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NiteTalk: Designer Lionel Ohayon Says Nightlife Is Determined by Rent

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NiteTalk: Designer Lionel Ohayon Says Nightlife Is Determined by Rent

When is comes to nightlife, most people are interested in the crowd, how long the wait is for the bathroom line and whether drinks are affordable. The interior design of a particular bar or lounge is secondary to most layfolk -- but design is at the core of a venue's ambiance. Lionel Ohayon, founder of ICRAVE Design, is not only aware of an interior's importance, he is responsible for the soul of the space and the justification of a square foot.

NiteSide recently caught up with the man behind some of the city's hottest hangs (Provocateur, SL, and Tejune to name a few).

The last couple years have seen a huge nightlife explosion in the Lower East Side and the Meatpacking district. Where is the next "it" neighborhood going to be? Brooklyn. Definitely Brooklyn. 


When it comes to design, how is New York different from any other city? What do you think people out on the town look for here? New York is different. Manhattan especially because the entire city is driven by the real estate market. In the last real estate boom just about every part of Manhattan was gentrified. This, in effect, created a situation where every square foot needs to be justified. What I mean by this is that in order for a club or lounge to be viable financially, the operator is forced to not only use every square inch of the space for sales but also demand exceptionally high rates for liquor and table reservations. In essence, the rent is determined by landlords proforma-ing what they think a club will gross. That limits the designer and owner’s ability to let the creativity reign free and create moments of unexpected events or a decompression of energy. In the end, this may determine why nightlife moves to Brooklyn or elsewhere. New Yorkers are ready for anything. They are the best nightlife crew in the world. I don’t doubt that for a minute. Ready for anything.


If you could transform any building in New York into a club/lounge/etc, which would it be and what would you do with it? We just did a lot of work at JetBlue Terminal 5 at JFK. It sits right behind Saarinen’s TWA terminal. This may be one of the greatest buildings in America. As a nightlife venue, this would be a dream job. The only intervention: light, sound, video and furniture. 


What does the future hold for yourself and ICRAVE? Infinite opportunities. We’re ready for anything.

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