City Winery founder Michael Dorf, donning a white hardhat, led about 20 people into a cavernous building on Pier 57 on Wednesday.
Despite the extreme heat, Dorf was excitedly showing off where his Varick Street venue will be relocating now that the Walt Disney Company will take over the Hudson Square space.
"I’d say, about 10 years of all the [screw]ups we’ve made are all going to go away with the new location, which will have phenomenal air conditioning," he told the sweaty group.
With plans to reopen by March of 2020, as it has to be out of the Varick Street space by the end of the year, City Winery signed a 25-year lease at Pier 57. On the Hudson River at West 15th Street, the pier is currently undergoing a $350 million renovation before Google moves in as its primary tenant, Dorf told his guests.
The new space is about the same size as the Varick Street location, just slightly wider, and with a second, smaller room, which will allow for holding two events at the same time, Dorf said.
The main venue will have twice the dining space, with about 350 seats, including balcony space, with the second room holding about 150.
"Every seat is going to be pretty amazing," Dorf said, explaining that the horseshoe-shaped venue places audience members on the same level as the artists.
The winery, with its barrels, will be seen through glass windows close to the street, with views of the Hudson River on the opposite side.
And whereas the kitchen at the current space is downstairs, with food being carried up the stairs and through the cold barrel storage room, the new one will be on the same level, with an open concept.
"I didn’t take food-making 101, but I’m positive Danny Meyer in his book would say, ‘Don’t take food from the kitchen through a refrigerator before you deliver it to a customer,’" Dorf playfully said.
And the menu will be enhanced by a brand new chef, he noted.
Despite having several City Winery locations across the country, inlcuding in Chicago and Boston, and, with plans for more — a J&R Music Lounge by City Winery at 17 Park Row opens this fall, as does a new venue upstate in Montgomery, New York, and one in Philadelphia — the loss of the Varick Street location has been difficult, Dorf said.
"The hardest thing has been finding work for employees to hold them until January, February, March," he said.
Dorf expects the programming, which has included performances by Ali Wong, Citizen Cope, Lady Antebellum, Lisa Loeb, and Natalie Cole, to remain the same in the new space.
"We’ve found a great niche that the world needs — serious attention to detail and the performance. Our job as a venue is to create a great connection point between the artist and the consumer," he added. "We want to create such a compelling experience between the design, the site, the smells, the textures, what materials we’re using, and the art coming off the stage, that you don’t even think about … going into your phone because you’re so obsessed with that magic that’s happening."