Thursday, February 25, 2010

China Club, Copacabana, Double Windsor, Touch, Upstairs and Vander Bar

The Nightlife Report for February 25, 2010

Compiled by
Gamal Hennessy

…I hunt down the nightlife news so you don’t have to…

Coming Soon
(Club Planet)
The operators behind the iconic Latin dance spot are trying to grab the China Club space (see Closing below). As
midtown grows as a potential nightlife hub, a good dance space with a retractable roof sounds like a great idea. I wonder if they will bring back the Tuesday night buffet dinner and the live salsa bands. Midtown could use that kind of energy to wash away the image that China Club had at the end of its run…

Vander Bar
The Roosevelt Hotel on 45th Street is planning to add a new bar to its amenities. Vander bar bills itself as a hideaway for locals, but considering its location (right next to Grand Central) and its operating hours (12:00-9:00 Monday to Friday) it feels like this will be another upscale Midtown option for the liquid lunch/ corporate Happy Hour/ need to grab a drink before I catch the Metro North set. This is not a bad thing. The foreplay of New York nightlife has to start somewhere. It might as well be upscale.

(Urban Daddy)
You can add this hotel based venue to the growing list of retractable roof lounges that currently include Hudson Terrace and Provocateur. Maybe every decent rooftop in New York should become some type of venue. That’s one more way to
deal with the agonizing smoking issue that is festering in the industry…

China Club
Earlier this week,
Barfly wrote that the troubled midtown spot was undergoing a name change to try and re-brand itself. That gambit appears to have failed and Eater is reporting that the space is now closed. The good news is that new operators are already standing by to take over the venue and make it safe to dance in midtown again.

(New York Post)
The post reports (and a DJ reader of New York Nights has confirmed) that the SLA suspended the license of the midtown nightclub for a series of infractions that include underage drinking, overcrowding and employment of unlicensed security. The operators are planning to fight the SLA ruling, but since
the new chairman is looking to establish a reputation for enforcement, Touch is going to be fighting an uphill battle.

Double Windsor
Among the young mothers and MILFs of Williamsburg and Park Slope, taking your baby to the bar for an evening of drinks with the ladies has been a regular site for the past few years. Operators and patrons have tried to adjust to the diaper changing in the bathrooms, crying at the bar (from cranky children instead of forlorn adults) and Maclaren strollers parked out front. The Double Windsor is trying to reverse the trend by taking the bold step of banning babies after 5 PM. Time will tell if the anti-baby backlash from drinking mothers will bring down the bar. Maybe if they reserved a special “mom’s only” night they could reduce tensions and make everyone happy…except of course for the cranky crying baby.

Smoke Signals
(New York Magazine)
The stated goal in passing the smoking ban was to help operators by protecting them from second hand smoke. Now the city wants to close clubs that have allegedly violated the ban. Matt Harvey asks if putting hundreds of operators out of work will actually help them at all.

Have fun

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Solutions to the Smoking Ban

By Gamal Hennessy

One of the
most contentious issues in New York nightlife this year, or in the past 7 years, is the ban on smoking. It draws the wrath of local residents down on club owners who follow the law. It generates animosity between smokers and non smokers in venues that don’t throw smokers outside. In extreme cases, venues are having their liquor licenses threatened and might be forced to close based on the actions of their patrons. Seven years under the current regulations have exposed problems in the system. What are the solutions that can serve the interests of everyone involved?

Outside vs. Inside
The smoking ban adds to the tension between club owners and local residents because when smokers are pushed outside it sets off a
cycle of disruption and noise. You might think that a few people standing outside a venue will not substantially increase the level of street noise, but that concept only considers the smokers themselves. Smokers, especially attractive female smokers, provide a powerful incentive for groups of male fanatics to hang out in front of a club (especially if they couldn’t get in or got thrown out.) In a twisted effort to get noticed and prove their sexual superiority, these individuals will shout, get into fights, honk their horns if they are in their cars, or try to talk to girls from their cars and back up traffic behind them, which causes other cars to blow their horns. Fortunately for residents who live near the club, this mating cacophony will die down when the girls finish smoking and go back inside, but it will begin again when the next group of girls comes out of the club to take their place. If you change the law so smokers are not smoking out on the street in front of a bar, you reduce the negative impact the venue has on local residents.

Smokers vs. Non Smokers
Once you bring the smoking issue back within the four walls of the venue, accommodations need to be made to
separate the smokers from the non-smokers. Published reports and anecdotal evidence suggest that a substantial number of non smoking nightlife patrons do not want to mix with active smokers indoors. To create physical separation, venues with separate rooms can designate the room furthest in the back as a smoking area. This will prevent non-smokers from having to travel through a nicotine cloud to get to their part of the club. Venues without separate rooms could have pressurized walls put in to create mini rooms inside the venue. As long as these rooms were properly ventilated and otherwise conformed to local building codes, smokers could smoke indoors and still be separated from the rest of the patrons and operators.

Clear the Air
Even if smokers were brought back inside and separated from the general population of patrons, something would have to be done with the smoke coming out of the smoking room in order for second hand smoke to be eliminated as a health and odor concern. Technology can provide the best solution here. There are
air filtration systems on the market that have been approved by the Department of Health and are currently used by infectious disease wards in hospitals to clean the air. These systems reportedly are the size of a humidifier and one of them can keep 1,250 square feet of interior air cleaner than the air in Central Park, even if 60% of the people are smoking inside. If the law was modified and operators created separate spaces for smokers and installed air filtration units in the club, smokers could smoke without creating unnecessary noise for residents or an additional health hazard for patrons.

Targets the Actors, Not the Scene
There is only so much that an operator can do to stop smoking in their venue. Whether or not the city decides to allow for a more reasonable approach to the ban, one thing that needs to change is the parties that are punished for ignoring the ban. Under the current system, the patron ignores the ban and the operator is punished. There is no real disincentive for the patron to either continue smoking or to go to another venue to smoke. If the
onus was placed on the smoker, if the Department of Health or some other organization that has enforcement powers fined the smoker instead of the bar, then the smokers might think twice before lighting up. I am not advocating DOH monitors in every venue. I am pointing out that any group that can act and know that someone else will be punished for their action has little reason to change their behavior.

Cities around the world are coming to the conclusion that open smoking in venues is no longer acceptable. But protecting public health does not have to lead to detrimental effects on nightlife. There are solutions that the current ban does not utilize. Failing to modify the law to take these options into account hurts everyone both inside the clubs and outside of them. It is time to move past the entrenched positions of City Hall to develop a plan that addresses the reality of the situation.

Have fun.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kenmare, Out NYC, Polar and Super Dive

The Nightlife Report for February 17, 2010
Compiled by
Gamal Hennessy

…I hunt down the nightlife news so you don’t have to…

Urban Daddy
The Gramercy Hotel gets a cold, quiet rendezvous spot.

Urban Daddy
If you are still waiting for the new Beatrice to open up (I have it on good authority that it will open soon. No I cannot and will not tell you where), talk your way into this Nolita lounge to practice your high class living.

The huge Williamsburg Beer Hall plans to be even bigger when the snow finally melts.

Club Planet
Rumors are floating around that the recently famous dive bar might be recently closed by the DOB

Coming Soon
Daily News
News has been swirling all week about NYC’s first gay themed hotel. The obvious news is that the space will include its own nightclub (which I think is mandatory). The less obvious news is that this seems like yet another sign that nightlife has decided to avoid the hostile CB’s downtown and take root in the
lower rent traveler friendly areas of midtown. As Out NYC joins Gansevoort Park Avenue and Hi Note in Midtown, one can only wonder if Midtown East or the Garment District

Sean Bell
(National Public Radio)The Department of Justice declined to file criminal civil rights charges against the members of the Club Enforcement Initiative who killed Sean Bell outside a strip club in Queens in 2006. While the DOJ agreed that the officers were wrong in gunning down an innocent man, they felt they could not meet the burden of proof that the Federal statute calls for. The police officers involved were already acquitted of the other charges against them in 2006

The poorly conceived plan to revive the legendary venue fails before it even gets started.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gansevoort Park Ave, Village Tart and Fraunces Tavern

Nightlife Town Hall Meeting
Local residents, nightlife operators, police and other interested groups met at PS 20 last week to discuss a variety of issues related to the nightlife industry with Denis Rosen, chairman of the New York State Liquor Authority. While everyone present got a chance to voice their opinions and ask questions, nightlife patrons, the largest group in nightlife did not have a voice in the proceedings. If local politicians plan to make this an ongoing event, we need to take our seat at the table or get left out of discussions that matter to us.

Coming Soon
Gansevoort Park Avenue
(New York Times)
Just as the
Hi Note is planning to open, we get another signal that midtown could be the next nightlife hub. The owners of the Meatpacking anchor Gansevoort Hotel are planning a sister location on the East Side, complete with rooftop pool and multiple lounges. But can the hotel bring nightlife to an area already teeming with potential NIMBY residents? Stay tuned…

Fraunces Tavern
George Washington's neighborhood bar is closing this weekend, so if you want to plan a revolution or just organize the next Tea Party protest downtown, you’ll have to go to Stone Street…

Syed Rahman
The killer of
Ingrid Rivera has pled guilty to killing the club patron inside Spotlight Live. He’ll be sentenced on March 16th for sneaking the girl back into the club, taking her up to the roof, hitting her in the head with a steel pole and cutting her throat.

Village Tart
(Zagat Buzz)
A former LES dry cleaners has re-imagined itself as a bakery/ wine bar. Local residents were up in arms about it at the Nightlife City Hall Meeting last week (see above) but few combinations are sweeter than cupcakes and moscato.

Have fun

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bar Above Cabin, Denis Rosen, Sasha Petraske and New York’s Toughest Doors

The NYN Club Report for February 4, 2010
Compiled by Gamal Hennessy

…I hunt down the nightlife news so you don’t have to…

Bar above Cabin
(Urban Daddy)
The owners of Bowery Electric and Niagara hide a speakeasy…on top of another speakeasy.

Coming Soon
Pain Killer
East Side Company is transforming itself from a speakeasy to a tiki bar, because while we have plenty of speakeasies, we don’t have many tiki bars.

Toughest Doors in NYC
(Club Planet)
Taryn Haight offers her list of the best places in New York that you can’t get into

Denis Rosen
(Crain’s New York)
The new chairman of the State Liquor Authority has already
reduced the backlog of pending applications by 35% in the first few months of his tenure. Now he is pushing to change liquor laws that haven’t been updated since the end of Prohibition in the 1930s. New York might finally be getting an executive in the SLA who actually wants to support and enhance New York nightlife.

Sasha Petraske
The local cocktail legend (Little Branch, Milk and Honey, East Side Company) is running away from CB 3 to open his latest venue in Midtown East.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Can the Merger of Clubs and Condos Save Both from the Recession?

by Gamal Hennessy

New York Magazine reported earlier this week that Ohm, one of the newer buildings on 11th Avenue and the Highline is going to open part of the space for live music acts, rotating DJ parties and open mic nights. While some might see this as a desperate move by the real estate developers, it could be the start of an innovative strategy that aligns the interests of developers and operators in tough economic times.

Several groups face challenges after the real estate boom ended. Operators are trying to discover ways to stay in New York and keep their venues profitable amid rising costs. Developers are trying to discover ways to recover from the economic downturn and turn their expensive buildings into places that attract people and make money. The city has a vested interest in both seeing the buildings succeed and retaining nightlife venues. This convergence of interests could create a situation in which the three groups work together instead of separately as they have in the past.

Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together
It is standard business practice in Las Vegas, Miami and on Caribbean resorts to place nightlife venues inside hotel properties. While these venues are often described as additional amenities for hotel guests, clubs and lounges inside these properties attract thousands of patrons who are guests of other hotels or residents of the city. The situation allows the hotel to draw a substantial stream of revenue which wouldn’t be tapped into if they only served their own guests. The combination is so common in Las Vegas that it is difficult to find a club that isn’t in a hotel. This marriage of convenience benefits the hotel owners, the club owners and the city itself.

Venues inside hotels are not uncommon in New York City. Times Square, Columbus Circle, the Meatpacking District, SoHo and other parts of the city all boast hotels that include at least one nightlife venue. The SoHo and TriBeCa Grands, Above Allen, The Standard, the Gansevoort, the Maritime Hotel and the Empire Hotel come to mind instantly. The clubs generate revenue and marketing buzz for the hotel, making it a more attractive place for tourists to stay and a destination of choice for residents. While it is much more common to find independent nightlife venues in New York City,
the hotel club or lounge is not a new phenomenon in the city.

Can Ohm take that idea to another level? What prevents a real estate developer sitting on an overpriced, vacant West Chelsea condo building from converting part of it into a lounge? Why can’t she generate a small stream of revenue while the real estate market is soft, using the club as a way to attract potential buyers to see the location, moving the name of the building out into the public, providing an “exclusive” perk to new buyers and becoming the first place that young professionals want to live when the market picks up again? If the hotel lounge can work, then what prevents the condo lounge from working as well?

There are several conditions that may prevent this idea from working. A building that is already planned or completed might not have the proper space to retrofit a lounge or it might not have the proper sound proofing to serve the lounge and the adjacent units. Obtaining a liquor license for a condo building might be difficult, especially if hostile community boards see the condo lounge as a tactic for operators to sneak back into the neighborhood. Families with children might avoid a building that is known for club activity. The wear and tear on a building increases in area where patrons congregate. The property value of the units might decrease sharply if fanatic activity rises. There could be existing laws that prevent a building owner from offering this type of service. By nature, hotel guests are transient so they might be willing to accept what permanent residents won’t. The condo lounge is not an idea without risks, but a developer sitting on a mostly abandoned building who knows a savvy operator might be able to create a mutually beneficial situation for the building owner and the operator.

Nightlife is not the natural enemy of real estate development. The ability of the two groups to work together is contingent upon politics and economics. Any law or political situation that prevents venues and buildings from prospering together can be changed if the perceptions of the people are changed. The ability to retain jobs, and tax revenue and spending in the city is a product of the two groups working together. A dialogue that includes nightlife as part of the solution - instead of the problem - has the potential to benefit the developers, the operators and the city.

Have fun.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Media Coverage for Seize the Night

The Preview Party at Happy Ending successfully entertained its guests and promoted the impending release of
Seize the Night. Here is how the local media covered the event.

Guest of a Guest
GoG just published a piece on last week's party complete with incriminating pictures (you know who you are). And btw, the book does not devote an entire chapter to open bars...Five pages? Yes. A whole chapter? No.

The NBC affiliate site turned a simple conversation in a converted steam room into me picking a fight with the mayor over the smoking ban. Oops.

SoHo Journal
A chic local paper decides that the STN Preview Party deserves mention as a cultural event…which it did.

Have fun.