Dear Hotels of the World: I’m Totally Fine With You Eliminating Room Service

I can count on one hand the times I’ve taken advantage of a hotel’s room service offerings. There was that afternoon we arrived in Philadelphia with just barely enough time to get ready for Justin’s wedding, so we ordered a turkey sandwich and a carafe of white wine. And when I went to Las Vegas for that booze event, and had a credit to spend on a room service breakfast – a decent omelet and some coffee. And last summer in Edinburgh, when we realized that there’s not one restaurant in the entire city open past 10pm on a Monday night, and ordered a burger-and-chips deal. But I could have survived without any of them, and if that’s one service that’s disappearing from hotels, I can live with it. 

In theory, room service is just fine.  You’ve been traveling, you’re tired, unfamiliar with the area’s restaurants, fighting jet-lag, trying to get your body adjusted to the time zone you’re in, so you pick up the phone and order something from the hotel’s restaurant. But the reality, in all too many cases, involves waiting well over a half-hour for your food, which is often mediocre at best, and expensive. When you’re finished, you’re supposed to put the tray outside your door. Isn’t that weird? It might stay out there all night, and into the next day–a feast for potential vermin. 

Phone books were once a great idea too. Because what you needed was only available in that book. Now there are alternatives. Same with room service. Like ordering delivery from a nearby restaurant that you looked up on your phone, or asked a hotel employee to recommend. Or actually going down to the hotel’s restaurant and getting something freshly made, and bringing it to your room while it’s still hot. Or, god forbid, taking a walk. 

I’m that guy. I’ll happily take a stroll to some nearby sandwich place or pizzeria to bring back some food and drinks for my better half. If I happen upon a grocery store, all the better. We’ll get some beer, seltzer, maybe a bag of Pirates Booty. 

Room service. It was always better in theory than reality. Get rid of it, I won’t miss it at all. 

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Woodson & Ford: Death of a Speakeasy

So what happened to the much-whispered-about speakeasy at 643 Broadway at Bleecker? The basement space, known as Woodson & Ford, has a long and legendary history. Walt Whitman and Mark Twain supposedly drank here, and that’s even before my time. More recently it was the ill-conceived, ill-received, and ill-attended Table 50. Q-tip made it happen for a minute, and Stretch Armstrong almost extended its run, but it eventually was flipped into Mr. Black, which in turn eventually moved along and to great success over at Rebel. Recently, Mr. Black’s move to the Room Service space seems to have hit a snag, as some of the displaced Pink Elephant team seem to have wrested away control of the joint. Mr. Black will be gold wherever it ends up, but that’s a story-horse of a different color. From a dear friend, here’s the deal about what happened over at the super hush-hush top-secret Woodson & Ford, a speakeasy that nobody was supposed to speak about at all.

An outstanding operator by the name of Gabriella Mlynarczyk renovated the space with permission of the owners, and in November 2008 opened up what she charmingly called Woodson & Ford — not that she ever allowed the media to know the name. She was not allowed to speak to the press, as the owners wished to keep it all a secret. I must say, she accidentally created one of the most intimate and exclusive event spaces the city had seen over the past year, due to her great taste in vintage design coupled with her outstanding ability to offer fine foods from the upstairs cafe and of course curating a wonderful cocktail menu. Without her knowing it, Woodson & Ford became a silent but huge success story. It was pulling in REAL events by people with REAL money … everyone clamored to know when it would be opened to the general public, but it was not to be. In the past few months the owners could smell success, and in their own desire to one day live a glorious life in the spotlight of nightlife decided that they would take control of the space themselves. They have shuttered Woodson & Ford and plan to open a new speakeasy to the general public in the spring, no doubt robbing what they learnt from Gabby and trying to take a stab at it themselves.

Gabriella has had to cancel countless events that were booked way into December … the space was about to explode, and with it the accolades that she deserved. She has been asked many times by the media for interviews, but she was not allowed to speak to the media. I firmly believe the owners, now knowing how well it was going to do, were afraid of letting Woodson & Ford run through till the winter. Had it been too successful and they decided to change the space in the spring, they no doubt knew the public would be very critical of their own newfound baby if it did not live up to the standards that Gabriella had created.

I have urged Gabriella to find a space for Woodson & Ford … she has all the contacts of all the clients she successfully served, she brought in REAL money, and surely their must be a space downtown that would love to have their space transformed into a classy cocktail/event space. So, that is the story of Gabriella … she deserves some recognition — even more, she deserves a space.

I guess this is a shout-out or job application, but surely there must be such a space. I know a few, but they’re very top secret, and I’m sworn to secrecy. It’s one of those dilemmas wrapped in an enigma things. I guess it will be all good if I just text message around town.

The mysterious and very hush-hush Kelley & Peng space at the corner of 2nd Street and the Bowery is preparing to open. The three- which could be four-story joint will be a restaurant, as a 1am liquor license allows little more. I don’t remember why it was Peng instead of Ping, as in the Kelley & Ping on Greene Street. Something to do with feuding partners I assumed, or was it simply an awning typo, but anyway the place was awful with inedible food and confused staff. Location, location, location for sure, but you have to be at least mediocre. Kelley and Ping/Peng was a pig pen with bad food. The space was coveted by many operators, as the Bowery keeps getting hotter. I know what’s up and who’s there, but it’s all very hush-hush and I’ll have to tell you later.

This world is so yin/yang or ping/peng as there are so many people screaming at you to tell their story and so many others begging you to keep it quiet. What’s a poor blogger to do? I guess it’s like movies — if they suck, you can open them in 2,000 theaters and take out full-page ads, rent billboards and TV time, and shout it out with the stars telling silly stories on Letterman, but it won’t get you past the first week or two. Word of mouth is powerful. If something is swell, you can whisper it and the coolest hear it first and the masses later, and that works best. OMG! I know so many great secrets right now, but I cant write about them right now, or nobody will tell me more secrets to write again.

9 Reasons to Be Cheerful on 9/9/09

With the end of the summer underlined by chill winds and daily highs hovering around room temperature, the business of nightlife is readily anticipating the opening of some new businesses. Between now and the drop of the ball on New Year’s Eve, a club space odyssey will change nightlife as we know it. Although it isn’t raining money, there is enough of a drizzle to support new growth in a constantly evolving and extremely vibrant scene. These new contenders are diverse and seem organized to succeed. In no particular order, here are nine spaces that will soon be on your lips and minds.

1. and 2. Abe & Arthur’s and Simyone – Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum hope to answer all questions about their success. The much-anticipated restaurant with the club down below will look good due to the extreme design talent of my friend Lionel Ohayon, and it will taste great because Franklin Becker is the real deal. Eugene and Mark have enjoyed massive success at Tenjune being themselves and not worrying too much about the other guys. This will surely be a case where nice guys finish first. Location, location, location is a mantra often forgotten by people who have opened in strange locations and are most often forgotten. The old Lotus space on 14th street will enter the Standard– and Jane-invigorated Meatpacking District and be a smash

3. The Nell’s/Richie Akiva joint – I can’t tell you much cause I’m sworn to secrecy, but my partner Marc Dizon and I are very pleased with the developing renderings and the commitment to excellence shown by the Butter/1Oak crew. Yes there will be food upstairs and a joint downstairs, and that’s all I will say except that the space is wonderful with no columns upstairs and great high ceilings, and I’ve been wanting to get my hands on it for 15 years.

4. Quattro at the Trump Soho – Nicola Siervo, Karim Masri, and Rony Siekaly will take their Miami game to Mr. Donald Trump’s Soho hotel. I am always skeptical when Miami players try to bring their vibe to New York. Miami is a straight up tourist town, and vacation money always flows more freely than most other kinds. Yet these three know tons of people and can route their A-listers to their New York incarnation just like Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss service their Tao clientele in Vegas and then in New York at Tao, Marquee, and now Avenue.

5. Serpentine – Patrick Duffy — that fun, fun downtown flier — will bring the straights to the gays and the fashionistas to the hipster dipsters. There will be more fun on day one than all the months of Mr. West combined. Where Mr. West suffered from attitude as well as longitude, Patrick’s brand of real smile, laugh, and dance will surely purge the doomed bottle boîte of its bad vibes. The in crowd will travel west, east, north, or south for Mr. Duffy and his genuine approach to a good time. This will be a very hot place for the cool cool crowd

6. La Pomme A full Fashion Week calendar of events speaks volumes of this 26th, 5th and 6th redo of Ultra. They are working hard, and that’s a very good beginning. Lots of places think getting open is the hard part. I see this being a reliable entry for a no-nonsense dance-and-drink crowd that isn’t being serviced by the uber-trendy or modely joints. It will host great parties, serve solid drinks, people will be treated nicely, and it will survive and even thrive while other more touted joints can’t pay their bills.

7. Mr. Black – The move into the Room Service space seems a no brainer, but I’m committing right now to a trip to Williamsburg when Stuart gets his new (I can’t tell you the great name yet) place open. Getting me out to Brooklyn is no easy task since I’ve sworn off the dead cows at Luger’s, and no that isn’t a fancy cocktail, but Mr. Black is old school — seriously hot sauce.

8. Red Velvet – The new alcohol-in-things-other-than-cocktails trend continues with this skinny spot with possibly fattening alcohol-enhanced cupcakes. I hear Steve Hanson is going to offer milkshakes that will make you rattle and roll over at the old Hogs and Heifers space — Bill’s Bar & Burger — but that may exceed my daily caloric intake. My firm is doing the Red Velvet design because we have a definite sweet tooth for the players involved. We also think it will be hot. I’ll talk about the design real soon — just need to dot a few eyes. Without sugar-coating it too much, I predict you will think it sweet.

9. OK, there’s more than nine. Hell, the Standard Hotel has four; Todd English and Jon B will offer HRH and its Persian theme; Double 7 will open with Will Regan and David Rabin creating a hangout for adult nightlifers; my pals Anthony Martignetti and James Willis are doing something with that space just south of Southside; and Provocateur will bring cold-weather relevance to the Ganesvoort. I hope Emma Cleary gets to open up a real place, real soon so I can see her more than just Mondays at her “Don’t Feed the Models” party at Katra. I’m hearing nice things about Su Casa, and Ainsworth will keep Matt Shendell’s posse in a place where they belong until Dune reopens next summer.

Williamsburg is the New Black

Word comes from Stuart Black that he is not insane. I mentioned the other day that Stuart has been changing venues for Mr. Black almost as often as he changes his clothes. He responded with a snappy e-mail. Bugsy is my old nickname given to me by “Mother” Chi Chi Valenti and “Father” Johnny Dynell. Although it is of course an affectionate reference to my rather prominent eyes, it is also a reference to gangster Bugsy Siegel. Bugsy Siegel saw a patch of desert and imagined Las Vegas, and I supposedly had a similar approach to nightlife when I tried, with Peter Gatien’s money and balls, to create the four-club empire that was Palladium, Limelight, USA, and Tunnel. My eventual stint in the can underlined the comparison. There were many other players involved, but the meeting that occurred at the Hollywood Diner on 16th St. and 6th Ave., brokered by Michael Alig, changed things for me and many.

Johnny and Chi Chi held a play portraying me as Bugsy Siegel one night at Jackie 60, but at the time, I was unable to attend. Stuart wrote me:

Bugsy!

Been keeping abreast of all the wonderful fodder that poor NYC nightlife has to offer through your blog. So whilst I never reach out to you much, I thought out of respect for being the BIG EYE on things, I would write to you to tell you what exactly is going on in my crazy world. I am sure everyone in the industry must think I am absolutely insane; I’m kind of used to it by now, and I relish in always proving that I am one step ahead of the curve. No doubt when I snuck in my surprise move without a proper press release etc., it led to all sorts of pert opinions and criticisms, but I am one who loves chaos and confusion, and I keep my plans to myself to a certain extent. So it is, I move to the Room Service space and will be operating 4 nights a week by mid September, maybe more depending on how long it takes to get into first gear. So why the move? I have expansion in my Eye…

Stuart goes on to tell me of a Williamsburg project that is in the works. Although he wont allow me to divulge the rather clever name or his fabulous partner, I am allowed to tell you that they are looking rather hard and we can expect great things very soon. For now, he is getting Mr. Black pumping at Room Service, which he tells me is a much better location than the joint he just left–Steve Ballinger’s Rebel. He is a very busy lad, and working under Steve Ballinger, whom he and everyone loves, can be distracting. Rebel is a little large for Mr. Black as well and could only offer weekend nights. As if this wasn’t enough, on crazy-like-a-fox Stuart’s plate, he will be opening an L.A. branch at Bardot starting September 15th. Lest we forget, he also has Señor Negro in Buenos Aires. Boston is next. Stuart doesn’t have time to change his clothes! Mr. Black brings it old school. A mixed bag of clientele of all orientations, obligations and objectives combined with seriously fun music make it one of the great clubs in New York, wherever it is.