openings

Matt Levine Won’t Let You Into the Eldridge Unless You’re His Friend

the eldridge

“It’s a place that I want to keep kind of stealth.”Rendering courtesy of the Eldridge

As you might have heard, the Lower East Side has a new hidden lounge-restaurant, and even though it only has thirteen tables, it’s manned by chaperones, butlers, table attendants, and a hospitality consultant. So what exactly are all these things? Our own Jada Yuan asked owner Matt Levine, the designer of Steelo, to explain them to us and to tell us just why his new spot, the Eldridge, is going to remedy what he thinks is the staleness and lack of creativity in the current nightlife scene.
the eldridge

Rendering courtesy of the Eldridge

When are you opening?
I’m hoping for July 27, but really the opening is being delayed until the staff is perfect and until the signature cocktails are perfect. We’re going to have a hospitality consultant that’s going to talk to people and figure out what they need. Their wish is our command. Rather than security guards, we’re going to call them chaperones. Rather than waitresses, they’re table attendants. Rather than bartenders, we’re calling them butlers.

How do the bartenders feel about being called “butlers”? Isn’t that a step back to, like, 1847?
Not at all. Bartenders tend bars. Butlers tend people. The butlers or bartenders or whatever you want to call them aren’t just making Belvedere sodas. They’re crushing fresh exotic fruit, pouring egg whites, dashing bitters, sprinkling real gold flakes.

Isn’t bottle service why New York nightlife sucks?
Yes, we’re going to offer bottle service and, yes, it’s going to be part of our business, but it’s not mandatory for entry. I mean, we’re going to run a very tight door. It’s who you are and who you know. Yes, bottle service is part of the experience, and it involves chocolates!

But maybe the Lower East Side doesn’t need this kind of venue. Isn’t the appeal of that neighborhood that it’s grimy?
It doesn’t look out of place. The outside of the Eldridge is going to be an old bookstore. It says the Eldridge New and Used Books. It’s a place that I want to keep kind of stealth.

What I don’t get is how it’s going to be that vastly different from anything else out there. You still have bartenders. You’re just calling them something else.
Monday nights we’re going to have movies-and-popcorn nights. We have a flat-screen TV behind a two-way mirror, and you can pop bottles and pop popcorn at the same time. With the table service you’re getting fresh fruit and chocolate. If you want sushi, we have a sushi menu. If you want Mexican, we’ll have a Mexican menu. We’ve also got an American menu, a deli menu, and a Greek menu. And our cocktails are so unique. The Eldridge is going to be passion-fruit seeds, Reyka vodka, litchi juice, simple syrup, and Champagne. The Ludlow is two fresh slices of mango, Sailor Jerry rum, simple syrup, lemon juice, Angostura bitters, and egg whites.

Why not stay open on weekends?
Everyone I know goes away on the weekends. I wanted to keep it New York. I just thought as far as the vibe goes, the people who go to the Eldridge, they’re not in the city on weekends. So I’m closing the weekends, and I’m going to open up Fashion Week.

What’s the capacity?
It’s the same size as Cipriani’s upstairs. When you walk in, we have the Chesterfield banquettes. The entire left wall displays the Armand de Brignac. We have $650,000 worth of Champagne on the wall. We have more Rosé Armand de Brignac on the wall than the entire state of New York.

Where does the dancing take place?
There’s no dance floor, but you can dance. The music is all soul, funk, R&B, hip-hop, rock, and mash ups. But along with the music, we’re going to have a saxophone player or a trumpet player playing along with the D.J.'s.

Will the Smartwater Escalade chauffer people back to Williamsburg?
Brooklyn’s case by case.

I live in Williamsburg.
For you, we’ll make an exception for Williamsburg.

How do you decide who gets in?
Between myself and Naeem Delbridge, who’s running the door, we know a lot of quality people in the city. It’s friends and family. That’s basically what it is.

What was the space before?
I forget the name of it. But we completely renovated it. Our floors are golden, but they look like wood planks. We have hand-stamped cement. The ceiling is oak wood. We have tiger wood on top of the bar. There are crystallized field stones that lay in the left side of the tile wall to match the sparkle in the bottles and the floor. There’s a chandelier in the back with an infinity mirror so the chandelier looks like it’s going on forever. It’s beautiful, and you have no idea it’s there behind the bookstore.

How will your friends and family let you know they’re coming?
We have 400 laser-engraved entry cards that say Guest of Matt Levine. I will give those out to my people so Naeem knows that they’re good, and Naeem has his own cards. We also have a public line and a private line.

How much do drinks cost?
Mixed drinks will run you $16 to maybe $32 for the Eldridge, which uses Armand de Brignac and real gold sprinkles. Bottle prices are standard — like a bottle of Belvedere is $400.

Can you drop some names of who we’ll see there?
We have events set up with Kate Moss, John Legend, Lydia Hearst, Jay Z. The owner of Armand de Brignac is a good friend of mine, so people who really like Ace of Spades are coming, like David Beckham, Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mariah Carey. They’re all people who order Armand de Brignac when they’re in town.

And name D.J.'s?
Prince Peter, AM, Cassidy, Vice. They’re all close friends that will come by when they’re in town.

If you have a card, how many people can you bring in?
It’s just you plus one.

What if a good friend of yours brings four or five friends?
Their friends don’t get in.

What’s the point of doing press about the place if no one can get in?
We’re not doing a lot of press. We’re going to be cool because we’re cool, not because we have a publicist doing press for us.

Related: The Eldridge Peels Back Its Intimidating Façade

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