Tonight: DJing At BlackBook’s Party At Toy

Before I scoot over to Toy to DJ at the BlackBook Fashion Week soiree, I will scoot over to the Secret Society book’s event at Soho boutique treasure & bond, 350 W. Broadway. My friend, mentor, and owner of my DJ management agency 4AM – Jonny "The Lover" Lennon – will be spinning at this soiree. The hosts are myself Nur Khan, Serge Becker, Simonez Wolf, and Christian Alexander. That’s good company, and I’m honored to be there. It’s a book signing event.

Here’s the official info on treasure & bond:
"Every purchase we ring up generates change – 100 percent of all our after-cost profits go directly to the programs that benefit people in need, right here in our own community. Located at the intersection of retail and philanthropy, Nordstrom-owned treasure & bond is more than just a store; it’s an exciting concept that has one simple goal: to help people help people, with wit, imagination, and style."

The tome, Secret Society: Modern Speakeasy Style and Design, was put together by Patrice Farameh of Farameh Media, a NY-based publishing house with the help of nightlife guru Christian Alexander. It takes you to the "world’s hottest speakeasy destinations…showcasing dozens and dozens of undercover clubs, and drawing you into this world of secrecy and exclusivity."

I went to Wikipedia for the source of the term "speakeasy:"

"They were so called because of the practice of speaking quietly about such a place in public, or when inside it, so as not to alert the police or neighbors."

See? I write, I DJ, I design, and I educate you. See you somewhere tonight.

Sons of Essex’s Matt Levine Talks About His New, Yet-To-Open Mysterious Space At 205 Chrystie St.

With The Elsinore poised to open up in just a week or so, things on that very strange block Stanton between Bowery and Chrystie are taking yet another step in a new direction. Because it effectively dead-ends on both sides, traffic is very restricted, which has made it a home for those less fortunate who have gathered near the Bowery Mission for eons. The New Museum and a string of art galleries, boutiques, and little restaurants have given a new look to the area. The streets are still a bit dark and the well-heeled walk fast, past the shoeless, as new development gears to bring even more change. Matt Levine and his posse have taken the 205 Chrystie space which has, like much of the people hanging around it these days, …never amounted to anything. There was a run with rock promo icons like Vegas that offered a handful of fun nights. It was a kind of cool dive bar called 6’s and 8’s. There was even a foray by the usually perfect Serge Becker of Miss Lily’s and

La Esquina fame. At 205, he was a little less than perfect. Matt Levine is hot with his Sons of Essex, a smash success. I asked him to tell me what he could tell me at this very early stage. He couldn’t say much as the process of opening is long and rife with obstacles.
 
The block dead-ends on both sides, a very unique situation which traditionally made it very…wonkie. Now there are cool boutiques and The Elsinore about to open, The Box is still wonderfully fun around the corner, and the park across Chrystie is beautiful. So you feel it’s a good time to get in?
My partner Michael Shah has a great eye for real estate, and this block, being a passageway from the Lower East Side to Soho, has always intrigued me.
 
You have been wildly successful at Sons of Essex and you had a great run at The Eldridge. You love the neighborhood. Talk about where it is heading…
We are always randomly bumping into each other on the streets of the LES; the Lower East Side is a true neighborhood in every sense of the word, a community within a community. I see the growth of the LES, beyond "nightlife;" daily foot traffic is increasing during the daytime due to the growth of art galleries, boutiques, cafes, coffee shops, and creative agencies- we all support each others’ entrepenurial spirits.
 
What else fills your days?
Everyday, a new lesson learned.

Super Linda More Than Super, Three-Day Pop-Up This Weekend at Chrystie 141

Bingo was riotous as usual. Murray Hill and I talked about his May tour with Dita Von Teese. After all that, we kissed our crew goodnight and walked the cool night to Chinatown. The Wo in Wo Hop still stands for wonderful. Encouraged by hearty soups and dumplings, we braved the cold night to visit Matt Abramcyk and Serge Becker’s newish hot spot Super Linda. My dear friend Travis Bass was blowing up my phone, begging me to come. We passed The Odeon and I told Amanda that 20-something years ago it was the hottest place in New York. Today it is just perfectly amazing. We entered Super Linda and immediately knew it was just super. There, a small, sharp set were lounging casually in booths and tables. Vance Bookings held court, surrounded by all his unusually beautiful suspects. I introduced Amanda to Cordell Lochin, and he and I exchanged the secret handshake and a hearty hug. The deep booth had Serge Becker and his crew of hip jet-setters talking the talk. Serge got  up and gave me the tour. He explained how the new lights for the dining room had not arrived as of yet and that there were still some finishing touches to the design coming in the next two weeks or so. I loved it. The downstairs had the right amount of hiding spots and comfy booths and there was some great detailing to the paneled wood walls. It’s opening soon. We talked a bit more about the biz and small wonders and then I visited the always excitable Travis Bass at the bar.

He introduced me to Richie Cheung, the owner of that 141 Chrystie space. I exclaimed "OMG (I say that sometimes), you must hate me." I reminded him that I had written a scathing review of his place when it opened. He said, "Oh, you’re Steve Lewis! No hard feelings. You were just doing your job and we’ve made many changes for the better." I loved Richie. I would have popped me in the nose . I felt so strongly about it I almost popped me in the nose. Instead I promised to visit the new and improved space Friday. Travis ,as his norm, never shut up about this and that and what he was doing at 141. He gushed, "I am doing a three-day pop-up at 141 Chrystie Street from Thursday through Saturday next week. It will be a raging dance club party theme. Think Ibiza or rave party with the Red Egg crew and crowd. I am going to do giant balloons and projections and laser beams."

I’m always a sucker for giant balloons and laser beams, so I agreed to go Friday. Anyway, Travis wasn’t taking no for an answer. I couldn’t come Thursday, I explained, as I am DJing at Hotel Chantelle. I expected him to ask me to put on a long song …say "White Lines" and pop over for a hot minute to see his pop-up. He continued (he always continues), "Gonna bring back the old New York high-energy dance club! No more lounging bullshit! NYC is all about fun and we are bringing that back."

He told me he was doing dinner parties downstairs at Super Linda and I almost asked him if that wasn’t sort of "lounging bullshit," but I needed to get home before sun up to write this piece. New York needs Travis’ energy. We are so often ruled by the blasè. He may be a lot of things but he certainly isn’t blasè. We kissed everyone goodbye and headed to Brooklyn to our humble home and puppy and cat. I loved Super Linda; it’s intelligent and adult-offering in a nightlife world increasingly dominated by the unfabulous…the blasè.

Cold Waters Heat Up The Nation’s Oyster Bar Scene

Though the old saying, “Oysters should only be eaten in months that end in an ‘r’” was debunked by refrigeration and modern mariculture, the truth remains: oysters are the ideal fall food. “Oysters thrive in cold water,” says Adam Evans, the chef of Atlanta’s white–hot seafood restaurant The Optimist and the aptly named next–door oyster bar, The Oyster Bar at The Optimist. “So when the water starts to change, they get this rush of cold water, plump up, and get really nice.”

The Oyster Bar at The Optimist is just the latest of a slew of oyster bars opening across the country. In the trendy L.A. neighborhood of Silverlake, L&E Oyster Bar has been attracting crowds since it opened in January. They serve a menu of hot and cold seafood items, including a fantastic oyster po’boy and a grilled oyster platter alongside their always–changing raw oyster list, sourced from all over the country and Canada. “My partner and I love oysters,” explains co-owner Tyler Bell, “but we couldn’t find a great oyster bar like the kinds you find in New York, Boston, San Francisco, or Europe, so we opened our own.” The hankering for bivalves has been so strong, Bell recently doubled capacity by taking over the floor upstairs.

On the Eastern Seaboard, Serge Becker, owner of hipster havens La Esquina and Miss Lily’s, opened his Swiss spot Cafe Select in 2008, but it was just this summer that he converted the restaurant’s secluded back room (accessed through the kitchen) into Cervantes’ Oyster Shack and Bar. They serve schnitzel, Zurich veal, and Swiss bratwurst in the main dining room, but offer lobster salad, octopus salad, steamed mussels, ceviche, and raw oysters in the back. When deep winter hits, they’ll turn it into a fondue bar, but for now, it’s veal up front, oysters in the back.

In May, Evans and Atlanta chef–of–the–moment Ford Fry debuted The Optimist to crowds and rave reviews. The space features a large horseshoe bar, beachy decor, and a casual patio with a putt–putt course attached. A coastal region’s worth of oysters, lobster rolls, chowder, salads, and peel ’n’ eat shrimp fill the menu, and the cocktails, like the pink gin martini called The Truth As We Know It, are designed to pair well with oysters.

Though Baltimore is a seafood-centric town, first–time restaurateur Candace Beattie noticed there was a hole in the marketplace where raw bars were concerned. So after moving back home after a long stint in raw bar-heavy Boston, Beattie opened Thames Street Oyster House in the summer of 2011 in Baltimore’s Fell’s Point. She serves a mix of New England and Maryland standards.

But it isn’t just that oysters are conquering new territory. Even in the oyster heartland, new oyster shacks flourish. The talk of Boothbay Harbor, Maine this year is The World is Mine Oyster: a new restaurant with a rustic, camp-themed interior, a patio overlooking the bay, and a lengthy menu of Maine-raised oysters, served raw, steamed, baked, in shooters, and topped with everything from sour cream and caviar to serrano ham or blue cheese and bacon. In nearby Portland, three–month-old Eventide Oyster Co. offers 18 varieties of oysters from Maine and “from away” to its coterie of salty regulars.

Fresh Start: New CV, Opium Group Redux @ Nina

A weekend of springlike weather brought optimism and a few mosquitoes to my downtown abode. It was a weekend of new construction — a fresh start for so many things. The trickle of growth in clubdom has become a torrent, with my design firm getting an inquiry a day about our services. Gossip down below in subMercer was that Serge Becker’s new subterranean versian of Chinatown Brasserie will make dim sum available for Thanksgiving. Lovely Day has recovered from its fire and is slowly returning to the neighborhood mainstay it was before. Also in the hood, Jon Lennon celebrated the second anniversary of his GoldBar on Ssunday. By the end of the day today, I should be signing a couple of more contracts — maybe even three more, as the recession is officially over in nightlife.

However, New York City is not enjoying an unemployment rate around 10%, with no relief in sight. New bar, restaurant, and club construction provides much-needed jobs for building trades. The spaces will provide thousands of service jobs. Cab drivers, delis, and local business will get a boost as well. The state seems to have recognized this opportunity to get people off the welfare rolls and onto the taxpayer rolls. The “new” SLA has been tasked to streamline the licensing process. Community boards have eased up on their mindless rejection of all things nightlife, and thumbs-up have become commonplace.

The closed 105 Rivington space — a splinter off of the Rivington Hotel — is getting a redux. It will be called CV, as in the roman numeral for 105, the address. My company has been tasked to make the place a warm, comfy space to hang with a “Meatpacking” aesthetic. Partners Jed Stiller, Alex Masnyk, Jordan Harris, Matt Isaacs, and Matt Levine will have no problem filling the small lounge, which has a capacity smaller than its address. Gerald Bunsen and Zev Norotsky join as in-house events staff. They have brought some of the management and staff from Spring Street boite Upstairs, including door dude Wayne. Jed Stiller told me, “This brings the trend towards hotel-driven lounges to the LES. The Rivington is a celebrity-driven hotel, and we expect to service the high-end guests of the hotel as well as our friends.” The place will be open seven nights from 10pm, and small food will be served. Partner Matt Levine has had success over at the Eldridge and working with the Rivington as of late. If my wallpaper guy gets motivated, the place will debut in the next few days.

Word comes that the Opium Group will take another bite from the Big Apple. Their last bite was a bit wormy, with Mansion falling way short of expectations. They seem to be thinking small and will take a version of Miami success story Louis bar-lounge to Soho. This Avenue-style spot might (according to my source) be called Nina. The hospitality dynamic in Miami has always been a bit different from NYC; vacationing Europeans and northerners seeking heat spend cash differently in Miami than they do in New York. It will be interesting to see if the Opium Group has learned from its failure at Mansion and will adjust to the New York state of mind, or if they will try to shove nightlife as they know it down our throats once again. Will they recognize that they must assume some of the blame for Mansion’s demise, or will egos continue to point fingers at everyone else? It is true that they emerged as the recession melted black cards, and this time the economy seems to be going the other way. They and dozens of new joints are speculating that a bottom has been reached and that they will catch this new wave of cash and not crash back into the beach.

Industry Insiders: Jack Dakin & Corbin Plays, Design Dream Team

Jack Dakin and Corbin Plays are two Northern California Bay boys who came to New York City to create lounges and restaurants that combine functional design with the cool factor. They ended up working for the likes of Serge Becker, Sean MacPherson, and Eric Goode and on venues such as: Joe’s Pub, The Bowery Hotel, Jane Hotel Ballroom, The Park, Dirty Disco, and Duke & Duchess. The duo plans to soon branch out to New Orleans, Dallas, and Philadelphia. We caught up with them before their national invasion.

Which present-day designer/architect does it right? Jack Dakin: Marc Newson. The man does an excellent job bridging the gap between fine art and design. Corbin Plays: Santiago Calatrava does it right. He combines function with form in a balanced way. He’s both an engineer and an architect.

What past designer/architect influences your style? JD: I have to thank Serge Becker for giving me my start in this business. He inspires me every day. Also, I have to admit — although it sounds cheesy — I do love all those midcentury designers: Gio Ponti, Alvar Aalto, Oscar Nemeyer. CP: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He designed on all different scales from large buildings to furniture. His ideas are clear throughout.

What venues around the world do you think are done well, with style? JD: The R- Bar in New Orleans. It’s an amazing balance of hipness and dive. Best Bar in America and two-dollar Miller High Life. La Esquina is still going strong, and I’m impressed at the way they make the components — taqueria, café, and restaurant — function so well. Also, I love L’asso on Kenmare … just plain amazing pizza. I’m very impressed with the new Standard, although I haven’t seen the whole thing. Also I recently stayed at the Standard in Miami and enjoyed that as well. CP: Clerkenwell on Clinton Street. Great food, people, vibe and location. Joe’s Pub has cool music and comfortable lounge chairs. Oyster Bar because the ceiling is great and food is good too. The Outrigger in Kona is my favorite hotel, because the bar hangs over the ocean, and you can sip cocktails and watch the fish and turtles swim by.

Favorite city for design? CP: Rome with the layers of history, and boldness of the architecture all stacked on top and interlaced. The downtown neighborhood of Testaccio — where the clubs are — is built into the ancient Roman amphora dump. All the walls are made of ceramic pots that they used to transport olives and wine back in the day. Like Rome, New York has those layers of history, and the old 1800s tenements are contrasted by the new modern glass structures. JD: If I don’t say New York, then I’ll have to ask myself why I’ve lived here for the past 14 years.

What’s special about New York in that regard? JD Different people mixing. Of all the places I’ve been, I’ve never experienced a place as diverse as New York. I think every New Yorker answers that question with my answer, so it’s a bit of a cop out, but very true.

What’s the next New York trend in architecture and design? JD: In the last ten years, New York has moved much more in the direction of cultural segregation, with the creation of a lot of insular cliques. I think that in the next couple years, the pendulum will swing back, and when you go out you might sit down with a prince, a punker, a banker, a model, and an artist. CP: My outlook on the future of architecture in New York is that the best way to make a more sustainable city is to not only build new buildings but to restore the well-built existing architecture from the past.

Where do you go when you go out? JD: I go to Oro, my local coffee shop, every day. Café Select also has a scene I enjoy, very low key but lively. Also, I have to mention the sound system at Santos, what the fuck? CP: The list would be too long, but most recently Spitzer’s on Ludlow, and Dumpling House on Eldridge.

Something no one knows about you? JD: I’ve always wanted to learn to play the violin. CP: I shed tears while watching The Deadliest Catch.

Photo by Ivory Serra

Strong Silent Type: Genc Jakupi, Keeper of The Box

I am not a frequent visitor to The Box, even though I live just a short walk away. The shows don’t excite me much; in fact, what I have seen has had the opposite affect. However, I cannot deny the cultural impact the place has had on our town. In the jaded land of nightlife, The Box has redefined the model-bottle era. In its performance-based theatrical approach, it has shocked us into believing once again that if you think outside of the box in clubdom, you can achieve success. My problem with the bottle-model era is that it’s never been over the top enough to excite me. It never pushed the envelop or culture. Having Lindsay Lohan, Paris, and a gaggle of lowbrow celebutantes, models, and promoters throwing napkins into the air to generic music is not greatness. Any night at the World, Studio, Area, Paradise Garage, or any of the classic joints was better than the best nights ever at Marquee, Tenjune, or Kiss & Fly. I am not knocking these clubs, as they are doing their formulated best to entertain their crowds. They are the product of these times and are a reflection of the attitude of their owners and the need to make money against impossible odds.

These crowds are not, for the most part, interested in serious music or culture as an important part of their nightlife experience. Their clone-like clothes and views define an age where Grey Goose is more relevant than art. The Box said there can be another way, and even though I don’t go there, I celebrate it for taking the scene in another direction. The Box is always swirling in controversy. Showgirls and other distractions, scandals, and such have been well documented in the gossip columns. Life on the edge can sometimes get edgy, so let’s talk with Box doorman Genc Jakupi about his vision and how he guards Simon Hammerstein’s playground.

You are a mysterious character — we really don’t know each other. I’ve met you maybe once or three times. I know your brother Binn pretty well. He does 1Oak, and you do The Box. How did you become doormen, and who was first? Binn started G-Spa with Richie Akiva. He took off for like a year I think. Anyway, I got into it with my brother’s help. I started just doing hosting and helping with Mark and Richie at Tenjune. That was just for a short amount of time. I met with Serge Becker, as they needed a guy at the door of The Box. They’d really never had one before — not that they didn’t have a doorperson, but they didn’t have somebody who knew the people. They did not have it down at the front of the house, you know what I mean? It’s such a complex project, you know what I mean?

I did the door there one night — they brought me in for an event. Cordell Lochin asked if I’d be interested in doing. I told him I couldn’t because I have other things to do. Cordell told me that it underscored their need to have someone who know a lot of people out there. I was doing it for Tricia Romano’s party. I’m glad that I actually became a part of The Box because I really care about that place — I care about it, very much. I’ve been in New York for about seven years, so I can’t speak so much about past New York. I started first working like two nights a week, and then Thursday, Friday, Saturday I was still at Tenjune, and then I just switched — took over the whole thing at The Box.

The Box is certainly a prestigious door … it’s one of the premiere clubs in New York. You’ve got a lot of important people showing up. How did you train yourself to do door? Did your brother instruct you, or did you take your own approach? I used to bartend at Bungalow 8. I learned from Armin Amiri. I have a lot of respect for him, the way he did things, the way he did the door — he kinda ran the whole place. That’s what I do at The Box, that’s what Binn does at 1Oak. it’s not just standing around at the door — he’s doing more than that. So there’s no real training to become a doorman besides knowing the people, knowing what the party needs to have. Knowing what you need inside to make the party happen, how many people you need, who do you need and what are you lacking … different things for different clubs for different clientele,

You need to make money at The Box — it’s showbiz. You have three shows a night, right? Yeah, we have three shows a night … right now we’re going through a little different way of doing the shows.

You have to make revenue off the tables You have to. Everybody has to. At The Box you have to more because there’s more overhead. We’ve been doing pretty good considering the economy; we’re still being exclusive, whatever that means — having the right people. The good thing about it is that we have a name out there; it’s a destination place. So I don’t have a problem with a lot of people outside.

Yeah, the people showing up are getting in for the most part People are showing up with 80 percent expectation of getting in. When you talk about fights, when you talk about stuff like that, I don’t — have much of that

I don’t want to dwell on this too much, but lately there’s been a spate of the incidents involving doormen where people are just losing their cool, and both of us are astonished that that could ever happen. I mean, there’s no need for it No need, no need.

Contrary to the public’s perception, doormen are there to let people in, and to educate people how they may get in in the future, and to be nice even when you turn people away, and say something like, “This place may not be for you.” Do you agree with that? Not “this place might not be for you,“ no.

Well what do you say? As much as I take doormen’s side in this, you know the fights and everything, I look at it in two different ways. I look at it if I was to approach the door — people who go out, they’re ready, they’re dressed, they put a lot into that, you know what I mean? So now when you say no to somebody, my approach is to let them know to come back. I want them to come back. That’s the main thing — I want them to come back and just to see to let them decide how they’re gonna show up when they come back. And people get it right — believe me, people get it right.

I used to say that I’m not making the decision that you’re not getting in; you made that decision when you left your house like this. True.

Nobody likes to be rejected … it’s the hardest thing in the world to tell people that they don’t belong, but that’s probably it, they don’t belong. You’re saying this is a club, and you don’t’ belong. You’re the expert on whether they belong or not. See, with the Box though, that’s not what I’m trying to do, because of the show. It allows me to let people in. I want to have all sorts of people. As long as there’s a community between people — as long as people see something, and they can talk about each other, and they can talk to each other, and they connect. I don’t believe in dress codes and stuff like that.

That’s very interesting. I used to say, “We don’t have a dress code, we have a heart code,” and I think that’s what you’re saying. If a person puts enough effort to come out, thinks about it, puts a beautiful gown or a beautiful something — something interesting. We don’t wanna see boring stuff. All of these people that work in offices, they see so much boring stuff … the last thing you want to give them when they go out is to see the rest of what they saw in the day. So I like to see people going a little crazy, going a little wild with the way they dress. … I never had fights, and I knock on wood because I don’t wanna have fights in The Box. We don’t have them because I really keep people with good attitude. A lot of times people approach the door in a very aggressive way. I never deal with that, and I’m not at the door all the time, so that’s a way of avoiding conflict.

That’s a problem — the fact that you’re not at the door all the time. I showed up once, it was late at night a couple weeks ago, and nobody knew me at the door, and I should be somebody that people know. I’m not bragging, but I should be known. But you ended up inside

I did end up inside. I waited about 10 minutes outside. No you didn’t!

Yes I did. No you didn’t –there’s no way!

Yes I did. And I wrote about it. But it didn’t bother me. It seems to have bothered Noah Tepperberg the other day when he showed up, but we’re not going to get into that much because it’s an unfortunate thing — old news. I didn’t mind waiting because I don’t go to the place, so I can understand why they don’t know me — but you do go inside, and what happens when you go inside? Do people just wait, and that’s the attitude? I know we’re in the business where some people in this industry really take it hard when they have to wait a little. I’m inside because I do a lot of stuff. I’m not just a doorman at The Box. I take care of everything that needs to be taken care of to make the place happen. When I’m not the door, I have guys outside that I trust — I don’t let them make decisions, but people that come here all the time end up inside. It’s rare that anyone gets a surprise when they show up wrong, like, “Oh, why am I not coming in?”. These are people who have been coming for a long time — people from downtown, people who don’t take it personally if they wait a little.

I have been told by some people that The Box used to be much better; other people tell me that it’s better now. The first time I went that night I did the door there, I felt it was too pushed, like it was forced, and it was all about shock value. The shows?

Yes, and just the crowd itself, the vibe inside was like poseur or pushed. The second time I went, I liked it less, but the last time I went it was really natural, the way people sat, the way they interacted, and there was a sexiness to it. I guess I can credit you, and Simon Hammerstein. You have to credit Simon because he’s the visionary, and he’s really the best guy that I’ve ever worked with — he really knows what he’s doing. He’s an expert on his thing, and he trusts me with things that I want to do. He knows that what I do is good, and he believes in me.

That’s how a doorman has to work, and a doorman has to understand the message and the needs of the house, and he has to be left to do it himself. You have to know who’s expected, and what you have, because you’re really a maestro or an orchestra leader … you’re coordinating, mixing the crowds and creating this energy. But besides that, at The Box, you’ve got to have a certain amount of people by the certain time, because of the show. It’s more than just letting in who you want to let in.

How about money at the door? I mean, I’ve heard from people who I don’t really go out with — but I know of them — and they went The Box, and they got hit up for $1000 at the door, or $800 dollars at the door, and they bought tables. Tables are very expensive there, and yet you’re still selling them, even in this economy. Still holding up.

Because you’re offering something that no one else is? Not that no one else is — you’re offering something that people really appreciate. People don’t mind paying the show charge.

Is there an exit strategy? I’m addicted to nightlife; I’ve evolved from running clubs to writing about them, and designing them. I haven’t been able to get out. Are you addicted to The Box, to the nightlife, or do you think it’s a phase? I am at The Box because I like what The Box gives to people, which is not just nightlife. I’m addicted to New York. Even when I wasn’t at the Box, I wanted people visiting New York to go see what The Box has to give, because it’s really what I think New York is about. I don’t know if I would have been able to come up with something like that, but seeing it, my hat’s off to Simon for bringing that thing to life.

It’s not a nightclub — it’s a way of life? I wouldn’t be able to do any other place the way I’m doing it at The Box. If another place opened up, and they offered me a job, I don’t see myself going to work for somebody else. It’s not just a job.

Your job is theater in itself, plus your job is a responsibility to the acts inside and to the patrons; there has to be a certain intelligence, there has to be a certain way of people being treated, from the moment they get out of the taxi. Certain way of people being treated, certain ways of seeing where the party should be, and envisioning, where people want to sit, deciding where they’re gonna sit so they sit next to somebody who they’re gonna have fun next to. The first time I went to The Box, before I was working there, Serge and Cordell invited me, and I said to myself: there’s elegance in this room that could make such a good party.

There’s a movie called Casablanca, and in that movie, which is a classic nightclub, the lyrics for the most important song of the flick are, “the fundamental things apply as time goes by.” That’s the thing with The Box, isn’t it? It really gets down to the fundamentals We’re not going against time at The Box. A lot of clubs open, and they have this expectation of first year, second year, that’s it … but we are still developing.

You’ve reached a point where the performers and the audience are one thing. I want to let people in such that when they came in, you wouldn’t actually need to know who the performer is.

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.

Summer Nights: Changing of the Guard

A game of musical chairs is being played by most of the major promotional entities as the summer roof season is upon us. While the highly successful 230 Fifth will still dominate this market just as the Empire State Building dominates its incredible view, some places remain unsettled or don’t have a clear opening date due to a myriad of problems. Highbar is getting a quick polish, while the roof at the Stay Hotel is still under construction. Mixed reports come from Cabanas and The Park, and the highly-touted Above Allen will finally get to open its windows amidst hopes that the sound spill doesn’t disturb too many hotel guests and nearby residents. Daemon O’Neil, Rose Bar’s patient, sweet, and very good-looking door guru (not to be confused with Damion Luaiye), is packing his clipboard and heading over to the Bazaar Bar at the upcoming Trump Soho hotel. The economic downturn, a weak dollar, and a laundry list of safety issues make travel abroad a lot less attractive this season. I hear reports that Hamptons summer rentals are sluggish, yet the Surf Lodge in Montauk is riding high.

I caught up with super duper and uber owner/outdoor space promoter Jeffrey Jah of 1Oak and other fabulous places, and he told me he was bringing back the “changing of the guard” at Groovedeck at Hudson Terrace this summer. “With Groovedeck, we’ve assembled an insane team from Bijoux (Dimitry and Francois) to Pavan and the 1Oak team. We’ve booked the Hamptons Magazine summer kick-off party as well as Lydia Hearst hosting the last International Film Premiere event.” I asked Jeffrey how the whole outdoor summer club thing started for him.

It’s pretty simple … the first real outdoor parties were “Groove on the Move,” with Mark Baker and I back in the early 90s, moving from the Central Park Boathouse to Tavern on the Green, and then permanently at Bowery Bar with Eric Goode and Serge Becker. There really were no other outdoor parties; then in 2000, I moved to Pier 59 Studios and created the deck with Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva — that’s where Remi Laba and Aymeric Clemente were given their fist taste of club promotions. They were low-level maitre d’s. In 2003, we were forced to move it to BED (the same team), and then they tried to get smart, and Baker, Remi, and Karim sold them on a cheaper deal without the 1Oak crew, but they were done after four weeks. We missed two seasons, and we’re now back at Hudson Terrace.

I asked Jeffrey if the problems with international travel these days, the weak dollar, and pandemic diseases would keep people closer to home. “Yes, the economy will keep people here. New York is the capital of the world. What’s more important is that Europeans will venture more to America with the weak dollar and get more value for the buck. We will see a lot of Euros this summer. New York is resilient, we’ve seen worst times apres 9/11. People want to blow off steam, and if the product is good, they will come again and again. A lot of people are not taking houses in the Hamptons this summer because institutional money and jobs evaporated over the last half of 2008 and first quarter of 2009. Hence I’m betting that we will see a much stronger city summer.”

I also asked Hudson Terrace co-owner Michael Sinensky about the economic impact. “If you can build one of the nicest venues in New York City, people will come out to escape what’s going on in the world. In this economy, you have to really service the customer and think outside the box to keep your patrons entertained, happy, and feeling satisfied enough that they’ll come back. I don’t think it’s all about having the best promoters and DJs and strictest door anymore — I think that’s a formula to stay open 6 to 12 months. Hudson Terrace wasn’t built to follow the models-and-bottles formula and meet their steep table minimums. Instead, we’ve taken pages from our other successful eating and drinking establishments such as the Village Pourhouse, Sidebar, and Vintage Irving, with offerings like pitchers of sangria and margaritas.” They’re pitching a happy hour concept from 5-7 p.m. I’m proud to say that Hudson Terrace was designed by my partner Marc Dizon.

The roof parties and a stop-start economy will get us through the heat of summer. An added value is that outdoor parties are generally blessed with quieter music, as sound travels and Manhattan gets more crowded by the minute. The music played in most clubs theses days — especially the clubs catering to these particular crowds — has stagnated. The isolation of Hudson Terrace and Jeffrey’s commitment to play it a little forward should educate a crowd to new tastes. Steven Greenberg’s 230 Fifth bans hip hop altogether in favor of mostly rock fare. This space is the highest-grossing joint in New York nightlife history. I know only a little about music made in this century, but I do know this: The crowds I DJ to these day are growing, and my CD collection isn’t. I play almost an entirely rock set, and there seem to be a lot more people interested in it than a year ago. Oh, if you want to hear me DJ or toss an egg or discuss clubdom, I’ll be at 38 Howard Street off Broadway tonight; I go on at 12:30 a.m., right after the bands.