Spanish nightclub Sevilla, where he’ll spice up their VIVE Fridays party with his Latin house, EDM, and hip-hop spins. And after his stint at the Pussycat Dolls Dollhouse on the 20th, Nima jets off to the east coast, where he’ll hit up Trump Soho on the 23rd and Greenhouse on the 26th. It’s the month of Nima; catch him before it ends.

Learn more about Nima, & follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

Agency: Where Hollywood Meets Vegas

Everything about Agency is a secret; its quiet opening before the New Year, covert entrance and private patio, and unannounced performances by the world’s top DJs. But like any really good secret, it doesn’t remain so for long.

Located in East Hollywood, this 250-person covert nightclub offers what other big and bombastic late-night destinations don’t: an invite-only, front-row seat to the most sought-after house DJ performances, in a retreat teeming with sexy and creative energy – the creativity beginning the moment you walk in.

The guest first enters into an eerie, butcher shop inspired hallway that leads up a gold-painted, darkened stairway into a flirtatious, engaging retreat,” says co-owner Jordan Buky. “There’s chandeliers suspended from the copper ceilings, theatrical red walls, plush turquoise sofas, and eye-catching leopard-print flooring surrounding its secluded alcoves.”

The interior also includes a full-service bar, a giant DJ booth, and separate VIP entrance/patio attracting bottle service and A-list clientele.

Agency is built with the newest technology and sound,” says co-owner Cy Waits.” It’s the only club in LA where Hollywood meets Vegas.”

But take note: Agency is only open Tuesdays and Saturdays. Torture, right? Quality, not quantity.