Noel Ashman to Open His Latest NYC Spot The LeonoraAugust 12, 2014 By: Steve Lewis
Veteran New York City operator Noel Ashman brings the heart of nightlife to Chelsea and promises to fill some voids. Mixing patrons from different scenes, hipsters to Hollywood, The Leonora will not let bottler service dictate who gets in; instead providing an exclusive escape for visionaries in a semi private lounge.
With its small size, the 150 person nightclub, much smaller than Ashman’s previous endeavors which include The Plumm, Studio 54, Veruka and NA, forces an intimacy lost in spaces that tend to be two times its size.
The Leonora previewed last week with the opening night party for Phoenix, Julia Stiles new play.
Pictured: Julia Stiles and Noel Ashman
The Leonora boasts a legion of celebrity and connected co-owners including Hollywood producer Michael Bregman, Michael Strahan, celebrity photographer Patrick Mcmullan, Luis Guzman, Ethan Browne, Joey McIntyre, Simon Rex, Bo Dietl and Ross Robinson. The creative board members also include Jackson Browne, Caron Bernstein, Liam Mcmullan and R. Couri Hay. With the guidance of these creative minds The Leonora will bring to life the risqué and decadent days of Weimar, Berlin blended with a unique modern aesthetic.
Hosting preview parties now, The Leonora will open in full swing during NYC’s Fashion Week.
After Veruka, The Plumm, Studio 54 and NA what incited you to open another venue?
I, as well as my partners, felt that there was a need in NYC right now for a lounge that is a bit more private and less commercial than what is currently being offered.
What do you see missing in NY nightlife that The Leonora will supply?
I think that nightlife in NYC has become very commercial and corporate. While there are certainly some fun spots to hang out, I think a lot of the creativity that made NYC the nightlife mecca of the world has somewhat faded. So for The Leonora, I partnered with many of my friends in the arts to create a lounge that would cater to people in arts and entertainment as well as many other creative types.
With its small size will management, DJ costs, rent, insurance, etc. be a burden?
While I always loved the idea of clubs from the 1970's and 80’s where thousands of beautiful people mingling together in a huge club, I feel that is, unfortunately, not realistic in today’s environment. Today, big clubs very quickly end up having to let in commercial crowds alienating high end and creative people. For that reason we chose a smaller more luxurious venue that we could keep exclusive many nights a week. I feel this is a great advantage for us because while we will have many different types of clients such as Hollywood, fashion, music, sports, international jet-set, media, upper east side social, Williamsburg hip, trendy artist types etc., we will be able to choose the elite of each category of people, thus creating a more enticing atmosphere.
What is the state of bottle service in NYC and what is your approach?
Even though my old club/restaurant Veruka was one of the first places in NYC to offer bottle service, I think it has been both great and destructive to NY nightlife. It has been great because it allows club owners to get extra revenue to pay the skyrocketing New York rents as well as creating a more comfortable seating situation for customers. However, at the same time bottle service has been destructive because it created a situation where anyone willing to buy a bottle of liquor would be let into a venue no matter how inappropriate their presence might be. This caused many high end/creative people to stop going to clubs thus creating the state of clubs today. At The Leonora we will provide bottle service as a convenience to our customers, however , we will not allow anyone getting bottle service to have guaranteed admission as many venues do, instead even people getting bottle service will still have to be worthy of our standards for admission.
Your places have traditionally been celebrity driven. Tell me how you make sure celebrities feel comfortable?
To me, it is not just about celebrities. While we do cater to many celebrity clients, we also highly value people who are not celebrities; people who are attractive, creative or interesting and add value to The Leonora in other ways. That being said we make sure that celebrities, as well as our other friends, are comfortable by highlighting service above all else. It is important to us that everyone in the venue is treated as family and we go to great lengths to insure the privacy and security of all our clients. We want to create an atmosphere where anyone famous or not, can let their hair down and have fun.
Tell us about your opening strategy.
Because we are a smaller venue we are not doing a big opening, instead we have started doing smaller preview parties for the month of August and in early September plan to launch during fashion week.