Exactly one week ago, a Drake and Chris Brown confrontation turned violent when the two artists' entourages started a bottle-throwing melee in NYC nightclub, W.i.P., in a feud that likely stemmed from both of their relationships with pop star Rihanna. As a result, the downtown Manhattan hot spot has been shut down and there is no firm date for a re-opening in sight.
We've written essays about it, looked back at other infamous love triangles in music history, and tweeted about it. A lot. For the latest chapter of this ongoing saga, we spoke with W.i.P. doorman and nightlife veteran, Ruben Rivera, who was there the night that it all went down.
There was obligatory conversation about the incident, but also, the overall state of nightlife in Manhattan, what attention from urban artists means to the scene, and what he would say to Drake and Chris Brown if either one of them ever came back to the club.
Interview by Ernest Baker (@newbornrodeo)
Complex: It’s been a very crazy week in nightlife. I feel like you’re one of the most credible people to talk to and get to the bottom of it all.
Ruben Rivera:This is crazy, man. It’s unbelievable. Looking at it from an ownership standpoint, after having ownership at XIX for the whole year last year, it’s a shame. These people—bus boys, bathroom attendants—you have to understand, it’s their jobs. When you start to throw bottles and hurt people to have a good time, it’s just not the move. A lot of people suffer.
When you start to throw bottles and hurt people to have a good time, it’s just not the move. A lot of people suffer.
The implications are way more than, “Oh, that was a crazy night at W.i.P.” You’re dealing with people’s livelihoods.
Exactly, and safety. I feel sorry for Tony Parker because he was a guy who comes to parties. I don’t know him, but I did get his number. I’m not trying to be your friend. I’m just trying to keep it personal—who’s DJing, what’s going on here—you’ll get a text. He was in town and he ended up showing up. Man, for him to get glass in his eye, it’s a bad scene for me. I felt bad. It’s not cool at all. I left Juliet before it went downhill and all that stuff happened. I was living in California for the rest of my life and I still felt for those people in Juliet. I was like, “Man, that’s fucked up.” People go to parties to have a good time, to release their stress in New York City, and to experience New York if you have tourists. If you have violence, it’s terrible. I heard it was terrible. I wasn’t there when it happened between Chris Brown and Drake, but I’ve been in situations where the security can’t control it and you just gotta wait until they beat each other to death until the cops get there. That’s just how it is.
You weren’t working the door that night?
Yeah, I was working the door, but I leave at about 3:45 AM. It jumped off at about 4:05 AM.
How was W.i.P. that night?
It was amazing. It was crazy. Mary J. Blige was there. A lot of reality stars was there. Juelz Santana was there. Fabolous. It was a lot of good people there. I just wish… it probably would have been the best party in New York this year besides my birthday party.
That night, Wednesday, the hip-hop police were out. I was wondering why they were outside earlier. I talked to them. They were like, 'What’s going on here?' I was like, 'I don't know. It's not like the BET Awards are in town or whatever.'
You control the floor. How aware are you of what type of party you’re putting together? I’m sure there’s the, “All of these celebs are coming. It’s going to be a good time” aspect, but do you ever think, “Is shit going to get out of hand?” because of the reputation some of these dudes have?
I look at it differently because W.i.P. is kind of weird where any given night different people show up there. I guess it’s because of the art factor. That night, Wednesday, the hip-hop police were out. I was wondering why they were outside earlier. I talked to them. They were like, “What’s going on here?” I was like, “I don’t know. It’s not like the BET Awards are in town or whatever.” I don’t know why all these people are coming here tonight because there are a lot of celebrities that are confirming the last hour since we got there. All we knew that was happening was that Chris Brown was coming there. I got that e-mail. But all these other celebrities just started filing in that night and we weren’t prepared for that. We had no idea that was going to happen. On top filing in there, they all decided that they were going to spend a lot of money. So, of course that became attractive to management. You go to work at a place like Greenhouse or Juliet on a Sunday night party, you know what to expect. But at W.i.P., it’s very difficult. You don’t know what to expect night in and night out. Most of the time it’s really just downtown kids and midtown kids, mostly white, hanging out. But that night, I don’t know why all these black celebrities decided to come there that night.
That was the night Rick Ross had his listening session.
Right, Maybach was going on. Exactly. And they did their thing in Greenhouse. French Montana and all those guys were in Greenhouse. All the Maybach guys. There were a lot of different celebrities that came to W.i.P. Denzel Washington’s guy came to check the room out and they decided it was too loud for Denzel so they left. For some reason all the A-listers came to W.i.P. that night. We weren’t prepared for that.
What was it like? I’m sure by 5:00 a.m. your phone was blowing up. Or did you not hear anything until the next morning?
I was called immediately. They were like, “Yo, can you get back over here?” It was crazy. There were cops on the streets. People were bleeding and stuff. There was a lot of glass, man.
Being one of the insiders involved with that nightclub, what was it like in the aftermath? From a business standpoint, from a personal standpoint, how did you guys cope with it immediately after?
We just feel bad, bro. People feel bad. It’s not a good feeling. It’s not a joke. People enjoyed going there. People are sad. We are sad. Of course, over the money factor—because we all lose money, between the owner, that it goes on his record. Barry, poor guy, it’s not even his fault. And it goes on him. That’s not fair either. People are not happy. People enjoyed going there. That was a staple of New York. Greenhouse and W.i.P. People go there every week.
The way people party in New York now, they go to three different clubs in one night. That’s how it is now. That was a staple. That was a place people ended up at, mostly at the end of the night, to hang out and listen to good music. I came in January and I brought a lot of good music there, a lot of good DJs. Sam French. Time Crunch has been there destroying the place. These people can get the room into a different aura where you can play old-school hip-hop. You can play house music. You can play disco. It’s a different feeling in there so people pop in all the time. Now it’s not available. People are pissed off and I feel bad. Now we have to go through a report and go through all this stuff with the police. Harassment. It’s not fair. No one intended that to happen except for the ones who made it happen. That’s only the case in these nightlife situations. People can say, “Oh, you did a party with those guys.” We didn’t do a party with those guys. All those guys showed up and we felt like, “Hey, these guys are celebrities. Let’s put them in the room.” They are A-List celebrities. Drake—nobody expected him to do something like that. I don’t know how good that is for his career or whatever. It probably won’t hurt him.
People can say, 'Oh, you did a party with those guys.' We didn’t do a party with those guys. All those guys showed up and we felt like, 'Hey, these guys are celebrities. Let’s put them in the room.”'They are A-List celebrities. Drake—nobody expected him to do something like that.
What’s happening with the police? They shut you guys down over the weekend. It’s reminding me of that Peter Gatien era. Do you feel like they’re making an example of you? I’ve heard that there aren’t any real violations.
The community has a lot to do with how the police react, and politics. It’s way above the clubs. I live in Manhattan. I live in a beautiful community that I love and I don’t want some crazy shit going on around me either. But I see how it could affect the community and therefore have the police take action in any way they can—which is any way they want to, basically.
Of course, it’s a loss to nightlife. They’re putting the smackdown on us now. Now it’s like, we can’t do anything wrong. We can’t do anything. We can’t even breathe wrong now. They are watching everything and they are walking in whenever they want and doing whatever they want. It’s part of the business at this point. Can you weather the storm and make it through it?