From Avenue to Bantam to the Diner: The Never-Ending Night

I try not to write too much about what you already know. Everyone knows the bottle clubs, the scene clubs, the celebrity, the jet-set joints where money is no object – but then again, it is the object. These places are often considered commonplace by the common man who dwells in hipster havens and dive bars. That perception is wrong. There is validity to what these operators offer, although they aren’t all things to all people. Most people can’t afford to party there or they lack the looks or connections to pass through their velvet ropes. Once inside there is always action. Although the bottom line is the bottom line, as it is in most businesses (including the nightclub business), these clubs deliver a quality good time to their often well-know audiences. The DJs often play a set that contains crowd-pleasing, familiar tracks, but the DJs themselves are great DJs and giving the people what they want makes it fun -and what in the name of God is wrong with pleasing a crowd?

Last night I whisked myself to Avenue for club mogul Noah Tepperberg’s birthday. He co-owns a lot of places. Off the top of my head, he has pieces of Marquee (NYC, Vegas, Australia), Lavo (NYC, Vegas), Tao (NYC, Vegas), Marble Lane, Ph-D Rooftop, the aforementioned Avenue, Artichoke Pizza. There are all sorts of pool entities and spin-offs of these places now. He has many reasons to be cheerful, despite being half the man he used to be. Well, not exactly half, but he has lost a lot of weight by watching what he eats and drinks, and working out with a new trainer who Noah introduced to me last night. Avenue was packed with the beautiful, the rich, and the famous last night. The energy was through the roof. I’m not going to mention the celebrities that I saw, as that comes with the no price for admission. Avenue is a gossip-free zone and those that go know that.

We bolted into the night and popped by 1OAK, which was just getting started. A late-night rush comes from sister space The Darby Downstairs which closes early by NYC standards. The Butter Group operators, which own these properties and Butter, understand that after a while, crowds want to hop, skip, and jump elsewhere, so they engineer that hop-over to another one of their spaces. Thus, 1OAK gets a big late boost. We chatted up a looking-real-good Richie Romero and said hello to all the familiar faces of the vibrant staff as we headed into the night. We strolled to No. 8, where Amanda danced with Amy Sacco who was simply being wonderful. I hadn’t been before, as I rarely get over to this hood during the week. Currently, they aren’t open on Saturdays, but will be when the summer spins away. I loved No. 8. The music was amazing. Amy, one of the best operators in this business, was an active part of the action. At 8, I saw countless familiar faces. The crowd was mixed and adult and I loved it.

Still, the night had me moving, and we headed to The Electric Room, where Angelo made sure we were happy. Nur Kahn is in Italy with The Kills. In the past, when Nur traveled, The Electric Room often lacked…electricity. He and I talked about that a couple months ago. Last night, the place was pumping. Amanda said, and I quote, "The thing about this place is that it never compromises. When you walk in the door, you always hear great music and find yourself amongst a cool crowd.” She isn’t taking over this column, but she is spot-on about this spot. The Electric Room was fabulous.

Outside we ran into pal Dean Winters who was out causing mayhem but not as seen on TV. We chatted him up in front of the Dream Hotel, where we also ran into Limelight producer Jen Gatien. Jen, me, and mine spent an hour trading war stories and catching up. I told her she gave me yet another 15 minutes of fame as Limelight is now On Demand on Showtime. I am getting stoppedeverywhere. Someone asked me who I wanted to play me in the sure-to-come epic movie about my life, and as I looked at this silly person, I reached into my bag of stock answers for occasions like this and deadpanned the answer: “… Denzel.”

After the very brief chuckles, we headed to The Darby. I just wanted to see it in action. I occasionally pop in to see how it’s wearing and tearing. Designers do revisit their babies just to see how the fabric is holding up. Design is theoretical until a place opens. I like to see what I could have done better and what is working just fine. Dean Winters joined us at the bar and we toasted to something important to that moment. I stopped by Bantam as I headed to the Bridge. It was a classic 3am crowd of revelers enjoying the moment and the sticky liqueurs. Bantam is great for that first stop or that last stop, and not bad if you’re caught in between.

After we left and had our late-night meal at a diner, we arrived home just as the sun was coming up. We got the leash on Lulu and went to stock up on diet sodas and popcorn and such. As usual, my head hit the pillow at 6am and here I am at 10am talking to you. Someone told me yesterday that not needing sleep is the sign of a genius. I don’t know if there’s any truth to that, but if it is true I suspect that he’s a very tired genius.

Nur Khan Confirms Kenmare Lounge Is Not Closed

Last night, nightlife people behaved like rubber-necking suburban commuters staring at some twisted wreck (a phrase often used to describe me). Tired of their own tragedies, they gained a moment of exhilaration over the misfortune of others. Thus was the scene as word spread that Kenmare was closing. It was a hundred “did you hears” as bon vivants put in their two cents. Most comments and opinions weren’t worth even one Abe Lincoln copper. Of course everything was exaggerated. Kenmare isn’t closing, at least not the part that waters these players. The restaurant, however, is going to need to change. I called up Nur Khan, always a friend to me when I need one, and asked him what was up.

The main thing he needed to make clear was that it’s business as usual for the still-hot basement boite, and that the bar upstairs will remain open. He told me that everyone has the story wrong, and we talked about this step and the next few. “The lounge has always been majorly profitable,” he began. “The restaurant had a good start, and was profitable for a long while. Michael [Montalto, the manager] broke his back trying to make it work. It was a true labor of love for me. I didn’t miss one night when I was in town. I hired a talented people manager from Batali’s, and Joey [chef Joey Companaro] was great until he left to do Philly and a couple of places on the West side.”

I talked to him about the “other” stuff he’s been working on. His Electric Room project at the Dream Downtown is off the hook. He also added that he “just got back from L.A., where I opened Writers Room.” Nur continued to lament the talented people he had in charge while he was involved in these exciting new projects. “Kenmare is one of the top neighborhood hangs,” he said. We talked about the delicate geography of the ever-developing Nolita/Bowery hood, and how suddenly there’s activity elsewhere, leaving Kenmare Street relatively quiet. Serge Becker and Nur had chatted — landlords these days are rarely renewing leases on traditional stores and joints, as they see dollar signs in the form of high-end boutiques and the like. The hood I moved out of in favor of Williamsburg is developing as fast as leases run out.

I asked him for an official statement: “The lounge is staying open while we may partner up with someone strictly in the restaurant area. It is not closed. Lounge is business as usual. We’re talking to a few potential partners for the restaurant portion. Everyone loves the downstairs.” We talked about how, as the busy season approaches, it might be nice to run the door outside and let the packed downstairs crowd spread out and chill upstairs. I asked Nur the hard question, too: Does the chill between him and Paul Sevigny have anything to do with what’s happening? “Maybe Paul and I are better friends than business partners,” he responded.

The bottom line is the bottom line, and the restaurant was a drag on it. To the rubberneckers happy to see defeat, I offer them no reward. This kind of thing happens. Some things work and other things need to be adjusted. This is an adjustment. Even with all the right ingredients — chef, management, location, superstar owners — the dish came out not as expected. Or at least it wasn’t received well. The balance of operating the restaurant upstairs and the playground downstairs is very difficult. It looks easy at Darby and Lavo, but the execution requires diligence and experience and luck. Maybe this is just some bad luck. The thing about players like Paul Sevigny and Nur Khan is that they make their own luck, and they have the resources, the experience, and the cajones to turn it around. I ran into Kenmare DJ Todd Smolar last week. Todd told me that the place was better than ever; it’s evolved into a place where regulars and locals treat it like home. Maybe that’s all they need: a little comfortable home cooking and a fresh start. I’ll be there all week.

Although i always try to ignore it, CMJ, that music festival thingy, refuses to be ignored, like a baby in a crib screaming at me to get up and pay attention. Tonight the party seems to be at the ever-glamourous Mondrian Soho, where the Pearl Jam movie’s afterparty will…jam. I hear Eddie Veder and Cameron Crowe will be there. Tomorrow it’s the Ministry and Killing Bono afterparty with Ministry’s Paul Barker doing a DJ set. Thursday it’s the Tribe Called Quest after party with Dj Questlove and a crowd of the fabulous and famous who love this mix. So basically I’m going to shuttle bus myself between the Mondrian and Kenmare all week. Oh, and I have that Studio 54 thing tonight…. What to wear?

Jack White & Dead Weather at the New Don Hill’s

It’s really not the end of anything. Don Hill’s isn’t over…that may never actually happen. It will change with a new vigor and vision from Paul Sevigny and Nur Kahn, but it has always changed. Since 1993 it’s been a go-to club for those who know the difference between a club gig and a venue concert. Wednesday’s more than sold out Dead Weather show was a carrot on a stick for those longing for the good old days. I got there an hour early, which was a half hour after co-owner Nur insisted I show. At that time it was air-conditioned-cool inside but 500 hundred 98.6 degree radiators had yet to arrive. Don Hill’s smelled of decaying floorboards, depraved beer, spilled liquor, the sweat of a zillion forgotten bands and teen spirit. It was a pleasant, nostalgic whiff, like going home to mom and pops for Sunday dinner sans the roast chicken. I congratulated Don for the Nur/Paul Sevigny coup and the new—or is it old—direction. My Amanda gushed over the Sailor Jerry-inspired tattooed wall. Don reminded me that it was hand painted by my old friend fashion designer/promoter Michael Schmidt, who did a thousand and one nights there with his legendary Squeezebox party. Michael has moved west to hob nob with his celebrity friends and clients. Amanda and I are about to get our first ink courtesy of our friends at Sailor Jerry. She was gushing, “I want that one and that one and ooh, that one over there.” We’ll both be working the Coney Island Freak Show in no time.

I greeted rock photographer and friend from days of lore Mick Rock and exchanged a salvo of “you look greats.” Gave the friendly nod to Terry Richardson, Debbie Harry and Vincent Gallo. Asked syndicate P.R. honcho Nathan Ellis what he was up to and told him what I was up to. The room was packed now and an unbelievably cool and hot crowd drank free Tequilla and jostled for a spot to see the band. Dudes with great hats and empty wallets rubbed elbows and other body parts with swells, belles and straight to hells. It was models with perfect tresses mixing with the usual messes. “In the know” types were telling me that “the new bathrooms were going to be over here” and “that was staying” but” that was going”. It’s a perfect room as it is and as it has been in a perfect location. It wont need much to make it right for the players that Paul and Nur will bring in. in It’s pure deconstructed mess is the essence of rock and roll and Paul and Nur are for real rockers. Jack White and his Dead Weather crew don’t need it slick. They just need it to spill liquor at people and have a good sound syatem and sightlines. I saw that movie he was in, It Might Get Loud, and remember that opening scene where he makes a “gee-tar” out of a hunk of wood some strings and a pick up and plays it oh so sweet. Jack White doesn’t need fancy Chesterfield couches or new floorboards to do his thing.

Alas, comfortable seating and higher prices are inevitable, but I trust in Paul and Nur’s deep-rooted classic rock aesthetics to make it wonderful. Don Hill’s, which has hosted thousands of meaningful shows and countless nights from a zillion rockers whose rock and roll fantasies were dashed on the rock of this seminal rock mecca will now be re-conceived. A promise of real-deal national acts in its intimate confines has us all excited. This club may redefine nightlife as I know it and love it and miss it. It will be Snitch-squared and hip and fun. I’m sure they will be pushing bottles of Goose to a crowd that does that, but at least the bottles will come with a show—better than a skirt bringing the booze with a practiced smile and sparkler.

As the ZZ top-meets-Matisyahu roadies got the show ready, the hipsters tightened up into a sweaty ball of anticipation. Going in, I didn’t think I cared about Dead Weather, but Jack White and crew proved me dead wrong. Funny how he does that. Other bloggers can tell you about the show better than me. I just know what I like and I loved it. The absolute perfection of that show on that hot summer night in that venue which has given us so much and now figures to give us so much more, created a tornado of optimism in a world which seems to have outlawed dreams. Jack sang “You just can’t win” but he was lying. Everybody who was there last night and will now visit in the near future are winners. I could tell you about what they have planned for opening night, but then I’d just be an asshole writer rather than a pal. It’s all about relationships. I tell my wide-eyed interns and if I told you even with a whisper I would kiss my relationship goodbye. Some guy who didn’t know a damn once said you can’t go home again. The Dead Weather show and the promise of the Don Hill’s redux proves that fool wrong.