"The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire." — Malcolm Gladwell
During December 1978 (Steve) Rubell was quoted in the New York newspapers as saying the Studio had made $7 million in its first year and that "only the Mafia made more money." Shortly thereafter, the nightclub was raided and Rubell and Schrager were arrested for skimming $2.5 million…
The nightclub closed with one final party called, "The End of Modern-day Gomorrah" on February 4, 1980. Diana Ross, Ryan O'Neal, Mariel Hemingway, Jocelyn Wildenstein, Richard Gere, Gia Carangi, Jack Nicholson, Reggie Jackson, and Sylvester Stallone (who, as rumor has it, bought the last drink) were among the guests that night. New York lawyer Gary P. Naftalis represented Schrager successfully in the ensuing tax-evasion prosecution. After the nightclub's closing, cocaine and money were found in its walls. Schrager and Rubell were found guilty and would spend 13 months in prison.
“The End of Modern-day Gommorah” was also the beginning of what is modern-day nightlife. Studio 54 was launched for the first time, on April 26th, 1977. That means, the Studio that we all read about ceased to exist in one way or another after 33 months of operation. It would eventually re-open in September of 1981, and embark on a second five-year run before closing for good. As far as I am told, after its brief re-introduction, it never returned to its previous grandeur, but only flourished financially due to minimal competition and an incredible reputation.
Fast forward to 2010; competition is fierce and nightlife is big business. With this in mind, Cocktail Hour is launching “THE TREND SET,” a regularly updated list of the top nightclubs, lounges, restaurants, and hotels in the world of Trend-Driven Hospitality (TDH).
Trend-Driven Hospitality (TDH) refers to restaurants, nightclubs, lounges, bars, and hotels that combine elements of design, lifestyle, entertainment, and public relations/event-driven marketing. Not the Holiday Inn, but the Waverly Inn. Not a Coffee Shop, The Coffee Shop. You get the picture. It mainly exists in gateway cities such as New York, Los Angeles, London, and Miami, as well as the seasonal destinations for the clientele who frequent these venues. The hospitality outlets featured are regularly present in gossip columns such as Page Six, weeklies such as US Weekly, and blogs like this one, GuestofaGuest, and Eater.
In order to execute this properly, we have put together a panel of industry experts and consumers, who have confidentially provided us with their opinions on what is and what isn’t, who is on their way up and who is on their way out. The criteria measured include crowd, energy, vibe, celebrity attendance, music, service, press coverage, consistency, special events, and quality of product. Also taken in to account, are the health of the business, business ethics, competitive set, promoter involvement, and reputation within the industry.
Leave your coats at the check, settle your bill at the bar, and the hostess will take you to your prime table. Welcome to nightlife and hospitality’s version of the Billboard charts. Who is number 1 and how long can they hold on to the top spot? Only time will tell…
Top 5 Nightclubs (in order): Competition is tight for the top 3 spots
1. Avenue – Tepperberg & Strauss are still on top. But for how long? They have the bankroll, the door policy, the celebs, the connections, and the models. The only question is does the venue have the energy and vibe to really rock? All the great kings of nightlife have stumbled in the past, but the chess champion Tepperberg, always seems to be a step ahead.
2. 1Oak – Butter is still going after over five years of operation. Ritchie and Scott have loyalty and credibility with the right group of people. Hell, Jay-Z wrote a song with the hook, “if I ain’t at Butter, I am down at 1Oak.” SL is inching up on both. What happens when Scott and Richie move their focus to the new Nell’s?
3. SL – 1Oak is a few years old and SL is heating up – there are arguments for each in the number two spot. EMM Group have the support of Abe & Arthur's success, a bankroll (click here to see this weeks article in Forbes), a loyal crowd, and plenty of girls. Only knock is that the crowd could be a little less homogenous, but like everything, this is a process and I don’t think owning nightlife is their only goal.
4. RDV/Kiss & Fly – A high energy lounge and club, attached and anchored by juggernaut Bagatelle. Kiss & Fly recently re-launched with “Tuesday Baby Tuesdays,” the longest running party in nightlife. RDV should be here to stay – can Kiss & Fly reignite the flame?
5. Juliet – Jon B has always been known for bringing the biggest crowds, and he has been putting together a team of veteran scenesters to drive his empire, including Tony Theodore, Mark Baker, and Barry Mullineaux. This one started out as restaurant, but seems to be leaning more in the direction of club. The numbers are good – lots of Euros and the ladies that love ‘em. All the boys above should keep their eyes peeled for the dark horse Jon B... he is a crafty business man.
Top 5 Lounges/Bars (in order): A battle is shaping up between Boom & Rose
1. Boom Boom Room – Just awarded their cabaret license, we soon may have to refer to this as a club, or as (per sources) maybe even a private club. On another note, a few people who never would have been granted access to Rose Bar have recently told me to meet them at Boom Boom. Can this corporate behemoth hotel hold onto authentic non-contrived cool? This month they are, but for how long?
2. Rose Bar – Rose Bar will be on this list forever. Do you have a multi-million dollar art collection in a hotel designed by Julian Schnabel and run by Ian Schrager and Nur Khan? I didn’t think so.
3. Bowery Hotel Upstairs – I am not sure this venue has ever been officially opened. It is just there and perfect, absolutely one of the most beautiful spaces in Manhattan. This speaks to the brilliance of Eric Goode and Sean Macpherson: sometimes the best strategy is no strategy. It works especially well when you have an incredible location and magnificent design talents.
4. Goldbar – Reinvigorated by John Lennon’s promotional efforts, Goldbar is probably the most creatively designed independent venue in Manhattan. Rob Mckinley is an incredible designer and Jamie Mulholland has an outstanding commitment to quality.
5. Cipriani Upstairs – There are so many mediocre lounges that I could have chosen for the number five slot. At least Cipriani Upstairs is the best spot for rich dudes and cougars, and there are even top quality models paid to be there. If you don’t know someone don’t bother, and they will never change that policy, they would rather close. Sunday night karaoke anyone?
Top 10 Restaurants (in order): Kenmare bursts on the scene, knocking off Minetta. Can the downtown duo deliver like McNally?
1. Kenmare – This is where you will find the people you are looking for eating and drinking. On her show, Martha Stewart talks about a restaurant by Paul Sevigny and Nur Khan, while eating meatball sliders. The perfect storm of downtown New York?
2. Minetta Tavern – The current crown jewel in the McNally Empire. My last visit included appearances by Sophia Coppola, Common, Serena Williams, and Mr. Mcnally himself. Not only that, but the food is spectacular.
3. Maialino – Danny Meyer has never really been known for sexy and trendy, but everything in the Gramercy Hotel is sexy and trendy, not to mention timeless. Excluding Rao’s, this is the hardest reservation in Manhattan right now.
4. Abe & Arthur’s – This restaurant not only has deliciously consistent and creative food, it has the most jamming bar scene in Manhattan. If you can get a table in the main dining room, you are sitting amongst the best of young New York, and there is an abundance of beautiful people. Brunch is launching this week and I am told it’s decadent.
5. Bagatelle – If you are European or international, and you are visiting the Meatpacking District, afternoon or evening, this is your spot. If you’re a young professional from an investment bank and like to think you are European or international, this is also your spot. Either way, you will have to wait even if you can get a reservation, day or night; you won’t get into Bagatelle without a fight.
6. The Breslin – I think the food is too heavy, but people are lining up for whiskey shots with a shot of pickle juice as a chaser, followed by lamb scrumpets, even on a Monday night. I guess that's the power of the owner of the Spotted Pig opening in the hipster magnet Ace Hotel.
7. Waverly Inn – Not what it once was, but still a force with celebrities and a great scene. I doubt Graydon Carter and partners will ever not have the “it” factor at this restaurant, but like Balthazar, Pastis, and others, it will eventually become more about what was, than what is.
8. The Mark – Nothing this interesting has happened on the Upper East Side since Madoff. Jean Georges spent a “Ponzi Scheme” worth of money on this space and it is paying off big time with the ladies who lunch.
9. Má Pêche – David Chang of Momofuko’s first venture out of downtown Manhattan. Located in the former Town space at the Chambers Hotel, it is currently only open for lunch, but this restaurant is going to be the major spot over the next few months... and yes, there is a Milk Bar for you dessert freaks.
10. La Esquina – Located in what I believe is heart of downtown Manhattan, the original gangster of the SoCal taqueria craze keeps rocking. Reservations are still hard to get, the café is jamming all day every day, and tequila with fish tacos never goes out of style. “See you later Pistol. You got it Joben.”
Top 5 Hotels (in order): Balazs vs. Schrager, like Magic vs. Michael...
1. Standard Hotel – One of the most incredible hotel properties ever to be constructed in New York. It is not more beautiful or timeless than the Gramercy, but it is located at the corner of Trendy Ave and Tourist Blvd. In addition, there seem to still to be more surprises coming from this masterpiece. It is so of the moment, that similar to a great artist, its true impact won’t be completely understood for years.
2. Gramercy Park Hotel – The hotel that all boutique properties in New York will be measured against for the next few years. Schrager has an innate ability to find the perfect mix between art and commerce. And then just when you thought it was over, they bring in Danny Meyer and have Axl Rose perform. It is just not fair.
3. Ace Hotel – From Portland, Oregon comes an incredibly interesting property. It includes the Breslin, No.7 sub shop, Stumptown Roasters, and Tin Pan Alley, a coming bar from Breslin owner, Ken Friedman. Ace is a new style of boutique hotel and it is proving effective, by bringing hipsters to Madison square.
4. Bowery Hotel – Eric Goode and Sean Macpherson’s current muse, is the hub of this burgeoning neighborhood. Rumor has it this pair has recently purchased the Crow’s Nest Hotel in Montauk. Watch out Surf Lodge and Sunset Beach.
5. Trump SoHo – Even though it has a much different feel than the above properties, Trump Soho definitely has a lot to be excited about: the opening of Quattro Restaurant, the attached Kastel ground floor lounge, and the soon to open Bar’Deau rooftop pool lounge with Bocci Ball court. It will be interesting to see if these food and beverage operators from Miami will be able to translate their success to the Big Apple. What ever happened to B.E.D?
The TREND SET Rumor Mill: Can you smell the fresh cut grass of the Hamptons?
• Day & Night – The word is, Derek and Daniel Koch are taking the East Hampton Point space and turning it into this Day & Night destination.
• Georgica – Eugene and Mark are heading to Georgica in Easthampton to work with owner David Schulman this summer on Saturday nights. This should complement the return of the best Friday night in the Hamptons run by Ben Greiff and Dave Marino. Eugene and Mark also are looking to expand Abe & Arthur’s with multiple locations throughout the city in the near future.
• RDV Hamptons – The RDV team is rumored to be taking over the Tavern Southampton space and planning to invest money to make this a multi-year business. Details are yet to be released.
• Scott and Richie’s New Project – New restaurant and lounge in the Nell’s space is close to completion and I hear it is going to be incredible. Even though it may be ready sooner than later, who knows when it will open it to the public.
• The Lion – Chef John Delucie of the Waverly Inn teams up with Mark Amadei of Cafeteria to open The Lion, “a throwback to Delmonico’s.” Mr. DeLucie plans to cook unfussy, traditional fare, like lamb porterhouse and tagliatelle with rabbit.
• Faustina & The Cooper Square Hotel – “Shoulda woulda coulda” but never did. Sometimes you have a lot of money, a great location, and a great chef, but it just doesn’t work. What a fucking disaster is all I can say, hotel and restaurant.
The Trend Set is focused on capturing moments. The lifecycle of a trend-driven hospitality venue is introduction, peak, plateau, decline, close. The great operators can manage the peak and plateau like conductors (see Marquee and Tenjune). Let's look at Butter as an example. Just when it was slowing down as a restaurant, Scott and Richie launched Mondays and promoted their chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli. This immediately propelled Butter back onto the front page nationally. This is not a talent that can be taught or bought, it can only be learned through experience. As quickly as one of these moments exist, it can disappear. Do you see Amy Sacco on this list? At one point she would have owned it.
For some people, you all know them, trendiness is next to godliness. We see them every day, going out too much, denying their past and pretending their futures. But as far as I can tell, the key to being really cool, is not trying to be. So enjoy the discussion and spark up a doob-ate, but in the end, DO YOU.
Remember, at CH, we are always KIG (keepin it gangsta), no creeps allowed.
See you next time at Cocktail Hour, where more often than not one drink turns into ten and no one knows where and when the night will end.