Hospitality Design - July 2011 - 59
interview: richard wolf
By Stacy Shoemaker Rauen
king of clubs
Richard Wolf has had a busy year. In September, he and his TAO Group partners Marc Packer, Jason Strauss, and Noah Tepperberg brought their successful Las Vegas restaurant and nightclub LAVO to New York, housed in a space directly across the street from the original TAO. Then on New Year’s Eve, they transported über-successful New York nightclub Marquee to the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and added a pool dayclub component for a total of 60,000 square feet. Last month they opened multiple new venues in the much-anticipated Dream Downtown in New York from Hampshire Hotels & Resorts and Wyndham. The highlight—a rooftop lounge with heady city views. But that wasn’t enough for Wolf. With his other set of partners, Chris Santos and Peter Kane, he opened the sequel to Stanton Social, restaurant and lounge Beauty & Essex on New York’s Lower East Side, just a few weeks before Marquee opened. He took time from his hectic schedule to discuss the importance of creating wows and moments, how copying can be a cop-out, and his famous red wine test. HD: Why did you want to bring LAVO to New York? A location across the street from TAO is kind of serendipitous since both TAO and LAVO in Las Vegas are in the same hotel complex. RW: Typically, restaurants and clubs in Vegas start somewhere else—LA, New Orleans, Chicago, New York—and then they open in Vegas. It’s rare that it’s the other way around. The thing about Vegas is that everything is kind of fake. We’re all from New York, every one of us. So we feel that when we do something in Vegas, what Vegas really needs is authentic New York. LAVO Las Vegas’ design is more downtown New York than most other places in town, with the exception of maybe TAO. And it just really seemed like a natural. We started in Vegas, now let’s break the mold and do the reverse. We always knew that opening a LAVO in New York would give a shot in the arm to Las Vegas, and there would be some great synergy. When we opened up TAO Las Vegas, TAO New York spiked 20 percent in sales. HD: Was that the same reason to bring Marquee to Las Vegas? RW: Let’s just say that in the last 10 to 12 years in New York HD: Beauty & Essex was opening in New York in the middle of all this, with your other partners, Chris Santos and Peter Kane. You’ve got Stanton Social around the corner, which is extremely successful. Was this to build on that success? RW: That’s exactly what that was. Time Café was my ﬁrst restaurant, club/lounge, performance space, and Peter was the manager of Fez in Time Café. And Chris was at the time the sous chef, and eventually became the executive chef. I left to open Angelo & Maxie’s in ’96; sold my shares in Time Café in ’98, but we remained friends. I called him them up one day and I said point blank, ‘I think we should do a restaurant together, the three of there’s been two top clubs. Lotus was the ﬁrst, and then Marquee. So to achieve that status, to own the hottest nightclub in New York for roughly seven years, which is forever in club years, [is impressive]; it’s equivalent to a 25year run. And while there’s really no club in the history of New York that has ever just gone on and on, it just seemed like the perfect brand, for lack of a better way to say it. The ﬁrst time it got mentioned, Marc, myself, Noah, and Jason went out to dinner with the CEO, CFO, and general manager of the Cosmopolitan. It’s the ﬁrst time somebody said, ‘What about Marquee?’ I think Noah said it. And John Unwin, the CEO, is like, ‘I love the idea of Marquee.’ And we all just thought, ‘Oh, wow, it’s time for the next incarnation of Marquee.’ Because to see a brand like Marquee just go off into the sunset and never to be heard from again was a bit of a crime. Like Lotus is gone. It had its run, it had its day, and now it’s gone. Marquee lives on.
Above: One of the many rooms at Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Right: The main dance floor at LAVO New York.