Industry Insiders: Nur Khan, Cool Cat

Rose Bar partner and creative director Nur Khan rocks out with Metallica in his living room, trains with Shaolin monks, holds court at his drinkery, and caps off the night at the Beatrice Inn. Just don’t ask him to sing karaoke.

Point of Origin: I actually converted a decrepit old movie theater in Connecticut (my home state). It was one of those old balcony movie theaters. I rebuilt that and turned it into a live music venue, a rock venue. I did that while Diana Ross’ husband was my partner, and we brought in Ron Delsner. Delsner was promoting Roseland and the Academy Theater at the time. This was probably 1990-91. I was commuting to Wall Street. We had this great music venue, and we took all the acts that came to Roseland and the Academy and rerouted them up to Connecticut. It was like a smaller version of the Ritz. Back then, there was such huge talent coming out of this venue: Radiohead, Nirvana, Pearl Jam. We called it the Marquee Theater.

I finally moved to New York. I sold the club. I opened Wax in 1995, and that was my first New York place. In my loft I had on Canal Street, I fell in with a group of people, and we just all clicked, and I found myself having parties at my loft. We had parties in my living room with Jane’s Addiction, the Prodigy, Metallica; it was the Headbangers Ball. We did fashion shows for friends like Alexander McQueen, Ghost, and Imitation of Christ. I met the right people in New York, and we hung out together and created a buzz. It’s worked for me every time. Then, I sold Wax and did something different with Sway. A different design. When Sway first opened, it was my entire Wax crowd coming in there. It was a little more DJ-oriented than Wax was.

Hiro started out as a small lounge upstairs, then wound up expanding into the ballroom. I had just come back from China, where I lived and trained with the Shaolin monks and was inspired by martial arts and Asia; that was my mindset at the time. It turned it into a great music venue. I left Hiro and came to the Rose Bar at Gramercy Park Hotel about six months later. I’m happy … I‘m proud of Rose Bar. Everyone likes it, it’s special, it’s unique. Two years old now and still going strong.

What do you make of the current trends in New York nightlife? There never used to be all this bottle service nonsense going on. If someone wants a bottle, they are welcome to order one, but I don’t push it. I don’t like the idea of anyone being able to get into a club because they can afford to buy a bottle. I understand the logic of it, with the larger clubs, but I can’t control a smaller room if I implement a bottle service policy. I just don’t think it’s cool. It was much cooler in the old days. It’s not something I would do unless it was a bigger place and I would always want to keep an area, a loungey area that was not about that. It doesn’t turn me on.

Downtown or uptown? I was always a downtown type person. Downtown, there were the artists. Funky people were downtown, musicians … and then there was uptown, and the banker types. Over the years, uptown has come downtown and changed the landscape of the nightlife. Hence bottle service, etc.

Projections for the future? Rose Bar is my focus right now. Do I want to build? I want to build. I have a few concepts in my mind right now. I would love to do another live music venue. I would love to do another funky rock n’ roll bar. There are a couple of itches I would like to scratch. What kind of relationships do you have with customers? Those people are my bread and butter. My relationships are very important to me. The relationships I have had all these years are the reason why I can open up a club and make it what it is. Favorite memories? If I’m producing a show that turns me on, if it’s Perry Ferrell, Beck, Sonic Youth performing at Hiro, or friends from Guns n’ Roses … Ian Astbury of The Cult … it’s that kind of creative stuff that turns me on. I’m happy as hell at a concert anywhere. I like my festivals, especially Glastonbury. It’s a good way for me to vanish … music.

Favorite Hangs: Right now, if I pop out somewhere, I’ll usually drop by the Beatrice Inn. Paul Sevigny used to DJ for me at Sway. Angelo, who’s over there, used to be my doorman. They are on the same page musically. It’s easy going, it’s chill. Cool kids. That’s where I hang if I go off duty.

Worst nightlife scenes? Karaoke nights. They are retarded. You will never see me affiliated with a karaoke night. There are no karaoke bars in my future. don’t know how the city let what happened to 27th Street happen. When I built Wax, I got held up with the 500-foot rule. I went to the Supreme Court to finally get approved. I don’t understand why the city had that happen over there. It’s just a huge mistake. It can destroy a neighborhood. Who wants to walk down the street with barricades, police, and horses? That’s not New York.

Photo: Chelsea Stemple