La Pomme Debuts, Diamond Horseshoe Returns

The signs of the end of the great recession are everywhere. The other day, my mailwoman rang my bell because a magazine swelled with advertising couldn’t get through my slot. A couple of months ago, three of them would have slid in. The cafes are busy, and the accents of tourists with their little maps fill my neighborhood streets. Stores are filled with shoppers gearing up for the inevitable autumn, and the sounds of saws and screw guns tell of new construction and refurbishing everywhere. You can feel it in the streets and hear it on those annoying taxi screens. We’re moving forward again. Last night the lobby in the Waldorf was packed with families and businessmen who spent a little more and passed on the Hilton. I had a nice meal with my bestest friends. The $36 lamb chops didn’t cause a groan or even a blink. We watched the Russian hookers in Prada and Louboutins meet men named John. Money is circulating, and everyone is trying to get some.

For me the surest sign of happy days is the contracts being offered for my company’s design services. We’re getting a few “real” calls a week. In six or eight months there will be a slew of new spots peppering the blogs and nightlife columns. Around the second week of September, Tommy Tardie will offer La Pomme, built on the bones of Ultra, his ultra-successful lounge on West 26th street. Now some snarky hipster types may snarl at that last sentence, but success can be measured in many ways; trendy doesn’t necessarily spell success. Ultra has been there three years. It has survived the economic downturn and is now being redone with a nice budget attached. Words like Fellini-esque and Kubrick-like were thrown around in describing the new decor. La Pomme will cater to a mainstream crowd who come to dance and drink below high ceilings. Flavor-paper wallpaper will add some spark. The space is being expanded to accommodate larger events as the corporate parties are coming back big — another sign of the economic thaw.

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I spoke to owner and ex-Mad Man Tommy Tardie, looking very Don Draper and exuding confidence about the redux. He offered “perception is not reality” in describing the redo of his 3,500-square-foot joint,. Although he wouldn’t discuss what direction promo was going, I did hear that “it girl” Sally Shan was his next meeting. The hardest-working girl in club biz will bring a monied adult crowd. La Pomme is in mid-Chelsea and knows exactly what it is — there’s no perception that it’s anything but a nice club for a post-college crowd and maybe some promoted-to types. Tommy Tardie deals with the realities and the cash flow of that working crowd, looking for another nice three- (or more) year run.

The idea of writing about this new spot was pitched to me by Justine McCarthy and Sabrina Chapman of Simply Chic PR. They’re the principals at this young firm. We sat on a summer afternoon outside of One Little West Twelfth Street. Our corner table was shaded, and a cool breeze and ice teas made it grand. We were one of only a handful of customers in the place. Across from us was the bustle and hustle of Pastis, every table packed with scenesters. The whole industry could be understood by just sitting there. The difference between being packed and empty is really understanding what quality, consistency, and service really are. Keith McNally brings it while others just talk about it.

A whisper came my way about the infamous Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe Ballroom in the Paramount Hotel. I remember back in the day Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager trying to figure out how to get it open. My horse whisperer tells me that indeed it will open with Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum winning the bid over other suitors (including Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss). Billy Rose was a household name back in the postwar period, and the Diamond Horseshoe was the in spot — even boasting Gene Kelly dancing up a storm before Pal Joey. Can’t wait to see if Times Square returns as a nightlife destination. When we had Club USA back in the day, we did a base crowd of 500 real good-looking tourists and walk-ins every day. This helped pay the high rent.

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