White Noise Opens With a Little Help From Our Friends

In the ending scene of the season 1 finale of Mad Men, the greatest show ever to grace television, Donald Draper explains to the Kodak dudes he is pitching to, the importance of words like “new” and “nostalgia.” “The Carousel” scene should be Youtubed over and over by anyone trying to connect with their clients, or trying to sell anything. I played it outright to the team at Webster Hell when I was explaining what I was going to do with their place. It sold them better than any power point presentation or artistic rendering could have. The balance of the old, the familiar, the warm and the fuzzy, the nostalgic with the “new” is often an important part of my design approach. When Luke Brian Sosnowski and Timothy Falzone approached me about their new spot, White Noise, even the overly optimistic me had to laugh. They had virtually no money (around $25,000), a big space with high ceilings, and they needed to get it open by mid August. They wanted to open up White Noise as a rock ‘n’ roll bar. It was to be a saloon, a joint, a haven. It was to be true to that school— evoke the sweet nostalgia and gritty bond that rockers, and bikers, and strippers, and sluts, and Jack, and beer, and all that other stuff that goes with it. I am of that school.

Without trying to offend every DJ, and every track made outside of the genre, I’d rather listen to “Dust in the Wind’ or “Smoke on the Water” than any offering by a Beyonce, a Timberlake, or a Tiesto. Rock wakes me up, it gets me through the night, it moves my old bones when I need to move. Of course, they couldn’t pay me, and the place looked and smelled like ten thousand and one depraved nights had hit it hard. I decided I didn’t need to change much, except for the ceiling, the walls…. the floor…the bathrooms…the entrance…the furniture…the bar…the lighting…and everything else in between or squished in the cracks. Luke, Tim, and their crew of relatives—relatively sane peeps—merry men and fabulous women, went at it with a vengeance, and a lot of love, sweat and tears. We pulled it off. White Noise is the shit. In soft opening the last week or so, it has worked like a charm. It’s new, but not too. It looks like a set for a Stones video, but is so down to earth when it’s occupied by like-minded souls. It is pure rock, and will be home to a scene that really hasn’t had one since they shuttered Snitch.

Money isn’t everything in design. It sure helps, but if an operator has some skills and determination, a joint can be realized. I am currently working on places with budgets of $4 million, $10 million and higher, and for that super chic set, it is necessary. But if you want to go home to your rock and roll roots, and see it as it was meant to be seen, brought to you by people who live it 24/7/365, then White Noise provides. I caught up with Luke while Tim was tweaking the joint and taking care of his very new baby.

Where did the name come from?

The name White noise comes from the book by Don Delillo—from the idea that modern life has become so overly saturating to the senses that even the most exciting things in our lives have become background or “white noise.” That’s why we thought it would be a perfect name for a bar.

How do you and Tim know each other?

Me and Timmy have been best friends since we were in Kindergarten. We’ve been working together since we were 12. Timothy was a philosophy major, I was a fine art major. We are both musicians and artists.

Tell me about yourself and New York Nightlife.

I started going to Disco 2000 when I was 16. I was working the VIP door at Tavern in the Hamptons in the summers when I was 19—when I would come home from art school. Threw parties and worked doors for years in the city. Thursdays at 289 was one of my favorite parties that I did with Bill Fresco back then. I disappeared for a little while to deal with the damage done from those years. Came back started a band with Timothy called Night Kills the Day. Supported the band by being a bottle host at Stereo with Barry. We got signed, recorded an album and went on the road. Came back and worked as head host at Mansion while working on our second album— which has taken forever. Timothy has bartended, managed and worked doors, hosted at various bars and restaurants, while supporting his artistic endeavors, and doing scores for independent films for the last decade—most recently at the Gates. We started to think New York really needed a cool rock bar. I had been thinking about opening a bar downtown for about a year. Timothy had a baby, and that was the deciding factor to step it up and open up a bar together.

How did you come to this space?

We loved the bar White Noise used to be years ago called Uncle Mings. Rob Morgan, the original owner, had some offers but held off for us. The location was perfect. Timmy bartended there, and we used to do our after show parties there when we were playing Mercury Lounge and Bowery Ballroom. We called in a lot of favors, including you Steven, and made it happen. I was pleasantly surprised with how many people supported us and lent a hand. We built it ourselves and with the help of my little brother Owen and his friends.

What’s this place about?

White Noise is a rock bar that will be playing only rock that spans the full spectrum within the genre. With all DJs that play great music, Michael T, Uncle Mike, John Lennon, Nick Marc, friends of ours in bands and others. We wanted to make a place where we, and our friends, would like to hang out and party. We wanted it to be more like New York was 15 years ago, and to break out of the mold a lot of places are following. There aren’t enough places right now in New York to hear good rock music so we thought it was the perfect time. We wanted to make a place not so pretentious. A great mix of people. Musicians, artist, hipsters, skaters, groovers, straights, gays. A non-aggressive open-minded environment made for a good time only with great music.

Tell me about the look. We wanted the design to be dark, seedy, sexy and red lit only. We hired Home and Apartment by Marc to reupholster old vintage furniture in black vinyl and brass studs. Covered the bar in old tin roofing Timmy bought on the street in Brooklyn. We covered the walls behind the bar in red lit insulators from the 60’s. And black on black damask wallpaper. Kept the old chandeliers and covered them in liquid rubber and shoe glue. Kept the windows boarded up and covered them in black velvet curtains. We covered the old wooden floors with layers of red, gold, and black paint and we will polyurethane it after we are satisfied with how badly they get scuffed up and ruined. So in a way, our patrons are helping us create a piece of art on our floors. Even Billy from Billy’s Antiques on Houston gave us a great deal on a floor to ceiling pier mirror from the 1800s. Clay Patrick McBride gave us one of his portraits of Iggy Pop, and James Greco, the Brooklyn-based painter, has given us one of his paintings. James also helped me make the buffalo skull infinity boxes. I hope people will enjoy the space as much as we enjoyed making it.

Steven, of course, a huge thank you to you for all your design direction and support. You’re a really good dude, Steven, and what you did will always be very appreciated by me.

Industry Insiders: Seth Greenberg, Mogul Multitasker

Capitale’s Seth Greenberg on the origins of bottle service, taking over Boston, why Parisians bite New York style, and who really invented bottle service.

Point of Origin: The Paradise Club and Stitches [were my first properties, both in Boston]. Both needed pre-function, so we moved Stitches to an independent location. Then we expanded Paradise by opening M-80 in the old Stitches site. So we moved Stitches to a new location, about a mile away, so now Stitches had a big space. A comedy club in the back, and a little restaurant bar/lounge up front. And now M-80 was connected to the Paradise Club. After about a year, we expanded, then eventually gutted the entire facility so M-80 had both buildings. Then we expanded M-80 to New York, opened Conscience Point in Southampton, and created M-80 in the summer.

When I graduated from college, I was 21; by the time I was 30, I owned 10 nightclubs in Boston, and from there I decided that I really needed a restaurant in Boston, a Euro-themed restaurant; so 12 and a half years ago, I opened a restaurant called Mistral, which is probably still one of the highest grossing restaurant in the city. And about 9 years ago, I assisted my partner in Mistral with the development of XV Beacon. I came to New York about six years ago looking for a project, and I was presented with the [Capitale space] through a friend. The gentleman who had optioned this building was planning to turn it into a nightclub, and I said, before you do that, why don’t you consider doing something a little more high-end than a nightclub. So he came up to Boston with me, stayed at the hotel, had dinner at Mistral, went to one of my clubs, and we made a deal.

We realized that the best business model for this property [Capitale] is to just operate strictly as catering and events. I sold my last club in 2005 in Boston, and have since been focused on high-end hospitality. We opened another event space in New York on 42nd between 11th and 12th avenues in the beginning of this year called Espace. And about a year and a half ago, I bought a building in Boston called the Ames with my friend Richard Kilstock, and we did a deal where Normandy Realty and the Morgans Group, where Morgans is going to manage the hotel, and I’m going to still operate the food and beverage myself. And that’s slated to open next summer.

Occupations: I consider myself more of a hospitality executive now, focused on food and beverage. Currently my venues are Espace, Mistral, the Ames, and Capitale.

Side Hustle: I advised Jason Binn [of Niche Media] on the launch of Boston Common.

What got you interested in magazines? I was a promoter in college, and I had approached Jason and said it would be a great idea to launch an Ocean Drive in Boston. But first he became a part of Hamptons, then he did a deal with Gotham, and over the years he always said, “One day when I come to Boston, we’ll do it together.” At this point he has such an enormous infrastructure, he just needed someone local to help facilitate the magazine. He opened Boston Common and Capitol File at the same time. We set up Mistral and XV Beacon as a kind of ground zero for the magazine, hosting lunches and dinners with clients, and then we did a pre-opening party. We host five cover launch parties a year.

It seems like you’ve been involved in pretty much every facet of the nightlife industry. Which is your favorite? When I was younger, I was out so much. I just loved it. I just wanted to be out all the time. I always said I was good at what I did because I was out. My clients were my guests and my friends. But now, my lifestyle has changed; I don’t want to be out every night, I don’t drink. I just want to stay healthy, I want to stay fit, stay focused. I want to focus on developing more real estate, and hopefully putting my own hospitality projects in that real estate. And that’s my focus for the next ten years. I don’t want to go backwards.

I still love the marketing side, I still love hosting parties, but now it’s just different. A Boston Common party starts at 8 p.m., and it’s over at 11.

Favorite Hangs: In New York I love going to Rose Bar, I love going to dinner. I’ve been going to Gemma a bit in the Bowery, I love Craftsteak in the Meatpacking. I like Tao, Nobu. And if I go clubbing, I go to Marquee. Noah Tepperberg is one of my best friends, I have to support Noah. In the Hamptons, I love going to Sunset Beach. Saturday nights I never go to restaurants; five or six friends will invite each other over for different brunches or dinners. On a Friday I like Savanna’s every once and a while. I try to go to different spots.

Industry Icons: Andre Balazs and Ian Schrager. Ian came from the nightlife side, but really the operations side, and he really created some amazing spaces. Ian’s hotel company is now owned by Morgans Hotel Group; I think their projects are timely and beautiful. Same with Andre, he’s done some great work. I think the Mercer is beautiful, I think the Gramercy Park Hotel is beautiful. They’ve both had some projects I’ve been really impressed with.

Known Associates: Noah [Tepperberg] and Jason [Strauss of Strategic Group] are two of my dear friends. I’m good friends with Jeffrey Jah, I like Jeffrey a lot. I’m friends with Danny A, Richie Akiva and Scottie [Sartiano of 1Oak], and Mike Satsky [of Stereo].

Jeffrey Jah claims to have invented bottle service. What do you think of that? That’s really ridiculous. I was doing bottle service way before anyone knew what it was.

So you invented bottle service? I didn’t invent bottle service; it was being done in Europe for years. When I was 29 years old, I was in the south of France, and you’d go to a table at Saint-Tropez and Cannes, that was the European way. You get a table with a group of friends, you get a bottle, and they bring you mixers, and a bucket of ice, and that was normal for twenty years. So maybe [Jeffrey] was one of the first people to bring it to New York, but we were doing it in the Hamptons, certainly, 13 years ago. At M-80 in Boston, we had bottle service, back around 1990. I grew up in Miami Beach, and when I was high school and used to go to the Cricket Club, which had bottle service.

Do you think New York nightlife is dead? I think there’s a symbiotic relationship between nightlife and fashion and celebrity. And it’s shifted over the years from bars to dance clubs to restaurants to lounges. It’s continually cyclical. And what’s predominant in New York right now is hip-hop, which is affecting the way people dance and what’s more comfortable for nightlife. Certainly lounges are more appealing than big nightclubs today, and maybe a lot of it has to do with the music. There’s a fashion that goes with it [hip-hop culture] too. New York was the first city where you started playing hip-hop and people started wearing sneakers. The look of New York sort of changed. The New Yorkers would show up at Fashion Week in Paris wearing jeans and sneakers and everyone would look at them saying how déclassé they were, that they didn’t know how to dress properly. And now you see that as a fashion trend in Europe as well. So I think New York has always been ahead of the curve.

Projections: Right now the hotel in Boston, The Ames by Morgans, is slated to open next summer. I’m co-developing a property in Chelsea, yet to be named, similar to the deal I have in Boston where I’ll end up operating the food and beverage, and we’ll have a big management company involved. XV Beacon is 61 rooms, and I learned how to develop a hotel properly by observing and assisting my partner in Mistral. The Ames is 115 rooms; the hotel in Chelsea is closer to 500 rooms. So I’m moving up in the world.

Do you have any overseas expansions/projects lined up? I’ve been approached by some different groups to get involved in some projects in the Middle East, but until things are signed, there’s really not much to talk about. But I’m looking pretty closely at Dubai. But we want to grow our infrastructure first. In Europe, nothing in the immediate future.

What are you doing tonight? Tonight I am training Muay Thai, and then I am going to a friend’s rehearsal dinner. And then I’m meeting Michael Bolton. I’ve been training martial arts for at least twenty years.

Sounds like you’re pretty good at scouting trends before anyone else. I guess so.

Photo: Gerry Lerner