The only way into New York City’s Beauty & Essex, the latest offering from the masterminds behind the successful Stanton Social, is through its pawnshop in the front. Yes, you read that right. Walking into the new Lower East Side haute spot, you first encounter its wares, all of which are for sale. Guitars line the back wall; glass display cases carrying unique and interesting memorabilia — running the gamut from lunch pails to vintage trading cards — stare back at you. It’s enough of a shock that you wonder if you’re in the right space for a second. But peer beyond the door in the back, and it opens into one of the largest nightlife spaces the Lower East Side now has to offer.
“We have a huge space to fill,” Co-owner Rich Wolf says. “The venue stretches an entire block, so we had a lot of room to work with. We wanted to break it up into different rooms but have a continuous theme resonate throughout the place. And when we started with the design, we first thought about having a bodega in the front, then a pawn shop, then a pawn shop that specialized in jewelry, which is where we settled.”
The jewelry motif runs throughout the hybrid nightlife space that incorporates four dining rooms, two bars and the lounge that features a DJ booth. Downstairs, the main dining room features gold accented, delicate lighting fixtures, which look like necklaces permanently frozen into cool formations. Silver accents spice up the wall partitions, and the private dining room, all the way in the back, is designed to look just like a bank vault, complete with a faux piece of high end jewelry encased behind glass with two enormous security cameras pointed at it. “Those are just for show, but the effect’s cool, isn’t it?” Wolf grins.
The space, designed by top firm AvroKO, who also did sister eatery Stanton Social, is meant to be luxurious while remaining true to the vision of Wolf and his partners Peter Kane and Chris Santos -- a relaxed, casual dining and drinking atmosphere. “We had a lot of success with this ruberic at Stanton Social, so we don’t want to depart too far from our roots,” Wolf says. Chef Santos didn’t want to cannibalize the concept of small, shared plates (which is how the food is served at Stanton), but they did want an element of that. “So we have some small plates, which the table can enjoy, but we’ve also added full entrees to the menu for Beauty & Essex. You’ll be able to get a steak if you’d like or a nice fish dish,” Wolf explained.
Upstairs, past the framed panels of fur lining the spiral staircase, the jewelry aesthetic continues in the locket room — aptly named as the décor consists of more than a dozen frames with beautiful antique lockets dangling from them. But perhaps the best nod to the design rubric are the chandeliers, including the two floor glass and crystal numbers that commands attention in the atrium just beyond the pawnshop.
The lounge, situated on the other side of the locket room, has eight tables and guests sitting here can either opt for bottle service as they look into a nearby DJ booth —where during the opening bash, a percussionist was banging on some bongo drums — or try some crafted cocktails. “We’re more about cocktail culture here than bottles of vodka,” Wolf shares.
Beauty & Essex’s big (well, in this case little) brother Stanton Social is right around the corner, but ask Wolf if he and his partners are worried about the business’ competing with themselves for customers, and he’s quick to shake his head no. “Ideally, you’d meet up at Stanton for a drink or two, grab a quick nibble, then come to Beauty & Essex for dinner, then head upstairs to the lounge for the party,” he smiles. “We’ll keep it all in house.”
While there won’t be a doorman, expect a wait; reservations are recommended. But if you’re having trouble and need some extra cash to slip the reservation girl, you can always pawn your watch or rings on the way in.