Predictions About The Revamped Marquee

I will be attending Marquee on Wednesday to see what I will see. I expect a Vegas-style club geared toward electronic dance music (EDM), with a room to dance and a room for corporate clients to have events. In the early stages, I consulted on the layout, but I’m not involved in the design now. I designed the first incarnation and a couple of reduxes since. The late, great Philip Johnson got involved at the last minute in the original design and added greatness to my humble offerings. It may have been his last project. Over the years, Jason Strauss, a partner, would ask me how I ranked Marquee in the all-time list of great clubs. I usually had it down around number 25, but with the caveat that time will tell. This latest redux says that Marquee’s story has not been fully written. It certainly dominated its decade and it certainly wasn’t all about black cards buying bottles, although that is a great part of its legacy.

Marquee took bottle service to new heights. It was a huge part of the bottle-model, table-service revolution that went global. Yet, there were hipster nights with Wednesday’s so-called “rock night” lasting for 6 or 7 years. I remember feeling great joy while sitting with Paul Sevigny and friends in the mezzanine. Marquee was fun. Celebrities came as often as sparklers on bottles. Over the year, the paint faded and the luster of it all moved to other venues. Many didn’t even realize it was still there. It was always making money, living on reputation and remembrance and professionalism. Tao Group or Strategic Group or whatever the corporate name at the time built other icons like Avenue and Lavo and PH-D and, and, and…and the crowd moved there. And then they built a club in Vegas, and the Marquee brand was reinvented as the highest-grossing joint ever. It even had an outpost way out in Australia.

As the 2000s meant bottle service, the 2010s are all about EDM. Marquee NY will be a hub, a routing point for the organization’s big name and DJ packages. Marquee NY will belie the slogan, “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas.” To some extent, a Vegas production-marketing-big club experience will settle on 27th and 10th. A nightclub pro told me yesterday that he believes it will dominate. He feels it will redefine the whole scene. So I guess in a few years I’ll call up Jason Strauss and utter a single word, a number like “9,” and imagine the smile on his handsome and successful face. Congratulations to Noah and Jason and Mark and Rich and the other Rich and Andrew and Wass and all the players to be named later. To all the players who work so hard and make it look so easy.

Tonight I will scoot down to Mister H at the Mondrian Hotel Soho to visit Louis Mandelbaum on the occasion of his birthday. I know Louis as Louis XIV, his DJ moniker. We teamed up on New Year’s Eve at Marble Lane, also owned by those guys up above. Louis will DJ and host, and a good time is ensured for all.

The New Marquee: Believe The Hype

While the folks in Washington DC struggle to raise the debt ceiling, the good folks of Strategic Group have literally raised the roof on the redone Marquee which opened last night. The roof is now 30 feet high, which is unheard of. The front wall is dominated by a 24-foot LED screen which flashes and pops and keeps the energy up. Costumed go-go dancers did their thing on elevated catwalks while EDM banged on. I said it before and I’ll say it again (probably a few more times): Marquee in New York City dispels the adage, “What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas.” It also knocks down another common saying: “Don’t believe the hype.” Believe the hype people; Marquee NYC is built for speed, sound, and sight lines.

Literally everyone in clubland was there to see what has been hyped as the next big thing in clubland. It seems bigger than before, as volume will do that, though the capacity hasn’t changed. I spent my time chatting up club royalty like Jamie Mulholland, who has had great success with Caine, GoldBar, Surf Lodge, and all sorts of excellent etceteras. Noah Tepperberg tore away from his table of gorgeous jet setters to give me the $5 tour. We posed for pictures on the way.

For the most part, they stuck with the floor plan I helped devise around a year ago. There was some furniture that wasn’t on the plan but Noah told me that’s going since it will be a big room for dancing. shows, and events – with considerably less seating than the Marquee design that was so successful before this latest incarnation. Noah thanked me for my minimal effort, recognizing that I have always had a special attachment to the venue which I helped design a long time ago, in what feels like a galaxy far, far away.

Alacran Tequila honcho Artie Dozortsev chatted me up about his White Mezcal Tequila bottle and the pink bottle he’s hyping for Valentine’s Day. A percentage of sales of Artie’s hot product will go to a variety of breast cancer awareness charities, thus defying another old adage… nice guys can finish first. I hung with Bill Spector and Richie Romero and Paul Seres and Pascal and and and…. I stopped to congrats co-owner Jason Strauss who was herding a bevy of beauties past the door bureaucracy. The staff was brilliant and helpful. Some dude once said, "you can’t go home again.” Baloney! I went to Marquee last night and It felt like home. 

Being the nightlife veteran that I am, (for those that don’t know, I used to be Steve Lewis), I went to Strategic’s other hot property Avenue to see how it was faring on a night when everyone was at their new elsewhere. Avenue was packed with an eclectic crowd. Sam Valentine, a big-haired rocker, hosted a table that wasn’t aware of the hoopla 10 blocks up 10th Avenue. The programming of those who wouldn’t know about Marquee or who dance to the beat of a different drummer…er DJ… was an act of professionalism that should be noted.

Avenue was doing business, maybe not as usual, but busy. Let’s just say it was doing business as unusual. Strategic’s great minds brought in folks to pack the place while most of their efforts and their a-team were occupied with the Marquee opening. To a visitor unaware, it seemed like a great club night. I did a walk through 1OAK, which was gathering steam and ready to embrace the late-night crowd that it always gets. Marquee’s revelers would surely be packing booths in an hour or so. 

Get my column in your inbox before anyone else by signing up for the biweekly Good Night Mr. Lewis email blast. 

How Birthday Boy and Strategic Group’s Jonathan Schwartz Stays On Top

When I was king of the castle, people were always surprised that I did any "day" work for my nightlife career. They actually believed I woke up at 4pm, had a swanky brunch, went to a boutique, bought a dozen expensive looks (on the cheap), had dinner at the best place in town (on the cuff), and then showed up at work (game-face on), barked some orders, and waited for the fabulous to show up. Nightlife doesn’t just happen. The few that make it look easy are the ones that rarely sleep and are completely enveloped in their work. It’s a thousand phone calls, a million texts, tweets, tumbles, and face-to-face meetings – yes, people still do that. It’s adjustments of what ain’t working, and refining of what ain’t broke. It’s a thousand small things that add up to big bucks at the end of the year. You are never alone, but you often feel isolated and detached. My ex used to say that when I opened a club, it was as if I was its heart and I had to keep beating or it would simply not work. An old adage that I always kept close said, "It’s not just a nightclub…but a way of life.”

Jonathan Schwartz is doing it, and doing it, and doing it well for the biggest game in town: Strategic Group. He is having his birthday tonight at Lavo, naturally. A super-duper, uber-secret DJ is promised. Since I DJ on Thursdays at Hotel Chantelle, I gave Jonathan my birthday wishes. I still haven’t figured out how to be in two places at the same time.

I caught up with the young Jedi Master and asked him all about it.

First of all, happy birthday. You are celebrating at Lavo… Tell me about the reason behind that choice of venue and what I might find if I could attend.
Hey Steve, Thank you for the birthday wishes, always good catching up with the man who’s seen it all AKA MR. Lewis! Ha. Celebrating my birthday at Lavo NY tonight because I think it’s the most well-rounded venue in NYC right now, and for me, it’s my Cheers. The venue delivers on hospitality, with great service, lighting, and sound, Top DJ talent such as Avicii, Calvin Harris, Tiesto, and Nicky Romero, and international crowd, image, special effects, and much more.

With that said, I can’t think of a better place to invite my oldest and newest friends to celebrate another year as the summer approaches. Thursday night you will find NYC’s elite and, what we all know as "the industry" crowd, along with friends looking to let loose to great music and champagne.

What is your role with Strategic Group and what is a typical day/night like?
My role at Strategic Group is head of nightlife marketing and programming,
My day-to-day consists of:

10am: in the office (working on promotions, talent-buying, concepts for nights, and working with my co-workers Rich Thomas and Andrew Goldberg to help curate the venues we call home (Lavo, Avenue, Dream Downtown, Marquee, Artichoke). Anything I can do on a given day to better the overall business, that’s my goal. As of late, much of my focus has been on our DJ line-up at Lavo NY –  not only booking an act, but making sure it’s the right date is equally as important.
Noon: take a few meetings, coffee, lunch, meet with people for future business and ideas.
2pm: staff meetings
3pm: payroll (make sure promoters/DJs I am responsible for are being paid properly and on time).
4pm: outreach, touch base with people, connect, reconnect.
6pm: what am I doing tonight…make plans for a given evening. I know I’ll always be with my close crew, but who do we want to let in that night to join us?
Dinner: host a dinner and go out to our venues. My favorite nights to go out are Thursdays at Lavo, and Tuesday’s new house music night at Avenue.
12:15am: arrive to club, host important guests (could be DJs), someone looking for a BIG night out, and my friends.
4am: go home (maybe stop at Artichoke pizza on the way, ha).Go through my phone and make sure I replied to everyone for that day – both business and personal. Always try to be accessible and available.
530am: SLEEP

Tell me about the Hamptons.
For the past eight years, I’ve spent a lot of time out in the Hamptons. Last summer was a very successful summer for me personally, as well as for the team I worked with out there.

I will decide about this coming season after my birthday. The Hamptons are filled with mostly the same faces year in and year out which is what I love most about it; it’s comfortable, and you know people on a very personal level.

I’m looking forward to deciding where my Hamptons outpost will be this coming 2012 season and letting people know next week, but I do know I’ll be spending a lot of time at the Stadium Red Estate house as much as I can, as I love the events my close friends Claude and Lee throw there.

How did you get into the biz and where are you headed with it?
I got into the business on a small scale when I was a junior in college. My three best friends and I started promoting parties over the summers when we were home and on winter breaks. We simply would invite our friends, and it started to escalate quickly, from 100 people, to 300, to 800 people. They eventually went on to finance and internet marketing, and I decided to stick with the hospitality business.

Post-college, I went on to direct promotions for former venues Manor and Arena before meeting Noah Tepperberg and joining the Strategic Hospitality Group family four years ago.

Today, I focus most of my time on Strategic Group and Tao/Lavo group venues, the Hamptons, and my most recent passion: Bounce Music Festival. The Festival is a college music festival touring company that brings some of the biggest acts into college towns. The most recent show was in Bloomington, Indiana for what’s known as Little 500 weekend, featuring Tiesto, Alesso, Tim Mason, and Topher Jones. My partners, Brandon Silverstein and Jared Lyons, are juniors at Indiana University and you will be interviewing them in years to come, I am sure!

Future plans are in the works since everyday something new gets thrown my direction. I’m always moving forward, never being stagnant. The hospitality industry is about staying ahead of the curve, finding trends before they occur, and putting my personal twist on them. With that, I have some fun ideas I’m working on bringing to life that I believe people want to experience.

Tomorrow it’s Jersey, Tonight it’s City Winery

Tomorrow’s can’t-miss event is a toss-up between the 2-year anniversary of the W Hoboken, which I may actually attend, and Andrew Goldberg’s birthday bash at Avenue. Amanda might not be able to make it to Jersey (something about allergies), so I’ll be looking for a ho to bring to Hoboken.

The development of the outer-boroughs and nearby enclaves like Hoboken and Long Island is profound. “New York” (or international) service and style can be found everywhere, as local yokels demand sophistication having enjoyed it in Manhattan and seen it on TV, online, and in places like Atlantic City, Miami, and Vegas. It is ironic that this event will make me “Bridge and Tunnel” as I cross-commute to the gala. They’re sending a car so I don’t end up at the Bada Bing or in some swamp. The Jersey of my past is changing, and the W Hoboken is leading the way. Someone, who I think was 9-years old, once told me that “if Jersey didn’t suck New York would slip into the ocean.” I’m not 100% sure what that means, but some pretty cool people that I trust are telling me I will be impressed with what I see. What to wear?

I guess if Hoboken doesn’t win over my heart and I do end up returning to the Rotting Apple, I will attend the birthday bash for Strategic Group’s man about town Andrew Goldberg. At 21 years of age, it was said that in 10 years the talented and boisterous young fellow would have a good shot at turning 31. Blessed with the best smile in the game, Andrew has survived and thrived, and is now an undeniable force in the most forceful of all nightlife organizations, the Strategic Group. You know, Tao, Avenue, Lavo, Marquee, Vegas, New York —and soon the world. Andrew knows everyone, and everyone knows him. In a world where everyone is subject to critique and snide remarks, I have never known anyone to dislike or disrespect this man. He is a gentleman, which is my biggest compliment. Happy Birthday Andrew Goldberg. Please excuse my Jersey outfit.

Well that’s tomorrow. Tonight’s can’t miss soiree is the 40tth Anniversary Celebration for the Anthology Film Archives. It will be held at City Winery. Their press release for the event is perfect so I’m going to leave it as it is:

On April 27th, Anthology Film Archives will present their annual event honoring individuals and institutions that have made important contributions to the preservation and understanding of our film heritage. This years event will encompass a celebration of Anthologys 40th Anniversary, with a live program of performances and music. The event will feature performances and appearances by Harmony Korine, Marina Abramovic, Richard Barone, Ólöf Arnalds, and Transgendered Jesus, as well as others to-be-announced. The evening will also pay tribute to our 2011 Preservation Honorees: filmmaker Albert Maysles; Vlada Petric, founding director of the Harvard Film Archive; film scholar Tony Pipolo; Technicolor; and the Library of Congress, for creating the National Film Registry.The event will be hosted by Jonas Mekas and master of ceremonies Richard Barone. Special speakers will include Andrew Sarris, Lola Schnabel, Ed Bland, Stuart Liebman and Jonas Mekas. Benefit table seats with light dinner and wine $200, General Admission tickets $40: citywinery.com