Nublu Celebrates 10 Years in Clubland

Ten years in clubland is 15 in dog years and around 105 in human years. It is a magnificent achievement, and the folks at Nublu – which include one of my favorite people on this planet, Daisy Payero – are celebrating in spades, in hearts, in diamonds, and their club, which is back where it belongs. That was a run-on sentence because Nublu was forced to run on over to Hayne Southern’s Lucky Cheng’s basement space for six months while licensing issues were resolved. After nine years, somebody discovered that there was a nearby church, and that’s a no-no because we all know that churches and alcohol don’t mix. Anyway, they are back in their original abode but, alas, with only a beer, wine, and sake license. But according to everyone I speak to, they haven’t lost a beat. That beat is grounded in the unique and eclectic music they offer and, as Daisy has told me, "it’s all about the music.”

Owner Ilhan Ersahin has decided the celebration should be a month-long shebang:

"Nublu has become a cultural haven for musicians from around the world known to blend different styles from electronic, jazz, dub, to indie, Brazilian, and global beats. From small clubhouse to music powerhouse, Nublu has undoubtedly stayed humble to its roots, and there is no better way to put it than in Ilhan’s own words: "We are just playing music."

Nublu’s 10th anniversary features an incredible lineup from June 1-30, including Sun Ra Arkestra, Brazilian Girls, Wax Poetic, Jojo Mayer’s Nerve, Taylor McFerrin, and Jetlag feat. Andy Rourke from The Smiths. World0renowned DJs will also join the festivities, featuring Moby, In Flagranti, DJ Logic, Tim Sweeney, and many more."

I asked Ilhan all about it.

Nublu is back to its roots and celebrating 10 years, albeit with some slight changes including a wine/beer/sake-only bar and some menu offerings. Is it truly all about the music and can you remain profitable without a full bar?
Yes, I hope we keep the same vibe going. Great music is still always here and it’s getting better and better everyday! Many of the resident bands who have played here for years continue to rise and draw more fans, so yes, I guess you CAN say it is all about the music or rather all about art. Alcohol-wise, our bartenders have concocted a nice drink menu with sake so there is still a “cocktail” vibe at the bar, and we do have good wine and food to offer now as well.

How do you feel Nublu has impacted the New York music scene over the past 10 years?
I think Nublu has grown into something unique. It has developed into a space where the criteria is about good musicianship and personal expression, meaning that we never have cover bands or jazz acts that play standards etc. It’s all about making your own music on a high level. Over the past 10 years lots of great bands have been born here and many bands and DJs have played here and developed. Nublu has never been about being yet another place where you just do a "gig.” It’s more about developing a sound and developing a band or an idea or compositions.

I do think Nublu has had a very important role in NYC, but the interesting side of Nublu is that it has become global. You will find people from Tokyo, Paris, Istanbul, Sao Paulo, etc. that know and follow Nublu now. That following has developed a bit because of Nublu records, a bit because of the club, from our jazz festivals that we now host in some of those cities yearly, and from traveling the world playing with various Nublu bands.

You have started taking Nublu global with a club in Istanbul and jazz festivals in Sao Paulo and Paris. Tell us what the response to Nublu and its sound has been overseas. Is this the next phase for Nublu?
It has been very good and always a growing movement which is the most inspiring thing. This past February we sold 5,200 tickets for a 5-day Nublu Jazzfest in Sao Paulo where we booked some US acts and some Brazilian acts. Pretty amazing for a second-year festival in Brazil, so the interest is there for sure. More and more radio stations around the globe are also adding our tracks.

Can you share your favorite Nublu moments from the past 10 years?
There are too many! I never know where to start, and my philosophy is always that the latest is the best…. so this past Friday night was an amazing night. The vibe was so great, people looked really happy, and the bands and DJ sounded fantastic. Of course we have had our star moments, like when Gilberto Gil came in and jammed, or when Kevin Spacey or Keanu Reeves most recently came in. Flea have stopped by and hung out at the bar, and soccer star Ronaldino shows up to our Wednesday night Brazil parties.  But in general we have many, many amazing nights at Nublu and I think the main reason is that Nublu is a "destination" type of place. We don’t get too many passersby who happen to stop by; we get an audience who plan on coming to Nublu for the night to have a good time and enjoy good music.

You had to relocate Nublu to a temporary space back in fall 2011… Did the six months in a strange place result in losing an audience or have you gained new faces?
Nublu has always been upside down and turned around. I think being on Avenue C and basically being in Manhattan and having live music and DJs every single night, and basically not advertising anywhere, has always made nights very random. There are always new faces mixed with old faces around here so that hasn’t changed a bit.

On the things to list for all you party people, I can’t recommend a soiree more strongly than New York Night Train’s bash at Home Sweet Home  tonight called “Shakin’ All Over Under Sideways Down.” Jonathan Toubin spins 45s and bringing you tracks you can’t hear anyplace else. It is the rarest of rare music. We’re not talking B-sides; we’re talking e,d,g- sides. A cool, cool crowd gets down and dirty and totally sexy in this basement that I absolutely love.

Also on the check-it-out front is Bantam, 17 Stanton, which has opened its backyard in time to catch the outdoor craze, which has revelers on roofs, by pools, and on curbs. I DJd there last night with Kelle Calco and these great guys Sonic Relief. It was splendid.

An Update on Nublu & Wine at the Borgata

Sometimes, part twos are better. Think Godfather 2, or The Empire Strikes Back. Friday’s story of the sad demise of Nublu seems to have a happy ending, a joyful part two. Hayne Suthon, the Grande Dame of Lucky Cheng’s, and before that a host of other fabulous places all located at 24 First Avenue, has provided shelter from the storm to the good people over at Nublu. On Friday, I reported liquor license troubles due to the not-so-sudden location of the venue near a church, and the resulting reign of terror from illogical and evil forces in the SLA and Community Board. Well, until things settle, the show will go on. They’re calling it Nublu in Outer Place. Hayne enlightened me.

“Million years no see. Just saw your article about Nublu. I have given them a temporary home in the space under Cheng’s and they are very happy. Great music, great people to work with. I told them to create it as close to Nublu as possible. This way, they can keep it going while they find a new space or get their liquor license They are working with the church to create a scenario that it is not exclusively a house of worship, such as renting, or using some of the offices as rehearsal space. Even the church’s attorney is trying to help them. The owner of Nublu also owns the building so they are really going to try to get their space back. They brought their manager, security, bartenders, sound equipment and it’s going quite well. They started a week ago Wednesday.”

I left in a hurry Friday and filed a short piece apologizing to you, my readers, who deserve in-depth coverage. I was headed to Atlantic City, a place also going through constant change. I was there to catch Russell Brand’s act, which I will write about tomorrow. As I have told you guys before, I only drink two or three times a year, but this weekend I made an exception. I was at the very exceptional Borgata, and was treated to a tour of their new wine shop, called Vintage. My new favorite person in the world, Anjoleena Griffin-Holst, is the first woman since my second wife to try and get me drunk.

She succeeded, and my Hangover Part 3 will delay me from telling you about my Atlantic City excursion until tomorrow. Anjoleena and I discussed the need for a wine program in AC. The Borgata has raised the bar in this ancient resort town. The crowd coming now to the Casino/Hotel/Spa complex is a far cry better than even three years ago. They expect the best, and a solid wine program is needed. I asked Anjoleena, who’s name is driving my spell check to drink, about what she’s up to:

So, what are you up to? At Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa we promote an upscale, not uptight food and beverage program. With over 40,000 bottles on property at any given time, we offer a dynamic wine program that permeates through 6 fine-dining restaurants, 7 casual-dining restaurants, 4 bars, 2 nightclubs and 2 hotel towers. Our fine-dining restaurants have garnered Wine Spectator Awards and continue to elevate the customer’s dining experience with a diverse selection that covers most of the world’s wine growing regions.

What’s unique about Vintage? Knowing that wine consumption continues to grow across the United States, Borgata has recently added Vintage, a wine boutique, to our line up. At Vintage, we encourage our customers to sip before they shop, using the Enomatic machine. We offer 32 wines that can be enjoyed in 1, 3 and 5 ounce portions that will help the customer determine their preferences. We offer just over 200 labels and our associates guide each customer on a personal tour of the store. In the event that a customer wants to explore the store on their own we offer a custom wine kiosk that allows the user to narrow the scope of their search to find the desired wine that we have in stock at Vintage.

I have been coming to AC since Bally’s opened, and celebrated the opening of Borgata like 8 years ago. Even in the last few years, the crowd has become far more upscale, creating the need for a fine wine program. People thirst for knowledge about wine, and with web access and social media, they come to the table better informed. I think it’s great that people come in knowing what they like and are able to communicate their preference to our wine team. I groom our team to be easy to talk to, yet skilled enough to geek out with the people who want to get specific about producers, vineyards and vintages. There’s nothing better than having a customer stop me to tell me what an amazing experience they’ve had with us at Borgata.

Classic East Village Hotspot Nublu Being Unfairly Targeted by the SLA

The rumor mill tells me that Nublu, that snazzy jazz spot and nightcrawler hang hidden behind a blue light in the East Village, is having problems. Located on Avenue C—as in C U LTR—Nublu attracted the old East Village crowd, a sect disappearing to Brooklyn as yuppie scum and wannabes take over the beloved asylum of Alphabet City. Its “artsy eclectic crowd is refreshingly free of pretense,” said one patron. A friend told me that if it goes it will be “really bad for the neighborhood.”

His laments could be edited down to this: Its just about all that’s left of those funky, good-times spots that used to be everywhere, but are now so rare. He was crying over his Scotch and water at another joint, because liquor, the most important revenue stream at most joints, may be just a memory at Nublu. I asked an in-the-know type if it was over, whether its just gloom and doom, and she replied, “It’s not headed for doom but it’s definitely in purgatory. They won’t know their fate for at least two months and in the mean time are applying for a beer and wine only-license, until they can resolve the full license problem. It’s the ultimate crock of bullshit, as they have been good operators next to the same church since they opened however many years ago. But then someone makes one anonymous complaint of them being “too close to a church” and the SLA in one swipe, suspends their license and livelihood.”

Such is life in the East Village, or the Lower East Side, where real estate interests and determined forces are set to knock down as many licenses as they can, in order to make sure the newbies in fancy buildings where tenements once stood can sleep tight at night. I’m off to Atlantic City on a press junket to see Russell Brand at the Borgata, my favorite home away from home, and I can’t dig deeper right now but I’ll keep you posted.