Manhattan’s Double Seven ReopensSeptember 15, 2011 By: Sean Evans
When Double Seven closed — at the apex of business — in January 2007, owners Will Regan and David Rabin already knew where they would reopen. “We had already found the location we’re currently in,” says Rabin of their new home at 63 Gansevoort St. in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. “Our original building had been sold, and they had the right to buy us out of our lease. So after we found this place, we thought we’d be open within a year or even less,” he chuckles.
Turns out their new landlord, who’d inherited the property following a death in the family, was embroiled in a lawsuit with remaining family members over the acquired land, and Double Seven’s lease was relegated to the backburner. For nearly four years.
Fast forward to last week, when the venue finally reopened very softly, with much of the original décor that denizens who once flocked to the establishment will recognize. “At least 50% of the stuff is repurposed,” Rabin explains. “The blown-glass-bulbs wall fixture, which wraps around across from the bar, is from the original wall. All the barstools are the same, as are many of the banquettes; they were all in storage. The bar top is the same mock croc leather. The two very haunting glass art installations, including the one behind the host stand as you enter, are also from old space. People do notice.”
As for the space itself, it’s 3,500 square feet, but Rabin and Regan cut it down to 2,400 square feet to maintain the sense of intimacy the old Double Seven exuded. While Rabin admits it seems like the antithesis of what any nightlife operator would want to do, he explains that they wanted a very controlled environment for better traffic flow. The 10-table room, with one giant round number in the middle that can seat 12, tops out at a capacity of 160 people. The whole room cost approximately $2.5 million to build out and furnish, Rabin shares.
The room differs fundamentally from the old space in that it’s no longer angular. Everything has a lovely curve to it, from the banquettes to the bar’s shape to the layout of the tables; it all just seems to bend perfectly. Gulla Jonsdottir, of G+ Design, was responsible for the finished aesthetic the first time around and was tapped this time, too. “Old Double Seven was very linear, because it was a long, narrow space. Gulla decided that to replicate the same entrance tunnel from old Double Seven, but once you’re inside, it was more organic for it to be curvy and rounded,” Rabin says.
While most new establishments try their hardest to open during Fashion Week, Rabin — who owns Jimmy at the James and Lamb’s Club — would’ve preferred to open any other week, but it just so happened this was when they were finally ready. “Fashion Week can be good, but people are distracted and feel pulled in different directions. They’re invited to 20 parties a night and hit each for 15 minutes,” he says. “It’s great because if people do like the environment, they’ll start up word of mouth.” The right message Rabin and Regan wish to impart is simple. They don’t think of themselves as a once-a-week venue. “We want people to come two to four times a week, for that ‘one more drink’ after dinner.”
And please don’t call it a club. “I have a heart attack when people call it that. Not that there’s anything wrong with a club, but this is a cocktail bar or a lounge. It’s Milk & Honey meets the fashion and media set, and given the level of what [Milk & Honey owner] Sasha Petraske did with our drinks menu, we’re designed for a different clientele than people who want to do shots and dance on a banquette.”
The hardest part about reopening a space you’ve previously launched is a two-pronged issue. “On one hand, there’s a tremendous level of expectation from old guests who loved it,” Rabin outlines. “But then we have a whole new generation who hasn’t experienced Double Seven before and have no nostalgia. So we have to convince them this is the spot for a sophisticated grown-up night out.”
As for how each patron — new or returning — is feeling about the space, Rabin’s hearing a lot of good things, but after all of his years in nightlife, “I don’t know if anyone tells me the truth anymore,” he laughs. “Everyone tells me what’s positive. I prefer to hear what’s wrong. Then I can have a chance to fix it.”