Pacha, New York



Co-owner Eddie Dean (left) and promotional director Rob Fernandez in what will soon be Pacha’s main room (and once was Sound Factory’s). Photo: Rahav Segev.

Ibiza takes Manhattan.

By Kerri Mason

Buildings capable of housing sizeable nightclubs – because of structure, size, landlords, community boards, zoning – are rarer than a sympathetic mayor in New York. So the same ones frequently go through almost feline life cycles, dying tragically one year and returning with a glossy coat the next. Trammps begat Centro-Fly begat Duvet. Sound Factory begat Twilo begat Spirit. Mirage begat Carbon begat Exit begat Black begat Ikon. You get the idea.

Sometimes the venue is basically the same, with a different name merely symbolizing new ownership, or an attempt at refreshing (nearly all of Ikon’s incarnations). Sometimes it gets gutted and becomes something entirely different, thus shortening the public’s memory. Everyone bought Centro-Fly as a chic and upscale dance club, even though Trammps had been a dingy, loud live venue.

But sometimes the transformation goes awry, like a science experiment in a Spiderman strip, and yields a mortally flawed hybrid. Spirit attempted to whitewash the colorful memory of Twilo’s decadent days with a more “spiritual” focus, and structurally altered its dancefloor, one of the city’s most open and inviting. The change only alienated Twilo’s still-of-clubbing-age faithfuls, leaving the space with the storied 27th Street address, but without any vibe (or a regular/consistently interested crowd).

“Spirit screwed that place up so much,” says Rob Fernandez, promotional director of in-the-works new club Pacha New York. “They had the most beloved, popular club in New York history, and none of those people came to Spirit. They screwed it up. And that’s part of our job, to make sure that the things that were good about this club stay, and we improve what was bad about it.”

When Fernandez and Pacha’s ownership team moved into the club space at 46th Street and 12th Avenue, they had a lot of good to work with. And a lot of bad. The space – a stacked, four-floor monster with an intimate dancefloor and endless nooks and crannies to discover – was former home to one of the most famous clubs in nightlife history, Sound Factory, and its worshipped Saturday night resident, Jonathan Peters. But because of the way Sound Factory closed in March 2004 – with a government padlock, after a police raid uncovered an active drug trade within its walls, and sent its owner, Richard Grant, to jail and eventual trial – the new team had to distance itself from the past.

“I can’t even speak about Sound Factory; I was never there,” Pacha co-owner Eddie Dean says wisely. “But we’ve partnered with the biggest club brand in the world. So anybody who wants to make any sort of accusations – ‘Oh, it’s going to be the same thing, they must have some problems’ – it’s not at all going to be that way. It’s going to be run professionally and properly.”

Photo: Rahav Segev.

Who Am I Now?
The partnership with Pacha – which is one of the world’s most recognizable club brands, with over 30 years of history and 23 clubs throughout Europe – was born out of an equally fortuitous one: DJ Erick Morillo is one of the New York club’s investors, and a resident at Pacha’s original Ibiza location during the summer months. He brought the two teams – Dean, Fernandez and their partners; and the Urgell family behind Pacha – together, and is very involved with the club’s development. In fact, Dean’s Sidekick tinkles more than once during our interview, with directives and queries from Morillo, conducting business from Ibiza.

But the introduction of the Pacha aesthetic to the mix brings its own identity problems, most of which are tied up in the figure of one man: Jorge Goula Escribano, the club chain’s in-house architect. Soon after the deal was inked, giving Dean and crew rights to the Pacha name throughout North America, Escribano flew over from Spain. He set to work with ICRAVE (crobar, Aer) to merge Pacha’s Mediterranean look with the New York firm’s more urban, hip style.

The soft-spoken gentleman stops short of calling European clubs “nicer” than typical New York venues, but does deem them “more elaborate. I don’t know if it’s better or worse, but it’s something.” He smiles politely. “We are the difference between European tellie and American tellie. Sometimes we can be too tedious, and sometimes Americans can be so noisy that you really…” He covers his ears.

The lessen the din, Escribano intends to strip the reflective metal from the dancefloor’s structural poles, do away entirely with Sound Factory’s industrial element, and use “natural materials, like wood and tile” throughout the club. “No plastic.”

“We use sails – fabric – hanging from the ceiling. They soften the room, catch the light, conceal things. And they are part of the decoration, so you can do some parties and bring in different fabric, different colors. It’s part of the personality,” he says.

The queue outside Ibiza's Pacha.

Anyone who knows a thing about successful New York nightclubs winces at the notion of airy, tropical décor. But Pacha New York is so loaded with quality in every other aspect that it just might be powerful enough to set a new standard, and change tastes. With a team including the city’s hottest promoter, the world’s most versatile DJ, a solid name and even juicier logo (Pacha’s cherry stamp), and clubland’s marquis sound contractor, Miami-based Infinite Audio, 618 46th Street is poised to enter the annals of club history for a second time. But to do that in jaded, nostalgia-obsessed, xenophobic, inherently critical New York, the club will have to nuzzle up to the future while winking at history, and maintain its Big Apple – not Dual Cherry – identity.

Dean and Fernandez know that. “I think it’s going to be old school New York; a real blend,” says Dean of Pacha’s eventual crowd. “You’re going to have your club kids, kids who are going to dance all night long. You’re going to have your people who are going to spend their money at a table with bottle service. You’re going to have a little bit of everything. You need to be able to reach all of these audiences to be successful.”
Can punters coexist with bottle service fashionistas? Will kids dance ‘til morning in a room with fabric swathed from the ceiling? Will fans of underground house music be able to accept an in-house retail store peddling branded merchandise? And most importantly, is there anything particularly New York about such accoutrements?

“A lot of these recent club openings, the guys are from out of town. We’re New York guys. Our roots are here. We’ve been in this game, in this city, for 15, 20 years,” says Dean. “We have a pretty good handle on what people want.”

The Odd Couple
Eddie Dean and Rob Fernandez first met in 2002, when Fernandez’s Subliminal Sessions party briefly moved to Dean’s Discotheque, still the only after-hours club in New York. The two were an instant power couple: Dean, the hard-nose bar owner from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, with a background in real estate and a history of capitalizing on other owners’ misfortunes; and Fernandez, the trend-aware New York City promoter who could turn dung – like a Sunday night party with toilet paper for flyers – into gold (long-running, Club World Award-winning Asseteria).

“We hit it off,” says Dean. “Rob’s an old school mentality sort of guy, and so am I. We don’t get caught up in all this hubbub. In fact, we can’t even get into most of these happening, cool spots because we’re not cool enough.”

The vision of the towering Fernandez and ample Dean – two guys you wouldn’t want to sit next to on a crowded airplane – arguing at the door of Bungalow 8 or Quo is instantly hilarious. “We don’t even try,” says Fernandez. “Once we go there, we’re just going to hate it anyway.”

The two perch on an oblong, purple-and-fuchsia Karim Rashid couch – harvested, fittingly, from defunct NY venue Powder – where Pacha’s premier banquette will eventually be: On the dancefloor, to the left of the elevated DJ booth. The room is all trash bins and hanging wires for now, but full-color renderings of its eventual glory from ICRAVE litter the platform that will become the DJ booth.

Dean plays the careful statesman, while Fernandez tosses out one-liners. But this natural comedy-team shtick is informed by their combined street smarts. In a world of club proprietors who think they and they alone have the magic formula for success; who burrow themselves so deeply in their own business plans that they cease to consider local supply and demand, Dean and Fernandez do the opposite. They’re obsessed with watching everyone else, like a S.W.A.T. team preparing for move-out.

In fact, at the beginning of every weekend night, the two get in Dean’s car and go venue-to-venue around the city, snooping on the competition. Fernandez does crowd analysis, while Dean works up the background. “He knows about places you don’t even know exist anymore,” says Fernandez. “‘Yeah, the rent is this much, the lease is this long.’”

It’s a ritual that gets to the core of what their partnership is about: Cutting through hype, and staying grounded.

So the decision to team up with Pacha – suspect to many an old-school New York head, because of the un-urban-ness of all the White Isle’s clubs – was a carefully considered, entirely pragmatic one. While Fernandez’s name and email list assures the new club a corner on the New York market, the Pacha name locks up the rest of the world.

“I’m confident in our abilities locally to reach the audience that we need to reach, between Rob’s history and his resources, mine and some of the people that will be involved,” says Dean. “However, for staying power and longevity you really need something else, and that’s what Pacha delivers. We have instant global penetration now.”

Indeed, Pacha has a tremendous network throughout Europe, including a magazine, a record label and a radio station. The New York team will soon erect a billboard at the Ibiza airport, proclaiming “Pacha New York: Fall 2005,” and hire a U.K.-based PR company, in addition to BNC, already onboard for America.

To Dean, the transatlantic connection is critical: “When these people overseas come to New York and they stay in one of the nice hotels, typically they’ll ask the concierge, ‘What nightclub should we go to?’ I think we’re going to change that. I think now it’s going to be, ‘How do I get to Pacha?’”

The Hook-Up
When Dean first considered taking over the Sound Factory space, not long after the club’s legal troubles erupted, Fernandez was the naysayer: “I told him he should have his head examined,” he says.

But Dean’s background in real estate wouldn’t allow him to let it go. “In New York, there’s been a rebirth of the big clubs the last couple of years,” he says. “And there are very few big clubs even out there, never mind being available, never mind that were essentially built-out. And in this area, on the West Side Highway, your neighbor’s the water, so it’s not like you’ll get a lot of complaints from the ocean. It’s really-off-the-path, and there’s plenty of parking around here, which is another great aspect. So I saw an opportunity and I spoke to the landlord.”

The landlord had temporarily lost possession of the building during Sound Factory’s legal proceedings, but when he got it back, Dean signed up. From then on, things started falling into place. The state liquor authority lifted a two-year block on the premises and granted Dean a new license, on the strength of his clean record. Fernandez came on board and started hunting for partners and systems designers. Morillo became an investor, and agreed to make the club his exclusive New York City residence. In early 2005, Morillo introduced the Pacha option. In June, Dean and Fernandez were on a plane to Ibiza for a sit-down with the original owner, Ricardo Urgell, and his two sons, Hugo and Panchi.

“They’ve had a lot of offers. They’ve been around 40 years, and a lot of people have wanted to do Pacha New York, Pacha North America, but they had to feel comfortable,” says Fernandez. “And it’s New York. Clubs open and two years later they close; that wasn’t what they wanted. I think Erick’s association with the project also made them feel comfortable that we could open here.”

That meeting in Ibiza was on a Wednesday. The younger Urgells were in New York to see the space that Friday.

Systems So Far
Pacha’s main room isn’t giant – sound designer Lord Toussaint, of Infinite Audio, calls it “intimate,” and likens it to the original Space Miami’s dancefloor. Contractors have already moved a staircase, built the DJ platform, and removed Sound Factory’s 12-person hot tub from the fourth floor. The space the enormous tub took up will now be a powder room attached to the ladies room, complete with a champagne bar (that was Escribano’s idea).

Fabric "sails" now used in Pacha Ibiza will also find a place in the New York club.

Systems director Jarrod Khoury is wiring the main room to be “a production house,” ready for any given project or event. “Anything can go anywhere,” he says. “You do a corporate event, they want 50 plasma TVs, no problem, here’s this for that. You want to shoot a commercial, here’s your camera.” (Corporate events will be a major part of the club’s weekly business: They’ve already gotten queries.)

Khoury is also responsible for the design of the lighting rig, which he says will include a moveable, “spider-like” truss, High End Systems Hog iPC control (“It’s the most user-friendly board”), LED light and fixtures from Robe. “I’m a big fan of using one brand, I don’t like to break it up,” he says. “I hate when you walk into a club and you see three different yellows. That drives me crazy. I like to have the room uniform. And the Robe product is out in the world, but it’s new in the States.”

The Lighting Design Group, a New York-based company which specializes in studio and live TV work, will take on the architectural lighting.

Dean and Fernandez know what they’re proposing hasn’t been done before. They know that an Ibiza-styled nightclub and New York City aren’t an obvious couple. They know that the loyalty of the Sound Factory faithful will not be easily won. They know that negative messageboard chatter might be inevitable. They know that merging bottle service with a DJ centered room isn’t easy. They know that to be successful, they’ll have to blend disparate groups.

But toward that end, they know what they have, too. They have Erick Morillo, perhaps the only DJ in the world cut out for the job, who will serve as a resident initially bimonthly, eventually monthly; perhaps on Friday, perhaps on Saturday, or perhaps alternating days.

“Erick crosses over. He reaches all audiences,” says Dean. “He’s proven he’s not afraid to play stuff that some people may not like. He plays for the crowd. I don’t think you can say any other DJ moves a crowd like he does: 4,000 people dancing in unison. I’ve never seen any other DJ do that in New York City. Junior [Vasquez] used to do that, but I haven’t seen it lately. [Erick will] have the club kids; he’ll have the Latin flavor – his roots follow him. He draws a gay-straight mix; it’s a little bit of everything. And he gets celebrities.”

“When Erick plays crobar, all those stupid lounges, even they’re empty,” says Fernandez.

The stupid lounges are another perceived ace in the duo’s hole. To them, house music is infiltrating the formerly hip-hop-driven venues, and the trend of going out to star-watch is waning.

“How many more times can you go to one of those lounges and hear the same hip-hop mixes, the same hip-hop DJs, a bunch of people sitting on the back of banquettes looking at the front door, to see what celebrity might be coming so they can tell everybody at the water cooler who they hung out with last night?” says Dean. “It’s just a played-out, tired scene. They’re just cookie cutter lounges opening up.”

And then there’s Fernandez, the only promoter in New York capable of drawing a truly hybrid crowd. “Rob creates parties. All his parties are fun; it’s just natural fun,” says Dean. “You go to these clubs and they pay people to dress up and stuff, it’s so fabricated and cliché. Rob’s not like that. It’s a real mix, and that’s what makes a New York nightclub, really. You know when you go to a party and it’s everybody, it’s just a better party.”

Fernandez plans to pull out the stops to wow even the most yawn-happy New York crowd. “There will be theme parties, different events, things that are going to get people excited to leave their house. This whole town is jaded,” he says.

But Pacha’s biggest plus-point is also the most basic: As of October 2005, they exist. “New York needs another big club,” says Fernandez. “Spirit and Avalon are through, Exit doesn’t exist. It’s just crobar.”

If paper beats rock, can cherries beat a wrecking tool? Tune into New York this fall to find out.


Lord Of The Jungle Infinite Audio gets its first big job in NYC.

During Eddie Dean’s first-ever conversation with Lord Toussaint, he jokingly told the Miami-based Infinite Audio proprietor that the ideal time for their first meeting would be nine a.m. the next morning. Toussaint popped out of a cab outside Pacha at exactly that time the following day. That’s how badly he wanted a New York project.

“I really wanted to get something going in New York City a year ago, but none of those opportunities were right,” he says. “But I’m glad it happened this way, with a clean slate, and such fantastic people. I think it was worth waiting.”

Toussaint made a name for himself as the charismatic soundman behind Space Miami’s storied systems. In fact, it was Space owner Louis Puig who sent Erick Morillo to Infinite’s downtown Miami showroom, where the DJ heard the company’s current favorite system, Dynacord Alpha, in action. He immediately referred Toussaint to the Pacha New York crew, who were impressed not only by his willingness to stage theatrical air travel, but also by his ability to solve some of the problems that had defined other designers’ proposed systems, most notably a loss of valuable dancefloor real estate.

“They had mapped out where the Bertha stacks were going in the original design in masking tape on the floor, and I called it, ‘CSI Manhattan: the outline of the murder of your profitability,’” laughs Toussaint. “I felt it. When I saw those outlines in premium seating area, I said to myself, how convenient for me. What the hell, why don’t I just make the whole floor subs. And I’m the first one who likes to load it up. But I need to do something clever for my client. I can’t just go in and put four subs, one in each corner of the dancefloor, without any regard for premium seating area.”

So Toussaint designed a system around flown speakers, and subwoofers built under a pre-existing staircase: 28 boxes in the main room in all, 15 of them sub-bass.

“I want them to be successful. I want to feel like this is my nightclub too, and I’m not willing to give up a $5,000 table for a subwoofer,” says Toussaint. “If I’m challenged to put that subwoofer in my butt, I’ll do whatever it takes to get the thing done.”

The system will be driven by EV’s RL-series amplifiers with onboard DSP, controlled by IRIS (Intelligent Remote Integrated Supervision) software. IRIS boasts the highest signal-to-noise ratio available (115 dB), plus EQ, limiting and compression. “There’s a lot more going on there than what some people call network-controlled amplifiers that they can turn on and off with a computer,” says Toussaint. “I do that in the first 10 seconds in talking about these amplifiers, and then I can go on for another hour and a half.”

While Toussaint is thrilled with the large scope and ample capabilities of his first New York install, he’s most pleased to undo what he sees as nostalgia’s stranglehold on audio in “the most important city in the world.”

“The digital age has helped create some of [modern nightclub] clientele in a great way, because young people today are very accustomed to high signal-to-noise ratio. Why? Because all of the media that they work with and listen to and enjoy themselves with is digital, so their standards are higher,” he says. “The biggest loser in the world has a $70 CD player with a signal-to-noise ratio of well more than 100 dB. So why should we be installing signal processing with a floor of 80 dB? What’s up with that? Does that make any sense? But in New York, that’s how things are sold. We hope that after this job it’s a thing of the past, that it’s the way things were sold. We hope that after this job, nobody has the audacity to represent themselves as purists selling antiquities.”


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Copyright 2005 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2005 TESTA Communications