Digital renditions of the Eldridge provided by Matt Levine
Unless you spent last week in the Hamptons or in a coma, chances are you saw something on the interweb about Matt Levine's soon-to-open bar, The Eldridge. Butlers? Laser-engraved cards to get in? Escalade taxis to chauffer you home (well not you, but those who may actually manage to get in)? And all of that on the Lower East Side? Good heavens, no!
The story broke and ballooned out of control; it was madness, even sparking some blogger beef between our friends at Down By The Hipster and Guest of A Guest. The rumors were rampant, and since we're too
drunk and lazy busy to waste time speculating, we went straight to the source himself, owner Matt Levine--a man who was hitherto known primarily for his clothing line, Steelo' and his parties. So what's the real deal with The Eldridge? Here's what Matt had to say ...
How long has the idea of opening the Eldridge been in the works? How did it come about?
The Lower East Side is full of culture and character, it's where trends start and style is created. When the location of The Eldridge became available, our concept and vision followed. It's truly the perfect size, perfect location of what is currently missing in New York City.
Was The Eldridge influenced by any of your own favorite New York bars?
As far as my favorite spots go, I'm pretty diverse--from hot spots to wine bars, and speakeasies to hotel bars. The Eldridge combines the intimacy of a date spot, the signature cocktails of a speakeasy, the sound system of a studio, the comfort of a lounge, and the customer service of a concierge. We just wanted to bring a creative atmosphere to nightlife, one that fuses comfort with entertainment. There are not many places in New York City to comfortably enjoy table service and listen to great music, with privacy and intimacy.
Do you have any experience operating a club?
No, I don't have experience with operating a club, but I have been involved in putting together special events for the past several years. But we have brought in an amazing supporting cast. Our general manager, Jason Lawrence, a fixture in the Miami nightlife scene, moved to New York City specifically to operate The Eldridge. Jason has experience in running and operating many of Miami's hot spots, and he is an extremely important part of The Eldridge.
Will you still be involved in running Steelo'?
Yes, I am very hands-on in everything I involve myself in. I still 100% own Steelo', and handle all the creative control and designing of Steelo'. I have signed on to be represented by an amazing showroom, The Green Room. They have a great roster of other brands, and have done a great job since I signed on with them. I still oversee every aspect of Steelo', and although in a showroom, I still approve all the distribution and sales keeping distribution exclusive and limited. You should check out the website--we're shipping to such stores as Atrium New York, Bill Hallman Atlanta, Fred Segal Santa Monica and Traffic Los Angeles (just to name a few) for fall '08.
When exactly are you looking to open as of now?
We are in no rush to open, but really the opening depends on when the staff is fully trained and the signature cocktails are perfect. Our GM, Jason Lawrence, has been training the staff for several weeks now. We have put together an amazing staff--many of our waitresses and bartenders come from a variety of hotels that focus on hospitality and service--like 60 Thompson, Ritz Carlton and The Plaza--which reiterates our goal of quality customer service.
New York Mag reported that The Eldridge would be closed on weekends, since your clientele tends to leave the city on weekends. Is that policy limited to the summer, or year-round?
Closed on the weekends just for the summer. We will be launching weekends with New York Fashion Week.
There's been quite a barrage of press since news of the Eldridge first broke. Is there anything you want to set straight, any rumors you want to confirm or deny?
The Eldridge is not just about Matt Levine, it's also about the support system. It starts with our door staff, and ends with our chaperones, our table attendants, our butlers, our porters, our hospitality consultants, and of course our GM, Jason Lawrence. We have put together an amazing staff that all share the same vision and concept of what nightlife should be, and what is currently missing in NYC now. Most bars, lounges and nightclubs focus on drinks and bottles. At The Eldridge, we focus on customers. It's not the drink you make, it's how you deliver it; it's not about bringing over a bottle, it's how you present it. We are just trying to bring a unique, creative experience to one of the oldest industries, to fuse creativity, privacy, quality, service and sound, and to emphasize that it's not just about a drink and a bottle, it's about the process and the service--and more importantly, the environment in which it is created.
Also, The Eldridge will be the first lounge-only venue to be GRA Certified, part of the Green Restaurant Association, helping us to create an ecologically sustainable lounge.
Will you be making the space available for private parties? Will you have to be a laser-engraved cardholder to rent it?
Yes, The Eldridge is available for private parties that fit into the concept and vision of The Eldridge. All private parties inquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212.505.7600.
What's the most expensive thing on the menu? What about the least expensive?
Drinks are anywhere from $12 to maybe $32 for our signature cocktail, The Eldridge, which uses Armand de Brignac Rose and real golden flakes. Bottle prices are standard. We are using all premium liquor in our well, and all of our cocktails will use fresh fruits and premium mixers. Our staff training has gone to extra lengths to make serving a drink an art form, an experience. The handcrafted cocktail list was created by Charlotte Voisey. She's a famed mixologist who took guidance with the Gorgeous Group in London in 2002 when they opened Apartment 195 together, which was soon awarded Bar of the Year. Charlotte went on to win the title of Best Bartender at The UK Bar Awards in 2004. She has traveled the world showcasing top brands through mixology in Aspen, Las Vegas, Kuala Lumpur, Mexico, New Zealand and New York. Recent consulting projects include The Dorchester Hotel in London and Ian Schrager's Gramercy Park Hotel here in New York. Still competing internationally, Charlotte took silver medal at the World Female Bartender championships in Italy this year.
Other than celebrity DJs, do you plan to have any live performances?
Sundays we will have a saxophonist, Mondays we will be doing a movie night, Tuesdays we will have a trumpet player, Wednesdays we will have a drummer, and Thursdays a flute player. All the live music will accompany the funk, jazz, old-school, R&B, rock, and soul music of our DJs. It's truly a place where we encourage our DJs to play the music they listen to on their iPods, not what they are paid to play at other venues.
As you know, NYC hot spots often have a short shelf-life, even when there's a lot of buzz surrounding the openings. How do you plan to avoid that?
Many venues open up their doors with financial projections and monetary goals. With The Eldridge, it's a business, but it's not about the money. What has been lost in NYC nightlife is that the nightlife scene should be about the people, the experience, and not business about bottles. It's the business of providing an atmosphere and a concierge-like environment for our guests. Most NYC hot spots focus on drink and bottle sales; we focus on quality customer service. The mission of The Eldridge is create a nightlife that provides the highest quality customer service with heightened focus on elegance, luxury and sophistication, while maintaining the strict privacy of our guests instead of the number of bottles we sell.