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.

EMM Group’s FINALE Brings The Edge Back to NY Nightlife

FINALE, the long-awaited EMM Group entry at 199 Bowery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, has finally opened – and it’s a game changer. This is a place created by a well-heeled, bottle sales-based group with creativity at its core. To those who pooh-pooh bottle service and blame it (and Rudy Giuliani) for all the terrible things that have ever happened to New York nightlife, I say pooh-pooh to you. Without bottle service, burgeoning rents, insurance, and salaries would have buried nightlife. The problem is that clubs banking for big bucks have catered to the bores with black cards, a scene that’s unbearable to the artistic set. FINALE embraces the downtown scene with performance types on staff, and bartenders and waiters dressed and ready to perform at the drop of a beat.

For far too long, entertainment in major nightclubs has consisted of little more than a forced smile from a wannabe model rushing through the crowd holding a fiery stick while a DJ plays tracks the rich dudes and their lady friends love to hear over and over again. But FINALE offers the hope that, in an effort to set themselves apart from the pack, operators will once again employ creative types to define their brands.

Back in 2007, The Box thought outside the box with its Did-I-just-see-that? brand of entertainment. For some, it went too far, but The Box is still there, and Sleep No More and other nightlife fringe concepts are bringing in creatives and spenders in equal measure. Their devotion to pushing downtown artistic programming has been justly rewarded. FINALE offers an opportunity for the public to expect even more. If it continues its success, other operators will follow its lead, and maybe the suits and ties will no longer dictate club programming. From my experience, once you start traveling towards the edge, a great deal of the public becomes interested and wants more.

EMM provides balance as they balance their bottom line. The artful mixing of downtown with the swells has worked for eons and is working at FINALE now. Plus, having a management team that’s in tune with the times helps.

Some words from the founders:

“Nightlife in New York is a bit stale at the moment—nothing new or different has opened in several years,” says co-owner Mark Birnbaum. “Both the timing and the new Lower East Side location of FINALE are perfect to attract new customers who don’t go to the Meatpacking District or Chelsea to eat and party, while bringing many of our current clientele along with us.”

“Moving down to the Bowery puts us in a unique position,” adds partner Eugene Remm. “Just as Bungalow 8 emerged on West 27th Street, and Lotus took root in the Meatpacking, we hope to be the first to bring an entirely new concept to the area. With this project, we break away from our current mold and create something entirely new on all fronts, from our music format to the location itself and the ways in which we can creatively program the entire space.”

Whether the big spenders will continue to be comfortable heading that far downtown to experience an increasingly weird mix of entertainment—and whether the creative set will keep emerging from their Brooklyn lofts to lend artistic authenticity to the nightlife venue—is far from certain. But with success stories like Abe & Arthur’s, CATCH, SL, and Tenjune in their portfolio, EMM’s Birnbaum, Remm, and partner Michael Hirtenstein are just the men to turn the mix into magic.

The Top NYC Nightclubs To Hook Up With Models

Okay, we’re shallow, shallow people. Whatever. Sometimes it’s just fun to hook up with models. I wouldn’t know, but I have a couple of moderately douchey but lovable friends who say it’s "da bomb." Models are creatures of another world, a world like Avatar. And though they are scattered all across the city, there are certain nightclubs where we can confidently say “you will be breathing the same air space as a high concentration of models.” So here is our list of the Top NYC Nightclubs To Hook Up With Models

Ed Westwick Gets Belligerent In Da Club

Ed Westwick allegedly threw a punch at a patron at a night club patron who he thought was taking his picture. Not only was the poor guy just snapping pics of his own girlfriend, but Westwick missed his mark. Awkward!

According to the New York Post, the British Gossip Girl hottie and friends had a table at the night club SL. At a table nearby, a guy started taking pics of his own girlfriend, but Westwick apparently thought the pics were of him. No paps, please!

So the actor allegedly confronted the dude and threw a punch, and, according to the Post’s anonymous source, "completely missed." So, like a little Chuck Bass-hole that he is, Westwick asked a bouncer to kick the guy out.

Westwick’s rep denied the story to the Post, of course, but the paper recalled other tales of Westwick’s nightclub belligerence, like a "shoving match" at Westside Tavern. Calm down, Ed! Having the sexiest accent in all of New York City can’t be that stressful.

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. 

4AM DJ Tour Diary: DJ DL, from Irene to Indiana

As a manager and partner at 4AM DJs, I’m always arranging performances, events, and photo shoots around the world. Every day, the reports I get back from my DJs sound like the kinds of wild adventures that I rarely get to be a part of as a desk jockey. The people who flock to these stellar international events get to experience the end result of months of prep, but do they really know what a day in the life of a DJ is like? In this monthly column, you’ll hear first-hand accounts of DJ war stories, with photos and videos from the world’s best to show for it. In this Tour Diary, you’ll read about DJ DL, as he braves the wrath of Irene in the name of a good party. Yours truly, Adam Alpert.

What’s up world! DJ DL, here. I’m excited about starting this tour diary with you. I’m a pretty simple guy. I like good music and good food. I’m also a lover of the arts. I’ve been DJing professionally for 11 years now, and DJed in my bedroom for a few years before that. I have achieved a lot as a DJ, and still aspire for so much more. I hope you guys enjoy the ride with me as I work to achieve these goals.

The last few weeks have been really crazy, and it all started with Hurricane Irene. I spun at Wall in Miami that Thursday, then flew into Indiana on Friday for what was supposed to be one quick gig at Indiana University’s welcome week party at Jake’s Nightclub. Due to Irene however, my trip to Indiana ended up being extended for a few extra days. I missed my gig at Mixx on Saturday, but thanks to my friends at IU, I was given an opportunity to spin at Kilroy’s Sports Bar. I really got the chance to explore my creativity as a DJ because of the high energy the crowd had during my set. It was much different from my weekly residencies, where I cater to a more upscale crowd. But those kids love their Afrojack and Avicii. I had a great time, made new friends, and got insight into what the younger generation listens to at their tailgates and house parties.

I Got back to New York City on Monday, after finding a flight from Indianapolis to Philadelphia. I was happy to see that my town wasn’t swept away. That next week was great. I did my Wednesday residency at SL, and Thursday at Avenue, spun 1Oak that Friday, and did my weekly at Mixx in Atlantic City. All were packed and crazy. It was an extra special week because I finally released my new record Big Up, that I produced with my partner DJ Ani Quinn. It’s been getting great feedback.

Now it’s Fashion Week, and on Wednesday I spun at SL with Michael Phelps who was guest DJing in the booth with me. That was cool. On Thursday I did the Esprit Soho store for Fashion’s Night Out, and had Broadway going crazy. I put one of the speakers from the store out on the street and had the whole block dancing. After that I headed to Avenue and spun a great, high energy set. Then on Saturday, I spun with the Legendary Jazzy Jeff at Mixx in AC. That party rocked. He really is amazing to watch.

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.

The 2011 Nightclub & Bar Award Winners

With the Academy Awards looming just a few weeks away and the Golden Globes behind us, we’re smack dab in the middle of awards season. Of course, nightlife has its own awards. Nightclub & Bar has announced 21 winners for the 2011 Nightclub & Bar Awards. Almost 300 nominees that include bars, clubs, restaurants, DJs, and industry professionals were voted on by a panel of judges. These judges are consultants, developers, writers, editors, and trainers in the industry, who are required to rank their first, second, and third choices in each of the categories they’re qualified to judge. I was selected as one of the judges, but I’m unaware of the names of others. Names are kept secret so that bribes can’t be offered up, but I’m considered way too dumb to take a bribe, and so I reveal myself.

“This year’s winners are a diverse group, reflecting the range of concepts and innovation on today’s nightlife scene,” says Donna Hood Crecca, Publisher and Editorial Director of Nightclub & Bar. “Each of these winners combines innovation with great execution, which is the secret to success, especially in the recent challenging economy. These bars and clubs won the respect of our judges and of the entire industry, and we look forward to celebrating their accomplishments in Las Vegas.” Finalists and winners will be highlighted in Nightclub & Bar media properties, and winners will be celebrated at the “Welcome Kick-off Party” at Caesars Palace on Monday, March 7 during the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas. The whole affair is sponsored by Modern Fine Line Furniture.

Presented by category, the 2011 Nightclub & Bar award winners are:

Mega-club of the Year: The Pool After Dark at Harrah’s Resort, Atlantic City, NJ. New Club of the Year: FLUXX, San Diego, CA. Nightclub of the Year: Webster Hall, New York, NY. Ongoing Promotion/Party/Event of the Year: Fashion Industry Nights at Baja Sharkeez, Hermosa Beach, CA. Resident DJ of the Year: Chris Garcia at Playhouse, Los Angeles, CA. Single Promotion/Party/Event of the Year: Moulin Rouge Anniversary Party at Kiss & Fly, Austin, TX. Ultralounge of the Year: SL, New York, NY.

Las Vegas Nightclub Award Winners

Las Vegas Dayclub of the Year: Liquid Pool Lounge, Aria Resort & Casino. Las Vegas Mega-club of the Year: Pure, Caesars Palace. Las Vegas New Club of the Year: Haze Nightclub, Aria Resort & Casino. Las Vegas Nightclub of the Year: Tryst, Wynn Las Vegas. Las Vegas Ongoing Promotion/Party/Event of the Year: Vice Sundays, Lavo Las Vegas. Las Vegas Resident DJ of the Year: Kaskade at Encore Beach Club. Las Vegas Single Promotion/Party/Event of the Year: Erick Morillo Labor Day Weekend at Tao. Bar Category Award Winners

Bartender of the Year: Jackson Cannon, Eastern Standard, Boston, MA. Beer Bar of the Year: Churchkey, Washington, D.C. Cocktail Lounge of the Year: Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco, CA. Hotel Bar of the Year: Eastern Standard, Hotel Commonwealth, Boston, MA. Small Wonder Bar of the Year: Embury, Pittsburgh, PA. Sports Bar of the Year: The Tavern Downtown, Denver, CO. Wine Bar of the Year: Mercy Wine Bar, Dallas, TX.

It should be noted that SL picked up the award for Ultralounge of the Year. A couple of weeks ago, I offered up my top eleven relevant joints around town but I did not list SL, despite numerous protests from readers. My reasoning was this: For what SL offers, venues like Avenue, Provocateur, and 1Oak are better. I have not been to SL more than a few times, as I have found the crowd to be very white, very 20-something, and very straight. None of those three things are acceptable to me when I go out. I want a mixed crowd. I guess that for the 20-something, Caucasian, hetero set it is heaven, and so be it, as a panel of my peers has pronounced it victorious.

I adore Mark Birnbaum and Eugene Remm and although this may seem to be a criticism, it is only a mild one. Places in this burg have become increasingly specialized and diversity is not celebrated. People tend to gravitate toward their own kind and to celebrate with like-minded individuals. SL knows its niche and hits it hard, but it just isn’t my niche. I find Avenue to be a bit older and more diverse, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I find Provocateur to be somewhat older and more mixed. I think 1Oak’s crowd comes from all walks of life and they generally play better music. Some say the DJs are the same, but I will counter that DJs play to the crowd and when a crowd is diverse they will step it up. Some might say the same crowd goes to all three and to some extent that is true. The club regulars do mostly travel through them all, but that’s like saying a chicken is a chicken is a chicken. I argue that it’s the little things that make that chicken special. The spices at the other joints are what set them apart. I may be wrong. I might have just attended on nights that were lily white and ultra-straight. In any case, I’m sure I will be asked to revisit SL to see it in a better light, and I will.

Also of note is Webster Hall winning Nightclub of the Year. Webster has flexed considerable muscle by using its size and the diversity of its many rooms to step up. Many nightlife purists, enamored by the club du jour, won’t go there for the social scene but all will attend from time to time because of its undeniable music programming. Whether it’s a Tiesto or Kings of Leon show, at one time or another, Webster Hall will be the answer to your prayers. It’s been around for over a hundred years, so it knows how to do it, and the national recognition is well-deserved. It certainly is a more diverse place than any of the mega-clubs in town. It is mixed racially, in age groups, and in musical programming. There are gay people, straight people, and some who are still unsure of their status, enjoying themselves. I commend and congratulate them for not going down the specialization highway and for offering different strokes to different folks.

How to Best to Bribe NYC’s Wintertime Doormen

Matt Duckor has some “Pro Tips” over at The Feast today. “The Seven Coldest Doormen in New York” asks the town’s busiest club gatekeepers to offer their take on surviving a frigid night outside. Everyone from Wass Stevens at Avenue to Eddie Bilowich at Bunker discusses the warm and cozy details of their layering habits this time of year, as standing outside all winter certainly makes them experts on the subject. But this fun and breezy article might also serve a double-purpose: As the guys weigh in on their personal warming habits, they’re actually exposing a collective Achilles Tendon, a weakness for preferred hand-warmers and cashmere under-pinnings that could, if you’re slick enough, be exchanged for entree into the clubs. Here are your best bets for winter-time bribes.

Simonez Wolf Door: Le Bain Method of Comfort: Huge parka, not having to stay outside all night. Bring Him: A pack of Little Hotties Hand Warmers.

Rich Thomas & Cristian Achirill Door: Lavo Method of Comfort: Layers and Fur Bring Them: Uniqlo’s Lab Heattech Long Underwear. Makes gifting underwear less creepy.

Aalex Julian Door: SL Comfort: Mental and physical vacations to warm places. Bring Him: A Lei from Hawaii or a Pineapple

Jonny Lennon Door: Goldbar Comfort: Roughing it by pretending he’s in the great outdoors. “On nights when there’s a full on blizzard, I make a point of it to be outside all night, to survive it.” Bring Him: Bear Grylls. If these can’t be rustled up, maybe a pair of snowshoes or something from Carhartt.

Herman Solomon Door: The Mulberry Project Comfort: Drinking a lot of water and having style. Bring Him: A stylish water bottle! See what he thinks of the Bobble—a cute water bottle that filters water as you drink it.

Wass Stevens Door: Avenue Comfort: Cashmere, fur, and his own personal heat lamp. Bring Him: Unless you are planning on swinging by Burberry to pick up a fur trapper for the doorman of all doors, don’t bother with a bribe. It’s luxury for this man, all the way down to his cashmere undies.

Eddie Bilowich Door: The Bunker Club Comfort: Heat packs and hats. Bring Him: Something vegan. Sure you can bring him an extra pack of glove warmers, but the man used to run a website called “The Hot Vegan,” so a nod to his foodie past would be more appreciated than an extra skull cap.