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Nightclubs are closing or turning into restaurants to survive

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When the Big Apple finally returns to being “the city that never sleeps,” there will be far fewer places to dance the night away.

While celebrity hot spots like 1Oak are expected to reopen when pandemic restrictions lift, other popular clubs have already become casualties of the deadly disease and its curfews, including Avenue, Up & Down and Vandal. Other clubs, like Noir in Chelsea, have turned into restaurants to survive.

Tao Group has permanently shuttered two of its five nightclubs: Vandal on the Bowery — a pre-COVID hot spot for celebs like Ariana Grande and the Jonas Brothers — and Avenue, once a popular watering hole for Lindsay Lohan and Justin Timberlake.

Tao Group tried to save Avenue, where international fraudster Jho Low once dropped $160,000 in a single night, by renegotiating the space’s lease, a source with knowledge of the situation said.

But the landlord decided to up and sell the building for $9 million to the B&R Tenth Avenue LLC, according to records. The new owners, one source said, plan to tear down the building to make way for a new office tower.

Fellow club czar Richie Akiva told Side Dish that his West Village club Up & Down, popular with stars like Rihanna and Tyson Beckford, is also closing. “It had become a big brand but after the pandemic, simplifying things is a better solution,” Akiva said.

The club king will reopen his legendary 1Oak in the city’s Meatpacking district when the city permits, however. The infamous club is where Rihanna hosted an after party following the Met gala in 2017 and where ex-New York Knicks player Chris Copeland was stabbed outside in 2015, leading to the arrest of two other NBA players who were later cleared of wrongdoing.

It’s not just the curfew that’s killing the nightclub industry — most NYC nightclubs operate in large spaces with few windows and no kitchens, making it tough to pivot during the pandemic.

Noir in Chelsea is among the few clubs that has been able to make the transition, thanks in part to the partial kitchen it had in place prior to the pandemic.

“We didn’t have a deep fryer or a hood, so we just got creative,” said Phil Zelonky, Noir’s owner.

Zelonky hired an executive chef and created a menu that focused on a raw bar and sushi, which “took the pressure off,” he said. And Noir continues to cater to the club crowd with “bottle parades” offered by masked servers who pour $2,000 plus-sized bottles of Moet Chandon champagne — known as magnums — directly into seated people’s mouths.

“We had to reinvent ourselves,” Zelonky said.

Noir first reopened as a restaurant on Oct. 12 before shutting down again when indoor dining ended in December. It reopened on Feb. 13 with just “six or seven main tables and a few high tops” in the vast 5,600 square foot space — making it ideal for social distancing.

“We are a place for people to let loose. People are still popping bottles, but at their tables. People enjoy the food and music and bottle service and have their own little party in a safe way at their table,” Zelonky said.

It’s going so well, so far, that Zelonky tells Side Dish Noir will continue to serve as a restaurant six days a week at the start of the evenings, before morphing back into its old self — an old school late night club — when the city and state permit.

Two of Tao’s five nightclubs — Tao Downtown Nightclub and Lavo Nightclub — are also now providing limited restaurant service, while its Marquee club is sitting dormant just waiting for the pandemic to lift, sources said.

Eddie Dean, who owned the legendary club Pacha NY and now owns Schimanski in Williamsburg, said he considered pivoting but decided against it.

“We weren’t a restaurant, and we couldn’t go from putting on shows to selling chicken wings on the sidewalk,” Dean said.

Dean will, however, reopen Schimanski as soon as he gets the green light from the city and state.

Owners of closed clubs say they hope to reopen at a later date, but also acknowledge that it could be tough thanks to the rise of one-off parties in large warehouses in the outer boroughs promoted on social media — a trend that’s expected to return in full force post-pandemic.

“New York’s nightclubs were already struggling. COVID was the kiss of death,” said Noah Tepperberg, co-founder of The Tao Group. “We need a mayor who will stand up for nightlife. Without it, we will lose the city that never sleeps. Nightlife is what makes the city so special.”

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Glasses retailer Warby Parker eyeing IPO as soon as this year

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Hipster glasses retailer Warby Parker is eyeing an initial public offering.

The 11-year-old business, which started out as an e-tailer before rolling out some 130 stores across the US, is considering an IPO as early as this year, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The New York-based company has amassed a huge customer following by offering less expensive prescription glasses. Warby Parker raised $120 million in its most recent funding round giving it a $3 billion valuation, according to the report.

“We’ve always explored various financing opportunities in both the debt and equity markets,” the company said in a statement. “To date, we have successfully and deliberately raised money within the private market on favorable terms and have plenty of cash on our balance sheet. We’ll continue to make strategic decisions in line with our commitment to sustainable growth.”

Founded by college buddies Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal, who met at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Warby Parker has attracted some large investors including the mutual fund company, T. Rowe Price.

It turned it first profit in 2018, Gilboa told The New York Times at the time.

Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Brian Ach/Getty Images

Customers can get prescriptions through their apps on their smartphones and use cameras to pick out frames. The company also has an optical lab in Sloatsburg, NY where it produces lenses.

While Warby Parker is not the least expensive option, it beats Costco in a recent comparison with Costco charging as little a $126 for a pair of prescription glasses compared with Warby Parker’s least expensive pair at $95.

“As consumer walk into a LensCrafters or Sunglass Hut, they see 50 different brands of glasses but don’t realize that all those brands are owned by the same company that owns the store that they’re standing in, that probably owns the vision insurance plan they’r using to pay for those glasses,” Gilboa said in a recent CNBC interview.

“And so, it’s no surprise that a lot of those glasses are marked up 10 to 20 times what they cost to manufacture,” he said.

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Dogecoin hits new high boosted by DogeDay hashtags

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Dogecoin prices hit an all-time high on Tuesday, with a market capitalization above $50 billion, after social media fans used hashtags to fuel a rally in the meme-based cryptocurrency.

An 8,000 percent price surge this year has seen Dogecoin, which was launched as a satirical critique of 2013′s cryptocurrency frenzy, overtake more widely-used cryptocurrencies like Tether to become the fifth-largest coin.

While Dogecoin, whose logo features a Shiba Inu dog at the center of the meme, a represents only a fraction of bitcoin’s $1 trillion value, it can be traded on crypto exchanges and more popular mainstream trading apps.

“The Doge rally represents an interesting convergence,” said Diana Biggs, CEO of crypto start-up Valour, after Dogecoin’s price soared by more than five-fold in the last week to a record 42 cents, according to CoinMarketCap.

“A meme coin created as a joke for early crypto adopters whose community found that kind of thing to be fun, with now a new generation of retail investors for whom memes are a native language,” Biggs added.

Dogecoin fans used the hashtags #DogeDay and #DogeDay420 to post memes, messages and videos on Twitter, Reddit and TikTok, referring to the informal April 20 holiday to celebrate cannabis which is marked by smoke-ins and street parties.

“GIMME THAT DOGECOIN LAMBO!!! #DogeDay” one tweeted, referring to the Lamborghini car popular in crypto culture.

Dogecoin’s rise has come amid a surge in online trading of stocks and crypto by retail investors, stuck at home with extra cash because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has not coincided with a growth in usage of the coin for payments or in commerce.

The same trend has spurred a boom in usage of online trading apps like Robinhood, and also fueled the social-media driven rally in GameStop stock that pitted retail investors against hedge funds earlier this year.

“It’s an extension of the same phenomenon that has led Tesla stock to be valued well beyond fundamentals and more recently to the GME (GameStop) short squeeze,” said Ajit Tripathi, head of institutional business at decentralised finance startup Aave.

Like other cryptocurrencies, Dogecoin’s price is heavily influenced by social media users including Tesla chief Elon Musk, whose tweets on the cryptocurrency in February sent its price soaring over 60 percent.

“If this goes as planned and everybody including Mr. Musk go ahead and just pour money into Doge on April 20th all at once Doge will reach prices that originally were not even conceptual,” a TikTok user said in a video promoting the coin.



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Amazon is opening a beauty salon in London

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Amazon is opening a hair salon in London — its latest odd lurch into new businesses as the pandemic continues to fuel the e-commerce giant’s torrid growth.

The Amazon Salon, unveiled in a Tuesday blog post, will occupy a two-story, 1,500-square-foot space in Spitalfields, a trendy neighborhood in East London that is also home to Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.

Indeed, the new salon, which will be open seven days a week, initially will only cater to Amazon workers. Members of the public will be able to make bookings in “the coming weeks” by calling, emailing or visiting the salon, the company says.

“This will be an experiential venue where we showcase new products and technology,” Amazon said in a blog post on Tuesday, adding that there are no plans to open other salons.

That will include making Amazon’s Fire tablets available at each station, allowing customers to use augmented reality technology to see what they look like as a platinum blonde, brunette or with highlights, the company said.

The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
Amazon

The salon will also test new “point-and-learn” technology, where customers can point at a product they are interested in on a display shelf and the relevant information, including brand videos and educational content, will appear on a display screen.

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