Nightlife Try Outs: Amanda Leigh Dunn’s Week of Parties

It’s 10:30 on a Wednesday night and I’m in gym clothes crossing Union Square wondering if I’ve anything good left on TiVo when I first hear them. “Let’s just get drinks here,” a California blond squeals to her fellow interns, a group of smiley, freshly implanted college girls. “This part of the city is amazing—there are so many places to go!” Suddenly I feel refreshed, the soggy, angry heat evaporating around me. I immediately recall those same, remarkable feelings of excitement when I was new to this city: every step was one outside my comfort zone, and the possibilities were endless—the night was a mystery. Now, since I’ve settled into the groove of actually living in this city, the knee-jerk reaction toward their enthusiasm is a swift eye-roll at their naïveté and a silent recitation of the latest snarky blog post about this exact area going to hell in TGI Friday’s hand basket. These days, the trend is to speak about nightlife as you were attending its funeral. I’ve grown bored with the idea that there’s nothing new or provocative happening in this metropolis. Nightlife isn’t dead, it’s just different, and it’s different for everyone. It’s been a while since I first started covering nightlife as “Holly GoNightly,” but my interest is once again piqued to seek out new ways to look at New York after dark. While some longingly wish for their days at Studio 54, Tunnel, or the Beatrice Inn, there are many more seeking out the new. The internet has given everyone a certain kind of access, diversifying trends and experiences. There’s something for everyone, and the only way to find out what works is to step out and try it on for size.

So this is what I’m hoping to do: like those transplanted interns weighing their options with gimlet eyes, I’m going to set my sights on stepping out of my own comfort zone, on noticing, trying, and doing more, on venturing out to see nightlife through other people’s eyes. To start, I’ve asked Amanda Leigh Dunn, a quintessential ‘Girl About Town’ who’s always at the “It” place with a band of cooler-than-cool kids, to fill me in on her own little black book of go-tos. Her’s is an agenda not for the faint of heart—a week of non-stop partying with an array of eclectic and truly hip characters.

image Amanda Dunn

Professional Resume: I own a company called Cross Street Productions Inc, a Manhattan based firm specializing in brand integrated events, artist management as well as fashion, beauty, and lifestyle public relations. I also run an event space on Greene Street. One Word to Describe Nightlife in New York City: Endless.

City Loves:Favorite lunch spot: Cipriani Downtown, I pretty much live there. • Favorite dinner spot: Fig and Olive, Ilili, Hotel GriffouFavorite nightlife trend: Le Bain, the new spot at the top of the standard. Naked girls, water beds, and the best view of the city—what more could you want? • Drink of choice: I’m mostly a champagne kinda girl. • Meal of choice: Tuna Tar Tar • Favorite group of people to bump into: My night kiddies: Becka Diamond, Stef Skinner, Carol Han, Sami Swetra, Paul Johnson Calderon, Timo Weiland, Jane Bang, Matt Kays. You know, the cool kids.

image Le Bain

City Gripes:Nightlife trend you loathe: I hate Juliet Supper Club, the Empire Hotel roof is a clusterfuck of ugly people. I hate places that anyone and their mother gets let into • Drink: Cafe Patron, sick. • Meal: fried food, ick. • Group of people to bump into: Hipsters, teens, and coke fiends—and the usual uninvited crowd, you know who you are.

Her Hotspots: Monday: Dinner with my closest, plotting the week. Tuesday: Lit Lounge Wednesday: Soho Yard, the “Everything’s Ridiculous” party with Spencer Product and Becka Diamond. Thursday: Avenue, BEast for Main Man Thursdays, Norwood with Timo & Alan. Friday: Le Bain, Tribeca Grand Salon with Matt&Maia and Andrew Saturday: Pianos for the Mile High party with Jane Bang, Easthampton Boathouse, hosted by the Eldridge Sunday: Sway, Goldbar

image Kenmare

Every night: Kenmare, we call it Kenitis, or La Bain. Wouldn’t be caught dead here: Greenhouse, Tenjune. For special occasions: Depending on the season, every drink occasion with my closests is a special occasion. But if I had to say, it would prob be the Plaza Hotel (the have the best bloodies in NY). Brunch is usually: Cafe Cluny, Schiller’s, Serafina, Soho House (Essex House is the Greenhouse of brunch).

The Stag-at Guide: Schiller’s

At first glance, Schiller’s may seem “too cool for school.” Walking in alone can feel like “the setup to a romantic comedy FAIL” as you approach the “bustling but insular” bar full of beautiful patrons. Fear not. Remember those boys in high school who lived “on the lake, owned their own boat and spent a summer at a kibbutz”? Well imagine if they all eventually became “kings of hipster paradise,” but worked so many hours they “remained single well into their 30s”? They’re all at Schiller’s. Local “restaurateurs, artists and impresarios” are more than ready to regale you with tales of their success, and implore you to help cure them of their lonely nights. Have you been to one guy’s “bar around the corner that is rapidly expanding?” Not yet! Have you seen another fella’s “friend’s installation up the block? If not, we could swing through and get cupcakes after? Or before?” Yup, just as soon as you clean the drool off your blouse. One does begin to suspect that these are “someone else’s boyfriends” trying to see if they’ve still got it. They do.

Comfort level for a single lady(1-30): 28
 Drinks purchased for a single lady: 1! Plus an offer of french fries!
 Male to female ratio: 2:1
 Single to couple ratio: 1:1
 Overheard: “Are you going home… together?” Stranger to me and a man leaving the bar at the same time. Hot.
 Chances of returning (1-30): 30

Previously in the Stag-at Guide: The Lobby Bar at The Ace Hotel

Industry Insiders: Dagny Mendelsohn, Mademoiselle Macao

Dagny Mendelsohn is the front woman representing the 11 total owners at Macao Trading Company. She hails from the other serious foodie city, San Francisco, once she set foot in New York, she learned the heart of the restaurant business from one of the best, Keith McNally. She embraced the underground hipster scene from being part of APT, as well as gaining an education from the fashionistas (a.k.a. Richie Rich). At Macau, she brings it all together under one roof with dinners for people like Perry Farrell, Mick Rock and Morimoto.

Was San Francisco an influence in your career choices? My parents are very involved in the art and food scene in San Francisco. One of their best friends is the chef, Alice Waters and also Patricia Unterman who is a restaurant critic and owner. San Francisco is dedicated to amazing meals with fresh produce from the garden. It was always in my blood, but I didn’t know I would go forward with it. My family also has a vineyard a hour out of San Francisco, and I grew up surrounded by artists and chefs.

Anyone in particular? When I was growing up, Richie Rich baby sat me. My mom and Richie were really good friends. So I went to all the gay parties. I was at the Beige Party every Tuesday. I also worked on his first Heatherette show.

How’d you break into the New York scene? I decided to start promoting at a place on Avenue A called Opalene while I was at NYU. It was a good party because I brought the fashion crowd from my internships — at Betsy Johnson, ELLE and VH1 — and older New Yorkers that I met through my family and the men I dated. When I finished NYU, I started modeling. I had a rock ‘n roll look that was starting to be popular, and I signed a 3 year contract with Elite. The whole experience turned me off to fashion.

How’d you meet Keith McNally? I finally called Alice Waters and she set up an interview with Keith McNally. He hired me at the interview and I started working at Pastis. I learned so much from Keith. He is one of the most intelligent businessmen I’ve ever met. We’re still friends. After work, the staff would all go to APT. I became friends with the manager, Ray Percal, and he eventually said, “Since you’re here every night, you should just work here and get paid for it.” But then, Keith called me and offered me to open Schiller’s with him from scratch.

Where’d you go from there? I was the general manager at Bar 11. It was a rock n roll and fashion bar. Then the boys from Employees Only called me. Billy had been the bar manager at Schiller’s. Igor I knew from Pastis days. Dushan, Jay and Akiva had all been bartenders at Schiller’s. We’re all McNally people.

Did you get back into throwing parties? Yes, everywhere. At Hiro for three years. I worked with GBH. I started a Saturday night party at Movida and 205 on Tuesdays. Then I got exhausted. I decided I didn’t want to stay out all night anymore. So I quit all the promoting. Then all the same guys who pulled me for Employees Only asked me to be part of the next project, Macao. This space came from meeting with Patrick Fahey. He was part of this space.

What exactly is your involvement at Macao? I’m a managing owner.

Where do you go when you’re not at work? Commerce, Employees Only, Takahachi, the movies.

Who do you admire in the business? There’s a list of people in the industry who I admire and who have influenced me over the years. Alice Waters, Patricia Unterman, Ray Pirkle, Serge Becker, Riad Nasr, Keith McNally, Stanley Morris and the team behind Employees Only.

What’s something people would be surprised to find out about you? I’m a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do. I’ve always wanted to be a private investigator.

Who’s your favorite artist? Cindy Sherman, Eric Mendelsohn’s sketches…no relation, Eric Orr, John Register.

What’s your favorite city? San Francisco because it will always be home and the most beautiful place in the world. I miss it for the farmer’s markets and the freshest produce, for the restaurants, the gardens, the parks, the art, the music, my family. I could go on forever.

Plumm Space Up for Grabs

imageAs the economy recovers and money becomes available, places that were long ago shuttered or recently deceased prepare for rebirth. Restaurants lay around like old chairs and sofas covered with white sheets like in an old horror flick. The biggest prize in my eyes is Plumm, that ripe spot on 14th Street with a ton of tradition. Nell Campbell had her infamous joint Nell’s there back in the day. It became famous for charging everybody — and I mean everybody — door admission. Cher refused, got turned away, and the little gimmick turned the place into a hit overnight. In later years, I would go and listen to jazz bands and eat good food before the mayhem of the dance halls. Noel Ashman took the joint over and called it NA. Some said it meant “Nell’s Again,” but most thought it was a tribute to his own dapper self. Noel eventually closed NA and transformed it into Plumm, with a gaggle of celebrity investors including Chris Noth, Damon Dash, Samantha Ronson, etc. Plumm proved to be a bitter fruit, never really catching on with a crowd that spent enough money to pay the rent.

Now the space is suddenly available, and investment entities are playing a game of musical chairs trying to snare it. The rub — or is it rubb? — is the rent. Noel was in at around $28,000, and the landlord was looking for $43,000. I hear now it’s at $38,000. That’s a high number in these times, and most of the smart guys have left it on the table. Still, there are a few groups looking. These operators, who I will name in the next few weeks, feel that they still have the bottle chops to make loot. The location on 14th Street just east of 8th Avenue has gotten a lot better, as the shift from West Chelsea and its 27th Street strip to the Meatpacking and the surrounding area has really stepped up. Still, Plumm or whatever it becomes is a real long block away from that action, making it too far to walk (especially in heels), but also uncomfortably close for a taxi ride. With a full kitchen, high ceilings, and cabaret downstairs, this place will be something soon. With its proximity to subways, a downtown location, and two floors, it’s ideal for servicing corporate parties if indeed the upturn brings them back. Noel told me that he still has the liquor license, and that should mean someone will need to deal with him, as a transfer from one group to another is easier than a new one.

The Tasting Room on Elizabeth Street folded rather quickly on the bones of quite a few other joints at the start of the recession. It’s easy to blame the economy, but eateries all around it have thrived throughout (although Rialto also failed and is now redecorated and renamed Elizabeth across the street). Still, it’s a half-hour wait at Habana and Gitane, and Le Colonial is always crowded. The blame for failure at Rialto and Tasting Room can be firmly placed on both places’ inability to embrace and cater to the hood. Now Jo’s opens, and the first thing out of management’s mouths is how they are going to be a neighborhood place.

I spoke with Jo’s owner Jim Chu. “I think the best way to describe what we’re doing here is to make something that is casual but professional, stylish, and laid back. Along with the rise of culinary culture in the U.S., there has been a really ugly sense that there is a limited number of people that get to hold the keys to what makes it and what doesn’t, or that you need to have three forks to make it a real meal, or that drinks need to be $14 to be good. Bullshit. It doesn’t matter how exclusive your plate of foodie-branded supper is, if it’s $49 and you can’t afford to eat it. We don’t subscribe to that, and we made a place we really love.”

Jim is joined by actor Johnny Santiago from Torch and Kevin Felker, who has had various roles from bartender to manager at such places as Pastis, Schiller’s, W Union Square, Tribeca and Soho Grand hotels, and Barmarche. He even spent time at Aureole making pastry because he “didn’t want to spend the money on cooking school.” With an eye on their bottom line and a recognition of the still-shallow pockets of their patrons, I think Jo’s is a model for success. The scene is rising from the carnage of the nuclear winter. My design firm is getting tons of inquiries from operators in similar situations, the banks are eking out money and groups ready and able but who have been sitting on the sidelines waiting for credit to become un-crunched, and everybody’s looking to fix up defunct spaces and bring new life and jobs back to the hoods.

New York: Top 10 Places to Get Devoured by a Cougar

Growing up, my friends had very traditional pets: dogs, cats, Tamagotchis. My family, being the eccentrics that they are (re: immigrants) made sure that my brother and I had something a little more fierce to play with. Our pet cougar loved us for ten passionate years before his unfortunate death at the hands of a demented hunter. My mother, saint that she is, told her distraught sons that our dead cougar was going to “cougar heaven,” a place where “cougars roamed free and never went hungry.” Little did I know she was talking about New York City.

Stone Rose Lounge (Midtown West) – NY’s reigning cougar sanctuary, where newbie Time Warner suits come to get served. Owner’s wife is Cougar Ultima Cindy Crawford. And the fact that I just referred to Cindy Crawford as a cougar makes me feel pruney. ● Nikki Beach A cougar oasis, if you will. No small coincidence that the first cougar I tamed was also named Nikki Beach (she was an amateur porn star). This is where you go to get your tiki torched. ● Geisha (Upper East Side) – Gogougar describes a geisha as a “subservient breed of cougar, and, as a result, a species that doesn’t totally subscribe to the whole Cougar ethic. She’s more interested in pleasing you, than she is in pleasing herself.” We describe it as a posh Japanese restaurant on the Upper East Side in which to get picked up by cougars. ● Bemelmans (Upper East Side) – The great thing about this Carlyle hideaway is that only the rich drink here. The great thing about cougars is that money is irrelevant to them. The great thing about divorces is that they breed cougars. You do the math. ● Cabanas at the Maritime (Meatpacking District) – Cougars love meat and they travel in packs, so the fact that you’ll find them in the Meatpacking District is self-explanatory. And the fact that this island-themed bar resides in a hotel is just lucky. ● 123 Burger Shot Beer (Midtown West) – The opposite of fancy, and that includes the women. Anyone who’s been here knows this place should be renamed 1234 Burger Shot Beer Cougar. ● STK (Meatpacking District) – From Yelp: “The bartenders were nice, and as I was facing them while stuffing my face, we were able to exchange knowing looks when the cougar beside me would lift her breasts and heave them onto the bar while the light reflected on her almost-plastic brown skin as she ordered a dirty, dirty martini.” So yeah. ● Plunge (Meatpacking District) – In the penthouse of the Hotel Gansevoort, Plunge has been code-named “Cougar Central” by, well, me. It’s not very creative, I know, but in terms of accuracy, it can’t be beat. Helpful hint: The pool is off-limits unless you or your cougar are guests. ● Rodeo Bar (Kips Bay) – Question: What is the only thing more cougar than Texas? Answer: A vaguely Texas-themed bar in New York. ● Schiller’s (Lower East Side) – A cougar’s weakness is your strength — it’s called cheap red wine, and this place bleeds it.

See also: Miami cougar dens.
Washington State Cougars Tickets Maples Pavilion Tickets Stanford Tickets

Industry Insiders: Mark Birnbaum, Hospitality Honcho

Mark Birnbaum, the man who makes up the other half of Tenjune, speaks to us on the opening of the Chandelier Room at the W Hotel in Hoboken tonight, his icons, and why New York’s Meatpacking District is still the center of clubdom.

What’s the story with the opening event for the Chandelier Room? It’s tonight, 7 till midnight. The full facility will be open for all to see, even though the W has been open and operational for about a month. There will be a full red carpet outside and several live performances. There’s a piano bar in the lobby — very Frank Sinatra. There will be a lounge singer and a woman singing on the piano, like in The Fabulous Baker Boys. DJ Cassidy will be spinning. The Chandelier Room will be open inside, including the ballroom and outside. The Living Room Bar will host our surprise performer.

Describe the décor. It has a large, oversized chandelier. There are very high ceilings, and the windows are huge. As soon as you walk in, we have floor-to-ceiling windows that face Manhattan virtually throughout the entire space. The walls are all windows. It’s beautiful. To the left, you have a fireplace, and behind the fireplace is a private room which you can see into. It’s a small room for about 25 people. That room also has windows overlooking the city and a flatscreen TV. The outdoor space has another bar and clear views overlooking Manhattan. It has a retractable awning in case of rain, and it’s very loungey, with outdoor carpet and another fireplace.

What are the differences in owning and operating a club in New York and New Jersey? For starters, here we have the support of an entire hotel above us. People are coming because they’re excited to see the new W. This isn’t promoter-driven, it’s venue driven. Not to mention, in this area it’s the only game in town. In New York City, you have hundreds of hotels and boutique hotels. There isn’t really competition for us out here. The W appeals to a different demographic in general than Hoboken is used to. If anything, it anchors people to the town, keeps people in Jersey, and gives people a reason to come to Hoboken from surrounding areas. I think it’ll certainly help the businesses around here, like the restaurants and the parking garages, and even the other bars. You have to give people a reason to come out here. There are a ton of Hoboken residents and people who live in surrounding areas who work in Manhattan, and they’re thrilled that now they can stay put and stay local with something of New York City quality. A lot of people in this economy are saving money where they can, and this will save a commute into Manhattan from Hoboken. People can get slightly less expensive drinks, with essentially the same vibe.

Do you have any favorite joints in Hoboken? I like the Nine Bar, near the W, and the restaurant Zylo in the hotel happens to be very good as well. It’s a Tuscan steakhouse.

Do you think that Manhattanites will make the trip to visit the space on a regular basis? We’re not relying on it. There are plenty of people in the area, but I will say yes. Think of how many coworkers people have that are coming in from New Jersey. Now people from New Jersey can say, “Come to my spot for the birthday party or the after-dinner drinks.” Some people will come from Manhattan to hang out with their friends, since there’s a worthy place to hang out. The place is rocking now, filling the lobby from 7 at night to 2 in the morning. And it’s right across the river. For us, it’s a 10 minute commute from Manhattan. My apartment literally stares into the W Hoboken, and I’ve been watching it get built for the last four years. What establishments do you frequent in the city? The Waverly Inn has the best atmosphere and crowd. Hillstone, formerly Houston’s, has the most consistent product — best ribs and best spinach dip. And Acapella has amazing food and service. It’s the full experience of Italian dining

Who do you admire in the hospitality industry? Keith McNally, the restaurateur behind Balthazar, Pastis, Schiller’s. He has vision, confidence, guts, innovative design, and the best atmosphere with everything he does. He is a true pioneer. Andre Balazs, the hotelier behind Chateau Marmont, The Standard, and The Mercer. He has laid out a framework for me to guide my own business strategies.

What positive trends are you seeing in the hospitality industry? With this economy, customers that spend their hard-earned money are expecting the best hospitality and service. We’ve prided ourselves on always taking the best care of our customers, and as a result people stay loyal to us. I’m happy that it’s appreciated, and these days it really shows.

And negative trends? The cost of doing business in our industry makes it very difficult to turn real profits

What is the most-anticipated event you have coming up in 2009? After the Chandelier Room, we have two new New York venues opening in May. A two-story restaurant and a below-ground club located in the old Lotus space on 14th Street. Where’s your dream space for a new venture? I must say, we are in our dream space. Tenjune is smack in the middle of the Meatpacking District, which we feel is the greatest location in the country for the business we are in. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Industry Insiders: Reka Nyari, Genie with a Bottle

Foreign-born bottle-service diva Reka Nyari on why men with ties buy $5,000 bottles at clubs, inventing a nightlife resume to avoid the pole, and parlaying industry connects into a career in photography.

Where do you go out? I go to Beatrice or Rose Bar. I also will still go to the bottle service places to see my friends. A lot of my friends still work in the business. They work at Cielo, Bijoux, and Marquee, so I will go to see them. I also will go with friends to Schiller’s and chill and have wine. A friend has a table at Bungalow 8 every Thursday, so I’ll go sometimes.

Where did you get started in the industry? I started in the business about six or seven years ago. I needed a job that would only be a few days a week and make a lot of money because I was doing art, painting, and photography. I wanted to support myself by working weekends and doing my art during the week. I thought about what could I do and decided bottle service was it. It was either bottle service or stripping, and stripping is definitely not for me. PM was the place that was making a lot of money. I called and went in and met with [owners] KiKi and Unik. I had modeled and went in with my modeling portfolio. At this point, I didn’t even know what a dirty martini was. I didn’t drink. They asked where I worked, and I made up places in London because I had just gotten back from living there. I just picked it up really fast.

At first they had me seating people, which is no money really. So I said I would leave, and they put me on the floor after that. I did really well and had fun [partying] with the customers. They had teams at PM, a busboy and a waitress. They put all our sales each night on the screen. It was really competitive. It would say: Reka $3,000, Nicole $5,000 — and I wanted to make as much as Nicole. Certain nights, the girl who sold the most got a bottle of Dom or Cristal champagne. The customers would ask me want I wanted to drink. We drank so much champagne it was coming out of our ears. When people were waiting outside, we would raise the table minimums [to $5,000]. It was a really good time for bottle service. After about a year, sales went down. I think Cain opened and took a lot of the bigger spenders. So some of the better waitresses left too. Marquee was also doing really well.

You have always done bottle service? Yes, as a waitress, host, and door person. I was at PM and Cielo the longest. But it was Movida that made me want to quit the nightlife business. I liked working at the door much more than working inside, where you have to deal with the drunk people more. I made most of my connections at the door. I even promoted a Sunday night party at Home. At that point I was going out seven days a week. I was just out. At one point, I felt that nightlife was my industry, and thought I would open my own club. I was 25 or 26 and thought, “This has to be my career, I am too old to start to do anything else.” I had only modeled and done nightlife and didn’t have a resume for anything else. It’s hard being a woman in nightlife. Most of the men are sexist. They don’t treat you with the same respect they do the men. I always got in trouble because I was very loud and telling them off. I wasn’t afraid to say you’re wrong, and I’m right, and fuck you. Some of them loved that about me, and some really didn’t.

But when you go out, do you go to bottle service places? Not really, not anymore. I like places without bottle service better. If you are going to a club that is packed and you can’t get in, and you want to get in, it is a great way to buy real estate. You get a table, you get to sit down, you don’t have to wait in line. If you have the money. It is nicer than going to the crowded bar. Yet it has killed a lot of the spirit of nightlife. The artists and funkier people don’t go cause they don’t want to spend $2,000. It has mostly been investment bankers spending that kind of money.

So where do the artists go out? I think in Brooklyn now. There are great art parties there. They have $2 beers, and its about meeting interesting people. It’s a cooler crowd. They have potluck parties where everyone brings food and booze. It’s a good time. It’s not about spending lots of money. People will even lose money to throw a party. Places now are not built to have a good party, they are built to have as many tables as possible for bottle service. They hire promoters to bring in models and cool kids who would never go to these places unless they where getting free bottles.

Someone said to me they can look around the room and see which table is free and which is paying. Of course, of course. The four guys with ties are paying. They are paying to sit next to the table of six models who are getting it all for free, and as soon as their bottle is empty, they leave to go somewhere cooler. Think about it. My friends on any given night have a choice of five places to walk into and have a table and free drinks in the main area, and other people wait on line to pay to do it. It’s hard to get my friends to go even when it’s all free. You’ll get a phone call, “I have a table and bottles at Bungalow, come over and it will be next to such and such celebrity,” and you’ll think, “I don’t feel like it tonight.” Yet there are people dying to go. The promoters now invite you to free dinner first, too. It’s fun to go once in a while, but it’s just not as fresh as it used to be. I think to myself how much money could a place make when I look around the room and see promoter after promoter.

How do you think they stay in business? I think they have a lot of investors and good corporate events, holiday parties. They rent the space for a few hours, spend lots to be there, and then have to leave tables when they are turned over for bottle service later. They get furious, but if the place is cool enough, they will come back anyway.

What else are you doing now? I am a photographer. I do editorial, catalogue, CD covers. Kiki De Montparnasse is one of my clients. Without nightlife, it would have been much harder for me to get my photography going. I met so many people in fashion that liked me as a person that once I reached out to them for business, they gave me a chance. I don’t regret working in nightlife at all

You are not from here right? I am half Finnish and half Hungarian and have lived in Helsinki and Budapest and lived for a while in London.

Is there a place you feel that the nightlife is better? Uruguay is the new cool European Riviera. Miami still has its wild moments during Winter Music Conference. Manhattan nightlife is just different now. Brooklyn has funkier parties. You could almost say that nightlife in the city is for tourists, bankers, and real estate guys. It has less soul. Also the regulations and enforcers are hurting the scene. They tried to ban bottle service at one point because they said it contributes to people drinking too much, ‘cause they want to finish their bottle.

Photo: Reka Nyari

Industry Insiders: James Woods, Hammer of THOR

James Woods, the Hotel on Rivington’s Operations Manager, on ushering the A-list inside the hotel undetected, bringing an LA vibe to the Lower East, and the journey from Long Island bellboy to lounging in a hot tub way above the LES.

Favorite Hangs: I love the Eldridge, my friend Matt Levine’s place. That’s my new favorite place. I like it cause it’s small, and there’s, you know, not an overwhelming sense of, “Oh you know, who are you? What are you doing here? Do I have to know somebody to come in?” You can pretty much just go there and hang out and have a couple drinks. And I think the drinks are fantastic there. But I love Schiller’s Liquor Bar. I’ve always been a Schiller’s fan.

What did you do last night? At the last minute, I had a huge celebrity book the penthouse and as usual I was here personally for their arrival. We get so many A-listers that stay here because of the privacy of the hotel and the neighborhood and how easy it is to go unnoticed. We have a private entrance for celebrities to enter the hotel that I take them through, similar to the movie Goodfellas when they enter the restaurant through the side. After that, we take the express elevator up to the penthouse. This allows them to avoid the lobby and go unnoticed every time.

Back in the day, I used to run a tiny bar on Allen Street that was where the new Thompson Hotel is now. So it’s very strange for me to see these huge towers going up around here. What once was a tiny little one-story bar is now a 30-story hotel, and that transformation isn’t slowing down. First [the Lower East Side] wasn’t the greatest neighborhood … there was nothing going on. And then out of nowhere, things just started to change — things went up, and now it’s like every weekend around here is absolutely insane.

Tell me about the roof parties at the hotel over the summer. Yeah, it was every Sunday during the day from like 2 p.m. until sunset inside the penthouse, with a really cool DJ. And then it spread to the entire rooftop too, which has a small hot tub. It’s like a 10-person hot tub, so when the days were nice, you’re just looking down on the Lower East Side. It’s very LA but in New York. At first it was just my friends and some hotel guests, and by the end of the summer it was so crowded that it was unbelievable. What started off as like Sunday brunch thing for hotel guests turned into this incredible party.

Any rooftop with water in New York — especially this one — is pretty special. And I feel like [the fact that it was] Sundays was important too. A lot of my friends are in the industry, either hotels or restaurants, and normally Sundays are most people’s day off. So it’s like everyone’s looking for something to do besides just going out for brunch. They’re looking to extend their weekend and do something fun during the day. Once people got up here … the space sold itself. The views are just breathtaking. And then when you get on the roof and have the hot tub, the drinking, food … I felt like it became a little bit of a breakfast club thing. Everyone was just like, “Oh you know, Sundays at the Hotel on Rivington.” I’m definitely doing it again next summer.

You came to the Lower East Side and brought a little LA scene out here. I still go to LA all the time. I have a project that I’m going to be working on with friends of mine out in LA who are opening a hotel out there that I’ll be consulting on.

Known Associates: Paul Stallings, the owner of the Hotel on Rivington and Stallings Hotels, with whom I’ll be doing some of my future projects. He’s also a huge downtown real estate owner and developer who’s responsible for some of the jump-starting of the Lower East Side, as well as my involvement with the neighborhood. My mentor is Jeffrey Felshaw, the general manager of the Hotel on Rivington.

Anything else in the works? I’ll be doing a party [in the second floor lobby lounge of the Hotel on Rivington] every Thursday. It’s going to be more of an after-work thing that starts at like 7 p.m. or like 6:30 p.m. and goes until whenever. But it’s going to be for the Lower East Side people — everyone that lives in the neighborhood, local people that work around here, and then some friends of mine that I invite.

What are you doing tonight? Dinner at our restaurant Thor with [friends from] Ted Baker London; they do the uniforms for the hotel and restaurant and also make all my clothes. Then going for drinks at the Eldridge.

Photo: Chelsea Stemple