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Toned-Down Toshi to Add Penthouse Bar at Flatiron Hotel

By Mathew Katz | August 30, 2012 1:27pm

FLATIRON — Toshi's all grown up.

Famous for raucous parties featuring scantily-clad performers and guests in the mid-2000s, hotelier/actor Robert "Toshi" Chan appears to have gone corporate.

The nightlife guru and "The Departed" actor is expanding his signature space, Toshi's Living Room in the Flatiron Hotel at 9 W. 26th St., and will soon open a new upstairs venue, Toshi's Penthouse, aimed exclusively at corporate clients.

The new 1,200-square-foot, 70-person upstairs bar is purportedly designed to offer cocktail service to an ever-growing roster of corporate clients drawn to the hotel, which is also operated by Chan.

"The majority of use will likely be for nightly events for corporations," Chan said at a meeting of Community Board 5's Public Safety/Quality of Life Committee Wednesday night, where he pitched the plan in an effort to secure a new liquor license for the upstairs space, as well as get approval for the downstairs expansion.

"I don't anticipate opening it to the public — I want to make it more exclusive."

Chan said he plans to get permission for an additional, 30-person rooftop bar attached to the penthouse in early 2013, but that he still needs to acquire a certificate of occupancy to operate the future space.

Toshi's parties were a staple of the mid-2000s nightlife scene. The soirees, typically held underground or in a loft, were all hosted by Chan himself and often frequented by half-naked people, typically covered in body paint.

From there, Toshi bought up apartments around the city to create "Hotel Toshi," a network of affordable short-stay hotel spread across several buildings that were largely shut down by the city.

The 38-year-old Chan said the toned-down Toshi parties are influenced by the wacky romps of his younger days, but that he's all grown up now.

"It's the joy and euphoria — without the body paint," he said. "We've still got music, we're run by performers, but it's totally different from when I was younger."

His ground-floor space, Toshi's Living Room, has been open for less than a year and features nightly music from a rotating selection of performers. The Board 5 committee ultimately lent their approval to his request to expand the downstairs space by adding a nine-table mezzanine, as well as the new penthouse.

But the move didn't please everyone, as neighbor Robin Gould, who lives around the corner from the bar, said he's filed several noise complaints since it opened.

"This sort of traffic, with people urinating on our doorway, it's increased since Toshi's opened up," he said. "I think it's a bad idea to expand. It's a problem for us."

Chan and his team agreed to setting up a hotline for neighbors experiencing problems, but he added that he's trying to promote a newer, more mature image.

"I've got staff and a hedge fund behind me," he said Chan. "You can't really have those sorts of crazy parties at a hotel. People need to sleep."