Can EVR ForEVR Change Midtown?
EVR, pronounced EVER, a new gastro-lounge on 39th St. between 5th and 6th Ave., is set to go with owners who are relatively newbies to the club world. Coming from a legal background, co-owner Alex Likhtenstein has thrown the dice and is nearly ready to go. My pal Carlos Narcisse provides a veteran nightlife presence to affair. The "seam" hood above Herald Square and south of Bryant Park has few residencies and buildings made to order for nightlife. Spaces with high ceilings and solid walls and floors are abundant. EVR has three levels, including a mezzanine and a basement art gallery. Its two bars are built for speed, and there is ample seating for the bottle set. A performance platform dominates the wall opposite the main bar and promises to stir things up. I visited a week ago and was impressed with the flow, spacing, and operational set-up.
District 36 has caused little harm to this neighborhood of offices, wholesale, and retail stores which is basically devoid of people on the big pay-day: Saturday night. Hotel groups are moving in as the area is easy to get to with main drags 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue defining the zone. Public transportation and parking make this an operator’s dream. While all these points are attractive, it is the dearth of other nearby venues and a tradition of nightlife that makes EVR a destination club. Destination clubs must always perform. If you travel outside of your normal path for entertainment, it just has to be good enough to justify the cab fare. Great clubs have existed and thrived off the beaten path. Bungalow 8 was the place to be long before it got surrounded by clubs and lounges. Lotus was a monster hit when the smell of meat still defined the Meatpacking District and the hoes and street folk ran the night. EVR seems to have a built-in fan base who will call it home.
Will strangers come to this strange land? Alex Likhtenstein explains why he will be there… 4EVR.
I actually didn’t come up with that name myself, but it fits. My good friend Anthony, who’s very involved with the project, said jokingly a couple of months ago, “So you basically want an ever-changing place that everyone will want to go to forever.” His partner Max then said that we might as well call it Ever, and it stuck. EVR looks a lot sexier.
Tell me about your background. How did a nice guy like you fall into this business?
Funny that you should phrase it that way since neither myself nor my principal partner had ever planned on pursuing careers in hospitality. I was a philosophy major in college and planned on pursuing a career in law, while he was a finance major in NYU Stern. We both got into nightclub promoting pretty early on in our college careers, and initially I think that fun was the key motivation. At first we were both hosting separately at nightclubs on 27th street in its heyday, and then one night we were both slow and had to share a table at Cain Luxe. We instantly hit it off as friends, and once we both understood that we were catering to the similar demographic, we started teaming up on projects. It was that next school year we decided to look at things from more than a “let’s go out and get wasted with our hundred closest friends,” perspective and realized we could make some serious money.
We started expanding, building a team, and ended up taking full bar deals at venues on the weekends. Mind you, at this point, while the money was great, we were still doing it more as a side gig while pursuing our respective career goals. It was not until last year, when Ian Magid started hating his finance job and I started to get very disillusioned about the current law market that we began to think of the realistic possibility of a more long-term stay in the industry. In January we were approached by an operator about a new project in Midtown that needed someone to head the marketing and promotions. We fell in love with the potential of space (it was a vacant office space at the time) and of the area. So rather than taking a job, we countered by offering to buy the place.
Do you think that the hood’s experience with District 36 helped or hurt your chances of obtaining a license?
I don’t think District 36 affected us very much in terms of licensing because we’re a completely different animal. District 36 is a huge venue that, from what I understand, was created primarily for large-scale EDM shows. We’re an intimate gastro-lounge with an interactive concept.
What do you mean by "interactive concept?”
One thing that has consistently bothered me about New York nightlife is that while one might assume that the most exclusive and high-end venues and parties are also the most fun, the opposite is often the case. And that’s not to say that many of these high-end places can’t be fun, or are never fun. Many of them have perfected an amazing formula and those people who aren’t really in the scene are consistently wow’d by the sparklers and the bottle parades and the celebrities. But the people in the scene – the models, the consistent clients, the promoter groupies (male and female) – are often the ones you see bored on their cell phones. And why shouldn’t they be? They’ve seen it all before.
What we’ve always wanted to do was create an atmosphere where a high-end crowd can feel comfortable, really letting loose on a consistent basis; in other words, a place where everyone will be part of the party rather than just watching it. To do this, we’ve been working on programming that includes constant interactive performances and acts to engage the entire crowd, not just whoever spent the most on a table. This interactive focus, coupled with our delicious mixology, unique décor, and dynamic music, will create an all-encompassing and unique experience for our customers. You are surrounded by offices. How much does the after-work crowd figure into your bottom line?
The after-work crowd is the backbone of our business model. We’re not under any illusions about the area we’re in; it’s not Meatpacking, and all the special programming and branding that we’re putting in to make us a real destination place won’t be cheap. Our strong after-work programming will be essential in both our long and short-term success. We’re in a perfect area for after-work, and I really believe that by bringing a little downtown to Midtown, we’ll have an amazing after-work following. Moreover, we’ll be one of very few places in the Garment District catering to the fashion crowd, which will be a huge draw.
With that being said, the neighborhood is quiet on Saturday nights, no after-work scene. What will your programming be like?
We hope that our interactive concept and client relations will set us apart and create the destination. But while the neighborhood can be quiet right now, I think there’s a lot of untapped potential in the area. There are some great high- end hotels in the area, like The Setai and Bryant Park Hotel, there’s a beautiful boutique hotel being built just three storefronts down from us, and I’ve been hearing a lot of rumors about other hip places opening up in the neighborhood in the coming year. So while it may not be Meatpacking, we will make sure to make the EVR experience one that’s worth a trip to Midtown. I think we’re very much pioneering what has the potential to be the next ‘it” area.
What does the place look like? What is the seating like? I hear you have a zillion TVs and a small stage.
When you walk in, you see the main dance floor and the mezzanine level, with a unique performance platform on your upper left side – the bar is on your right. Past the bar is the DJ booth, the banquettes, and the couches on the main floor, with modernist eclectic furniture in the mezzanine. We designed the place to best facilitate what we are trying to accomplish. Comfort level is important, and that’s why we opted for larger, more comfortable tables rather than just squeezing in as many as possible.
For the décor, we wanted to keep a lot of the raw elements of the space intact, which resulted in a high-end industrial style that our designer dubbed “rough-luxe.” Majestic 20-foot tall columns, bold architectural beams, and texturized walls are grazed with indirect lighting. Blackened steel, copper metal mesh, and ebonized, reclaimed-wood are used as the primary finishes, resolving many of the new architectural elements, such as the facade and the bars. The existing concrete floors have been sandblasted and coated in a highly polished epoxy resin. Metallic-embossed leather covers the banquettes, and industrial copper barstools surround the bar. A dramatic wall is clad in a geometric composition of copper, amber, and smoked mirror panels, and the main lounge features a cubist- inspired mural depicting the female form in the "EVR”-changing movement.
As far as TVs, we only have them behind the one-way mirrors that are behind the bar; this allows us to turn them on when it’s appropriate, and hide them when it’s not. The only other TV-like things that we have are our projection screens, but those are strictly for corporate events.