Industry Insiders: Heather Tierney, Mixology Mistress

Heather Tierney, apothecary-at-large for Chinatown destination Apothéke on comparisons to Amy Sacco, being the bad twin, and dealing with Chinese landlords.

Have people compared you to Amy Sacco? Admittedly yes, and I am honored. She is giant in this business. I might know 1% of the people she knows, so it is flattering for someone to say I am like her.

Where have you been going out? I like small places that have an identity. I like La Esquina … I think that place is brilliant. It’s completely original, and it still holds up. It will be there a long time and the food is excellent. I like this place in Williamsburg called Moto. It’s in this old check-cashing shop. It’s a random location in the middle of nowhere. They made a great Parisian bistro/bar with great details. It’s just so charming. Sometimes they have a band, and you have to walk through the band to enter.

How’d you get involved in this business? Really the way I got into the business was finding this street. I passed this street with friends one night after a concert because we decided to walk to the Brooklyn Bridge to watch the sunrise, and I felt the street was so magical and wondered why no one had ever done anything on it. I started looking around and talking to brokers. I thought it would make a good cocktail bar destination. I hadn’t even met Albert Trummer yet. I quickly realized there was a huge barrier to entry into the Chinese community as an outsider. They don’t do leases here. People pay month to month. You want a lease if you are going to renovate a space and put a lot of money into it. Meeting with a landlord is hard because they are not interested … they pass it down into the family. Everything on the street has been owned by families over the years. I just kept the idea. I met Albert a couple of years ago through a friend who worked with him at Town and had read about him and admired him. I was moved by his humbleness when I met him. I felt that what he was doing with his mixology, no one else was doing. Albert had worked at Town and Bouley, and I thought it would be cool to bring him into an edgier environment.

Who do you admire? Keith McNally. First because he has not sold out, meaning I am sure he has been approached by everyone under the sun to put a Balthazar in Las Vegas or a Pastis wherever. He keeps his brand very strong … he doesn’t dilute them. Each restaurant is a unique concept and its own brand, and he doesn’t open more than one of them. He nails it on the head. He has great staff. He has great vision. He also gives back a lot. Every year he brings an orphanage into Balthazar and feeds them. The do magic shows for them, and the cards get stuck to the ceiling. You will see them still on the ceiling. He is also very humble and down to earth. Danny Meyer is next because he really understands service. He is a warm person and has built an empire, and none of them have a cold, corporate feeling. He wrote a book about hospitality and says it’s the small details that get you to the big place. Everyone in the industry says you have to read his book. People live by it. He gives back a lot too. He is also really down to earth.

What trends are you seeing in your industry? I hope attention to detail is a trend in the city. That’s what interests me. Places need to make a statement and be memorable, which I think is from substance. It can’t just be I am so-and-so and I am opening this, ’cause no one will care in six months.

What is something that people don’t know about you? That I am from Indiana. That I have a twin sister, not identical. We are yin and yang. She supports me in all my crazy ideas. She is the good one, Katie. Also that I don’t care about the “scene.” I don’t need to constantly network. I like to be alone and lay in the sun

Burger Shoppe, Apothéke. What’s next? I have another business too. It’s a concierge service called Sorted. It is a membership. I am not even taking on new members. I have even more I want to do. I want a personal life too. Also opening places, you get a bug to open more. I am even hoping to expand into the basement and upstairs of this space.

What are you doing tonight? I am going to dinner at Macao, owned by the same people who own Employees Only, with a friend who is a restaurant critic. Then I am coming back to Apothéke.

Industry Insiders: Dirk Van Stockhom, the Expert Opener

Nightlife impresario Dirk Van Stockhom on his new venture at 98 Kenmare Street, being a 13-year-old English playboy, and why Sudan is the new global hotspot.

Where do you go out? I am very much a bar/restaurant guy. I go to Rose Bar … when I can afford it [laughing]. Milano’s on Houston. My favorite place in the whole of New York is the Ear Inn on Spring Street. It is the most classic bar because they don’t give a damn. It is full of regulars and some of the most interesting people. You also do see models and actors, next to regular people. It is no bullshit, great drinks, great food. The owners are two of the nicest people in the world. It is a real community bar. Big supporters of the arts. Don’t tell anyone though, it will spoil it [laughing].

What is your newest project’s name? The restaurant on Kenmare doesn’t have a working name yet. The lounge will probably just be 98 Kenmare. There will be great cocktails. Now for me with any place I am a part of, like the one on Kenmare Street, it must be accessible. In other words I can’t charge people $16 per drink in that neighborhood and not expect people to raise eyebrows about it. You have to get value for money, and you have to deliver. It will be a restaurant/lounge. The restaurant will be on the ground floor, and we’ll have Italian food with a hip cocktail lounge. When I say hip, I don’t mean because of who is behind the place. I want them to go because the food is good, the service is good, and the ambiance is good. If you have all those things, you don’t need to coerce people to go. They will go because they feel comfortable. We’re looking to open in the spring.

How did you start in this business? I was raised in a very small village called Suffolk in England. There was a pub in my town that, believe it or not, was the coolest pub in the whole county. It was run by a guy called Steve Chick who was probably in his 20s. He was the coolest guy, always had beautiful women, drove Jaguars. Every Friday and Saturday night the place was like an old school disco. People would come from miles around, from all the other villages. At a young age I started a service parking cars on my road and charged for the service. I actually made decent money at it. I was the richest 12-year-old! From that I met Steve. I would come in during the week to stock bottles, help in the kitchen. He had a really good restaurant too. Thinking back on it, that was probably my entry into the business. That’s what attracted me to it. Steve would take me in his car and drive me around. I was a 12, 13-year-old kid surrounded by these beautiful women and leading an interesting life that perhaps a 13-year-old shouldn’t lead.

You worked at Life also. Being the general manager of Life was challenging. Also I became the host/maitre d’ in the Sullivan Room. Then I also did the door at Bowery Bar for Mark Baker and Jeffrey Jah. After Life I managed Float, which was probably the most popular place I ever worked. Float was the first place that had that bottle service/European mentality. Everyone was like, “Uptown? You are out of your mind!” My response was all these kids who come downtown live uptown; the trust fund kids. We made $160,000 a week without promotion. It was a huge amount of corporate business. Then I went to Miami to open Crobar and then back to New York to open Crobar here. I became known as an opener. Then I opened Bed and was back working with Jeffrey Jah and Mark Baker, Richie Akiva and Scott Sartiano. Then I was supposed to open a restaurant/bar with Michael Ault on 27th Street, and that didn’t work out. That was a crush. But then Jason Strauss and Noah Tepperberg brought me out to Vegas to run the marketing for Tao. Tao is a monster business. It is phenomenal how they run it — they are businessmen. They work their asses off. Then I got the call to help open Mansion, four days before they opened during Fashion Week this past February.

Clubdom has moved away from the artistic people. Clubs were social clubs for artists who didn’t belong to places like Soho House or Core club. Society had deemed they weren’t worthy of belonging to those type of places. From a community point of view, that’s what nightclubs were. It wasn’t so much about making money. Then there were the businessmen who strive to be part of that scene. People saw there was marketing value to be part of a high profile venue. An investor was guaranteed entrance into these places and be surrounded by beautiful women and celebrities and hold court like a king with bottles of champagne. It became a marketable commodity to close deals. So many deals were done over a bottle. During our time in this business, there was this trend that everyone had their celebrity friend and that person became their representative in the nightlife. Those relationships were made over a crack pipe — sorry. They were forged over drinking and cocaine until all hours … over tons of cocaine. If you wanted to have that celebrity at your place or have their event, there you had to deal with that person. So the whole business started working that way.

Is there a city that is doing it better than New York? A friend has said to me we should move to the south of Sudan where they put up shacks in the middle of nowhere with a boom box and homemade beer and these guys are making a fortune. Those guys have got it down. Screw the other cities. A boom box and a tent and you too can make money [laughing].

Where are you going out tonight? I want to check out Chloe 81from a design point of view. I will probably stop by the Eldridge because I like Matt Levine. Anyone who would give me an Eldridge card is OK in my book [laughing]. I also might stop by Little Branch. That’s more my pace these days. I also really like Bongo.

You really do go out! Yeah, but I am done by 10 p.m. I don’t sleep in the way I used to, but I also don’t work ‘til 4 a.m. anymore, either.

Industry Insiders: DJ Todd Mallis, Spin Purist

DJ Todd Mallis on being born with a DJ’s name, why you’ll never be Amy Sacco, and how people in the scene can go from green to dark if they aren’t careful.

What clubs are you working at these days? I am currently working at 1Oak, Citrine, Marquee, and Southside. They are green lighting, trying to keep it cool. I used to do seven nights a week for months at a time.

What’s your take on the state of the nightlife industry? What seems to me to be the biggest problem with New York right now is that it hasn’t evolved since the sets that Mark Ronson and Stretch Armstrong were playing back in ’97, which are still being played today. Artists and DJs are ready to evolve, and music has evolved, but the actual industry hasn’t changed. There are places like Beatrice Inn, Santos’ Party House, and places in Brooklyn that are out of the box, and it’s working. The customers are educated and smarter and cooler. I give 1Oak credit for mastering the perfect balance. They have bottle service, and they also hire good DJs and let them do their thing. Its not a controlling atmosphere where you are scared to be too creative cause you might not have a gig next week. I think it works there cause they have more owners with very different personalities …Jeffrey Jah, Ronnie Madra, Richie Akiva, and Scott Sartiano. Ronnie wants house, Jeffrey wants new wave, Richie wants hip hop, and Scott wants rock. That is a perfect matchup. It’s great. The kiss of death is when people who are opening a club say, “I want it to be just like Bungalow 8.” Cause you are not going to be Bungalow 8. You are not Amy Sacco.

What do you like about Santos’? Santos’ is cool cause they play a lot of sub-genres like electro-rock, etc. That’s their platform. Like for the past years, every other club’s platform has been hip-hop. They are ahead of the curve. They bring in all types of DJs. They have been flying these cool ones in from France. It’s an electro-hipster movement. Its super creative, kind of grimy and just cool. I think it’s great. For so long people didn’t want house music because it was a four four beat, and it was like, “Where do we go from here.?” House music has really grown cause there are so many creative kids out there that are using all the genres of music that we have been listening to and plugging it into the electro movement. It is working.

What started you in this game? At 19, I left college to come back to Manhattan, and a friend’s boyfriend was opening a lounge in Tribeca. Wass actually opened doing the door. It was like 1999 to 2000. Tribeca was no man’s land. They needed a DJ. My friend knew I had a record collection and turntables, and I didn’t have a job. I didn’t need a DJ name. People think it’s Todd Malice. It’s Mallis.

Do you still enjoy it? I started DJing to give people a release. I thought I would just be working Fridays and Saturdays. I was green. I didn’t know people would want to stay out all night on a Tuesday doing cocaine. Nightlife can be a drug, and people go out to lose themselves or to be someone else. I have seen so much in 10 years. I am sober 100% of the time. I don’t judge them. But some people never miss a night. You see a beautiful girl come into a club, and she is totally green. It could be a guy too. But you see them every, let’s say Wednesday night, for a couple of years, and they evolve into a dark person. It’s sad. They come up to you like “You’re still here?!” It’s like, yeah, I work here. I want to say. “But sorry you’re still here.”

What are you doing tonight? I’m going to 1Oak to see my friend Sinatra DJ.

Industry Insiders: King, Regal Rejector

Bouncer-cum door legend King doesn’t like rejecting people at the velvet ropes, but explains why some nights his own sister won’t make the cut, while a dude in a blue whale suit breezes inside.

Point of Origin: The first nightclub I ever worked at was The Building. It was a second job, I was already working during the day as a bartender, and I wanted extra money. A friend of mine was dating a guy much too old for her who was managing the club, and through her I got the job. They actually got married, so I guess he wasn’t too old for her, and she is still my friend, so I probably shouldn’t say shit like that. He’s a good guy. He is one of the guys who runs Waverly Inn. I met with him and he said, “We will give you a job as a bouncer, you have broken up fights before?” and I said, “Yeah, sure.”

It can’t hurt that you’re a big guy. I have always been big, and my father taught me to use it for good — not evil — so I had broken up fights that I had nothing to do with. My first boss told me when I come into work to wear six or seven sweatshirts. I thought he meant because it was going to be cold … but what he meant was that I was actually the small bouncer, even though at the time I was 6’4” and 270 pounds. I was the little guy, so I had to wear the five sweatshirts to look even bigger. Within two weeks, I had broken up more fights without incidents than anyone who worked there all combined because I used my brain. This was back when bouncers could beat you up and not go to jail. I would just tell the guys who were fighting they could walk out of the door with me — like a gentleman — or these other gorillas are just waiting to stomp you. What do you want to do? So they would all walk out with me and I would never tell the other guys what I had said. They were like, “How do you do that? That’s amazing! How do you get them to walk out voluntarily?” They would shake my hand for being thrown out of the club. I said, “It’s just what I do.”

Job Description: Even though at a lot of these places I’m just the doorman, and that is what I like to be, I am also generally a consultant. I give ideas and let other people take credit for them. As long as they pay me, I don’t really care. Now I’m taking a little break, ‘cause I decided I didn’t like the way the business itself was heading. Also I had some other opportunities to do some interesting things. I’m consulting in clubs around the world right now, in Japan, in England. I don’t have to work the door, or tell anyone no. I’m a man who takes rejection horribly, but I give it tremendously.

Notable Rejections: I turned down my own sister [once] ‘cause she was dressed inappropriately. She wasn’t an ugly girl, it was a special party, and I said, “You can’t come in looking like that. It would be an embarrassment to me.” All the security heard and were like, “King turned down his own sister. We better not let our friends show up.”

So who gets in? One night when I was working, a guy came up in a blue whale mascot outfit, and I opened the ropes immediately and gave him a ticket to let him in. The owner was standing behind me and asked why I let him in. I said, “Because he is a guy in a blue whale costume.” “I don’t understand,” he replied. I told him, “The real important person that I let in here tonight for you was some baseball player. When people are at work on Monday, and they are talking about being out over the weekend, do you think more of them will say, ‘I was at a nightclub and so and so from the Yankees was there,’ or more would say, ‘I was out and saw a guy in a blue whale costume drinking at the bar.’ I tend to think more people will talk about the blue whale. Maybe I am wrong. I don’t think so.”

It’s Friday night; are you going out? Friday and Saturday nights are not typically the nights a true New Yorker goes out. Those are still amateur nights. Where the B & T show up. Thursday night is always the best night to go out. It always has been. My favorite night is probably Monday.

What’s something people don’t know about working the door? I’m not here to insult you or make you feel bad. Rejection is bad enough no matter how it comes. I can be the most polite, most well-mannered person rejecting somebody. Somebody is still going to hate me for it ‘cause I’m still telling them no. Nobody likes to be told no. I would say please and thank you, and still stories would come back to me that I cursed them out. I was brought up by an English mother who would wash my mouth out with soap if I used inappropriate words. I rarely do. It’s not my nature.

Industry Insiders: Jamie Mulholland, Big Game Hunter

Cain Luxe’s Jaime Mulholland on sailing to New York’s promised land, surviving the W. 27th Street club disaster, partnering with the Brazilian female mafia, and almost going broke before hitting the big time with his expanding nightlife empire.

What places are you involved with? The first summer [after opening Cain in New York] we took over Cabana in the Hamptons. It had been a dead space for a while. We redid the whole space to make it look more like Cain, the South Africa beach club. We also took all our staff. It wasn’t just hanging a sign. It was taking what was authentic to Cain and putting it there. It was incredible. It was packed, lines around the corner. Luckily it was very successful. The following year we didn’t know if we wanted to do it and David Sarner owned the space and brought in Pink Elephant. We went to Jet – another successful year. The third year we were opening in the Bahamas on Paradise Island. Three pools, a restaurant, DJs, all outdoors, very celebrity driven, high-end clients. In a new tower they opened, The Cove, that’s $800 to $8000 a night, beautifully designed. It’s a great extension of our brand. We opened GoldBar the same time we opened in the Bahamas. It was insane. It’s half the size of Cain. We kept it under the radar, away from Page Six. It has a great following. Lenny [Kravitz] wrote a song with GoldBar in it on his new album. Great clientele. It will have long legs. It has a tight door and the quality is good. I am proud of it. We have four venues in four years and are now regrouping. We bought a hotel in Montauk and redid it. It’s called the Surf Lodge, very chill.

Known associates: Jayma [Cardoso] was a cocktail waitress at Lotus when I was a bartender. I remember watching her and there was something very special about her. For her it is very much like people in her living room. She wants to take care of people. You watch her put a room together and it’s brilliant. She was born for this business. She is exceptional at it. I remember getting my team together and thinking that a big part rests on getting Jayma as my partner. She came in when I first got the space and there was water dripping from the roof. I had been talking to her for a long time and I told her this was it. I remember walking her through the room with her Brazilian mafia, like five girls all speaking Portuguese. I didn’t know what the fuck they were saying. She came back and said she would do it and said this is what I would need financially and I said fine. She came in the next day – his woman is so bloody driven – with a pad of paper covered in notes. She said we are going to do this but this is how we are going to do it. This company has done well cause I have surrounded myself with the best in this business. Everyone says you have done so great. It’s not just me, it’s the whole team. As long as they were positive and didn’t run on ego. It was the idea of warmth. We look after our clients. You have to hard at the door but once they are past that door it’s a different world. They should feel like they own the venue. There is warmth from every staff member. It comes from the top. If Jayma and I walked around with massive egos making people feel they are lucky to be in here, it just doesn’t make sense.

Point of Origin: I worked at a club in South Africa called Legends. Then I said I got to go to the States.You prove yourself in the States. I didn’t just want to be a big fish in a little pond. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it and do it well. I knew that the best were here in the States, especially in New York. I couldn’t come here directly cause they wouldn’t give a young South African papers at that time. So I sailed on a boat to St. Martin in the Caribbean. I lived there for 2 years and ran a bar there. One day this guy said I need an extra crew member to sail to Connecticut. I didn’t know where it was but I knew it was in the States. I handed over the keys to the bar and said I’m gone. I only knew one person, Anthony Bourdain. So when I arrived I called him. He was writing his book. He hadn’t done anything at that time. He has done great things since. He helped me out a lot.

Then I worked at Supper Club and some bar in Jersey until finally a friend of mine invested in Lotus. I had been trying and trying. It was one of my best friends who invested in Lotus. So I met with David Rabin and he gave me my first shot. I have such fond memories of that place. It was a Goliath. To have started in New York in that place…it was such a college for so many people who went on to do other things. I remember standing at the bar and seeing the caliber of people coming in, the energy and the vibe…it was just perfect. This incredible place. I was their crappiest bartender. All the other bartenders were so good. So one of the girls there, Christy Dugan, who now works for me, used to bartend there. She used to see that I was terrible. She would put me behind her and say just watch. She would take half my section so that no one would see that I was weak. She is amazing. I got better and better and then left Lotus. I went to two other venues, not the caliber of Lotus, then to PM, and found the space I wanted. It was just right. I said, “Fuck it I am going to do it.” While I was working at other clubs I tried to learn about business plans. I would work until 4 a.m. then be up at 10 a.m.working on my business plan. It took me like three years to put my business plan together. The only place on this block at the time was Bungalow 8. It was perfect. Friends of mine in the business thought I was crazy. They said it wasn’t going to work. I said, “Fuck it, it will work.” I maxed all my credit cards and used mine and my wife’s savings. It was so bad that the night we opened I didn’t have the $500 for each of the bartenders’ registers. I remember breaking down and thinking I can’t do this. How did it get to this? My wife had received a modeling check, only you can’t cash a check on an empty account so she begged the bank manager. I remember her coming out with tears on her face and saying we got the money. That night was a blur to me. I don’t remember much of it but I remember being exhausted at the end of the night and looking at the bar and there were just piles and piles of money. Then we knew it was going to work.

Any nights that stand out? There have been so many nights that have been special. I think my first birthday that my wife and Jayma threw me at Cain stands out. It was the first year and we were doing amazing and Bob Sinclair was spinning and his album had just come out. Just before the summer and my wife had secretly flown my brother here. It was amazing. Everything just seemed right. It’s an important part of New York.

Tell me about running a club in this city: This business is hard. It’s ever-changing, the competition is fierce. There are strong people you have to go up against. The city doesn’t want you either. We generate so much revenue for the city and they are trying to make 2 a.m. licenses. It’s ridiculous. It’s a crime. Running a clean operation and one that’s truly concerned about its clients is hard. You follow all the rules that are there from the city, you are having a great night and because of what’s going on, on this street, we have task forces walking in and killing the vibe. It kills everything you are working so hard for. I remember Amy [Sacco] and I standing on the street one night, Jon B had just opened his venues, and the police were out in full force and Amy and I were just freaking out. We said to Jon B that we can’t even get our clients to our venues because of the clientele you have brought to this street. It was a turning point for 27th street. That was the toughest thing, having other operators bringing in elements we didn’t need here. It sort of destroyed what we were working for. Look at Amy. She is incredible at what she does. She is a pioneer and opens on what was considered the outskirts of town and she has this happen. This must be the most frustrating for her. Cause it’s nothing she has done that’s affecting her, it’s other operators. She has done everything right. If it had been Cain, Pink Elephant and Bungalow 8 it would be been a different story. All the foot traffic has gone to the meatpacking district. I will always have a place in New York. If I left New York it would be over. I could have sold Cain for a lot of money a long time ago. But I stuck to my guns. I believe in this brand and what we do. For Jayma and I it’s not about putting a lot of money in our pocket and walking away. It’s a vision of a company, a long term vision. We are passionate about what we do. The passion is here in New York. New York is the best city in the entire world. This is where it all happens. We produce the best stuff. None of the clubs in London can hold a candle to New York. New York is where you prove yourself and the best product is delivered. Our loyalty is to New York.

Projections: We try to challenge ourselves at every venue we do. Next we are opening in Dubai and I’ll be moving out there and bringing some of our best people. Clubs are great but they are not the end goal. They are a great starting block.

Industry Insiders: Reka Nyari, Genie with a Bottle

Foreign-born bottle-service diva Reka Nyari on why men with ties buy $5,000 bottles at clubs, inventing a nightlife resume to avoid the pole, and parlaying industry connects into a career in photography.

Where do you go out? I go to Beatrice or Rose Bar. I also will still go to the bottle service places to see my friends. A lot of my friends still work in the business. They work at Cielo, Bijoux, and Marquee, so I will go to see them. I also will go with friends to Schiller’s and chill and have wine. A friend has a table at Bungalow 8 every Thursday, so I’ll go sometimes.

Where did you get started in the industry? I started in the business about six or seven years ago. I needed a job that would only be a few days a week and make a lot of money because I was doing art, painting, and photography. I wanted to support myself by working weekends and doing my art during the week. I thought about what could I do and decided bottle service was it. It was either bottle service or stripping, and stripping is definitely not for me. PM was the place that was making a lot of money. I called and went in and met with [owners] KiKi and Unik. I had modeled and went in with my modeling portfolio. At this point, I didn’t even know what a dirty martini was. I didn’t drink. They asked where I worked, and I made up places in London because I had just gotten back from living there. I just picked it up really fast.

At first they had me seating people, which is no money really. So I said I would leave, and they put me on the floor after that. I did really well and had fun [partying] with the customers. They had teams at PM, a busboy and a waitress. They put all our sales each night on the screen. It was really competitive. It would say: Reka $3,000, Nicole $5,000 — and I wanted to make as much as Nicole. Certain nights, the girl who sold the most got a bottle of Dom or Cristal champagne. The customers would ask me want I wanted to drink. We drank so much champagne it was coming out of our ears. When people were waiting outside, we would raise the table minimums [to $5,000]. It was a really good time for bottle service. After about a year, sales went down. I think Cain opened and took a lot of the bigger spenders. So some of the better waitresses left too. Marquee was also doing really well.

You have always done bottle service? Yes, as a waitress, host, and door person. I was at PM and Cielo the longest. But it was Movida that made me want to quit the nightlife business. I liked working at the door much more than working inside, where you have to deal with the drunk people more. I made most of my connections at the door. I even promoted a Sunday night party at Home. At that point I was going out seven days a week. I was just out. At one point, I felt that nightlife was my industry, and thought I would open my own club. I was 25 or 26 and thought, “This has to be my career, I am too old to start to do anything else.” I had only modeled and done nightlife and didn’t have a resume for anything else. It’s hard being a woman in nightlife. Most of the men are sexist. They don’t treat you with the same respect they do the men. I always got in trouble because I was very loud and telling them off. I wasn’t afraid to say you’re wrong, and I’m right, and fuck you. Some of them loved that about me, and some really didn’t.

But when you go out, do you go to bottle service places? Not really, not anymore. I like places without bottle service better. If you are going to a club that is packed and you can’t get in, and you want to get in, it is a great way to buy real estate. You get a table, you get to sit down, you don’t have to wait in line. If you have the money. It is nicer than going to the crowded bar. Yet it has killed a lot of the spirit of nightlife. The artists and funkier people don’t go cause they don’t want to spend $2,000. It has mostly been investment bankers spending that kind of money.

So where do the artists go out? I think in Brooklyn now. There are great art parties there. They have $2 beers, and its about meeting interesting people. It’s a cooler crowd. They have potluck parties where everyone brings food and booze. It’s a good time. It’s not about spending lots of money. People will even lose money to throw a party. Places now are not built to have a good party, they are built to have as many tables as possible for bottle service. They hire promoters to bring in models and cool kids who would never go to these places unless they where getting free bottles.

Someone said to me they can look around the room and see which table is free and which is paying. Of course, of course. The four guys with ties are paying. They are paying to sit next to the table of six models who are getting it all for free, and as soon as their bottle is empty, they leave to go somewhere cooler. Think about it. My friends on any given night have a choice of five places to walk into and have a table and free drinks in the main area, and other people wait on line to pay to do it. It’s hard to get my friends to go even when it’s all free. You’ll get a phone call, “I have a table and bottles at Bungalow, come over and it will be next to such and such celebrity,” and you’ll think, “I don’t feel like it tonight.” Yet there are people dying to go. The promoters now invite you to free dinner first, too. It’s fun to go once in a while, but it’s just not as fresh as it used to be. I think to myself how much money could a place make when I look around the room and see promoter after promoter.

How do you think they stay in business? I think they have a lot of investors and good corporate events, holiday parties. They rent the space for a few hours, spend lots to be there, and then have to leave tables when they are turned over for bottle service later. They get furious, but if the place is cool enough, they will come back anyway.

What else are you doing now? I am a photographer. I do editorial, catalogue, CD covers. Kiki De Montparnasse is one of my clients. Without nightlife, it would have been much harder for me to get my photography going. I met so many people in fashion that liked me as a person that once I reached out to them for business, they gave me a chance. I don’t regret working in nightlife at all

You are not from here right? I am half Finnish and half Hungarian and have lived in Helsinki and Budapest and lived for a while in London.

Is there a place you feel that the nightlife is better? Uruguay is the new cool European Riviera. Miami still has its wild moments during Winter Music Conference. Manhattan nightlife is just different now. Brooklyn has funkier parties. You could almost say that nightlife in the city is for tourists, bankers, and real estate guys. It has less soul. Also the regulations and enforcers are hurting the scene. They tried to ban bottle service at one point because they said it contributes to people drinking too much, ‘cause they want to finish their bottle.

Photo: Reka Nyari

Industry Insiders: Francesco Belcaro, Euro Star

Francesco Belcaro (of events/promotions concern Made in Italy) comes to America, meets the right Austrian chick, wakes up a top-tier New York scenester, works the door at the Box, and shakes hands with his 13,000 closest mates. Point of Origin: I was not supposed to be in the nightlife scene. I have a real estate company and an event planning company. The event planning company is Made In Italy. We work with a lot of big Italian companies in the city, and they sponsor us. When we started, we wanted to market ourselves and create a buzz for both companies to get more clients. We decided to create this night called Made In Italy, and we created a mailing list. I personally know a lot of people in the fashion business because of my family’s company, and my partner [Francesco Mo] knows a lot of finance people and entrepreneurs. So we started to do this party, not for money, but to market ourselves. It turned out that the night was cool, and more sponsors wanted to be a part of it and have their products known to our mailing list, which is over 13,000 people right now — people that we know personally and shake hands with. So my partner and I decided to get involved in nightlife.

How did you end up working the door of the Box? I was good friends with Cordell [Lochin] at the Box because our girlfriends were friends, so we used to spend a lot of time together. I wanted one of my sponsors, Peroni beer, to be at the Box, because it’s the best nightclub in the city. So Cordell said, “If you want this beer at the club, you have to help me out,” so I did the door Mondays there. I was super busy, but with our relationship and my respect for the business they had been doing … I decided to do the door. Peroni wanted to get into the US market, and everyone understands that New York is a window to that market. They also see me associated with the cool, trendy places in New York. They hire me as a kind of marketing guy to tell them where Peroni should be. Made in Italy has been around five years now. We hire promoters, bring DJs and artists from Italy. Usually we do our party twice a month and change venue.

How have things changed since you came on the scene? My first year here was probably the most impressive one. New York was there to be discovered by me. I don’t know if it was cool or not, but I remember one club, Spa, where I met this girl from Austria who had been living here forever. I don’t know why, but she just liked me. She took me under her wing and took me everywhere. I remember I didn’t know the nightlife scene. It’s the first time someone takes me, and we get free bottles, and I meet all the models. We arrived by limo, there were famous singers there, and I remember when I woke up I was like, “Was that a dream or what?” After a few months, I felt like a New Yorker. I grew up in Venice, I went to university in Madrid, I did my masters in Paris, I lived in London and in South America before I came here. I want to say that New York is the only city that made me feel at home right away, not like a foreigner. You just feel home as soon as you get here.

Are there any other places that you like? I was in Moscow recently and it was unbelievable. The way they partied. It was probably like when there was Studio 54. That’s what I see. New York is changing, so you might have to lose something that was part of the character of the city and the nightlife. I am still fresh here, and you know the past here. New York is always evolving. The older guys they remember New York at a time, but now the younger guys are coming up with energy and will create something, too. It will be different. New York is a city that welcomes different cultures and gets the best out of them. That is very hard to find anywhere else. The nightlife in New York is not going anywhere; it’s just changing. This is a transitional moment. New York is one of those cities you copy. That’s what makes it so special. We copy [things from New York] and bring it over [to other places].

What are you doing tonight? We’re doing a party for 2,000 people at the Pier.

Industry Insiders: Michael Ault, International Spy

Michael Ault, owner of the Pangaea clubs in Austin and elsewhere and the man behind legendary New York clubs like Spy and Chaos, checks in with the scene (New York) where he once reigned.

How did you start in the nightclub business? Growing up in Palm Beach in the 1970s, every night was a party. All the families on the social scene were expected to host large events at their homes, mostly charity balls and large dinners. Both my mother and father’s family took this ethos to extreme lengths. So as a child, most of what I recall were large parties, planning, logistics, caterers, florists, car parkers, bands, guest lists, phone books, and fun. No one ever considered them “businesses,” because they weren’t, but they were extremely complicated productions to produce and promote. To be completely frank with you, I’m not certain that I was ever really a component of the nightclub business. In many ways, the concept of a business and “party” are often mutually exclusive. If you’re concentrating on the business, you’ll often lose sight of the party. And naturally the reverse is invariably true. But to answer your question, my first clubs as an owner were Merc Bar and Surf Club.

What are the places you have owned or been affiliated with? During the 1980s, I promoted virtually every major club in New York City. I did a lot of openings, or closings, mostly one-offs. I can’t recall them all, but certain rooms stand out; The World, Tunnel, Palladium, Area, Visage, Club A, Regine’s, MK, Zulu, Maxime’s, Mars, Au Bar, and Tavern on The Green. By the mid-1990s, however, I really felt that the scene was missing something. The excitement of the 1980s was gone, no one was dressing up, no sense that anything could happen or would happen. The mix had evaporated, and everything was quite flat. I wanted to try something really outrageous, a synthesis of Blade Runner, a haunted house, a New Orleans bordello, and the Soho loft none of us could afford. That was the birth of Spy Bar. Spy changed everything. Spy had such a sublime aspect to it; the energy, the way people moved and mixed. Spy really launched the international lounge craze. Although, so few really got it right.

When we built Chaos, the next year, it was really a product of Spy, plus two fresh concepts, house music and bottle service. We went on to build other Chaoses in Sao Paolo and South Beach. Towards the end of the Chaos run, the concept had drifted somewhat, as had the city. Nightlife was fairly pedestrian. I needed something new, something super-intimate, wacky; something that transported me to another world, that might bring us all together again. So two weeks after 9/11, I opened Pangaea. It was a smash. I don’t think anyone has had that much fun since. I went on to build one at The Hard Rock Casino in Florida, Marbella, Spain, and Austin, Texas.

What do you feel has changed? For better, or worse? The scene has changed so completely, it’s unrecognizable. There are very, very few really creative people in the business. It’s mostly about making money, which they most often don’t. Most operators would not know a great party if it fell on them. The bottle concept was ruined and taken to ridiculous lengths. When you bring bottle service to a city, as we did in New York, Miami, Sao Paulo, and Austin, you must remember: it’s not about the bottle, it’s about service. It’s about creating an intimate party where people can pour their own drink, and more importantly, others. It’s the best way to meet someone — “Hi, would you like to join me at my table, what are you drinking.” Sadly, the concept was squandered. Now it’s a tool to rip people off. Greed and excess can destroy everything, as it has the club business.

What has affected nightlife most? The wrong people are driving the bus. And the regulatory environment is absurd.

Is there another city that you think may have better nightlife now? Definitely. A few cities that come to mind: Berlin Barcelona, Marrakech, Amsterdam, Oslo, Moscow, Sydney, Sao Paulo, Kiev, Cape Town, Milan, Buenos Aires, Vienna, Krakow, Madrid, Shanghai, and many in between. Although I think New York has some very good operators, and a few extremely creative and talented hosts. Generally, the restaurants are much more fun.

What are your current projects? We have two very large clubs at the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida: a Pangaea and The Gryphon. In a few weeks, we’ll be starting our fifth year. We’ve been blessed with a fabulous team in Florida, and both clubs continue to rage very hard indeed. Since we opened, we’ve seen a few generations of South Beach clubs come and go. South Florida will always be a great market, but with the economy in such dire condition, one must be very careful. I also have an enormous Pangaea in Austin, Texas. It’s by far my most beautiful space. It really is a complete African safari lodge, within a 9,000-square-foot 1860s brick warehouse. And of course, Austin is a wild party. Great-looking kids that really are determined to have fun. The combination is truly a spectacle.

Projections: I’ve been looking at spaces elsewhere in Texas, California, Arizona, Europe, and flying to Dubai next week. I like East Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Traveling to new cities, discovering the complexities of a market, meeting everyone, designing, staffing, building, and ultimately, operating nightclubs is incredibly exciting. I’ll do it anywhere. Secretly, I am plotting to come back to New York and take a fresh swing at it.

Is there any person or place in New York that you feel is doing it right? Nur Khan always does a great job. His opinions and perspective are purely authentic. He knows what he likes, what his friends like, and he keeps his eye on that goal. Wax was so much fun. Studio 54 can never be topped, and the same is true of Area, but the Golden Age was Spy and Wax. However, with that said, there are so many people in the business that I sincerely love. I’ll go out generally just to see them all. It’s a wild, dark world, and as you might imagine, some bizarre people inhabit it. Most of us have been competitors over the decades, sometimes partners. And although most of us have been deeply scarred by the business, usually by each other, there’s still a lot of love between us all.

When you are in New York, where do you go out? I love bouncing through the restaurants. It’s easier to see and speak to people. If you see me at a club, I’m likely to be building a new team for the next adventure.

Industry Insiders: David Rabin, Mr. President

New York Nightlife Association prez and Los Dados owner David Rabin on re-opening the legendary Lotus, commuting to Moscow, and suckering his partner into doing his other job.

What are you up to these days? We are re-doing the Lotus space, though we don’t know what to call it yet. We’re doing it with Mark [Birnbaum] from Tenjune. Just yesterday we got the plans for Double Seven in New York, which we’re trying to re-open on Gansevoort Street near Los Dados by the end of the year. I don’t know if I believe it myself …

And we’re working on a restaurant in midtown with Jeffrey Zakarian, who is a terrific chef and a great guy. There’s going to be a Double Seven-ish bar on the second floor. So to answer your question, I own Los Dados, and we have three or four things that should open within the next six or seven months.

That’s a lot. It’s too much! I think what’s going to happen is we’re gonna get hit with a sledgehammer around December through March and have three or four openings and hope that we can hold up. But we’re lucky because we have some great people to work with.

About four things happening at once. I’m not as nervous at [the former Lotus space] and Mark and [his partner] Eugene [Remm] have a huge part to play in that. So I’m not concerned. They are very hard workers. I just think that it’s a lot at once. So we’ll see, hopefully it’ll work out.

How did you get started in this business? Ah, sort of an accident. I was a real estate lawyer with a few entertainment clients, and my partner Will Regan was a Wall Street guy. We went to college together. Neither of us were too happy in our respective fields. We kept running into each other in the late 1980s at Nells, MK, and whatever, and we realized we knew a lot of people [in the industry]. Our first place was Rex’s from 1990 through 1992. So that’s where we cut our teeth, a place that people remember very fondly. Cause it was very organic, very pretty, with a lot of our friends from the music and fashion worlds. So [the public] decided that was what they thought of us.

One night I was at Rex’s, and Taylor Danes decided to sing. And she was very big at the time. Yeah, people jumped in with the band, it was great. And people dancing on tables. And upstairs was the club, and we learned a lot of lessons there — like making sure you have a big enough bar, an actual bar, to service the amount of people you’re going to have in your place. That was one of our problems with Rex’s, because nobody could ever get a drink. It’s nice to be popular, but it’s better if people can actually purchase something.

So after two years of Rex’s, we went to work briefly for Peter Gatien at Club USA for about a year, which was quite an education in a hit club. We went from a place that held 200 people to a place that held 2,000. And we worked with some of the best guys in the business, from Peter to Steve Lewis to people who really had a lot of experience. And then we got plucked, serendipitously, to be the consultants for the first Western-style nightclub in Moscow. And we commuted back and forth to Russia for two years. We took turns going there, running a place called Manhattan Express, which was the first large-scale Western designed and Western-run nightclub and supper club in Russia. Three years after communism fell. So it was an incredible time to be there. We had a two-year stint in Moscow.

When we came back and did Union Bar, which is [to this day] a nice bar for people between 25 and 35 who aren’t necessarily into the [trendier] nightlife. And it lasted. We sold it a few years ago to some younger guys, but it’s still open. So it’s been open from 1995 until now. It’s 15 years old, and we had it for about 9 years. So I guess we created a good thing there.

In New York City, that’s a big deal. It’s a long time. And then when we had Union Bar we stumbled across the Lotus space, which was a strip club closed by Giuliani.

And you partnered up? With Mark Baker and Jeffrey Jah. [Will Regan and I] were already both married [and because of that] we had not been in the middle of the nightlife scene for some time. We thought it would be great to have two guys who were sort of at the top of their game.

And Mark and Jeffrey had been just coming off of the club Life. Exactly. They were running Life, and it worked out very well. I mean, Lotus ran for eight years. We suffered through 9/11 because we were only 13 months old when that happened and very much on the upswing. We were one of the only games in town of this size and we were about to go into Fashion Week, and of course that’s a ridiculous thing to say in comparison to what happened to people, but … Somehow we stayed open, but we were severely damaged because people just were not in a celebratory mood for a long time, understandably. And we inched along, changed the menu from fancy Uptown kind of French to what we call urban Asian street food.

Tell me about being the head of the New York Nightlife association since it started. Yeah, yeah, unfortunately I am! I’m the only one willing to take the job. I’m trying to sucker Mark Birnbaum into taking the job from me. I don’t know if he realizes it yet!