Tonight: 101 Broadway gets spectacular, brings on the reindeer
It's been a long, ongoing, dirty process of restoring the First Avenue Hotel at 101 Broadway -- for the last year and a half or so, owner Jesse Morreale (of Rockbar, La Rumba and Mezcal, among others) has been slowly but surely pecking away at restoring the long-vacant landmark, restoring the outer facade first, opening Sketch Wine Bar around the same time and then El Diablo about a year after that. And it's not over yet -- the second, third and fourth floors are as yet unfinished -- but that fact is not going to stop Morreale from throwing a Holiday Spectacular. And it is damn sure not going to stop that Holiday Spectacular from having reindeer.
Light 'em up! And get me some reindeer.
"It's piecemeal, man," Morreale says of the redevelopment project. "I mean, it's a big project. When we started this thing, there was no power here, there was no heat, there was no sewer. We had to bring all that stuff in. I mean, we had 290 windows to replace. So you kind of have to take it one step at a time or you have a nervous breakdown or die of a heart attack, neither of which I want."
Indeed, the process has not been without setbacks; El Diablo, Morreale's magnum opus of a Mexican gastro-cantina -- which he's said boasts the "best layout, design and menu we've ever done" -- had its debut delayed for close to a year and a half before it finally opened the doors in August.
Tonight, it's not just opened -- it's filled with about 6,000 feet of Christmas lights for a total of about 24,000 bulbs, plus a giant Frosty, a giant Santa and a giant Nutcracker. Well, giant enough, anyway. Down the way at Sketch, the display will be a bit less garish, but still festive: "It's a little more for the adults," says Morreale.
The focal point of the night comes at 7:30 p.m., when Morreale & Co. illuminate the exterior of the First Avenue Hotel for the first time in a long, long time, revealing the historic building in all its newly restored, Chirstmas-lit splendor. It'll be a sight to behold.
But the Pièce de résistance gets started about two hours earlier, at 5:30: Verily, there will be a reindeer petting zoo. With a handler who is dressed as a Christmas elf. No, really.
"Yeah, that's the one we've been getting the most calls about." Morreale chuckles. "It's been pretty funny, actually. Like, here's one of the conversations I overheard: 'Yes... there really are reindeer... they'll be here at 5:30... no, I don't think you can ride the reindeer.'"