Fiber optics light the venue's
overhead centerpiece: nebulous orb, or giant tick?
Have your cake and
dance in it too.
Photos by Allan Toft
With the flip of a switch, a two-way mirror sign transforms
decadent daytime dessert bar Brulee into alter ego 32°,
a swanky bottle service nightclub. The 1,700-square-foot space
sits inside The Quarter, the newly developed retail area in
Atlantic City’s Tropicana Hotel.
The venue is bedecked in both cream and candy colors, with
a white-concrete-and-mica floor, caramel-hued banquettes,
and an architectural lighting system that can turn things
fire-engine red with an LCD-screen finger-touch. But the room’s
centerpiece is a 12-foot, neon-lined chrome orb – a
sculpture of sorts – recessed in a 24’ x 20’
soffit, and surrounded by 500 square feet of fiber-optic-embedded
mirror paneling and 1,000 dangling crystal strands, each about
six feet long. Hanging from the orb’s central opening
is a turn-of-the-century chandelier.
While executive pastry chef Jamal Edwards rules over the kitchen,
plenty of cooks had a hand in creating the venue’s unique
broth. Owners Barry Gutin and Larry Cohen, who originated
the 32° concept in Philadelphia, are also behind neighboring
Cuba Libre restaurant, and Philly nightclub staples Egypt
and Shampoo. Interior designer Steve Lewis of Steve Lewis
Design (Marquee, Plaid in New York) worked alongside architect
Karen Daroff and Chris Sheffield of Daroff Design (Harrah’s,
Loews Philadelphia) to create a room as fit for dining as
it is for dancing. Paul Gregory and Michael Cummings of Focus
Lighting (crobar New York, Teatro Las Vegas) added versatile
architectural lighting, while Scott Kemly of Powerhouse Sound
(Tru, Cuba Libre Atlantic City) camouflaged the sound sources
as well as possible.
Lighting designer Michael Cummings:
“Typically in restaurants we don’t make such extreme
shifts. You don’t want to be shockingly dramatic; you
don’t want to signal people to get up and leave because
they don’t want to be part of the club. So the well-timed
gradual change is really under the control of the manager;
he’s able to feel the shift in the clientele. He’s
got an LCD panel; he can adjust lights on the fly if he wants
to. I think at the time that it’s done – nine,
10 o’clock – the people there aren’t with
their kids necessarily, so to be in that change is OK.
“We tried to use different angles, different colors,
and different intensities to create the change. We used downlights
and simple lighting during the day, which would set that clean,
elegant mood, and then allow us to shift into the color at
night. So at night, all the white light sconces and glowing
objects that create the daylight effect turn off, and we bring
in color sidelight. We get more dramatic. We bring in color
uplight. We pull out illuminated objects, and elements that
are colored and more vibrant.
“There’s a series of end-omitting fiber optic
points, protruding through a five-foot vertical mirrored soffit
wall that sidelights the crystal chandelier. There are no
LEDs: The point sources are what we were trying to get to,
and we found that the fiber optic could give you more point
sources more economically. To do that with individual LEDs
was going to be more costly."
JBLs and Tannoys camo-ed above.
hide under a central island.
“They didn’t want these big nightclub speakers
hanging, but they didn’t want ceiling speakers that
sounded like ceiling speakers. So we used Tannoy’s high-end
ceiling speakers, and we kind of made them disappear into
the sheetrock. It’s a 12-inch dual concentric, so basically
the tweeter/horn is mounted in alignment with the woofer,
but it uses the woofer as a horn to throw the high frequency,
so they’re both in alignment with each other so it hits
your ear at the same time. Just to hear that much hi-fidelity
coming out of a ceiling speaker is amazing.
“We chose the Crown I-Tech because of the DSP: All your
crossover points, your EQ-ing, your compression, limiting,
everything is in the amplifier, so each amp is self-contained.
And it’s the only amp that can run that hard of a load
that many hours.
couldn’t have anything much in the centerpiece because
it’s all glass; all reflective surfaces. So we talked
to JBL, and they made a custom box for us, the ESP18; super-clean
in a very small box. I was leery because I don’t believe
you can get good audio out of a small box. But these things
turned out to just be absolutely incredible.
“We didn’t want to fly any subwoofers because
you just lose output dramatically. But there are no cubby
holes, no alcoves, no real spots to place subwoofers. But
they had this center island thing, wrapped around with banquettes.
There was lattice work over it, with a fabric stretch. We
put the subs in it, but we were still limited in size, so
we went with two JBL ASB6118’s, a high-powered single-18.
I’ve used them many times before, and they definitely
have the real slamming output and super-deep low-end of a
Interior designer Steven Lewis:
“It’s Atlantic City. If you really want to say
what the intellect is, you can talk about dessert, you can
talk about a nightclub, but think about where you really are
– you’re in a casino. We wanted it to be one of
those elements that when a visitor came to Atlantic City,
their friend had told them ‘Hey, you’ve got to
check out this joint.’
“The idea [with a dual-use venue] is to try to economize
what the restaurant needs as best as possible, so you have
room to operate as a nightclub. You have to really take into
consideration size; size is the whole thing. You need to put
an oven behind the bar, a microwave…what is the smallest
size you can possibly use? Plus it has to be unobtrusive:
How do you hide it at night, how does it fit it, how do you
divert people’s attention away from something that has
nothing to do with a nightclub after the restaurant is closed?
“The main [focus] was to create this thing in the middle
of the room, which is absolutely eye-catching. And putting
that thing above the ceiling, which is above the plane of
the bar, certainly helped. You are immediately drawn to it,
and since it’s a highly reflective material, people
are constantly looking at it. There’s reflections of
new people walking in, the actions of people. If it’s
in restaurant mode, there’s flambé going on at
the tables, causing crystals to move, and the flames are being
seen in this mirror-like effect, and it becomes a show just
looking up. And if you’re a people-watcher you’re
certainly checking out the girl or guy sitting at the table
three rows down. [It was made] on purpose to create that.
“We kept the people plane very neat and clean; very
clean lines, very subtle, very controlled, so you felt warm
and comfortable with what was going on above your head. And
the fact that the thing changes color creates more interest.
“We designed questions into the place. For instance,
the orb, what is it? Is it a cloud? Is it a zeppelin? We were
constantly asking people what they thought it was, because
there really isn’t an answer. I heard somebody call
it a big tick; that was my favorite. It’s been called
a lot of things, but as long as they’re talking about
it I figure we’ve done what we’re supposed to
do; we’ve created controversy and thought process.”
9 - Tannoy CMS12 TDC ceiling speakers
8 - JBL CSP18 surface mount 2-way speakers
2 - JBL ASB6118 single subs
2 - JBL PD5122 dual-12” subs
2 - Pioneer CDJ-800 digital vinyl turntables
2 - Shure Whitelabel cartridges
2 - Shure ULXP24/58 wireless systems
2 - Symetrix ARC remotes
2 - Technics SL-1200M3D turntables
1 - Allen & Heath XONE:92 mixer
1 - JBL EON15 G2 powered booth monitor
1 - Symetrix SymNet Express Cobra DSP
50 - FJ Gray & Co. Devon color glass filters
50 - GL LitesOn low-voltage transformers
35 - CSL Creative System 2090 wall washes
34 - Litelab Corp LITETRAX socket strip
33 - Contrast Lighting NW3000LM downlights
27 - Lucifer Lighting Puklight downlights
20 - Lightolier C6LV recessed adjustable PAR36 accent
4 - Advanced Lighting Systems custom fused harness fiber
4 - Martin Professional FiberSource QFX150 fiber optics
1 - ETC Unison sensor dimming system
Lamps by Sylvania