Rumor Has It: Butter Group Is Splitting Up

I guess it’s official, as Frankie Sharp – that promoter/host with the most fabulous following – lands on the cover of the Village Voice. It was 430am this morning and I was walking the puppies and grabbing bagels with the gal, when I saw Frankie’s fierce puss staring up from a stack of papers. We have been banging Frankie’s drum loudly here forever. He is the new, while almost everyone else is… experienced. Frankie has blown everyone away. His boyfriend is David Davis, my assistant/co-worker/partner in design.

The Voice tends to use terms like "savior of nightlife" and stuff like that and say there was little going on when Frankie burst on the scene, without recognizing the great divide in nightclub culture. While the rest of the world is getting closer to embracing gays as full-blown members of our society…(shoot, even Dirty Harry himself – conservative stalwart Clint Eastwood – is supporting gay marriage) clubdom has become even dumber. The gays and the straights rarely mingle in the same room as once was.

Frankie’s party is mostly gay and, of course, we love that, but there is another side of the coin as well. There are two parallel universes co-existing with one, not recognizing the existence of the other. Clubs, once so forward and influential, are more divided in lifestyle and music and ways of doing business than ever before. Congrats to Frankie for the well-deserved recognition.

On that straight front, there is rumor and innuendo on the top-tier places. I was asked by a realtor-type why I hadn’t talked about the imminent takeover of the Shadow space on 28th street. I told him I did chat with Mike Satsky of Provocateur about all that a while back, but have left it until now. Wanted to let them cross all the T’s and dot all the i’s. The realtor says its a 99 percent-done deal. In club life, when someone says it’s 99 percent done, I think there is bound to be trouble ahead. If someone says it’s 50/50 I think it might happen. 

With that in mind, my same source says there is trouble percolating at Butter Group. It’s always been brewing, but my realtor dude says that Richie Akiva and Scott Sartiano are on the outs, with various scenarios being talked about. Dividing up of properties is being chatted about. In the "I can’t believe it’s not Butter" category, my first design gig Butter on Lafayette is being renovated by my ex-partner Mark Dizon. Scott seems to be gearing up to run this show and maybe the new 1OAK LA, while Richie is on The Darby and 1OAK NYC all the way. My source says 1OAK Vegas isn’t worth fighting over. How much of this is real or not, I just don’t know, but a call that I am bound to get later today should fill in the blanks.

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Industry Insiders: Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva, Two Of A Kind

While opening a successful nightclub in New York City is no easy task, maintaining a nightclub’s status as one of the city’s hottest spots for nearly five years is close to impossible. Yet that’s precisely what Scott Sartiano (left) and Richie Akiva (right) have done with 1 OAK, which first cracked open its doors to a stylish sliver of Manhattan society in 2008. Its reputation has only grown since, with 1 OAK pop-ups in places like Brazil and St. Tropez making it a truly international phenomenon. But it was only this year that the duo decided to open a permanent outpost outside the Chelsea original. Enter 1 OAK Las Vegas, which began welcoming celebrities like Kanye West and Fergie in January. 

What led to the new 1 OAK Las Vegas?

Richie Akiva: With 1 OAK, we are building a brand, and we’ve branded ourselves a lot among the jet-setting, world-traveling crowd. When we have events in Brazil, or in Europe, people come in and they’re like “1 OAK is amazing.” When I go to Paris or Milan, everyone asks me about 1 OAK. Wherever you are, when you say to someone, “Do you know this club, 1 OAK?” they’re like, “Yes, I do.” So we decided to take it to Vegas. 
Scott Sartiano: 1 OAK New York has been open a long time, and I think that longevity has proved that the brand is strong and stands for something bigger than a nightclub.
Akiva: We do events in St. Tropez, Ibiza, LA, Coachella. You name it, we’ve done 1 OAK pop-ups everywhere. 
Sartiano: Even before we did those events, our clients were from all over the world, so that helped get the name out there. But 1 OAK as a club stands for something. It stands for class, exclusivity, good energy, and a good time. It’s not about some DJ that you saw on a flyer or anything like that.
Akiva: It’s a lifestyle brand.
Sartiano: And I think that’s given it longevity and is going to help make it different in Las Vegas.
Akiva: The name speaks for itself. It’s one of a kind.
What’s the secret to your success when so many other nightclubs have come and gone? 
Akiva: We’re always expanding, we’re always staying relevant. We pay attention to what people want and what people are asking for. We don’t just open a club and say, Here’s the club, it is the way it is, and then forget about it. We’re always changing things and we pay attention to every detail. But at the end of the day it comes down to our relationships, and our relationships are very loyal.
Sartiano: It’s about consistency, but also staying current. A lot of the time you have clubs that say, This is what we’re going to be, and then they stay that way. But then the times change, tastes change, people change, music changes, and they don’t change. We’ve stayed current from being all over the place and staying on top of what’s happening. We love 1 OAK, we think it’s something special and important to us, and we want to make it the best nightclub in New York, if not the world. I feel like it’s just getting going.
Are there any particular adjustments you’ve made for operating in Vegas?
Akiva: There are a lot of adjustments you have to make, it’s a whole different of mindset of going out in Vegas compared to New York or anywhere else. You’re there for only one reason and that’s to let loose and party.
Sartiano: It’s four times the size of the New York location, and there’s a tremendous light show. It has all the same features of New York in design elements but it’s on a bigger scale. And people in Vegas are there for a fun weekend with their friends, whereas in New York they live and work here and go out on their nights off or weekends, so it seems the crowd is going to be different.
Akiva: When you look at Vegas, you’re always seeing bigger brighter better, so that’s what we had to adjust to. New York is more cool and collected. With Vegas we had to adjust it to where we were going to keep the New York style of coolness, but we had to make it bigger and brighter and better and give it more pizzazz.
How has it been received so far?
Akiva: The feedback has been incredible. People are loving the space, they’re saying it’s one of the nicest places they’ve ever been to in Vegas. It’s a Vegas-style club but it feels more New York than any club in Vegas because all the other clubs are really big and our club is not quite as big, so we get to keep it exclusive.
So there’s a sense of intimacy to it?
Sartiano: Well, it’s definitely a bigger version of 1 OAK New York, but we wanted to keep the style the same. 1 OAK is really unique in Vegas because it’s warmer and cozier than the other clubs.
Akiva: But it still has a big feeling to it.
Sartiano: A lot of the other clubs copy each other. If you walked into the top clubs here, they’re almost carbon copies of each other in their layout and their design. 1 OAK is unique and does things differently.

Las Vegas Opening: 1 Oak

It’s hard to ignore the delicious irony of opening a second outpost of a nightclub whose acronym stands for “ONE OF A KIND”. But all that is forgotten upon entering 1 Oak Las Vegas, a spectacular, 16,000 square foot stunner in the Mirage Resort & Casino.

Venerable Butter Group nightlife impresarios Richie Akiva, Scott Sartiano, and Ronnie Madra have teamed with Vegas’ premier purveyor of high-style clubbing The Light Group for the Strip’s most extravagant new surefire celeb magnet (Kanye and Fergie have already dropped by). With interiors by Toronto design superstars Munge Leung (massive projection screens, brightly-hued sofas, surreal lighting) and original art by Roy Nachum, it’s as pretty to look at as the people. Another of a One Of A Kind. 

The Darby Gets a Name, Carnival is a Hit

Sometimes, wearing two hats doesn’t stop the rain. I was kept late at job sites yesterday evening, as my designer hat kept me deep in sheetrock, dust, and paint fumes. My firm is currently finishing four venues that will open between now and Labor Day, and I don’t have enough hours in the day, or showers, or clothes, stashed around town. The Richie Akiva/Scott Sartiano restaurant on 14th and 8th has been named The Darby. I’ve known this for a while, but needed it to break in The Times, first. That’s where the two hats get into arguments with each other. I am so excited about this project, as each day the place looks more like the vision my partner, Marc Dizon, and I developed months ago. I’ll talk about this more in the coming weeks. Next door, at the old Country Club/ Dirty Disco space, now known as Snap, a woman and celebrity-friendly sports bar/restaurant is shaping up. The restaurant at 146 Orchard Street is in its final stages of construction, and looking like a winner. Stand Up New York, our first comedy club, is open to the public, while final finishes make it sweeter every day. Needless to say, my schedule is hectic, and I missed two events that I swore I’d attend last night.

The Jersey Shore soiree at Marquee was my biggest loss. I was promised access to the “talent,” and I was preparing questions all week. Most started with “YO!” In what had to be the biggest cultural ying-yang in quite some time, the Paul Kasmin Gallery next store opened David Lachapelle’s “American Jesus” exhibit. No press flack had the gumption to drag The Situation next door to the gallery, nor did David go to Marquee. Combining these two crowds would have been a snap. The images at David’s show, available online, feature an angelic Michael Jackson—with wings and all. They looked insanely hot. My Blackberry screamed to me that Julian Schanbel and Lenny Kravitz were there, and everyone who was everyone, as well. Afterward, the swells took their boom boom to the Boom Boom Room, which I hear will go private in a snap of Andre Balaz’s well manicured fingers. To almost everyone, that means very little access granted, and while people are always denied, it will discourage the mediocres from even trying to get in. I’m sure the fabulous aren’t affected much.

I was motivated by midnight, and headed to Amanda Lepore and Kenny Kenny’s Big Top party at Carnival, held at Bowlmor Lanes. Now, that’s a mouthful of candy corn for sure. I wanted to say hey to David Lachapelle, who I haven’t seen in a few years. It was advertised he would be there, and everyone knew he would. He has been mussing around with Amanda forever. I found David surrounded by a sea of paparazzi and iPhone photographers by a throne in the big room. He was wearing a gray Shepard Fairey T shirt, and a red baseball cap. Drag queens and flash dancers vied for his attention with big—real and store-bought—grins. Everyone was smiling, as “good nature” is considered classy with this fashion gay crowd. David posed with everyone. I saw photographer Roxanne Lowitt grab a few minutes while adoring fans jockeyed to be next. This scene latches onto its home grown celebrities like David and Richie Rich and Ru Paul and others who, for so long, have sipped cocktails in the same places and have now achieved international celebrity. The dress, style, and sensibility of this crowd loves to be validated with these success stories. Dressing up in fantastic costumes is high fashion, and high style, when one of these ambassadors “sells” it to the larger culture. The way of life has its own rewards, for sure, but it’s nice to be recognized. David is the real deal and it was nice to have him home again. I said hi, and we exchanged the “how good you looks” and all. He was always there for me over the years. He provided beautiful floral images for use on invites when I opened the Palace de Beaute with Larry Tee and Michael Alig. That was where the PetCo in Union Square now lives. Andy Warhol had his Factory upstairs. When my ex wife was putting out a record on Next Plateau Records, David shot it. He was always around to lend his brand to fabulous events, or have his after-events with my crew. He was always a wonderful, fun, and intelligent person—great to be around.

The crowd swarmed, posing, selling their fabulousness to him and each other, swarming his candle light. It was nice to be in a club where the idols were artists instead of moguls. Nearby, muscle queens took exaggerated hammers and rocketed energy up a 14 foot shaft to ring a bell. Others stood by with admiration while sipping vodka through straws. A successful slam had a huge LED sign begging, “HIT ME AGAIN.” All were delighted by this spectacle. Delicious cotton candy was being hawked by delicious young men, as a gymnast-type hoola-hooped in short shorts. 7-foot drag artists, with air-brushed makeup, air kissed each other and exchanged pleasantries. Gym-built bodies hawked games of skill and luck and distributed stuffed purple prizes, and sexy smiles to winners. The carni-shtick made wallflowers into entertainers. It was smiles all around, and forward music for a forward thinking crowd, who remain years ahead of it all while, doing much of the same as 10 years ago.

Kenny Kenny was pleased as he surveyed the room with me. He knows that he, Amanda, and Joey have created something that can be built on. “It’s good,” he humbly proclaimed. The crowd is fresh, unjaded, and uber friendly. They dress the part, and are aware that something is happening here that borrows only the best parts of the bawdy past. It is respectful of the legacy, and embraces the success of what came out of that era that broke it all out, but they don’t relate to the pitfalls of that time. David and Amanda, Kenny, and so many others from long ago bathe in the new light. I love Wednesday’s at Carnival.

Paul Alexander, who has always been an oracle—a person to ask when you want to know the story, the scoop, and what’s really happening—is hosting a Sunday night shindig at the Pearl lounge on 17th and 8th avenue. It’s an early gig, meant to fill those hours between dinner and Suzanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny’s late night affair at Greenhouse. It’s cocktails and flirtations, 10 to 1am at Pearl, and then everyone heads downtown. Paul’s parties at Jackie 60/Mother, Caine, and so many other places, have been reliable fun for the sometimes, somewhat unreliable set.

Eugene Remm & Mark Birnbaum’s June 10th Was Better Than Yours

Whenever the 10th of June rolls around I always think: I know this date so well, but how? Cue David Lynch-esque deja-vu music while I think about past lives until I realize, Oh, it’s Tenjune. Right. Eugene Remm & Mark Birnbaum‘s Svedka Vodka Adult Playground 2033 was last night, at Abe & Arthurs—not at Tenjune, because my head would’ve exploded as that very date happens to be both of their birthdays. I’m not sure how I managed to get invited to the club impresarios’ joint birthday jam, what with the likes of Kim Kardashian and DJ Cassidy on the personal guestlist, but it was enough to remind me that I have a lot more to accomplish in my life to deserve a birthday party the size of one called ‘Adult Playground,’ and a lot more to accomplish before my name makes it to the party recap list next to attendees like Whitney Port and Tyson Beckford, and even more to accomplish before Mark and Eugene actually invite me to their soiree. Themselves. Anyway, hopefully all of that happens before 2033, like the Svedka sponsors suggest, but for now, I am just happy I got to see (if not be seen) celebrations for such iconic industry as like Remm and Birnbaum.

Kim was one of those guests who the PR mavens didn’t get a chance to announce was coming, because she just casually popped in to say hello to Mark and Eugene, and to see Jason Derulo, Iyaz, and Chris Willis perform. A couple of other industry insiders were present as well: Sam Nazarian of SBE (and ex to Kristin Cavalari) and real estate heir Matt Moinian, along with Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva were all present to wish the boys well. Guests enjoyed dinner the way only Abe & Arthur’s and Svedka could produce, with fare that included Svedka Mango Tiramisu with Chocolate Lady Fingers dessert. Happy birthday E&M! Thanks for sort of inviting me! image image image

Photos: Wireimage and

What’s in a Name? Akiva & Sartiano’s New Supper Club Plays the Name Game

This week the world celebrates the baptism of William Shakespeare on April 26, 1564. He was neat enough to pass into immortality on April 23, 1616. This was actually before my time. I looked it up. Among the many sharp things the famous bard said, this one is found in Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” With that in mind and to answer quite a bit of my “fan” mail, I will offer that the 14th Street supper club Marc Dizon and myself are designing for Richie Akiva and Scott Sartiano does actually have a name. It isn’t “14SSC” or “2oak” or “Better.” When they tell me I can tell you, I will. It is a wonderful name. The place actually has an approximate opening date and, as of yesterday, we were on schedule. Again, I’ll let you know when I’m unleashed. I was strolling last night with my gal pal and stopped in Butter to say “hey.” It still impresses me. I asked Scott Sartiano if I could tell you guys but he said “No, not yet,” quoting Shakespeare, I believe (or was it Al Capone?) “You say anything and I’ll kill you.”

Yesterday I spelled Marc Berkley’s name wrong. I was reminded that I always did. On ancient fliers I had it with a “k” and Berkley was always an adventure. It didn’t matter how I spelled it as everyone knew that a good time would be had by all. Marc will be remembered at a memorial service at Redden’s Funeral Home. The service will begin at 7pm on Wednesday April 28th. Redden’s is located at 325 West 14th Street in Manhattan, between 8th and 9th Avenues and can be reached at 212-242-1456. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Marc’s name to the GLBT community charity of your choice. A celebration of his life will be held in the near future.

Naming joints isn’t getting any easier. Every week something opens and must “DBA” as something. Everytime a place uses a name that name becomes less available in the future. Sometimes a name is used again or is changed a bit to protect those guilty name-thieves. There was more than one “Arena” and more than one “World.” A few were called “Home,” there’s a “Continental” and there was “The Continental.” Boom Boom Room couldn’t call itself that because someone way out west already had the rights, so they changed it (but everyone still calls it Boom Boom Room). It’s just too much fun. Studio 54 lingered in name if not in spirit and relevance for decades. There was even a Limelight many years before the infamous Limelight. Most owners spend months racking their brains to find something that isn’t too embarrassing. The desperate ones use numbers from the address. I love the name SL, by the way, even though they claim it wasn’t named to get me to write about it. It’s great when a great place has a great name. Even if they didn’t call it Rose Bar it would still be sweet. The observation by Billy Shakespeare over 4 centuries ago is still valid. If it’s hot, we will come no matter what they call it.

First Looks, New Openings and a Look Back

Sometimes I make people mad at me. It happens. My editors fume if I am designing something and some other blogger gets the inside scoop first. “Oops” worked once. “I forgot” another time. When you’re getting close to the conclusion of construction the PR peeps come swarming in and want to control the spread of information. They interview me or get a few sound bites about design intent and then flitter away. They don’t send me a release or keep me in the loop. I guess they figure I know what’s up. Well, here we are again. A few joints on the cusp of being fabulous.

image My design firm Lewis and Dizon is finishing up BEBA at 71 Spring street, just west of Lafayette, opening with veteran chef Tom Papoultis. It’s the old fr.og space, which did so poorly when every other joint in the hood was thriving. fr.og was all about bad food, awful design and ridiculous attitude, but it was in a great location. The location wont change and the Mediterranean food will be fabulous and the design will be more of my unusual. They’re hiring staff and want to get it open next week. I’ll sneak a camera in tomorrow.

image The long shuttered 146 Orchard street space is back in full tilt construction again with Camille Beccera, late of Greenpoint eatery Paloma, in the kitchen. Although it still has no name to my knowledge, Camille will offer farm fresh and local fare every chance she gets. A mid to late May opening is expected. It’s a Lewis and Dizon design as well. The design is based on the history of Orchard street, with modernized elements of the fabric of street life in the LES influencing the aesthetic.

image Everybody wants to know about the former Nells space we are producing for the 1Oak/Butter team. I expect that to open mid-may as well. Everyday it gets closer to the realization of our vision. I can’t speak much about this other than to say we have been true to the aesthetic of Nell’s, but have added sweeping decorative elements to satisfy these modern times. That means we respected the old school and pushed in the new school. The engagement of my pal Butter/1Oak owner Scott Sartiano to the charming model Allie Rizzo pleased us all. When it was whispered in my ear last week I sent him a text telling him I finally found the elusive name for his 14th street super supper club: Fiancé. He text laughed at me. I’ve seen the ring, this place better make money.

Last night, dressed in all my Easter suaveness, I visited Suzanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny’s Sunday night soiree over at Greenhouse. It was magnificent. The positive energy of the enthused crowd all frenzied up by DJ Johnny “Daddy” Dynell made me a believer. This is the way it was, is and should be. It was a mixed crowd of mixed nuts and other nightlife denizens air kissing and showing off their easter finery. Billy Erb, Paul Alexander and faces I haven’t seen since I left this scene greeted me warmly and told me I must come more often. I told Kenny I had uncovered bags of old photos, many of him. He told me he didn’t want to see them. Maybe he is right and you just can’t look back too much. That’s why I’ve been a stranger to this weekly party, seems like I had been there and done that . However, the place was jumping with new faces (or is it fresh meat?) and I realized that this party was thriving in the present and the smiles were for that last track or the new person that caught their eye. The purity of that was refreshing. I don’t ever go to greenhouse. I don’t particularly like some of the people there or the way it is run, but I will go next Sunday. I cabbed to see Jon Lennon over at GoldBar . The Sundays have become undeniable. He was sipping bubbly water at a table next door as hordes of sweet things approached the door. Sundays seem to be close to becoming the new Mondays.

1Oak’s Woodsmen Take the Party to Carolina

“Whether you’re single and ready to mingle or are searching for some ‘QT’ with the spouse before sending the babysitter home, there’s plenty of nightlife in Charlotte”: this is how Charlotte’s Got a Lot characterizes nightlife in Charlotte, North Carolina. Not a tag line you’d associate with New York City clubs like 1Oak and Butter, but that didn’t stop Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva, the owners of these long standing nightlife hotspots to open a Butter outpost in Sartiano’s hometown. Butter Charlotte opened on Friday, February 19th with Manhattan nightlifers like Adam Alpert and DJ Sinatra, DJ Jus Ske, Butter supporters like Nicky Hilton and the Black Eyed Peas bringing a little bit of Manhattan to NC and perhaps reviving the deep seeded interest in Manhattan’s own celeb hang with the surprising long-standing Monday night party.

image Fergie wears her sunglasses at night, in the DJ booth with Nicky Hilton and her Peas.

image Those sparkly things that come out with bottles in Manhattan clubs also set the scene in Charlotte. Only dangerous if you try to blow them out.

image NYC gal-about-town Jessie Schuster gives party maestro Adam Alpert an earfull over the sounds of the Peas.

image Scott Sartiano is surprised by the turn out when he finally looks up from his BlackBerry.

image Fergie takes off her sunglasses for black and white photographs.

image Nicky dance/poses, sparkly things are gone.

image The Butter-greased staircase.

image Pre-mayhem.

image I think they should have named it Margarine.

Photos: Jon Alagem via Facebook

The Top 10 Industry Insiders of 2009

We did it last year, when this interview series was borned, and back then our pal Rachel Uchitel was #2 to a doorman. No more! Half a million pageviews later, Rachel, you’re second to none, but we’re retiring your number. It’s time to make way for the class of 2009.

10. David Chang The master of Momofuku can do no wrong. 9. Rochelle Gores Shopkeep of LA’s fashion-forward Arcade, Gores wants to close the book on boho-chic. 8. Mourad Lahlou Lahlou knocks ’em dead from San Francisco’s Aziza to Iron Chef. 7. Eddie Dean After a series of legal woes, Dean’s Pacha club in New York owns the night once more. 6. Wass Stevens Arguably New York’s most well-known and professional doorman, Stevens has transitioned upward into running the show, not just the guest list. 5. Rachelle Hruska The queen of Guest of a Guest sure knows how to get her name out there. Now quit accosting us at parties! 4. Richie Akiva, Jeffrey Jah, Ronnie Madra, & Scott Sartiano The boys of 1Oak are the supergroup of NYC clubland. 3. Paul Liebrandt The prickly chef from New York’s Corton has no time for your foolish questions. 2. Poplife Miami’s nightlife mandarins continue to throw one of the hottest parties in town. 1. Josh Wagner Our most popular interview subject for the year also hails from Miami, running the bar-side show for Morgans Hotels; he declared 2009 the “year of the bartender,” and he was demonstrably correct.