NYC’s New Rooftop Lounge is Versailles In The SkyJune 9, 2011 By: Sean Evans
While the rooftop lounge nestled into the corner of 48th and 8th avenues in Manhattan has had a few prior incarnations, none has had such a rooted backstory and well-thought-out concept as its current occupant, XVI.
“The roman numerals correspond to [the number] 16, which is the floor the venue is on,” begins Josh Kaiser, principal at Trust3 Hospitality, which runs XVI. “And our interior decorator, Francois Frossard, is renowned for his Louis the XVI style of furnishing rooms with a modern twist. So he’ll bring in baroque-looking sofas with a gold snakeskin finish on the fabric. And finally, since Louis the XVI was known for his opulent reign, which only came to a halt when he was beheaded, we’re dubbing the venue 'Versailles in the Sky' and our logo is the guillotine.”
The space is indeed opulent. At about 2,500 square feet, approximately 260 people can enjoy one of the 25 tables or free space and gaze out over the Hudson River — a truly spectacular view at sunset — or just feast their eyes on the unique design aesthetics adorning the rooftop. High-backed chairs and couches dot the room, while flourishes such as modern sculptures and lanterns — home to five fires — are spread out over the lounge. It feels as though King Louis would’ve had his palace decorated like this had he lived in modern times.
And let's not forget the 25-foot movie screen ensconced in a gilded frame that hangs on one of the walls above the terrace.
“We’ll use that and our projector to be able to show events from sports to the Academy Awards,” Kaiser says. “We want to be an option on nights where people may have typically stayed home, or gone to a sports bar, they can come here instead to watch together.”
The screen, which is situated high enough so that it's not in anyone’s way in the venue, “is in a cool location because it doesn’t take people away from the party. We want to feel like a giant living room for our guests, so we’ll also use it to showcase art installations and paintings from local galleries,” Kaiser says, adding they’ve already teamed up with an indie film festival to show some short films.
XVI, which opened in May, has been marketing the space via some street teams in the popular Midtown West neighborhood.
“We’ve got Worldwide Plaza behind us and Times Square on the other side, so we’ve been targeting both with girls in powdered wigs,” Kaiser shares. “They are distributing materials where you log onto a special Website and enter your info to get on a special guest list.”
As you’d expect with a venue located outside of the normal downtown zone of New York City’s nightlife, “we get a nice after-work crowd from local businesses; we have a lovely corporate set which drops by at 5 or 6 p.m. But we also have 15 hotels in a two-block radius, so we also get a lot of tourists and travelers who come by early for a drink,” Kaiser outlines.
As for getting New York City locals there during the evenings, the slight barrier of location is being overcome by a few factors.
“I hate to give credit to competition, but LAVO dispelled the rumor that no one goes out uptown anymore,” Kaiser says. “Having them open successfully before we did is helping us pave the way. We’ve followed in LAVO’s footsteps and brought on key staff and VIP hosts and are catering to the locals by leveraging longstanding relationships myself and my partners have."
Kaiser, who previously owned club-row staple Pink Elephant, and his co-owners Kelley Jones, previously president of The Light Group, and Joe Vicari, who owned Show in Times Square, all have “substantial VIP databases we can tap into to pull the bigger guests for later in the evening.”
Kaiser adds XVI is purposefully departing “from having an auctioneer at the door who beats up clients for a hefty price of entry. If you come early, say for after work drinks, there is no minimum. Late night there will be [food and beverage] minimums, but they’re hospitable ones, with plenty of room for negotiating. We’re not doing a turn-and-burn approach here.”
Expect minimums to start around $1,000, Kaiser outlines. Guests can easily hit the requisite spends by opting for bottle service or any of the array of tasty, custom-crafted cocktails offered by renowned mixologists. The stunning view, however, is always complimentary.