Merchants scrambles to fill void after breakup with Playboy

Bunnies out, Live Nation and steakhouse in at Merchants Hospitality venue

TRD New York /
Nov.November 15, 2019 04:48 PM
Merchants Hospitality's Abraham Merchant and Adam Hochfelder with the Playboy Club (Credit: Getty Images, Playboy Club NYC)

Merchants Hospitality’s Abraham Merchant and Adam Hochfelder with the Playboy Club (Credit: Getty Images, Playboy Club NYC)

UPDATED Friday November 15, 2019, 5:28 p.m.: Merchants Hospitality is clapping back after Playboy Enterprises cut ties with the company and its former club at the Cachet Boutique NYC hotel.

A week after losing its license to use the iconic bunny trademark, Merchants claimed that the Black Box theater will now be dedicated to events booked by entertainment company Live Nation. Until recently, the 14,000-square-foot space was operating as Elevate Nightclub.

Playboy CEO Ben Kohn

Playboy CEO Ben Kohn (Credit: Getty Images)

The rest of the Bunny-themed restaurant is to be converted into a steakhouse operated by Merchants and opening in January 2020, according to the release.

The new plans were first reported by the New York Post on Thursday evening, minutes after The Real Deal confirmed that Playboy Enterprises last week terminated its licensing deal with the Merchants’ affiliate operating the club, citing a breach of contract.

Unnamed sources told the Post that Merchants was overhauling the club in a 10-year, $88 million deal with Live Nation and would rename the Black Box venue “Live Nation Theater at Cachet Hotel.” Merchants did not respond to TRD’s requests to confirm those details.

A spokesperson for Live Nation declined to comment on the Post article but confirmed that the company has a “short-term booking agreement where we source talent for them month to month.” The spokesperson said the arrangement began months ago. 

Playboy Enterprises’ termination of its licensing deal with Merchants and its partners was a long time coming, according to a source familiar with the situation. The person said the storied Bunny brand had been unhappy with how the club had been operating since its opening last September.

Merchants did not respond to multiple requests to comment on Playboy Enterprises’ termination of the licensing deal. But Merchants executive Adam Hochfelder, who was in charge of the project, claimed in an email that a third-party vendor unaffiliated with Merchants had been managing the club on its behalf.

One Creative Hospitality Group, which is led by Richie Hosein, was hired to operate the Playboy Club in January, but stopped working there a few weeks ago, sources confirmed.

“All management decisions came from ownership,” said Hosein. He declined to elaborate.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with an additional comment from Live Nation.

Write to Erin Hudson at [email protected]


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