For more than 20 years, Steve Lewis ran some of New York City’s best known nightclubs, including the Limelight, Tunnel and Marquee. Now an interior designer for the bar industry and correspondent for restaurant and nightlife magazine BlackBook, he here picks his favourite rooftop bars in Manhattan for the summer.
PH-D, Dream Downtown Hotel
The brand new Dream Downtown is going to be a game-changer for the city’s hotel scene, and the roof-top bar PH-D (it stands for penthouse dream) is a significant part of that. It is in the best location – on 16th Street and 9th Avenue, in the Meatpacking District – has the best team running it (it’s a marriage between the Chatwal hotel group and the Strategic group, which owns New York bars and clubs including Avenue, Tao and Lavo), and is opening at the best time in years. There’s a boom in New York nightlife right now and there is also money coming in again; the Dream’s restaurant has a prix-fixe menu of $245 (£150) per head. There’s an 1,800 sq ft roof terrace, attached to a 4,000 sq ft indoor bar with glass floor-to-ceiling walls and decor reminiscent of 1980s excess.
355 West 16th Street, www.dreamdowntown.com
The Hotel Gansevoort
The Gansevoort is the original, the rooftop bar that really started the trend. Of course, the idea existed before but the Gansevoort took it to a new level. When it opened in 2004, and thousands of dollars were being spent there over brunch every weekend, it was the one that proved to hoteliers that they had to build a rooftop space.
It is still completely relevant today. If you are going to the Meatpacking District and you want a drink, the Gansevoort roof is definitely the place go. It has indoor and outdoor spaces, great views, a party crowd and the now-iconic pool. I often go for brunch, with a big group of friends.
18 Ninth Avenue, www.hotelgansevoort.com
For overall beauty and an amazing view, you cannot ignore the hugely successful 230-Fifth. It’s in an incredible location, on Fifth Avenue and 27th street, among the iconic buildings of Midtown. You feel as if you could just reach out and touch the Empire State Building. It’s an enormous space – 22,000 sq ft of rooftop garden – with palm trees, parrots and hundreds of people enjoying themselves. It’s a great place to entertain visitors to New York and so, inevitably, there are quite a few business sorts there. It appeals to a more populist crowd than some of the slicker hotel rooftop bars and is open seven days a week, 365 days a year. It’s probably one of the highest-grossing bars in the history of New York nightlife and deserves a place on the list for that very reason.
230 Fifth Avenue, www.230-fifth.com
The bar at the top of André Balazs’ Standard Hotel is the best room for a party in the whole city. Balazs brings a superior sophistication to everything, from his staff to the glassware – it’s just ridiculously cool. The first thing you notice on walking in are the 360-degree views of Manhattan and the Hudson River. Then you notice the amazing decor, by Shawn Housman. After that, you notice the eclectic crowd, a great mix of interesting New Yorkers.
848 Washington Street, www.standardhotels.com
The other venues on this list are all mainly upscale, if not uptown, but the Hotel Chantelle (which isn’t really a hotel at all but a bar, club and lounge) is different. Its rooftop bar has just opened and caters to the hipster crowd, which the others don’t. Its downtown location, on Ludlow Street in the Lower East Side, makes it unusual for a rooftop bar and it feels a little bit secret – you enter the building through an unmarked door. It has got a long bar, antique park benches, old Victorian lampposts, and is covered with a retractable greenhouse roof. (Full disclosure: I helped with the design, though there was no money involved!) There’s a spectacular unobstructed view of the Williamsburg Bridge behind the bar and lovely breezes from the East River. It’s the perfect spot for a summery drink on a hot New York night.
92 Ludlow Street, www.hotelchantelle.com