NEW YORK – Mix together just the right blend of sizzling salsa music, authentic Mexican food and a Happy Hour that doesn’t quit –special-price $5.00 Margaritas flow from noon-8 p.m. — and you’ve got the zesty formula that has made Gonzales y Gonzalez an icon in Greenwich Village since 1989. That’s why when the legendary restaurant/ LIVE Salsa saloon wanted to update its look, owners Joey Dee Cirillo and Evan Cohen knew it would be important to achieve the “right mix” visually. The veteran club operators set out to accomplish this goal by finding lighting products that could set the mood for the many transformations GyG goes through during its long day/night hours – a mission they fulfilled with help from CHAUVET DJ.
“Lighting is really important to us, because we’re always trying to change the ambience in the room,” explained Joey Dee Cirillo. “We’ve got a lot going on here. Our kitchen is open from noon until 2 a.m., we have live salsa bands four nights a week and, as we like to say, we have the best Happy Hour in New York City hands-down. We wanted people to come into the venue when the band’s playing and really get a bang – a WOW factor — from the lighting. But we also wanted to be able to create a more laid back and relaxing environment during other times such as for lunch, brunch and dinner.”
Despite this purposeful vision for GyG’s illumination, Joey Dee Cirillo admits he “knew nothing about lighting before I started this project.” With help from CHAUVET DJ, the Manhattan restaurateur got both an education in lighting and a mix of LED products that keep his establishment popping with a variety of color looks and special effects that can change like a chameleon along with the action at GyG.
“Before I bought any lighting at all, I did a lot of research,” recalled Joey Dee Cirillo. “I looked at different companies and I can say that, in my opinion, Chauvet is truly elite. Their customer service cannot be beat. Their people came here, saw my establishment and asked a lot of questions about where we were going with the venue, what we were selling and what kind of entertainment we had. They weren’t just interested in selling me an open package of lighting.”
The all-CHAUVET DJ rig that Cirillo wound up purchasing includes: 4 x Core 3×3 RGB color wash panels; 4 x COLORband PIX linear RGB color wash strips; and 5 x Intimidator Wash Zoom 350 IRC LED moving heads. All fixtures are controlled by CHAUVET DJ ShowXpress software.
This mix of products works well together to provide the versatility that GyG requires in terms of color and effects options, while being easy to program and design with, said Cirillo, who lavished special praise on the Core 3×3 panels. A pixel mapping effect and powerful wash light combined in one unit, the Core 3×3 contains 9 Tri-Color RGB LEDs and features a unique reflector cup that produces large pixels of light and sweeping chase effects. Installed overhead on the ceiling, the panels truly live up to their name, being at the “core” of the transformative lighting experience at GyG. “If I were to design the perfect fixture for my venue, it would be the Core 3×3,” said Cirillo. “They have the perfect design, cover a lot of area and offer easy programming and great versatility.” For example, during afternoons the Cores are programmed a clear sky blue “almost like we have a sunroof looking out at the sky. Then we fade them down after Happy Hour during dinner, then crank them up for the club action – they’re great for live bands.”
Also great for illuminating bands – specifically, washing the wall behind them – are the COLORband PIX strips. Mounted on the rear stage wall, the fixtures themselves are concealed behind a specially constructed 18” overhang so that just the vibrant colored light they project can be seen. “We were looking for a wash that would illuminate the whole wall, but a wash that had movement — and the COLORband nailed it!” exclaimed Cirillo. “You can create great, interesting washes, without making them irritating for the people who are eating dinner. Putting these washes behind the band adds so many dimensions, with their sound activation and chase – especially when you combine them with the Core 3x3s. Just the two fixtures standalone are amazing.”
Add in the Intimidator Wash Zoom 350 IRC moving heads, and “it’s game over!” said Cirillo. “You have truly dynamite, dynamite lighting.” A powerful LED wash with a motorized zoom, strobe and built-in color programs, the Intimidator Wash Zoom 350 IRC adds an eye-popping exclamation point to the visual experience at GyG, with units running 50’ across the entire room.
Cirillo says that “for a person new to lighting” he learned a lot from Chauvet during the whole experience. For example, at first he was thinking about adding a fourth fixture to the mix, but “when I took a minute and stepped back, I saw (the three fixtures) were all I needed.
“It’s all about looking at the space and finding what’s right for your venue,” he added. “Sometimes less is more. It’s just like when you’re cooking and making a sauce — you don’t have to put in all the ingredients, sometimes simplicity works best.” After all, finding the right mix – whether in food, drink, music, or now in lighting — is what has kept Gonzalez y Gonzalez on top of its market since 1989.