1990.XX.XX Canal Street, New York, NY
Posted: Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:00 am
http://www.nypost.com/p/news/business/r ... PVDORL5J/1Loft boy
Nur Khan’s pad defines downtown cool
By MICKI SIEGEL
Last Updated: 9:51 AM, July 22, 2010
Posted: 12:04 AM, July 22, 2010
Those who’ve tried unsuccessfully to get into restaurant/nightlife mogul Nur Khan’s exclusive Kenmare and Rose Bar have no doubt felt envy toward the lucky and well-curated revelers inside. But if you want to hear something that makes New Yorkers really seethe with jealousy, here’s the story of Khan’s real estate luck.
It was 2007, and Khan was set to move into a loft on the fifth floor of a building straddling the border of Chinatown and the Lower East Side. Downtown loft living had long suited Khan, who threw parties at his old Canal Street loft with bands like Metallica and Jane’s Addiction in the 1990s. But while his life was quite glam, the long climb up the stairs was decidedly less so.
“All my life,” Khan says, “I’ve always had fifth-floor walk-ups. It was cheaper than the lower floors.”
But that was about to change.
“The owners of this building had gutted an apartment on the third floor,” he says. “Their plan was to renovate it and get a higher rent. And then there was a substantial change in everyone’s financing. One day, opportunity knocked on my door.”
It was one of the owners, who offered Khan the larger, lower-floor unit for $3,000 a month less than he’d planned to charge.
“It was a disaster area,” Khan recalls. “But the owner and I collaborated and decorated together and built up this whole space.”
The result: an 1,800-square-foot one-bedroom with two bathrooms, 15-foot tin ceilings, sandblasted brick walls, lots of closet and storage space (all of it covered by Lucite doors) and — a big attraction — windows that overlook a park below. For all this, the rent is $4,500 a month. (Khan says he plans on buying the apartment next year.)
“It was supposed to be two bedrooms,” Khan says. “But we changed that so that the living/dining area alone is now about 1,000 square feet. It’s crazy, but it’s home.”
Khan, though, doesn’t spend much time there. Kenmare, which opened in March, is constantly jammed with pretty people digging into specialties that include chef Joey Campanaro’s meatball sliders.
It’s a similar story at Rose Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel, which is nearly four years old but still has one of the city’s toughest doors and hottest crowds. On most nights, you’ll see a cool downtown coterie lounging on custom-designed Julian Schnabel furniture, gazing at artwork by Schnabel, Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and Jean-Michel Basquiat. On select evenings, Khan has booked performances by everyone from Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver to Rufus Wainwright and Sean Lennon.
It’s no surprise that Khan’s home is filled with spectacular works of art, including pieces by artists he’s befriended, such as Hirst and photographers Peter Beard and Nobuyoshi Araki. And it’s also no surprise that Khan’s favorite items include an Axl Rose guitar and a belt that belonged to Keith Richards.
In addition, Khan is an avid traveler, and it shows in his loft.
Bali is “one of the most relaxing places — so spiritual, the people there are so special,” he says. “It just carries me away. So I bring back furniture from Bali. I have an antique rug from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. And the Buddhas come from China.”
He also owns an elaborate carved door from Bali and a pair of Fu Dogs from China that supposedly keep out evil spirits. Khan also has a Fu Dog tattooed on each arm.
“I like to take myself out of New York when I’m home,” he says. “The city is such hustle and bustle. I like to try to escape. When you work 24/7 like I do, you need to feel you’re on vacation when you get home.”
Traveling has also helped Khan cope with the unpredictable nightlife business. In 2003, he was in London to open a nightclub, but it didn’t come together. Instead of hanging around waiting for the club to happen (it never did), he decided to take off for China.
“I was in love with martial arts,” he says, “and I decided to train 10 hours a day with the Shaolin monks. I stayed there a year, and it was the best experience of my life.” (The Fu Dogs at the temple inspired his tattoos.)
That wasn’t the first time Khan’s plans took a surprising turn. He was working on Wall Street when he converted an old Connecticut movie theater into a music venue he called the Marquee Theater. The Norwalk space opened in 1991 and attracted bands like Nirvana and Radiohead.
“I just felt the need for a change,” says Khan, now 44. “I didn’t want to wake up when I was 60, feeling like I missed out on all the fun stuff. I was entertaining a lot in a loft I lived in on Canal Street. That’s what led to the bar thing in New York. I thought, I’m doing it in my apartment every night. Why not make a living off it? That’s when I quit my job and built Wax, my first bar.”
That was 1994. Then he opened Sway in 1997 (where DJs included a scenester named Paul Sevigny, who went on to open the Beatrice Inn and is now Khan’s partner at Kenmare), then the Maritime Hotel’s Hiro Ballroom in 2004, followed by Rose Bar in 2006. And now he’s focusing on Kenmare.
“We’ve been open four months, and we’ve been booked solid,” he says.
Kenmare is the first restaurant Khan has opened (there’s also a largely impenetrable lounge downstairs), but the business isn’t new to him. He grew up in Westport, Conn., where his parents owned a restaurant. He started washing dishes there when he was 11.
“I was the poor kid in a rich town,” Khan says. “That gave me the inspiration to strive for bigger things. I might open hotels, I might start more restaurants, more bars, whatever tickles my fancy. I want to do it all.”
Next up is a venue in the old Don Hill’s location on Greenwich and Spring streets. Legendary downtown rock clubs like CBGB and Wetlands are long gone, and Khan sees a hole he wants to fill.
“It’s going to be a really cool rock ’n’ roll joint,” he says, “a total dive dance club. It’s just what the doctor ordered for these times.”
Nur Khan’s Favorite Things:
* Balinese hand-carved doors
* A 19th-century teak bed from Bali
* Two skull paintings by (and signed by) Damien Hirst, which Khan helped create
* Butterfly paintings by Hirst
* Erotic photographs by Nobuyoshi Araki
* A Peter Beard photograph of an elephant
* A Balinese totem pole
* Axl Rose’s guitar, a gift from the musician after a Rose Bar show
* His antique Moroccan knives and an ivory pistol from the late 18th century
* Keith Richards’ belt, a birthday present from Richards