W Hotel Union Square Launches Lilium in Underbar SpaceDecember 8, 2011 By: Sean Evans
One million dollars and six months of work later, Underbar is no more. The small subterranean venue, nestled in the basement of the W Hotel in Manhattan’s Union Sqaure, shuttered its doors in and will reopen the 1,600-square-foot space next week as Lilium, a rock-n-roll-meets-floral-cave retreat.
“You’re not going to recognize it,” says Scott Gerber, principal of the Gerber Group, which operates the establishment. “The only things that remained the same were the structural walls. Everything else was reconstructed from the ground up.” The Gerber Group tapped Gulla Jonsdottir of G+Design for the refresh and the finished aesthetic Jonsdottir arrived at is inspired by the intricate look of a cave of wild lilies, with a twisted metal ceiling that cascades down the walls and complements the sculptural black steel lilies, created by renowned metal artist Scot Brown.
Also noteworthy is the video art instillation, which is displayed on a series of LED panels. “We’ve tapped a number of artists for video art, and we’ll rotate through our list of works so you’ll always see something different when you come,” shares Gerber.
As for the backstory behind the theme for Lilium, “we wanted to go back to our roots of our original property, The Whiskey at the Paramount Hotel, which was a rock n roll bar. But update it a bit; give it a modern edge. So Lilium will have a lot of rock music, from our DJs, and a reduced bar that highlights small batch bourbons and craft beers from boutique brands,” says Gerber. “We picked labels not for their trendiness, but instead for the quality of their products; things that we like and our patrons have responded well to in our other venues.” Topping the list of bourbons are Elijah Craig, Woodford Reserve, Hudson Baby Bourbon and Kings County. Small plates of fare from renowned Chef Todd English, who presides over Olive’s Restaurant upstairs, also will be available.
Bottle service is another option, but Gerber mentions that the venue is “not a club, so we’re not geared toward that.” Still, if patrons want to come to the lounge and get a bottle, they will accommodate. And for much cheaper than your average club, considering vodka starts at $200 and moves up from there.
As for who’ll fill the intimate room, hotel guests have preferred entrance. Given the low occupancy number — 175 — Gerber acknowledges that they have to monitor the door, but adds that there won’t be a velvet rope and all the pretentious hoopla that accompanies it.
“We like to have a large local contingency,” he says. “I envision the room being about 30% hotel guests and 70% locals or people visiting who aren’t staying on property. We find people staying in W Hotels appreciate our bars because they have a good mix of people. If everyone’s a tourist, it defeats the purpose, especially in NYC.”
The locals will be marketed to mostly through word of mouth, but also through a series of interesting events, which encompass everything from small after-parties for concerts — as they’ve previously done with Iron and Wine or Foster the People in other Gerber Group venues — to album release parties and more. “We could even do cozy acoustic performances,” Gerber shares.
It’s clear the music will be defining the venue, so they brought in a bunch of DJs they’ve worked with in the past, but tailored the mix of their playlists to the space. “These aren’t the 10K-per-gig spinners, but we don’t need them. We just need who we hire to understand the vibe and energy of the room and how to play it properly,” Gerber says, adding with a laugh, “There will definitely be a do-not-play list.”