Jeffrey Beers International has been one of the big names in hospitality design since the 90's. Some of the more high profile projects include a huge chunk of the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, Japonais restaurant in several cities, the original China Grill and Olive's in NYC's W Union Square among others.
He's currently working on some large projects in Central and South America including the spa at the Ritz Carlton in San Juan, a new Hard Rock in Mexico and the Fountainbleu in Miami Beach.The hottest recent efforts include Jay-Z's 40/40 Club on 25th and Broadway, and his bar in NYC's Time Warner Center that just opened.
But what does it take to make a bar and nightclub that works? He tells us.
Nightclub & Bar (NCB): The range of projects you design for is fairly broad; is there a unifying theme as it applies to hospitality that's important to you?
Jeffrey Beers: What unifies all of my projects is a genuine desire to create a relevant yet timeless environment, to create spaces that inspire and last. Hospitality spaces should be festive, and I aim to design gathering places where people can enjoy one another. My goal is always to create a harmony between the guest, the environment, and the entertainment – that perfect moment when everyone is having a good time.
(Milos Miami - Picture by Paul Warchol)
NCB: Many are high-volume, high-intensity sorts of places - I'm thinking of the 40/40 Club in Manhattan - what are the main needs that separate nightclub design from pure restaurant work?
Beers: Both restaurants and nightclubs are like theater. In a restaurant, there is a clear audience and stage. Often the guest is the audience, with all eyes on the cuisine. One entity is on display for another. At a nightclub, however, everyone is on stage. There is no real distinction between those who are watching and those who are being watched – everyone is a performer. Awareness of this kind of guest participation is key when designing a theatrical and entertaining nightclub environment.
NCB: In places you've worked on with prominent visibility - the Center Bar at Manhattan’s Time Warner Center, for example - are there strictures that make the project more difficult?
Beers: Center Bar is located in the fourth floor atrium of the Time Warner Center, a place that at many times can be chaotic, loud, and visually stimulating. The challenge for this project was to design an environment that felt intimate and calm, even in this open space. My vision for Center Bar was to create a place one might find in Europe, a place where guests can relax and enjoy a great cocktail. I paid attention to the lighting, the details of the materials, and the size and shape of the furniture, making sure everything complemented the bar’s personal service. In any space that is well trafficked, my job is to make people feel safe and secure, and to make them feel that they are being taken care of even when they are surrounded by a bustling environment.
NCB: Then there's the mega sports bar concept, XFinity. In the contemporary urban bar scene where giant TV screens dominate every pub and club, what did you do to make this spot different, or better?
Beers: At Xfinity, we were very deliberate about where we placed TV screens. We created a sports-oriented theater by designating a central point of interest in the main plaza, concentrated around a 25ft x 18ft monitor that is flanked by other screens. By focusing energy on this “theater” of screens, we were able to direct attention to the entertainment in a way that was not arbitrary and overwhelming, but very curated and thoughtful.
NCB: What in your opinion are the major mistakes made in the average restaurant or nightclub, design-wise?
Beers: Poor space planning is a mistake I see in many restaurants and nightclubs. If there isn’t that harmony between all the working parts of the space – if the tables are too close to each other or the path from kitchen to table is obstructed –the entire guest experience suffers.
NCB: What's your dream project?
Beers: I have always been fascinated by the ocean; designing an underwater hotel would be a dream.
NCB: What's your favorite drink right now?
Beers: I will always be fond of a Singapore Sling: gin, cherry brandy and pineapple juice. I had my first sip in the 1980s at the beginning of my career when I worked on the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, the place from which the drink takes its name.