Nightlife veteran John Blair inks deal for Hell’s Kitchen club

Lease structured around Covid restrictions

Merchants Hospitality Inks Club Deal at Cachet Hotel (Google Maps, Playboy Club)
Merchants Hospitality Inks Club Deal at Cachet Hotel (Google Maps, Playboy Club)


New York City’s nightlife scene is dark for now, but one veteran club owner is betting on things bouncing back.

Nightlife impresario John Blair signed a lease for a 20,000-square-foot venue at the former Playboy Club at the Cachet Hotel in Hell’s Kitchen. The asking rent for the space was about $75 per square foot.

It’s a tricky time to begin working on opening a nightclub, as venues have been shut down since Gov. Andrew Cuomo reintroduced Covid-19 restrictions on places like bars and restaurants last month. OAR Management, owner of the hotel at 510 West 42nd Street, structured the deal so that Blair’s lease goes into effect only once those restrictions are lifted, according to Meridian Retail Leasing’s James Famularo, who negotiated the deal.

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“If you didn’t structure it like that, a lot of tenants would say, ‘Why rent now? Why not wait until Cuomo says we can open things up again?,’” he said.

Another incentive: Blair gets to take over the roughly $12 million buildout the Playboy Club did on the space.

“When the situation changes, you can change the sign in front and start making money,” Famularo added.

Blair, a veteran of the gay nightlife scene famous for spots like the Roxy and Limelight, had previously operated a different club, the XL, at the hotel back in 2012, when it was known as The Out Hotel.

The deal fills the space left vacant when the Playboy Club exited the property in late 2019 amid allegations of malfeasance at the hotel by former Merchants partner Adam Hochfelder.