"I was accused of being reckless, or foolish, but I simply believed..."
Adam Block, Owner and Operator at The Press Lounge
It's not an easy task, opening a bar and restaurant in New York City, where there's estimated to be around 24,000 eating establishments. Never mind trying to open one up in an unpopular part of town during an economic crisis. But, Adam Block did just that. The owner and operator sat down with us to talk about his farm-to-table mentality and how to stay relevant in an ever changing industry.
TTG: Tell us about your career and how you got into the hospitality industry
AB: I’ve been in the hospitality business for over 40 years working every position imaginable, from dishwasher to management. After receiving my business degree from Denver University, majoring in Hotel & Restaurant Management, I started a hospitality-consulting firm, Block & Associates, which developed into a global practice. 23 years after I started my practice, at the age of 49, I did the very thing I promised myself I would never do: own and operate a restaurant and lounge – Print and The Press Lounge.
TTG: When you started out on the Press Lounge, what did you envisage? Was there a certain aesthetic that you wanted to achieve?
AB: In 2009, when I decided to open Print and The Press Lounge in Hell’s Kitchen, it was during the worst economic time in modern history. At that time, there was very little development on the Westside of Manhattan between 54th Street and 42nd Street alongside 11th Ave. I was accused of being reckless (or foolish), but I simply believed - despite the economic downturn - there would always be demand for a great venue, with an amazing view, that delivers a quality experience and good service. I also believed that the experience should be approachable and available to anyone willing to take the free, 187 feet vertical, ride up to The Press Lounge.
"I knew we had to impregnate our customers, one at a time through their stomachs"
- Adam Block
TTG: There’s a lot of competition when it comes to rooftop bars and lounges in NYC, what do you think makes the perfect rooftop space?
AB: The number of rooftop bars and lounges in Manhattan has increased significantly in the past eight years. There were less than 15 when I opened; today there are more than 60. That being said, year-over-year we’ve seen double-digit increases in our business; despite a beautiful venue with a great view, I attribute our success to a professional, dedicated staff. We have very little employee turnover, and with that, we’ve become somewhat of a family, a big one, 160 in all - that’s the secret sauce.
TTG: What can you tell us about the menu at The Press Lounge, do you have any particular favourites?
AB: The menu at The Press Lounge is fairly diverse, ranging from craft beers to top shelf single malt Scotch Whiskeys. We have limited food offerings at The Press Lounge (cheese plates, charcuterie plates, etc.) but for guests interested in a full dining experience, we accommodate them at our sister venue, Print Restaurant, located on the ground floor across from The Press Lounge entrance.
"I don’t have a celebrity chef, we're located on 11th and 48th and I think today we’re number 48 out of 10,000 restaurants on Trip Advisor"
- Adam Block
TTG: Do you have a favourite memory of The Press lounge, was there a specific night where everything came together?
AB: I have many favourite memories that include warm breezy nights in the summer to beautiful snowy evenings in the winter. Regardless of the season, on clear evenings, the sunsets never disappoint, it's something I can’t imagine that I’ll ever tire of seeing.
TTG: The New York nightlife scene is forever pushing boundaries, how do you stay relevant in an ever-changing environment?
AB: The nightlife in New York continues to evolve by the hour, I believe the best way to remain relevant is not to be trendy or an elitist. In addition, developing a flexible space to accommodate private events is an important aspect to cross-marketing any venue. At The Press Lounge we book as many as 300 events per year ranging in size from eight guests to as many 350 people.
"I wanted to do everything to compliment the view and not distract from the experience"
- Adam Block
TTG: Where do you see the New York nightlife scene heading next?
AB: I think the NYC Nightlife scene, as in the past, will continue to iterate but not pivot; I don’t anticipate anything radically new or out of the ordinary but, if history is to repeat itself, it will continue to attract new, ambitious talent looking to make a mark in the NYC Nightlife scene. The real question is not what, but rather where is the next frontier in NYC that will attract adventurous restauranteurs and nightlife operators.
TTG: What advice would give someone who is visiting New York for the first time?
AB: There are well over 10,000 restaurants, bars, and lounges in New York, not to mention great theatre, shopping and numerous visitor experiences; so many choices and so little time. Without sounding self-serving, I welcome anyone to experience Print and The Press Lounge looking for a nice dinner, drinks and a view, we’ll help check off a few of the boxes during your stay.
You can go to the theatre, you can go to Broadway, you can eat at a restaurant, you can go to Off-Broadway, you could go to Off-Off-Broadway…it’s really what you want to make of it! There’s so much to do in the city, and we’re just a small part of that.