EMM Group Opens The General, A Sure-Fire Hit

I’ve was invited to the friends and family opening of The Generalthe new restaurant from EMM Group at Bowery and Spring. EMM is Eugene Remm, Mark Birnbaum, and Michael Hirtenstein. They are the force behind Abe & Arthur’s, CATCH, CATCH Roof, CATCH Miami, Lexington Brass, SL, SL East, Tenjune, Chandelier Room, Revel Nightlife, FINALE, and Bow, and lots of other stuff. Bow and Finale are the other parts of the Spring and Bowery space that once housed Boulevard and Crash Mansion. Executive chef Hung Huynh of Top Chef fame offers up modern Asian cuisine in a red-chaired gilded wallpapered paradise. All the inside-info is here.

Opening up this time of year is interesting. Most operators look to open in the early or late stages of spring or fall, and with 300 seats, there will be a lot of kinks to be worked out. Groups like EMM have fewer kinks than most.  Opening now allows the place to hit its stride as the nice weather and affluent snowbirds return. They can do no wrong in my book. The General stretches the Bowery strip from its previous above-Houston Street border where joints like Daniel Boulud’s DBGB, Gemma, Peels and many others serve neighborhood residents and well-heeled visitors. This is not the Bowery of my youth. Little Steve Lewis trivia: my great uncle was one of the famed Bowery Boys.

Most clubs reported near-normal attendees for the week after New Year’s but much lower revenues. People went out but seemed to be tapped or burnt out.  For all except for the very top operators, New Year’s Eve is a loss when you account for the naturally slower nights preceding it and the after-effects. I’m still beat up from all the rushing around, and Christmas bills are still being paid. Getting me out requires special coaxing.

Many people obviously get terribly drunk on New Year’s Eve and try hard to slow it down for a couple of weeks. Then there are those resolutions which often include a step back from the boozing. My resolutions always end in a vow to break all my resolutions ASAP. We are still enjoying tourist dollars, but those will fade away as vacation bucks tend to fly to warmer climates this time of year. The cold keeps people in and, well, you get the idea.

EMM group is way ahead of this game. They have a built-in clientele that’s enamored with all their other joints. CATCH is still more than killing it, and the word "NEW" is always a sure draw. The General, a NEW offering from an established hospitality group enters as a sure thing. I’ll keep you posted.

Industry Insiders: Greg Bach, Raising the Roof

With his artistic background, Greg Bach brings a creative sensibility to his duties overseeing two of New York’s hottest nightspots, CATCH Roof and SL, as well as Hamptons favorite SL East. And as the weather continues to improve, the EMM Group general manager is busier than ever taking care of guests who often line up down the block to experience the beauty, elegance, and laid-back sophistication of the venues he represents. We caught up with Bach to get the scoop on how he keeps his cool amid the clamor. 

What prepared you for working in the hospitality world?
I grew up in Westchester, New York and went to FIT. I was an artist. I feel like art and operations, which I’m doing now, go hand-in-hand. You have to be able to see key elements, understand space, and make sure everything is always on-point. It’s intellectual too, because your visual intellect continues to evolve, especially when working on a nightclub. 
How did you get involved with working in nightlife?
I’ve always loved to go out. A good friend of mine was a nightclub manager, and he introduced me to a ton of people. I started working in retail and then I was asked to become a manager. Soon after, we opened SL, and I was invited to work there on my days off. Eventually, I started working on the weekdays, and then they made me manager of SL full-time. I worked my way up. I grew there, and now, three years later, I’m running SL, as well as CATCH Roof and SL East. 
What exactly is your title and your responsibilities at CATCH Roof?
I’m general manager. Our team works to make sure that everything—from the second you get out of the elevator and walk in— is on point. We make sure your table’s clear, your waitress is there hanging out with you and pouring you drinks, your bus boys are clearing your empty glasses, security is always in place. As a team, we act as hosts—every manager does. The success of CATCH Roof has really been the team effort—how we work as a family and how we all spend so much time working so hard, making sure being at Roof is the best experience you can have. 
It’s that kind of service that makes people respond to the place. 
Our company’s success has been a result of the effort and hard work of talented people working together, never just one person. No one should ever claim the fame or be that one person to say, you know, “Pay attention to me.” No matter who you are when you visit, you’ll feel like a VIP. It’s our model and it ensures great service for everyone.
What’s an average night like at CATCH Roof? 
It varies. Every night has its own identity. Monday nights are our cool industry nights, when artists and celebrities come in. It’s an experience. Wednesday are like a New York insiders night. Thursdays are an eclectic mix. Fridays we have our house music night, which attracts a great crowd. Saturday nights are a little bit of everything. CATCH restaurant really drives everything. The restaurant is number one on OpenTable, so it’s really successful. People come to our restaurant, have this great experience, and want to go someplace afterward. And at CATCH, you have this great place upstairs that’s just as amazing as the restaurant and the food. People go up there for the views, the cocktails, the music, and the great crowd. It’s cozy, never too packed, never too crazy, and people just enjoy themselves. 
Since you’re running CATCH Roof and SL and SL East, you must be running between the Hamptons and Manhattan all the time. What does SL East have planned for the summer? What kind of venue is it and what’s it like running it?
Last year was such a success, so we’re looking to continue it and bring it into this summer. It’s a great space, we’ll have some amazing DJs in there. It’ll be a great time – I don’t see it being anything else. When it comes to quality, we don’t vary. All our venues we build consistently, so if you have a great time at one EMM Group club, you’ll have a great time at the next one and the next one. It’s just an extension of our family and what we’re doing.
When you’re not busy working with SL, SL East, and CATCH Roof, what do you do to relax? 
I enjoy working. I really love what I do. I work a lot of hours, a lot of days, so when I do have time off, I like to work out, go to museums, go see movies. Nothing crazy. My working life’s crazy so I like to take the time I have to myself to go to a nice relaxing dinner—something that’s easy and not too hectic.
You’re combining exciting nightlife with an actual career, and a lot of people would love to do what you do. Are there any secrets to the trade that you would give some younger person asking for advice?
As long as you love what you do, you’re gonna be good at it. If you’re doing something that you’re not truly happy with, it’s not for you. I truly do love what I do more than anything. If you don’t really enjoy what you do, make a change so that you don’t become 40-something years old and miserable doing something you hate.  I’m always meeting new people, and I’m someone who wants to learn every day. You get all walks of life in this business, and that’s what makes me love my job. 

Sex, Lies & Digital Cameras: ‘Kirill Was Here’ Talks New York Nightlife

Maybe you first heard of stealth nightlife photographer Kirill because he snapped evidence of your drunken lesbian makeout session, or because his raunchy site, Kirill Was Here, makes you swell with the queasy-proud feeling that there really is no place like New York City. Either way, it’s obvious that the Russian-born, New Jersey-raised lensman has lived up to his catch phrase, capturing some of the city’s most sexed-up nightclub denizens at their naughty best. I chatted with Kirill to get the lowdown on his shooting style, his favorite spots, and his fear of being “that creepy guy.”

image How did you get started taking pictures of people out in NYC? I always had a camera with me and I would hang out with my friends, who were DJs in the DJ booths, and just shoot them for fun. One night I got really drunk and I shot the crowd on the dance floor instead. When I came home and thought, ‘What am I going to do with all these photos?’ My roommates and I decided to build a site.

Had you studied photography formally? I dropped out of one photo class. I wanted to be an animator, graphic designer, filmmaker; I guess this is just one aspect of my art career. Everything else I just learned and fucked around with.

Do you prefer to shoot celebrities or just club-goers? I personally don’t give a shit about the celebrity aspect. I won’t go to a party because a celeb is there. Guys like LMFAO or Lil John that are actually in the party scene, they’re just going to rage and be part of the party and they just happen to be in the shot. But most of the traffic, or people that come to my site, come to see photos of themselves or of drunk girls partying.

Are your photos ever posed or are they entirely candid? At this point, it’s a little bit of both. In the beginning, it was a lot of candid. I shoot a lot – that’s the beauty of digital – I can shoot 2,000 photos in a night and only put up 150. If someone is about to spray champagne, I’ll shoot 50 photos in a row and one of those 50 photos will be the one where the champagne hits the girl in the face at the right time. Now, people know the site and know me, so they won’t pose; they’ll just party and they know I’ll get the shot that I need. So people know who you are and what you do? At this point, a lot of people know my face. Which is funny, because there are times when people don’t and girls will be like, ‘No, do not take our photo.’ Then they’ll see me take some other girl’s photo and hand that girl my card, and then the girls that rejected me will say, ‘Oh, you’re Kirill! Take our photo!’

Do you think of taking your photos as work? It is work for me, but it is also a lot of fun, which is why I’m out five nights a week. I don’t like to shoot sober if I’m at a party because I want to party with the people – otherwise, I’m just an outsider looking in and that can get awkward. It’s like if you go to a party with your best friend and take photos of each other. I’m just that kid at every table; I’m the best friend of every person in the club, taking their photo and drinking with them. If I’m at a concert gig – like the A-Trak tour – I pretty much stay sober the whole time. I didn’t really need to interact with drunk people, I was just shooting photos of the artist.

What do you think is unique about New York nightlife? The ability that if a party sucks, you can leave and go somewhere else. What other city can you hit five clubs in a night? In LA you have to drive everywhere, and all the other cities don’t really have as many clubs or as much going on. New York City has such a good party scene because they [the clubs] have to step the party up because people can just leave and go somewhere else.

Where do you like to go out and shoot? One of my favorites is GoldBar. Riff Raff’s is one of my new favorite spots because it’s different; I like that it’s kind of anti-bottle service. GunBar (in Meatpacking) is cool. I love SL East in the Hampton’s a lot. The girls are hot and they party, which is rare. It’s rare to find hot model chicks that get down. Those are pretty much my spots when I’m in town.

Do you think you’ll ever stop taking pictures? That’s something I ask myself all the time. I don’t want to be that creepy guy in the club when I’m 35 or 40. But then again, I don’t think I’ll ever stop taking photos. Hopefully I’ll transition to something new…maybe go the Patrick McMullan route. I guess I’ll wait until the alcohol and the partying catches up to me and I’ll keep shaving my face so I look younger and younger.

Follow Kirill on Twitter (@KirillWasHere).

Beach Blast: The Hamptons Flip Out This Memorial Day Weekend

After a few sleepy summers, shit is once again getting real in the Hamptons. What’s that mean? It means throw some wedges and a DSO-worthy outfit in the Birkin bag you’ve been using for the gym, because you are not going to have time to work out with all the new openings out east, though you’ll definitely have an opportunity to work it.

Under the best of circumstances, Hamptons properties see more flips than the schedule board at Penn Station, but this season has been off the charts. To wit:

Out: Madam Tong’s/ Madam Tong’s Redux In: Southampton Social Club Ian Duke (of NYC’s Prohibition) and David Hilty took over Jen Luc’s ill-fated Madam Tong’s last year, but not in time to change the concept (they just amended “Redux” to the offensive name), but this year they’ve taken the place speakeasy chic.

Out: Jean Luc East/Prime 103 In: The Beachhouse Micheael Gluckman, proprietor of the Boathouse, has added one of the marquee spaces to his “house” line. The huge space, with indoor and outdoor seating, has not had a restaurant worthy of it in quite some time. Will this one be different? Signs point to yes.

Out: Bamboo In: Shiki Gluckman unloaded his sushi place in East Hampton, perhaps to concentrate on Beachouse. There’s another sushi place there now. Raw fish and cold sake will set you right.

Out: Le Maison In: The Pomme Café The last vestiges of Jean Luc were exorcised from the Hamptons when the Trata guys took on JLX to make a go at their own French Bistro. It didn’t last. This season the folks behind The Pomme, a successful bistro in Astoria, toss their chapeaus in the ring.

Out: Almond In: Agave Almond vacated the building it’s been in for years for greener pastures. A yet-to-open restaurant called Agave will take its place. Do you really need to be told that it will serve Mexican food and tequila?

Out: Ocean Grill In: Almond Almond’s new digs are right on Main St. in Bridgehampton, and its loyal following is sure to follow to the larger space (with the added benefit of sidewalk cafe tables).

Out: Capri In: Capri Languishing after its Pink Elephant heyday, the Capri Hotel’s new owners (Steven Kamali of the Surf Lodge among them) have classed up the joint with a Nobu, a Cynthia Rowley boutique and a daytime/nighttime hang space called The Bathing Club.

Out: RdV In: South Pointe One of the largest dance halls in the Hamptons goes through yet another change of hands, and this time it gets spruced up with tiki bars and “extravagant” crystal chandeliers. Why is there an “e” on the end? Probably so they don’t get sued by the Vegas club “South Point.” You see, it’s totally different.

Out: Polish people In: The Elm OK, that’s not entirely true. Long ago the space now occupied by a veritable superteam of veteran club promoters was once a Polish social hall, but in recent years has been an event space for hire. It’s another cavernous Southampton space, and this summer is sure to be an nightlife epicenter, with high-profile acts and the Koch brothers “Day and Night” champagne brunch for daytime revelers.

Out: Lily Pond In: SL East Michael Satsky reportedly had liquor sponsors in place and had even put up a billboard on Hudson St. in NYC inviting people out to Lily Pond for summer 2011. Then his landlord turned around and gave the venue over EMM Group’s Eugene Remm, Mark Birnbaum and Michael Hirtenstein, who will bring their SL concept to the perennial club spot on the outskirts of East Hampton.

Out: Second House Tavern In: Ruschmeyer’s Another one one bites the dust in Montauk. By which we mean, another flea-ridden family motel (OK, some might say “old-guard piece of nostalgia”) bites the dust, as part of the team from Surf Lodge takes over another hotel/restaurant and makes it over in their own hipster-beachbum-no fleas image. Expect local cops to get writer’s cramp ticketing lines of cars on both sides of Fort Pond.

Check out the Hamptons Listings on the BlackBook Guides – and download the iPhone app – for the latest and greatest hangs, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Eugene Remm Talks SL East

Eugene Remm, the sovereign of Tenjune and SL, is opening SL East in the Hamptons this summer, bringing all the hype of his expanding EMM empire to bear at the Lilypond space. Operators believe that they must have a presence out East, because that’s where their clients are heading. It’s also an opportunity to make new friends.

Relationships made during the summer can sometimes carry through to the rest of the year. If a bottle host or waitron woos a client, that client may not be buying bottles back at the NYC joint once the weather brings everyone back to town. Protecting and servicing your client base and poaching other absent operators’ clients makes the bottom line more palatable. Although the smart set will be spending amazing amounts of cash out there during the season, the season is only four months long, and rent and other fixed costs are paid for the full year. Here’s a short conversation with Remm about SL East.

Tell me about your foray out East. EMM Group is pleased to announce the grand opening of our East Hampton outpost, SL East. It marks the opening of EMM Group’s sixth property, and their first nightclub venture in the Hamptons. Our guests can expect a variety of special events and live performances set amidst the same high level of quality, service, entertainment and celebrity clientele that our Manhattan counterpart, SL, has become known for. We will surely make a definitive mark on the Hamptons nightlife scene.

What will be going on? We will have appearances by world-renowned DJs and today’s leading artists. We are located at Three Mile Harbor Road in East Hampton, and we boast over 7,000 square-feet of indoor and outdoor ultra chic space, suited with sleek and stylish décor, a brand new state-of-the-art digitally processed Martin Audio sound system, and DJ booth with all the bells and whistles to accommodate any ranked world class DJ.

What’s on tap for this weekend? Saturday night will feature DJ ChaChi behind the turntables with a live performance by Dawn and Kalenna of Diddy Dirty Money, singing their hit, “I’m Coming Home.” On Sunday night, international DJ’s Jesse Marco and Sinatra will showcase their signature sets.

Hamptons Previews: South Pointe, SL East, Tutto Il Giorno Southampton

South Pointe (Southampton) – Former RdV East space stakes claim as no.1 Hamptons summer destination. ● SL East (East Hampton) – Just like NYC’s SL, but east-ier. ● Tutto Il Giorno Southampton (Southampton) – Roomier outpost of cramped Sag Harbor hotspot.