How Birthday Boy and Strategic Group’s Jonathan Schwartz Stays On Top
When I was king of the castle, people were always surprised that I did any "day" work for my nightlife career. They actually believed I woke up at 4pm, had a swanky brunch, went to a boutique, bought a dozen expensive looks (on the cheap), had dinner at the best place in town (on the cuff), and then showed up at work (game-face on), barked some orders, and waited for the fabulous to show up. Nightlife doesn’t just happen. The few that make it look easy are the ones that rarely sleep and are completely enveloped in their work. It’s a thousand phone calls, a million texts, tweets, tumbles, and face-to-face meetings – yes, people still do that. It’s adjustments of what ain’t working, and refining of what ain’t broke. It’s a thousand small things that add up to big bucks at the end of the year. You are never alone, but you often feel isolated and detached. My ex used to say that when I opened a club, it was as if I was its heart and I had to keep beating or it would simply not work. An old adage that I always kept close said, "It’s not just a nightclub…but a way of life.”
Jonathan Schwartz is doing it, and doing it, and doing it well for the biggest game in town: Strategic Group. He is having his birthday tonight at Lavo, naturally. A super-duper, uber-secret DJ is promised. Since I DJ on Thursdays at Hotel Chantelle, I gave Jonathan my birthday wishes. I still haven’t figured out how to be in two places at the same time.
I caught up with the young Jedi Master and asked him all about it.
First of all, happy birthday. You are celebrating at Lavo… Tell me about the reason behind that choice of venue and what I might find if I could attend.
Hey Steve, Thank you for the birthday wishes, always good catching up with the man who’s seen it all AKA MR. Lewis! Ha. Celebrating my birthday at Lavo NY tonight because I think it’s the most well-rounded venue in NYC right now, and for me, it’s my Cheers. The venue delivers on hospitality, with great service, lighting, and sound, Top DJ talent such as Avicii, Calvin Harris, Tiesto, and Nicky Romero, and international crowd, image, special effects, and much more.
With that said, I can’t think of a better place to invite my oldest and newest friends to celebrate another year as the summer approaches. Thursday night you will find NYC’s elite and, what we all know as "the industry" crowd, along with friends looking to let loose to great music and champagne.
What is your role with Strategic Group and what is a typical day/night like?
My role at Strategic Group is head of nightlife marketing and programming,
My day-to-day consists of:
10am: in the office (working on promotions, talent-buying, concepts for nights, and working with my co-workers Rich Thomas and Andrew Goldberg to help curate the venues we call home (Lavo, Avenue, Dream Downtown, Marquee, Artichoke). Anything I can do on a given day to better the overall business, that’s my goal. As of late, much of my focus has been on our DJ line-up at Lavo NY – not only booking an act, but making sure it’s the right date is equally as important.
Noon: take a few meetings, coffee, lunch, meet with people for future business and ideas.
2pm: staff meetings
3pm: payroll (make sure promoters/DJs I am responsible for are being paid properly and on time).
4pm: outreach, touch base with people, connect, reconnect.
6pm: what am I doing tonight…make plans for a given evening. I know I’ll always be with my close crew, but who do we want to let in that night to join us?
Dinner: host a dinner and go out to our venues. My favorite nights to go out are Thursdays at Lavo, and Tuesday’s new house music night at Avenue.
12:15am: arrive to club, host important guests (could be DJs), someone looking for a BIG night out, and my friends.
4am: go home (maybe stop at Artichoke pizza on the way, ha).Go through my phone and make sure I replied to everyone for that day – both business and personal. Always try to be accessible and available.
Tell me about the Hamptons.
For the past eight years, I’ve spent a lot of time out in the Hamptons. Last summer was a very successful summer for me personally, as well as for the team I worked with out there.
I will decide about this coming season after my birthday. The Hamptons are filled with mostly the same faces year in and year out which is what I love most about it; it’s comfortable, and you know people on a very personal level.
I’m looking forward to deciding where my Hamptons outpost will be this coming 2012 season and letting people know next week, but I do know I’ll be spending a lot of time at the Stadium Red Estate house as much as I can, as I love the events my close friends Claude and Lee throw there.
How did you get into the biz and where are you headed with it?
I got into the business on a small scale when I was a junior in college. My three best friends and I started promoting parties over the summers when we were home and on winter breaks. We simply would invite our friends, and it started to escalate quickly, from 100 people, to 300, to 800 people. They eventually went on to finance and internet marketing, and I decided to stick with the hospitality business.
Post-college, I went on to direct promotions for former venues Manor and Arena before meeting Noah Tepperberg and joining the Strategic Hospitality Group family four years ago.
Today, I focus most of my time on Strategic Group and Tao/Lavo group venues, the Hamptons, and my most recent passion: Bounce Music Festival. The Festival is a college music festival touring company that brings some of the biggest acts into college towns. The most recent show was in Bloomington, Indiana for what’s known as Little 500 weekend, featuring Tiesto, Alesso, Tim Mason, and Topher Jones. My partners, Brandon Silverstein and Jared Lyons, are juniors at Indiana University and you will be interviewing them in years to come, I am sure!
Future plans are in the works since everyday something new gets thrown my direction. I’m always moving forward, never being stagnant. The hospitality industry is about staying ahead of the curve, finding trends before they occur, and putting my personal twist on them. With that, I have some fun ideas I’m working on bringing to life that I believe people want to experience.