Years ago, you could open up your club, book DJ's, hire a hot staff, a smart door, etc. If you built it...they would come. Bottle service complicated everything but operators needed that revenue stream to pay the severe increase in operating costs. The stand alone, one owner club thrived for a while but the increase in profitability brought big hitters into the game. Corporate types pushed out the flamboyant artistic operators.
Clubs, now, are increasingly becoming part of national or global network. Pacha paved the way starting back in 1967 and expanding to almost two dozen outposts worldwide. The 30,000 sq. foot Pacha NYC spot has dominated the dance scene since 2005. In NYC, the track record for out-of-towners has been spotty with the exceptions of the Canadian operators, the Ballinger Brothers (Webster Hall) and Peter Gatien (Limelight, Palladium, Club USA and Tunnel). Webster Hall is still thriving with live music, dance as well as a loyal social following and tourist base.
Photo Credit Melissa Hom
The social based clubs operated by bottle sale type promoters who have become owners increasingly franchise to Vegas and often to the seasonal spots of the Hamptons. They need to service their clients as their clients move around. Destinations like Atlantic City and Miami are often considered for expansion; South America loves US brands. Many clubs are eyeing the lucrative markets of Asia for their brands as well. However, NYC with its back on track and is becoming more and more of a must be place for successful hospitality franchises.
V.I.P. Room of St. Tropez, Cannes, Monaco, Paris and Dubai is now finding a home in NYC. They land in the old Kiss & Fly space in the heart of the Meatpacking District and area of highs and lows in nightlife. There is much competition but also more nightlife foot traffic than anywhere in the city. Does a super high end lounge with state of the art sound and lights and international clientele need foot traffic or is it a hindrance? That question and many more are answered by Managing Partner Shawn Kolodny.
Nightclub & Bar (NCB): Kiss & Fly the previous incarnation of this meatpacking space was warm and fuzzy with lots of cozy elements; VIP Room opts for sleek and modern. Tell me about design intent.
Shawn Kolodny: VIP ROOM is a very well-known brand internationally with a sleek design and great use of technology specifically LED lighting. We made an effort to take those elements and improve them. Nightlife and technology are beginning to converge in ways they never have been able to before. With the advances in video technology and the versatility that it provides from a design standpoint, its evolution and increased use in nightlife was only a matter of time. Large video screens have become common place for EDM festivals and some of the larger nightclubs and we wanted to take the action and motion that video provides and surround the perimeter of the entire venue. At VIP ROOM we have 280 degrees of video wall, which wraps around the entire dance floor of this opulent and stylish 5,000 sq. ft. space. Décor is a sleek and contemporary design that wouldn’t compete with the power of the video wall. VIP ROOM combines high–tech lighting with a world class sound system that will create an extraordinary sensory experience and unique nightlife atmosphere.
NCB: There is much buzz on the place. Why?
Kolodny: There are a lot of reasons why people are excited about the arrival of VIP ROOM. The VIP ROOM brand is very strong globally, with locations in St Tropez, Cannes, Monaco, Paris and Dubai. VIP ROOM has been around for over fifteen years and is known around the world by jet setters, celebrities and royalty alike. The NYC club is inspired by European nightlife, with the sophistication of Paris and the energy of Saint Tropez with DJs and live performances which have already included Rev Run, 50 Cent, and Rick Ross. On top of that we have a great door and host team managing the throngs of people showing up at our doors.
NCB: If you don’t have a table or are meeting someone who has one is there a place to hang?
Kolodny: Of course, the space is set up for all to enjoy and everyone is a part of the show whether you have a table on the dance floor or in the upper section, or are just hanging out at the bar with a date. The light show is amazing no matter where you are, and the openness of the space allows you to see and be seen throughout the nightclub. Also, if you happen to be a smoker we have a private smoking area outside so you don’t need to bother with exiting and re-entering the club.
NCB: You were at strategic group after becoming an owner operator. What is your role here? What do you bring to the table?
Kolodny: I am the Managing partner of the Tri Hospitality group along with Ryan Tarantino and Andy Unanue (Thus the Tri in Tri Hospitality). I am in charge of the front of the house while my partner Ryan takes care of all operations. In addition, Kevin Nee (our junior partner) is running the promotions. I have 20 years of experience owning and operating some of the most successful nightlife properties in NYC. We have leveraged that experience to compile what is one of the best teams I have ever had the privilege to be a part of. That team is responsible for making the VIP ROOM experience the best in the city.
NCB: There are so many spaces within walking distance. How do define VIP Room’s niche or is it a niche place at all?
Kolodny: VIP ROOM is where the luxury lifestyle meets French decadence to create an exclusive European nightlife experience. With a special place with great music and an amazing crowd from all over the world, we are planning to make a mark not only in the Meatpacking district, but on New York City as well.
NCB: Meatpacking seems to be a tale of two cities; there is massive foot traffic as well as genuine VIPs. What are the advantages or disadvantages of being in it?
Kolodny: The advantages are that there are a lot of people around, a lot of buzz and a lot of energy. There are 10,000 covers per night in the restaurants located in the Meatpacking district. Lots of amazing people are out and about in the neighborhood every night, which is great for any business, especially a hot nightclub. It is always easier being part of a hot neighborhood than a destination.
The disadvantage is that it’s sometimes too crowded, making the job of our door team more challenging. They do a great job of controlling the look and feel of the room we want with a great mix of a sophisticated, cool, fun and hip clientele.
NCB: The “p” word, promoters; how are promoters evolving to meet the challenges of the new nightlife or are they becoming obsolete in the better places?
Kolodny: No they are a necessary part of most nightlife businesses today. The key is to use them wisely to help create buzz in the right circles and bring the type of guests we want in the room. Our brand and the buzz it provides has allowed us to get the right mix of models, international clientele, a high energy crowd and fun people.
NCB: What types of music are you playing on what type of sound system?
Kolodny: Thursday - Saturday we are playing mixed format music; 60-70 percent house music and 30-40 percent other music, which is mostly hip-hop, dance, and some rock. The music at VIP ROOM can best be described as fun, it’s where you go if you want to dance and have a good time, and the music definitely sets the scene for that. Thursday night music programming has included Rev Run, 50 Cent, and Rick Ross to name a few. At the end of October we started a house music night on Tuesdays with some big EDM DJ talent.