Continuing The Party After Summers EndSeptember 3, 2013 By: Steve Lewis
Many parts of the USA enjoy an endless summer or at least only slight variations from season to season. Therefore, in some areas Labor Day Weekend has much less of an impact. In Florida the holiday portends a migration south to enjoy the warm weather. In the north however, Labor Day weekend is the last hoorah before cooler weather trickles in. After the holiday most summer getaways will shutter up until Memorial Day 2014.
The 15 weekends or 90 somewhat days of potential revenue make owning a club or hospitality business in Montauk or the Hamptons problematical; locals party at their favorite bars throughout the winter but the name brands tend to hibernate.
If this is the case then why do it at all? David Sarner, CEO and Founder of Pink Elephant Group offers, “the summer season in the Hamptons has always been about maintaining a relationship with our customers from the city, doing outreach for additional high net worth people, giving our server and host staff a place to work and play and generally helping to position ourselves as a lifestyle brand that conveys a certain joie de vivre. There are also a great many people who will come out to the more relaxed nightclub setting of the Hamptons, who would never go to any club in the city. I think our beach extensions are more laid back, and the outdoor components certainly provide an ability to enjoy the music in a more casual setting.”
Montauk Beach House
Sarner goes on to say how important seasonal locations actually are. They are placed in festive locations where people just want to celebrate life and unwind. Reinforcing the message of the brand and providing a wonderful opportunity to do outreach and expand brand awareness in new markets and to new people.
EMM Group co-owner Mark Birnbaum added “although every decision we make is meant to be a profitable one, when you are working in a seasonal business like the Hamptons, it has a lot more value to us than just money. We feel it is important to cater to our clients wherever they are whether from the Hamptons to NY to Miami to Atlantic City — and we have done this with SL East to SL New York to SL Miami to HQ Nightclub at Revel Casino.”
When asked how the summer season affects his Manhattan properties, Birnbaum explained that weekdays are actually the hottest nights in New York during the summer months and with the success of Catch Roof on Mondays and Finale on Tuesdays, EMM has been able to capitalize on the weekday party-goers.
Montauk Beach House now concluding its second season will shutter for the winter. A stylish entry to the way out East scene, Montaulk Beach House is known for its style, service and the international DJs that entertain its massive poolside parties. Co-owner, Chris Jones, explained that money driven in from food and beverage is not as much as one would think. Rooms and corporate business bring in the most revenue, “We see the food and beverage as the amenity to the guests, and the entertainment is the fun part that guests today demand.”
“We try and appeal the five senses working overtime (in the words of XTC) - where the guest gets to see (the design), hear (the music and ocean), smell (food), touch (rooms, linens) and taste (drinks and beverages). The amenity provides the justification to what are quite frankly pretty steep prices at the weekends. If you think of it this way, a three night stay in the moonlight suite, will run around $875, so it's costing a guest around 3k for the stay- the reality is that customer spends a fraction of that on the F&B,” Jones continued.
Jones goes on to describe the economic need for transient business; the demand for which is just not there year round. Club owners would love for business to continue to boom after the summer season; it would have to be a collaborative effort between nightclubs, restaurants, amenities, golf etc. to get a significant amount of things to do, however. If ever this were to happen, Jones says, “It would be fabulous – we would be in to do that.”
The Beach at the Dream Hotel Downtown
Barry Gutin who is principal and co-founder of GuestCounts Hospitality and Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar gave his insight on the seasonal impact in Atlantic City. “Surprisingly, Atlantic City is only modestly seasonal for a seashore town. There are great concerts, shows and nightlife throughout the year which - along with the dining options and gambling - attract visitors from NY, NJ, PA and DE. The casino hotels are at 100% weekend occupancy year round, but weekday occupancy (and room rates) are noticeably higher in the summer. Contributing to the seasonality are the vacation home owners and renters that fill the surrounding towns only in the summer.”
Gutin reveals that during the summer months, he only has to bring on an extra manager and sous chef to handle the seasonal rush. The concert effort of the casinos’ keeps Atlantic City profitable year round. However, while Atlantic City thrives in the “off-season” nearby Jersey Shore towns like Asbury Park, Ocean City and Long Beach Island do not fair too well.
John Argento's Surf City Megabar and Restaurant sits on the water in Jersey City. It can accommodate a couple thousand people on a summer day or night. People come for the view of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty and enjoy burgers and ribs and good drinks. Most of the space is outdoors and yet John plans to go year round this year. Argento anticipated doing this last year, his inaugural year, but Hurricane Sandy got in the way.
“It was building nicely but we got wiped out in Hurricane Sandy last October. Six feet of sea water in the buildings, no power till March. Despite the setback we're in rapidly growing; and literally one subway stop out of NYC. The challenge is how to bring it inside with some outdoor activity. I put in several fire pits and will be opening a large room with a DJ and other activities to keep guest counts high,” Argento clarifies.
Argento owned and operated Sandbar which was in the same space but known as a nightclub. "We decided to change format from nightclub to restaurant bar because we felt that the nightclub format was a dying out and limited your audience to 5% of the population. It also limited our operation to a few hours on the weekend. The new format appeals to the other 95%. People need to eat seven days a week. They don't need to dance...but they do socialize.”
The new colder season has challenges. Argento says the main challenge is to convince the public to come to surf city at a location that has been considered seasonal for 15 years, the main attraction being the outdoor space. “We are doing a massive blitz of both digital social and traditional media. No one opens emails anymore, so we have returned to radio, print and TV. One reason for my optimism is that Jersey City is growing rapidly with over 15,000 units of housing added this year in the immediate vicinity.”
The pool parties at the Dream Hotel Downtown in New York have been all the rage this summer. Strategic Group honcho Matt Straus was asked “What are the plans for continuing after Labor Day weekend?” He responded by saying the Sunset Swimclub party on Mondays will run as long as it’s sunny and above 75. “We’ll keep it going and get the word out. If it’s an Indian summer, it’ll go to mid-October!”
While the pool, without question, must close eventually, the hugely successful terrace upstairs at the Dream Hotel Downtown is viable all year round. In the wintertime there is an enclosure securing the warmth while allowing everyone to still enjoy an amazing rooftop view. The enclosure will be going up towards the end of October. “Having a great New York outdoor space is really at its best in September. The whole city comes alive in September; they are still trying to hold on to the last bits of summer.”
Hearing from the mouth of the experts, it is true; summer does not truly end until the party is over. These top bars and nightclubs do not end the party until the warm weather has overstayed its welcome; so party on and get the most out of the season.