NYC vs LA: The Thompson Concierges

Keeping up with what’s new and trendy as well as checking in with old favorites is the balancing act that is the job of a hotel concierge—after all, the buzziest restaurant in town may mean a long wait and lousy service, which translates to unhappy customers who would have been happier with a tried-and-true standby that still offers them a taste of the city. We went bicoastal find out what the pros at the Thompson Hotel Group are recommending these days. This is what Kelsey Wilson, a lead concierge at the Thompson Beverly Hills in LA, and Paul Salvatore Petersen, head concierge at 60 Thompson in NYC, had to say:

Favorite bar for cocktails?

LA: My favorite bar for cocktails would have to be SUR Lounge.  SUR has a separate lounge/bar area attached to the famous SUR Restaurant, located in the heart of West Hollywood.  The feel is trendy, sexy and elite, and the décor is absolutely stunning, as is the clientele.  

NYC: I love Death & Company in the Lower East Side. More and more bars are popping up where the cocktails have been elevated to an art form. Death & Company was one of the first places in NYC where these mixologists brought elegance and craftsmanship back to the cocktail. Not to mention how cool it is inside!

 What’s the best dish you’ve had this year?

LA: As I can think of several, I would have to say my absolute favorite dish has been the Miso Cured Alaskan Butterfish at Asia de Cuba.  The dish features Cuban black beans, edamame salad and tempura shishito peppers. I have had some amazing food but this was on a whole new level of delicious!  The plate was colorful, had amazing texture and totally surprised my palate.

NYC: I am going to say it was the Braised Lamb Shank at La Promenade de Anglais. It’s a new restaurant in Chelsea that is a great mixture of European cuisines, popular with the gallery crowd.  Their Lamb Shank, braised perfectly and placed in a bed of their amazing Polenta, makes this Italian-American a very happy person!

What’s the toughest door in town right now—and how can I get past it?

LA: The toughest door is Los Angeles is at Sayers Club, right in the middle of all the Hollywood action. Sayers is ultra-new, ultra-exclusive and ultra-glamorous—don’t be surprised when you see celebrities here. Table reservations are always a good idea to guarantee entry and at Sayers, it is well worth it!  

NYC: Formerly The Boom Boom Room, and now called Top of The Standard. Even the guests of the Standard are typically turned away. Best way to get in is to go early. I can reserve you a table up until 10PM, but after 10PM it’s doorman’s discretion. It’s not 100% impossible to get in after that, but if you don’t know the owners, you better be dressed well and be nice to the doorman!

Where’s the best boutique to pick up a last-minute gift?

LA: If you need a last minute gift, definitely check out The Lemon Tree Bungalow in West Hollywood.  It has a lot of different gift options and is very well balanced whether you are looking for a housewarming gift, a holiday gift, or something bigger like an anniversary gift. The very friendly staff is helpful and also great at recommending the perfect item!  

NYC: It’s definitely MXYPLYZYK in the West Village. For years I have been going there for all sorts of gifts. They have fun and unique items for every room in your house or apartment. They also have books, kids toys, and even fish bowls made to hang on your wall. MXYPLYZYK really has a little bit of everything. Best part is it’s all affordable!

What’s your personal favorite room in the hotel, and why?

LA: This is easy, my favorite room in the hotel is the lobby! This isn’t just the obvious answer because I spend so much time here, but because I love the modern furniture and trendy feel.  We also just opened a brand-new restaurant that is connected to our lobby, Caulfield’s. It is a beautiful space with large windows that add some great natural light to complete the welcoming feel that any lobby should have.

NYC: Well the Penthouse of course! And if you have to ask why, then you need to come here and check it out. Call me and I’ll give you a tour.

Don Cheadle Might Play Miles Davis

Don Cheadle is gunning for a role he seems all but destined to play in a long-planned biopic of the famed jazz musician Miles Davis. Last week, the actor attended a party atop the swank Thompson Beverly Hills hotel for the release of a 40th-anniversary edition of “Bitches Brew” as a guest of the Davis estate. “I was invited by the family,” Davis told us as he looked out over Los Angeles. “We’ve become friends over the years.”

Cheadle and screenwriter Steven Baigelman recently finished a script that seems designed for awards attention – once it’s actually made. “Davis was his own person and his own artist,” Cheadle, long producers’ top choice for the role of Davis, said with the kind of cool detachment the master musician would have approved of. “There were a lot of other musicians in that era who got stuck, but he never did.”

He went on to draw parallels between the craft of acting and Davis’ art, jazz. “You have to be aware of where you are at all times and be able to respond quickly,” he said of performing. “All his music is in heavy rotation in my house,” he said. “I have love for all music: jazz, Hip-Hop, funk, R&B. But Miles was the granddaddy.” So will we see Cheadle in the role anytime soon? That all depends on a studio stepping up and facing the proverbial music.

Thompson Hotels Launches Inn-Sight Blog

Your friends and ours at Thompson Hotels (6 Columbus, 60 Thompson, Thompson LES, Gild Hall, Smyth, Hollywood Roosevelt, Thompson Beverly Hills, Hotel Sax, and Donovan House) have launched a new blog called Inn-Sight. Spinning off the Room100 concept of yore, Inn-Sight posts about fashion, art, culture, and of course travel, plus interviews and cool stuff happening in and around the various Thompsons. Plus, it’s overseen by our pal Steve Garbarino — check out his Editor’s Letter for the goods on what’s going down over there.

New York Takes L.A. in ‘Our City Dreams’

Try as I may, I can’t seem to escape New York. I left a little over a year ago, and there I was Friday night, in a theater, watching a movie, written and directed by a New Yorker (Chiara Clemente, the daughter of a famous painter Francesco Clemente) which was about five female New York-based artists. The documentary, Our City Dreams, gives an entrancing slice of the life each woman and their art. I liked watching these women work with their hands, and hearing them explain how they came to produce their art and explain the ideas behind it. They ranged from the very young Swoon (age 30) to the very old Nancy Spero (age 80), and included Egyptian artist Ghada Amer, performance artist Marina Abramovic, and New York artist royalty, sculptor Kiki Smith. New York City itself is, in some ways, the sixth character; Clemente, who grew up there, moved away, and went back, seeks to document how New York influences the artists, as much as she does to document the art they make.

I was at the flick because my old friend Tanya Selvaratnam (also a New Yorker) was one of the producers and had invited me. I came alone and was wedged in at the end of a row of very fabulous-looking girls wearing their best glittery party dresses. During the segment about Abramovic, a Serbian transplant whose performance art incorporates nudity and self-mutilation, I got a perverse joy from watching these dainty girls stare at the powerful woman onscreen, open-mouthed. It had probably never occurred to them there was another way to be a woman than being oh-so-pretty; it does now.

The very New York afterparty in the cozy, classy Bond Street Lounge at Thompson Beverly Hills (to which the crowd largely walked to in anti-L.A. fashion), was cramped and filled with people grappling for Moet like textile designer; Lulu deKwiatkowski and Alfredo Gilardini; and skater Tony Alva. (The New York premiere was even more glittery and drew Diane Von Furstenberg, Waris Ahluwhalla, and Chiara’s parents Francesco and Alba Clemente).

At the Bond Street Lounge, I was besieged by more former inhabitants of my old city. There was Angeleno editor-in-chief Degen Pener, whose mag was sponsoring the party and Rolling Stone/New York mag writer extraordinaire Vanessa Grigoriadis, who introduced me to ex-New Yorker, renowned club guru Amanda Scheer Demme. Upon overhearing that I had lived on Ave C and Fifth Street, Demme piped up and said that back in the 80s she had worked at the notorious club, The World.

“So,” I said, “you must know Steve Lewis,” BlackBook’s very own columnist. Of course she did; everyone who worked in nightlife in the 80s knew Steve Lewis, and he was a fixture at the door of The World. We spent the next half hour or so batting back and forth New Yorkers we knew, and it turned out there were quite a few — like Mario Diaz, another ex-New Yorker now living in L.A. — proving that no matter how hard you try, you can never really leave New York.

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Industry Insiders: Jen Egan, LA Nightlife Headliner

Jen Egan, Gen Art’s ubiquitous It Girl and Project Runway’s eagle eye, on being perpetually “out,” decoding Japanese door lists, and why Beverly Hills fashion still sucks.

Where do you hang out? I love the Tower Bar at the Sunset Tower Hotel. Jeff Klein is a good friend, and Dimitry, who does not need a last name just like Madonna and Cher need no other name, is bar none the best host in the city. He will greet you with his adorable Italian accent, “Ciao bella,” and kiss you, always both cheeks, and never an air kiss. Tower Bar is dark enough to take 10 years off me, swank enough that there are always celebrity sightings, and intimate enough that you feel cozy munching on the amazing thin crust pizza and drinking champagne, a.k.a. “champers dahhhling.”

On the other side of the spectrum, I love St. Nicks Pub for a cold beer and to get back in touch with my Irish roots. And, The Otheroom is a staple in my repertoire, only because it is very close to my house and has a prolific selection of wines and beers.

What do you do? I go out a lot. I throw 30 parties and attend what seems like another 200 a year. I once thought it’d be very glamorous to throw and attend the city’s hottest parties, but it is actually grueling, because it is mostly work. I use strong under-eye make-up to take away the dark circles.

I’m also the national vice president of marketing and business development of Gen Art, a national nonprofit dedicated to showcasing, promoting, and supporting the arts. We just celebrated our 15-year anniversary. We’ve helped discover hundreds of amazing new designers and produced thousands of shows. I oversee a team in each one of our markets who ensures that we continue to grow our audience, press, and branding equity. I also work on casting for shows like Project Runway and am currently working on a new show called The Sew Off.

Who do you admire in nightlife? I have to say it, and I know this will be controversial, unless The Hills is your fave show: Brent Bolthouse. Before you snicker, let me explain. He was really the first to carve out the celebrity nightlife space, and overexposed clubs and restaurants aside, he really is a brilliant architect of nightlife. Amanda Demme is also a fearless arbiter of nightlife. She has impeccable taste and “gets it” when predicting what will resonate with the indie but nonetheless A-list crowd.

What trends do you like in nightlife these days? Hotel bars are making a huge comeback, to my surprise and delight. All the best hotels, and even the more questionable ones, are giving their bars a Kelly Wearstler-like makeover and appealing to the post-work-in-need-of-a-drink crowd. I’ve also noticed that a lot of clubs and bars are incorporating more art into their spaces and events. They’ll have an art exhibition displayed on the walls, a new film projected, a fashion vignette, or installation or experimental new music.

Anything you can’t stand? I hate the idea of “the list.” I think the idea of a VIP room or space within a bar or club is so late 90s. I love the rooftop at Thompson Beverly Hills, but every time I go, the door girl looks at me like I am trying to smuggle heroin across a border. I hear that the beautiful Japanese door-nazi actually writes her lists in her native language so that no one can peek over and give a name off the list. Secretly, I find that kind of glamorous, but completely preposterous.

What is something that people might not know about you? My favorite thing to do is nothing. My job requires that I am out a lot of the time, and my job is highly demanding. When I get a free moment, I actually love to do absolutely nothing.

What are you listening to? My favorite new artist is MGMT. My favorite group of all time is Radiohead, and my favorite DJ is Michelle Pesce.

Where do we find LA fashion at its best? Part of what I love about Los Angeles is that it is so different geographically. Depending on which pocket of the city you are in, you will get a different flavor. My favorite place to observe fashion is Venice because it is the perfect mixture of hipster beach couture. It is a melting pot from a fashion standpoint.

And what about at its worst? I do think the worst fashion in LA can be found in Beverly Hills. It is very “nuevo” and label focused. As an advocate for emerging talent, I am obviously not a big fan of logo-heavy clothing and accessories.

You hit tons of parties in LA. What’s new with all those darned celebrities? I swear to you that Luke Wilson is following me. Just in the last three days, I have seen him at the SLS Hotel, Blvd at the Beverly Wilshire and The Brig. I mean, he could just pick up a phone, there’s no need to lurk around my haunts.

Is there anything particularly mind-blowing Gen Art is seeing from artists in LA these days? With the economy being as it is, we are seeing designs that are multi-functional. They can go from a skirt to a strapless dress with the pull of a snap, or a tunic top to palazzo pants with the flick of a tie.

And finally, what are you doing tonight? I am casting for The Sew Off in Glendale, so I’ll be fighting traffic tonight. I know it sounds super sexy, but it really isn’t. I will then be attending a mustache and minis party

Above Allen, a Down-to-Earth New Lounge

Above Allen, or AA, had its soft opening on Friday — but since it’s a terrace where being outside is most important, don’t expect things to completely pop for a couple of months. The first thing that struck me was the couches with their Stephen Sprouse print. I did a triple-take and caught up to my friend Jim Walrod, the designer, and asked him about them. Med Abrous is putting this insanely downtown chic joint on the map. I know Med from the Mark Ronson days of Life, and after an hour of catching up, I asked him a few questions to clarify what’s going to happen here.

The Thompson LES Hotel looms large over the still-vibrant-in-this-recession Lower East Side with a smart, hip staff and the belief that it will be a part of the neighborhood. Embracing those values instead of being above it all seems to be the right path. There was an old movie called Dead End which starred Sylvia Sydney, Joel McCrea, a young Humphrey Bogart, and the Dead End Kids (Bernard Punsley, one of the Dead End Kids was a great-great uncle of mine). Anyway, in the movie an incredible new ivory tower looms over the Lower East Side, and all the people in the 1937 Depression-era slums look up at the swells partying like its 1924 above them. I asked Med about the similarities — was this going to be a ritzy place in a hood slipping into economic misery? But he seemed dedicated to embracing the LES and its artistic/hipster side, especially by keeping drink and food prices relatively low. Designer Jim Walrod’s use of the Stephen Sprouse fabric in the décor sends that signal. Jim said, “There was nobody more downtown than Stephen,” and we exchanged personal stories of our interactions with him. All agreed that despite his brilliance, Stephen was always accessible — and so they say, will be AA.

Jim, is this fabric really … JW:… Steven Sprouse? Yes, It’s the last fabric that exists.

This really is the original fabric? JW: Yes, they didn’t even have enough of it to finish the seats, so we reduced the amount of furniture.

So instead of just knocking it off and reprinting, this is the original. Many people still don’t know who Sprouse is, but he’s getting a lot of press now. His work is finally being recognized by huge groups of people. So Jim, what’s the design idea here? JW:The building is on the LES, and there’s nobody I can associate more with the LES than Stephen Sprouse. When I was young, Sprouse sort of stood as the icon of this part of town. When I used to go to clubs, him and Terri Toy would be sitting there, and they were almost unapproachable, until you did finally meet them, and they were the nicest people you could imagine.

Terri Toy was a transgendered friend who broke out and did YSL fashion shows before retiring to Iowa as a housewife — a great LES story. JW: Stephen was always one of those people who represented something. When rockers wanted to look like rockers, they went to Stephen. When Axl Rose wanted to look like a rocker, he went to Stephen, and Stephen designed everything for him. He was also the curator of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. So when I decided to do this room, Stephen Sprouse was very much a part of it.

So it’s not the ghost of Stephen Sprouse, it is the inspiration of his life that is teaching us how we can be. The fact that there’s a commitment to this excellence, to bring this LES icon into this new kind of environment is very important I think. JW: Absolutely, I think what we’re really trying to do here is to keep in line with the Thompson brand, which is a luxury boutique hotel brand, but not take away from the LES and what it is. Marrying the two in such a way that we still have an authentic LES vibe, while maintaining the kind of expectations of great service that the Thompson been known for.

What’s the name of this place? Med Abrous: It’s called Above Allen. So it’s AA, which is a funny name for a bar.

The views are incredible, I see the Empire State Building, the Chrysler building, and downtown, and the LES stretching before us. MA: Yeah, we’re actually hanging off the seventh floor of the building over Allen Street, and the reason for naming it Above Allen is to be consistent. We’re branding these terraces or bars as above whatever hotel they’re in. A60 is the bar on top of 60 Thompson, and the bar that I’m involved with in the Thompson Beverley Hills has an amazing roof deck called ABH, which means Above Beverly Hills. So it’s trying to incorporate this brand in different properties around the US. One of the things I think the Thompson does well is that each hotel they build is really reflective of the neighborhood. There’s always the consistency of luxury and service, but they really go out of their way to try and make it part of the neighborhood and really create something unique.

When are you opening? MA: In early March. There have been previews, like a little something for New Years’ Eve, but our strategy is not just to do a big grand opening and burn too brightly too quickly.

Well, this is a terrace, and opening a terrace is the winter is kind of strange isn’t it? MA: It is strange … there could definitely be better times to do it, but what we’re trying to do is see how the room moves, make sure the staff is well-trained and that we’re providing great service.

Some people believe that this is a recession-proof neighborhood because these kids have a way of making money — they’re young, they’re hustlers. Do you think you can you make money here? MA: I absolutely think so. What’s great about this neighborhood is that people who come down here and open something are really looking to run a marathon. They’re not looking to be the hottest club on the planet for three months then die out and struggle to keep business alive. I think people come in here with a longsighted vision, and we’re very much of that same thought. I think we’re going to have a very long life and really become a destination place so you always know that you can come to Above Allen and there will always be good people, a great setting and good design. Our goal is to meld all of those things, including great music and great vibe into a harmonious experience always.

What are your price points? MA: Our prices are actually really competitive for the neighborhood. They’re not extravagant at all, although hotels generally are more expensive than other bars. It’s about $11 for a drink, and specialty cocktails are $14, whereas more places it would be $16 or $18.

Is that because of the neighborhood, or is it the neighborhood meeting the recession? MA: I think it’s both. We don’t want to alienate ourselves from people in the neighborhood. It’s an extremely artistic, driven community, and people don’t want to just spend $15 on a drink or $10 on a beer. It’s not that crowd — we’re not trying to bring Cipriani’s to the LES.

What kind of music are you going to play? JW: We’re going to have really eclectic music. It’s not a dance club, so in choosing my DJs, I’m much more interested in track selection rather than turntablist ability. We’re not going to have A-Trak or a real turntablist cutting up. We’re in the process of programming different nights, but anywhere from soul to a lot of rock ‘n’ roll, to indie rock, since we’re on the LES.

When can my readers come here to imbibe? MA: We’re going to start off opening about three nights a week, Thursday through Saturday, just to get to operations down smoothly. It’s going to be very friends and family in the beginning. With all our Above properties, we do special membership cards. They don’t cost anything, there’s no membership fee, but if you’re special enough, you’ll receive one in the mail so you can just go right up into the elevator and you’re not dealing with a myriad of door people or security, and that’s kind of the vibe here. But we want it to be a really cool group of people — everyone who’s bringing something to the table vs. just large bank accounts — so we’re also not really planning on doing lots of bottle service up here. We just want to have really great crowds.

What’s the door policy? MA: Well, there will be a doorperson at the bottom of the elevator, and they’ll be keying people up. We’re talking about having a dedicated elevator, but since this is a brand new construction our elevators work damn well. I’m really excited about this property … I think it comes at a difficult time, but we’re all excited about this particular bar, and I think we will have a great time. We have a lot of the right pieces in place.

You’re in a hotel, so is there an amount of money that the hotel requires you to generate? Is there less pressure than a normal bar wouldn’t have to deal with to generate revenue, as the bar also services the hotel guests — do you have a certain rent to cover each month? MA: In operating any venue in a hotel, there are lots of advantages especially that in a hotel most of the revenue is generated by rooms. So, yes, there is a dedicated amount going to rent, but the pressures of being overly profitable are not the same.

Are you serving food here? MA: Yes, we’re going to have a menu with small plates from Shang until 2 a.m. through April. That’s another thing — we’re more interested in the crowd that goes out between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. We don’t want to be a place where people get here at 2 and become that late-night place.

But a place will evolve it’s own identity. If at 2 a.m. you’re packed with a good crowd, you’re not closing the door. MA: Exactly, but really what we’re aiming towards is to have an earlier place where people can come and have cocktails and maybe start their night if they’re going to have a late one — or, just be a destination, like, hey you know what? I’ve got to work tomorrow. I’m going to be done by one or two.

New York Opening: Smyth Hotel

imageSmyth, the latest offering from the Thompson Hotels group (60 Thompson, Gild Hall, 6 Columbus, Thompson LES, Hollywood Roosevelt, Thompson Beverly Hills, Donovan House) is opening early this January. Look for free wifi, absolutely modern decor, Kiehl’s bath products, and some naughty surprises in-room. Luckily enough, it’s a particularly inauspicious time to be opening anything, much less a boutique hotel, and so deals definitely abound. You can check out this normally high-priced hotel for the incredible bargain-basement prices of $119 a night.

The Best New Business Hotels

imageFortune has a slideshow up of the 33 best new business hotels. We’ve highlighted the ones we like:

Thompson Beverly Hills in Los Angeles. • The Liberty in Boston. • Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago.

Gild Hall in New York. • Hotel Opus in Montreal. • Haymarket Hotel in London. • Jia Shangahi in Shanghai.

Check out the entire list here.