One of the neighborhood’s bigger soap operas in recent months has revolved around Ludlow Manor, the triple-decker nightlife venue at 95 Delancey Street. The involvement of Luc Carl, Lady Gaga’s ex, plus multiple clashes with Community Board 3 and the State Liquor Authority (SLA) generated all kinds of negative PR. Earlier this month, the club announced it was changing course — re-branding and bringing in new management. Earlier this week, we stopped by “The DL” (which is what they’re calling Ludlow Manor now) to talk with Paul Seres, who’s now charged with day-to-day operations.
The club, opened by the operators of The Delancey” (168 Delancey Street), obtained a liquor license for a ground-floor tapas restaurant last year but did not have authority to serve on the second and third levels. The venue was forced to close temporarily amid allegations from the SLA that booze was allowed on the upper floors, and that no prepared food was available (a condition of the state license). CB3 declined to support the new liquor permits, saying the applicants had repeatedly misrepresented what was really happening at Ludlow Manor.
Now the establishment has re-opened, the kitchen is fully operational and Seres told us everything is being done “by the book.” Next week, he and his new partners will appear before CB3’s SLA Committee, asking the panel to support a renewed bid for those additional liquor permits. Monday afternoon, sitting in the second floor lounge, we talked about the DL’s “fresh start.”
Seres explained, “the most important thing to realize is that the owners of this venue are good operators, they’re solid operators that have been around for a long time, and they fell upon some bad advice that happened due to a change in the group that used to counsel them on business issues.”
Seres is a familiar presence who gives the troubled business instant credibility. He’s president of the New York Nightlife Association and a member of Community Board 4 (Chelsea). He knows many members of Community Board 3 well. He was initially hired as a consultant by Ludlow Manor owners, Tomas Dyskiewicz and Aleksandra Drozd. Within about three weeks, they made him an offer and, Seres, said “here I am as a partner.”
We asked whether he had any reservations about becoming involved in problem-plagued project. ““It wasn’t an easy decision,” he said, but in the end he was impressed with the operators and convinced that they were determined to turn the business around. So what’s the strategy?
The plan here is simple. We want to do everything we say we’re going to do, which I don’t think happened in the past. That’s why I want to make sure we do everything correctly. If we say to the community board that we have opened up the downstairs as an eating and drinking establishment, which is how they approved it initially, then that’s what we’ve done… We want to do everything by the book and let everyone know we are here to be good neighbors. We’re not here to try to pull any wool over anyone’s eyes, that what you see is what you get and to that point because I live in the area and because I’m familiar with a lot of members of CB3 my phone number is the contact number. I will be the first person to address it.
Seres knows he might not receive the warmest reception at the CB3 hearing next week, and he’s fully aware that there will be tough questions about what’s happened in the past, even if he’d prefer to focus on the future:
I wasn’t here. I only know what’s in front of me and what I can do going forward. There are certain concessions that we probably will be willing to make as far as stipulations and agreed upon things… Yeah, they’re going to harp on the past and I can speak to the errors. But what I do know moving forward is that we have a plan in place that we think is right for the community and right for the community board. If they would be willing to listen, I think we will make better headway and it will be less contentious.
The DL team has presented a detailed security blueprint to CB3, along with their application. They also contracted with traffic expert Sam Schwartz to evaluate the dangers outside the bar on Delancey and Ludlow streets, and to come up with a safety plan for customers leaving the bar late at night.
Other consultants were also brought on board, including Cappellino, a well-known lobbying firm and Susan Blond, Inc. a public relations company. Seres explained what they’ve been hired to do:
We brought on Cappellino for a couple of reasons. Number one, Cappellino has great relationships with the State Liquor Authority, and Cappellino has great relationships with CB3. We also brought on Cappellino to make sure our messaging is correct… When I first came on, I looked at this as a three-prong approach… We had to let the State Liquor Authority know that, ‘yes downstairs there’s eating and drinking.’ ‘Yes our kitchen is open.’ As soon as we get that done we’ll take our license out of safe keeping, you’ll see us operate… The second issue was Community Board 3…. And the third is public opinion. I wanted to make sure we’d bring on the right group to frame and craft and steer our message, so that it wasn’t just people walking by the space, seeing activity and kind of conjuring up delusions of grandeur of things in the past.
And what about Luc Carl, who was portrayed in the New York Post and elsewhere as the driving force behind Ludlow Manor, even though he was really only the front man?
Luc was brought on specifically to do this room (the second floor lounge) and Luc had a relationship with Georgie Seville who is a partner in this venture. They always wanted to do a space together. They were missing a ‘back-of-house’ operational perspective that could keep track of things. They thought they had it in the GM but, once again, people had their eye on the wrong ball… I do know that Luc and the owners have parted amicably and Luc and Georgie are still friends.”
In his role as head of the Nightlife Association, Seres is an advocate for good club operators because, he says “bad operators made it harder for the rest of us.” At The DL, he is convinced that “the principles of this establishment are not bad operators. They made some mistakes and they’re willing to accept their mistakes, correct them, pay their fines and move forward the right way.”