Ian Magid, originally from Las Vegas and Alex Likhtenstein, who hails from Brooklyn, both former NYC promoters, had the necessary passion and desire to launch an evolutionary Manhattan milestone. And that’s exactly what they’ve done.
EVR, located in Manhattan’s Empire District, is “ever-changing” – pun intended. The ambiance evolves for every party or event. It can be dark and mysterious for a cool downtown vibe, or it can be brightly lit and vibrant for a special event or corporate party. The DJs are hand-picked for each night by promotional director, Mark Watson of RDV and Big Picture Marketing Group, Inc., and there are a lot of big names such as dberrie, Modern Machines and Major Lazer. “We also give a fair amount of business to the little guys, the guys who you might not have heard of but who deserve to show off their skills on the decks. It’s not just about the name at EVR. It’s really about the music. So every time you see a big name headlining our flyers, you can be sure there are also one or two other guys impressing the crowd before or after,” comments Magid.
A lot of care and attention is given to lightening, which always complements the music. Likhtenstein explains, “If the place is packed and the DJ is killing it, but the lighting is flat, one-dimensional or off-beat, the party will be dead – it’s as simple as that. We have Mikey Lights to thank for maintaining an awesome atmosphere every night.”
The cocktail menu, created by Carlos de Vasquez, formerly of Apotheke, is constantly changing as well. “We try to create seasonal libations but pay very close attention to the neighborhood and what our clientele wants. Late night folks rarely order specialty cocktails but after work our mixology is one of our biggest draws,” says Magid.
EVR attracts a totally diverse crowd. It’s a great New York party – the way it used to be when clubs, as we remember them, first started out. From celebrities to the locals who work or live in the neighborhood, it’s a place where money doesn’t necessarily buy your way in. “The right mix of people is what makes our parties work. Whether it’s after work or late night, the bottom line is that people are there to have fun, unwind a little and let loose. We want to cater to that,” adds Magid. Most recently, EVR has been frequented by Jon Hamm, Ne-yo, Estelle and Chris Brown, among others.
EVR has become a hotspot, even though it is not located in what’s considered the hottest nightlife locales of Manhattan today, like Meatpacking, Soho or LES. “We love being in what’s considered uncharted nightlife territory,” boasts Likhtenstein. “It’s what sets us apart from the masses – and the messes – of those other neighborhoods. We were aware when we opened that we might not have an easy time attracting clients. But thankfully, we took the challenge. Now we’re seeing other places pop up around us. We’d like to think EVR pioneered the way for a new social enclave in a previously overlooked area.”
Although Magid and Likhtenstein have worked in the hospitality industry in New York City for years, this was their first venture into owning their own venue. Thus, as is the case with any first time business, there are trials and errors. They credit their success to their incredible staff, which they believe is the backbone of a venue. According to Likhtenstein, “the loyalty, trustworthiness and morale of your staff directly, without a doubt, relates to how your customers and clients are treated. If one employee comes to work miserable, that attitude can quickly become the pervasive attitude for the night. We try to avoid that all costs. Luckily for us, our team is really close knit. EVR is like a little family. We aren’t just colleagues, we’re friends.”
Owning and operating a new venue is a lot of work and it means everyone here often wears more than one hat. For example, Rony Rivellini, coming from Collective Hardware and WIP, not only works the door, but pitches in with the occasional plumbing or electrical issue. Aisling Foley of Big Picture Marketing Group, Inc., most recently of Marquee, Griffin and Rosewood, heads up the host team but also helps out in day-to-day operations. And then there’s Director of Operations, James Woods, who’s experience at the Hotel on Rivington, Nobu Southampton and Cocktail Bodega, has enabled him to “turn water into wine in a pinch,” states Magid. The general rule at EVR is that everyone checks their egos at the door. “Every task, no matter how trivial, doesn’t accomplish itself. So we all pitch in.”
So what’s it like trying to “make it” in the city that never sleeps? Knowing who you are, advises Likhtenstein. “One thing that we try to explain to people when they ask us how we stack up against venues like Lavo or Marquee, is that we aren’t trying to be those places. We are paving our own path in what often seems like an oversaturated market. We aren’t pretentious – we’re on 39th Street for goodness sakes!” He doesn’t want people waiting outside for an hour just to let them into an empty room. “If you are polite, dressed well, and a little patient, you will most likely get inside. And fortunately for us, the quality of our crowd has been amazing. We know the difference between faking a good party and a good party. And EVR throws a good party.”
And when asked what their advice is to the eager entrepreneur who wants to open up their own spot? They say “do it.” Just be prepared. “It may look like the best job in the world to someone sitting in a cubicle from 9-5, but it’s a lot of hard work and a ton of sleepless nights,” warns Magid. “There are more times than not when one of us looks at the clock and realizes we’ve been working since 10am and its now three in the morning. Luckily all of us at EVR are really passionate about what we do. We all really love the hospitality industry and we especially love New York. Basically, we’re here to stay.”
Magid and Likhtenstein’s goal is to grow EVR as a brand. “We don’t plan on stopping at one venue. You can be sure there will be more from our team in the future,” says Likhtenstein.