Hospitality Design - July 2011 - 60
interview: richard wolf
From far left: The second floor lounge and the main dining room at Beauty & Essex.
excited to have a nightclub and a downtown-feeling restaurant right around the corner, so they no longer had to travel down to a Keith McNally restaurant. Dinner for 12, and then a table in the club for 12, it’s a lot of work to us. But I’m not in this for one restaurant. I want to make a verbal commitment that we do a minimum of three restaurants together.’ And that was done on a handshake, and so Beauty & Essex is the second. We really haven’t started talking about the third yet. We had a very clear vision of what Stanton Social was going to be when we started. HD: Was that the same for Beauty & Essex? RW: We did not have that same vision on Beauty & Essex. We struggled. The easy way out would be to open another Stanton Social on the Upper West Side. We would do great business up there—everybody always complains there’s no place to eat up there. But it seemed like a cop-out. The three of us are all very creative people in our own right. Together we can do great things, and while it would be easy, and it would make money, it would also kind of cheapen our brand and who we are. I think that I would rather go through the pain, and there is a lot of pain in a brand new concept. It’s so much work because everything is new—the graphics, napkins, silverware, uniforms, the menu. It’s really, really painful. That’s why opening LAVO was easy for us in New York, relatively speaking. Opening Marquee, I don’t know if I would say it was easy, but when the logo, the name, and the menus, all of the things you spend time developing, when it’s all out of the way and you don’t have to think about that, [it’s easier]. Beauty & Essex was every single thing, down to the hand dryers in the bathrooms. But it’s better to have a new concept like Beauty & Essex that kind of breaks the mold, I think, than to just simply copy ourselves and go uptown and do another Stanton Social, watering down what we already did. I don’t particularly care for copying what we’ve already done. I mean the design of LAVO New York is completely different than the one in Vegas, night and day. HD: Right, you used AvroKO in Las Vegas and ICRAVE in New York. What did you want to create in New York? RW: The big thing about the people who live on the Upper East Side is that it’s really a pain in the neck to go downtown every time you want something that has brick on the wall or something that’s cool—something that feels like it’s downtown. And our mantra in New York has been when we build a place uptown, we want to bring downtown uptown. And really, Beauty & Essex in a way is like bringing uptown downtown. With LAVO, people were HD: You brought in AvroKO again for the design. After multiple projects, it must be a pretty seamless collaboration. RW: It’s a very synergetic relationship. We’re extremely involved, to the point of torturing them. I think all designers would probably prefer to just be let loose, and do their thing. But we look at things from many different angles. We look at it from budget, from durability, from the point of view of replacement. We have what we call the ‘famous red wine test,’ where they show us a fabric for a banquette, barstool, or a chair, and somebody takes it home, spills red wine on it, and places a glass that has a red wine ring on the bottom on it over night. Then the next day after it’s dry, we see if it can be cleaned off. We’ll do a spike heeled test, because people have HD: So you had a clear vision for LAVO, but not for Beauty & Essex though you had the space. How did the concept evolve? RW: We basically make a night out of it once a week. Chris will go over to my apartment at noon and cook for 10 hours. Peter and I would show up around 10:00 pm, and Peter would bring three really good bottles of wine and a playlist. I have a big open kitchen, so Peter and I sit at the counter while Chris cooks and we crack open the wine. We start doing business and housekeeping, and then we get into the creative part of the evening where the ideas start ﬂowing. We have to write them down because by the third bottle of wine we’re not sure if they’re ridiculous, or if they actually make sense, so we look at them the next day to see if it means anything. Since the space is really long and narrow we needed to break it up into pieces, and we also wanted the front to feel like part of the neighborhood. Originally we were going to do a bodega where you could buy lottery tickets, cigarettes, and condoms. Peter, or one of us said, ‘How about a pawnshop?’ And then Peter said, ‘What about a pawnshop that specializes in jewelry, and we use jewelry as the design reference?’ We were high-ﬁving each other, like we had hit a grand slam. And off we went. So everything became about jewelry. We have a section on the menu called Jewels on Toast, and the sides are not sides, they’re Accessories. And so with that as our guiding principle, the cylinders just started to click into place on all fronts. transport three groups of people. [With the restaurant upstairs and the nightclub downstairs] it really is kind of one-stop shopping.