The Real Mayor of New York: Ask This Guy for the Keys to the City"There are always people asking for things to do, where to go, how to get in, where can they get a decent drink, how much trouble can they get into."
Whether you're looking for a great cocktail, a quirky souvenir or a pair of tickets to a Broadway show, Bryan Raughton has got you covered. As lifestyle manager (aka concierge) for the high-style Pod Hotel, he's the go-to guy for all things New York.
With his encyclopedic knowledge of people and places in and around the city, you'd think he was a native New Yorker. But Raughton spent most of his life in his hometown of Abilene, Texas — with major New York envy. Watching break-dancing movies as a kid, he fell so completely in love with hip-hop and dance culture that he rigged together a couple of turntables and a mixer from Radio Shack and taught himself to deejay.
Raughton finally made his way to New York in 2000 as part of the dot-com boom, only to witness his new employer go bust two weeks later. But he wasn't too concerned. "This is where I've always wanted to be, and I was not going to leave for anything," he says, still sporting his Texas twang. "I was amazed how much I didn't really care." Raughton soon found work at a gay lifestyle magazine, but became increasingly interested in making and promoting music. He landed a job doing A&R (artists and repertoire) at the vintage disco label West End Records. Then, when digital music nearly obliterated the vinyl record industry, he segued into deejaying.
Spinning and scratching discs is a calling he hasn't abandoned, moonlighting local haunts and at corporate events at The Maritime Hotel and The Bowery Hotel. Raughton also emcees high-profile parties for the entertainment and media industries. In his spare time he takes photos of the city and creates street art, which he's shown at area galleries, including Mighty Tanaka.
But once the sun rises, Raughton is the face of New York for guests at The Pod. "We stay packed at the hotel," Raughton says, explaining that it's especially popular with the international backpacking set. "There are always people asking for things to do, where to go, how to get in, where can they get a decent drink, how much trouble can they get into."
One of his guests' frequent misconceptions is that New York is utterly reckless at night. "I think people think of the '90s New York, or the 'club kid' New York," he says. "But they pretty much outlawed all of your Roxys. All of your Limelights. Limelight is now, what? A clothing store?"
That's where his insider knowledge of the art and entertainment scene comes in handy. He prides himself on directing anyone to a great time, even on a budget. "My favorite cross street in New York is Orchard and Broome," he says. "I send people to Cheeky Sandwiches and Stephan Luxe for crazy contemporary art. I send them to the Tenement Museum, and all this stuff is around the Tenement Museum."
So where does a guy who knows all the hottest spots in town go on his nights off? He tries not to wander too far from his Lower East Side penthouse apartment, where he has a stunning view of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, along with a riot of graffiti.
"I don't like to go to the big clubs," he says. "If I were to go out anywhere crazy, it might be The Box. It's just an insane burlesque show. And they have really great drinks. Plus, it's right in the neighborhood so I can stumble home."
Check out Bryan's New York.