Monday, May 18, 2009

Inside DBGB: "You’ll get kids in trucker hats and they’re never going to eat food and you’re going to turn into a bar before you know it"

The Times published one loooooooooong article on the meticulous planning that's going into Daniel Boulud's new place on the Bowery -- DBGB.

Despite the name, which nods to CBGB, the famous punk rock club a block to the north, the restaurant’s design pays tribute to the area’s history as the restaurant supply center of New York. The walls will be lined with shelves and stocked with glasses and plates as well as pots and pans donated by great chefs from around the world. The kitchen is on the other side of the shelves, giving diners a semi-obstructed view of the cooking.


Mr. Lawrence has also taken the lead in choosing background music for DBGB, which he’s doing with Ear Networks, a company run out of the Hell’s Kitchen apartment-home office of Robert Drake, a sound engineer. The two have been fine-tuning the playlist for weeks, choosing from 45,000 songs in Mr. Drake’s library.

A few days after the mustard-caddy discussion, Mr. Lawrence invited a reporter along for a visit to Ear Networks, where he and Mr. Drake would designate tracks as “lunch,” “dinner” or “late night.” Generally speaking, the quiet stuff is lunch music — because nobody has been drinking — with livelier songs at dinner, and becoming more boisterous as the night wears on.

Mr. Drake clicked his mouse, and “Cowgirl in the Sand” by Neil Young blasted from the speakers.

“Late night or dinner?” Mr. Lawrence asked, shouting over the song.

“You tell me,” Mr. Drake said. “I was going to put it for dinner.”

“Yeah, it’s dinner, you’re right.”

In the end, DBGB will have a library of 4,000 songs and a sound system that can control the volume in different sections of the room.


For restaurants, music is one way to influence who shows up, or at least who comes back. You can aim at a demographic group by playing music that was beloved by its members when they were about 15 years old — the age when fandom typically leaves its most vivid tattoo. By that logic, DBGB is not exactly laying a welcome mat for the just-out-of-college set. There is little in the playlist that was recorded in the last 10 years.

That is no accident.

“It’s hard to get a liquor license around here, as you may know,” Mr. Traussi says, “and one of the things I heard when I canvassed people who live here is, ‘You’ll get kids in trucker hats and they’re never going to eat food and you’re going to turn into a bar before you know it.’ I think that’s an important concern. We’re not looking for that kid, right out of school who is 22 or 23. I think music is an important way to run a food-centric restaurant rather than a bar-centric restaurant.”

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