Restaurants / Bars / Openings

PaperCity Exclusive — New French Music Lounge Takes Over the Old Zimm’s Space in Montrose

Ultra Late Night Hotspot to Court the Steak 48 Crowd

BY // 01.11.18

Four bon vivants are bringing some vim to the old Zimm’s space on Montrose Boulevard. A quartet of French businessmen — Vincent Sinard, Franky Boissy, Jean-Pierre Gleize, and Jean-Michel Wurfel — want to transport the spirit of Saint-Tropez to 4321 Montrose this spring.

They’re storming the scene with a new bar and lounge concept named Victor, armed with decades of restaurant experience. Between them, their backgrounds spread across the familiar South of France and the Western United States.

Gleize has headed up nightclubs, bars, and restaurants in the coastal city of Toulouse. Sinard has put his money on real estate in Sin City. And Boissy’s been spinning records for more than 20 years, with a residency at Pink in San Francisco.

Victor, a lounge built on a blend of classic and unique cocktails, light bites, and international DJs spinning live six days a week, will be the first of its kind in Houston, Boissy tells PaperCity.

Music is everything to the project. “The moment you enter the place til the end, you’ll be transported to the South of France. Or wherever the music takes you,” Boissy says.

Expect Boissy’s blend of styles. He got his start in House music, but he borrows from jazz, disco, funk, Motown, and Latin beats.

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After all, this is the DJ who once brought an entire church choir to sing during one of his sets at Pink.

The terrace, looking out on Montrose, will be redone to reduce noise and will be fitted with misters to keep guests cool in the spring, summer, fall… you know the drill.

For the record, the future roster of DJs will include artists “coming from everywhere,” some with 20 years of experience in Europe. They’ll play “sophisticated music that you can’t hear on the radio. “Refined, with a sexy age,” Boissy says.

The music’s getting amped up with a state-of-the art sound system and a distinctive DJ booth. The booth will be constructed out of Louis Vuitton luggage, a brand suited to the project.

The idea is that the music will transport you to the Mediterranean. Really, the Mediterranean has packed its bags, and it’s coming to you.

This ownership group’s backgrounds will also come out in the new project. “I’ll bring the best of what I know from California. And we’re all from the South of France,” Boissy says.

Their other great asset? Their tight-knit and varied team, he adds. “The most exciting part is to bring something really new to Houston, bring the best of all of us to Houston,”  Boissy says.

They know each other’s bests extremely well. Gleize “likes to create a family business, bringing a lot of people from France who have been working for him a long time,” Boissy says.

Gleize took Boissy under his wing back when the aspiring DJ was 16. The mentor’s nightclubs Rive Droite and Les Coullisses in the South of France inspired Boissy’s own nightclub, Pink, in the Bay Area.

“I did something thinking of him, reproducing the vibe that he passed on to me — California edition,” Boissy says. Now, it’s time for the Houston edition.

Victor interior
Victor is going for a contemporary-meets-classic vibe.

The team sees two sides to Houston nightlife. They did some late night recon, scouting out bars and clubs in the city. “People in Houston like to enjoy life and party,” Sinard tells PaperCity. But, they could crank that party up a notch, according to Boissy.

Opening businesses in America has proven easier than starting ones up in France. There are less technical complications, but putting together a team — and adjusting to American culture — are their own challenges.

“What we are working on right now is finding the right team. Finding the right people who’ll be on the same level with us, a team that’s as detail-oriented as we are,” Sinard says.

Once a team is in place, they’ll be one step closer, but they’ll still have “a period of adaptation,” Boissy says. There will be some culture shock before they’re rock solid. “We’ll need to adjust to Texas.”

“It’s complicated when you come from another country with another culture. We’ll have to adapt to a different clientele and culture,” Sinard adds.

The idea is that the music will transport you to the Mediterranean. Really, the Mediterranean has packed its bags, and it’s coming to you.

For clientele, they’re thinking the Steak 48 and Brasserie 19 crowd. But at the end of the day, “We really don’t like to define who’s going to be coming. We want to build a core of people who will want to be with us as much as possible,” Boissy says.

He and Sinard spy an opportunity in one key cultural difference: it’s all in the timing. “We’ll be open Monday to Saturday, 4 pm to 2 am.” You read that right. Victor will keep its doors open late, even on the weekdays. Keep it going long after your 9 to 5.

“People go out in Europe so late, they don’t go out during the week,” Sinard says. Here, 9 pm-or-later-dinners mean rumbling stomachs and just a little bit of hanger.

In the U.S., “people will go out and have dinner at 7:00 pm, go out until midnight and still be up for work in the morning. It’s good business,” Sinard notes. The new Houston lounge’s hours accommodate the typical American schedule, but add a little extra for the night owls.

Victor will have all the trappings you’d expect — private room, bottle service — in a contemporary-meets-classic setting.

The name says it all, according to Boissy. “Victor has an age to it,” he says. It’s a refined, known name that hasn’t been used too much. “It’s a strong name but also has a soft age,” harkening back to legendary French author Victor Hugo.

Several of Hugo’s quotes will appear on the walls above the bar. “We just don’t want to use Les Miserables,” Boissy laughs. “We don’t want people to think we’re sad!’”

Preserving The Zimm’s Legacy

The words of wisdom aren’t the only thing setting the bar apart. The Zimmerman family and the new team insisted they preserve the original Zimm’s bar.

“The wood is really astounding,” Joshua Weisman of Construction Concepts tells PaperCity. The antique wood at the back of the bar dates back to an 18th century castle in France. Call it a coincidence of craftsmanship. It’s a fitting backdrop for a French baroque bar and lounge.

“We’re going to preserve that look,” with a chic update. “We’ll marry this sexy, French, baroque look with the old world wood that’s already there,” Weisman says.

He’s most excited about transforming Zimm’s into something new. “It was a fixture of the community for so long. We’re bringing it back to life,” Weisman says.

Sinard and Weisman sketched and created the entire design together, working hand in hand. An artist took their vision and put it on paper.

The high-end, high-design reincarnation is going to take some time. The team and Construction Concepts are passionate about handcrafting every last detail.

“It’ll be 1,000 hours in fabrication for everything we’re doing to the place, building everything from scratch, from photos, from renderings,” Weisman says.

Banquets, lounges, chandeliers, drapes, and walls with handcrafted brass inlays will add to the effect.

The combination of these elements will make Victor more than a lounge, more than a bar, Sinard says. “Victor will be an experience.”

After all, to the Victor go the spoils.

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