Butter Group has emerged as one of the premier nightlife/restaurant entities in NYC. With its expansion of mega-brand 1OAK to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, they have solidified their claim to a top tier spot in hospitality. In NYC they have recently converted their brand, Darby, into Up & Down. Their 14th and 8th location is a three minute walk from the ultra-hot but over saturated Meatpacking District. They are close enough to get the important clientele to pop but yet far enough to be out of the commercial fray.
Evan Frost has been friends with Butter Group co-owner Richie Akiva since childhood; he has worked his way through the business by bartending, waiting tables and promoting. As his old friends business expanded, Evan became a reliable player who knew how Richie Akiva wanted things done. Up & Down is trying to be something a little bit more than what is the norm in NYC nightlife, programming is a bit more forward and crowds are a bit more mixed. It is an ambitious venture from an even more ambitious hospitality group. We caught up with Evan Frost and asked him all about it.
“I spent most of my high school career hanging out at SoHo Café’s as opposed to actually attending class; I knew off the bat, college wasn’t for me. After spending my weekend nights, in high school, sneaking into clubs, I was introduced to the industry through a friend who offered me the opportunity to be a promoter. I took him up on the offer when I graduated. It seemed to be an easy gig. I got various jobs waiting tables and bartending. I did this for years; I made a few attempts to escape the industry and venture in to other business opportunities but always seemed to end up back in the saddle of hospitality. Eventually, I settled in and realized I love what I do; creating an experience for people to enjoy. It’s an art form whether its promotional, operational or overall individually focused hospitality, the joy of watching what you’ve created, is something special for me.”
Frost tells us that Up & Down’s goal is to bring back the culture and beauty of nightlife. He feels that bringing back the unexpected – not knowing who or what you’re going to meet or where you’re going to end up at the end of the night will bring back an element of excitement that nightlife has been missing.
“Today’s clubs are lackluster and have become deflated of their creativity and specialized touch. From venue to venue it’s the same old thing: one room, same music, the only thing separating the nightclubs these days is the décor. The industry has become divided and segregated by different crowds. “My Crowd –Your Crowd” etc. With Up & Down we are looking to bring back that authentic nightlife culture we came to love in our youth. Not knowing what we we’re getting our self’s into, with the hopes of bringing different worlds together to experience what we once felt.”
Up & Down is a new entry into the Butter Group empire and it's only a few blocks from 1OAK, the highly successful club owned by Butter Group. Being that the two clubs are so close in distance, Frost has programed Up & Down as a different type of environment so that the group doesn’t have to compete with itself. Frost tells us that Up & Down has a completely different feel than not only 1OAK but the entirety of competing nightclubs out there. Every floor of Up & Down is an adventure, night by night and room by room. The upstairs maintains a high energy club atmosphere, while the downstairs takes on the role of a chill lounge that has the ability to go from chill to wild in 0-60, creating a back alley club feel.
Balance is key when programming the club so that both floors are both vibrant. Frost says the idea behind creating the best of both worlds is just that – two completely different experiences wrapped up in one.
The rooms are programmed as polar opposites. “The music upstairs provides the atmosphere of a modern day nightclub, a mixed format of current hits and surprise performances while the downstairs is more of a musical scavenger hunt, covering all spectrums, from classics’ to music that is just a bit ahead of the curve,” says Frost. “It’s like a theme park adventure – from a Jay-Z track surrounded by the chaos, bottles and sparklers, to the subterranean basement with low ceilings and people making their own personal dance space listening to “Boy with a Thorn in His Side” by The Smiths, giving you the feeling that you just wandered into somebody’s house party.”
It’s safe to say that Richie Akiva will go down in nightlife history as one of the most influential figures of our time. “Having come up together, we’re on the same page at all times,” continued Frost. “Richie likes things done a specific way and having that inside line helps to be more effective in getting it done. The synergy we have as a group in general is pretty amazing.
Since, 1OAK has outposts in both LA and Las Vegas; it raises the question whether or not Up & Down’s goal is to expand into other markets. Frost tells us that while Up & Down would love to expand to these cities, however, they are extremely selective in the placement of their brand. As good as expansion can be for brand awareness, the representation of the brand is more important to Up & Down. Frost tells us Up & Down is more about the culture they provide for their customer base.
Up & Down has a great many celebrities roll through its properties, but unlike many places, they keep it on the down low. Frost explains his refreshing philosophy on handling his famous guests, “Celebrities are people, like you or me. Their space is their space and it’s important that they have the opportunity to enjoy themselves without the fear that their actions will be held against them. It is truly a great feeling for us to see them letting loose and enjoying themselves. There have been many times people don’t even know who they are around, as they blend right in.”