The Ashford in downtown Jersey City embodies the social dining experience, encouraging guests to come early and stay late. Despite its decorative tribute to New York’s 1920s, this is very much a 21st century establishment. It evolves seamlessly throughout the day, from laidback sports bar to casually elegant dining destination and then again to glamourous nightspot. Central to this chameleon-esque nature is the ADJ lighting system which bathes the venue’s myriad of connected spaces with vibrant colors in the early evening before kicking up the energy with movement and ever-changing patterns after hours.
Situated on a pedestrian plaza in the heart of Jersey City, just steps away from the Grove Street Pathe Station and therefore seven minutes from Manhattan, The Ashford has become a popular destination for drinking, eating, and dancing. One of the most unique spaces in New Jersey, it features a series of linked areas each with their own unique ambiance. On the ground floor is a restaurant and sports bar, with soaring ceilings, striking chandeliers, leather banquettes, and glamourous gold and red accents. On the second floor is The Gallery, a room surrounded by mirrors and the heart of the venue’s weekend ‘After Hours’ parties. The Parlor features a dedicated bar and restrooms, and can be hired for private events, while the The Study offers lush sofas and big windows for daytime lounging, and can also be transformed into a private dining space for up to 30 guests. The exclusive Balcony has direct access to The Veranda rooftop space above, as well as a commanding view of the main bar and restaurant below. Finally, the venue offers two dedicated premium spaces: The Parlor Alcove, a secluded seating area offering VIP bottle service reservations for groups of 10-15, and The Perch, a private VIP table for eight-10 guests raised up high above The Ashford’s main bar area.
Originally opened at the end of 2018, with more of a focus on food and casual drinks, the venue has evolved to add a heavy nightlife emphasis. As no entertainment lighting was installed when it first began trading, The Ashford’s owner brought in the team from New York’s Canal Sound and Light to supply and install atmospheric wash lighting as part of an expansion of the venue’s late-night trade. Established in 1977, and operating from a 2,000 sq ft retail space in downtown Manhattan, the company offers retail sales, installation services and production rentals of professional audio, lighting, truss and video equipment throughout the city.
Canal Sound and Light supplied The Ashford with 46 of ADJ’s Saber Spot RGBW LED pinspot fixtures. Each utilising a 15W four-in-one quad colour LED light source, these compact lighting instruments generate a razor sharp 4º beam of light but are also supplied with 10º and 45º lens options, making them extremely versatile fixtures. In The Ashford they are used to illuminate the main bar, from the striking metal cage positioned above it, as well as to downlight strips of wall. A significant number of fixtures have also been attached to the wooden beams high up in the ceiling to illuminate the main walkway that runs down the length of the space between the bar and main seating area. Additional fixtures are used to light the stairs leading to the mezzanine spaces, ensuring that routes through the venue are safely lit while maintaining a dark and intimate atmosphere.
“The client didn’t want too much light and preferred the idea of spots with narrow beam angles for lighting the key features and walkways,” explained Canal Sound and Light’s Uriel ‘Chicken’ Coria who served as Project Manager and Lighting Designer on the installation. “Based on that brief, the ADJ Saber Spot RGBW was the perfect choice. It’s very small, which made it easy to install, and cost effective, which meant that the quantity of fixtures we needed to cover the whole venue fit within the client’s budget. The output is great, and the four-in-one LEDs allow for smooth colour mixing with lots of options. The client particularly liked the shade of amber we were able to create with them. The sharp 4º beam angle was perfect for the walkways and bars, but we also made use of the 45º frost filters for the ones we installed over the DJ booth. In that area we needed a wider wash to light up the DJs, and they also worked well for that purpose. They are very flexible fixtures.”
Further wash lighting in the main space is provided by ADJ’s UB 6H, UB 9H and UB 12H linear LED fixtures. Each loaded with 6-Watt HEX (RGBWA+UV) color mixing LEDs, these intelligently engineered units feature magnetic interlocking end caps which allow fixtures to be easily connected for seamless LED spacing. They are ideal for enveloping large swathes of walls or ceilings with vibrant color washes. At The Ashford, the Canal Sound and Light team used them to illuminate the entrance lobby, main bar area, and large sections of the corrugated metal roof.
In addition, ADJ’s Mega Hex Par fixtures are used to light the various upstairs spaces. Each featuring five 6-Watt HEX LEDs, these compact par-style units offer a useful 25º beam angle and versatile dual hanging bracket which makes them equally suitable for event production and permanent installations applications.
Completing the venue’s line-up of atmospheric wash lighting, a mixture of ADJ’s 18P HEX IP and 7P HEX IP fixtures have been used to illuminate the exterior of the venue. These tough, IP65-rated LED pars feature 18 and seven 12-Watt HEX LEDs, respectively, with a beam angle of 30º, and are designed for use outdoors in any weather. Six of the smaller 7P HEX IP fixtures are used to downlight the venue’s outdoor curbside seating area, while four of the larger 18P HEX IP units uplight the brick wall above. Finally, two additional 18P HEX IP fixtures, as well as 17 more UB 9H LED battens, have been installed in the venue’s rooftop space, The Veranda.
“The actual installation was a challenge,” explained ‘Chicken’, “because we were brought in to add atmospheric lighting after everything else – including the furniture – was in place. So, we had to work around huge chandeliers and HVAC ducts to install fixtures up at 25 feet in the air. But we got it done and the client was really happy with the way the colored lighting enhanced the vibe, especially later in the evenings. In fact, he was so happy with the static lighting that he decided to step up his game and add in moving lights. So, we’ve been back in a couple of times adding more dynamic fixtures.”
As part of this upgrade that now allows The Ashford to transition into a full-on lounge nightclub for its After Hours events, Canal Sound and Light supplied and integrated 25 ADJ moving head fixtures throughout the venue as well as two strategically placed mirror balls (one M-2020 and one M-1616). To further enhance the exclusivity of The Parlor Alcove VIP space, they also installed one ADJ’s distinctive Starship fixtures above the seating area. A modern take on the classic centerpiece effect, this unique unit features six motorized bars loaded with powerful quad color LEDs that generate a myriad of intense moving and color-changing mid-air beams.
All of the moving head fixtures installed in the venue are from ADJ’s popular Focus Series. Four of the powerful Focus Spot 4Z units take pride of place in the main restaurant/bar area, while a mixture of compact Focus Spot Twos and Focus Spot Ones cover the low-ceilinged upstairs areas.
“Because the main space is quite big, but the budget was pretty tight, the Focus Spot 4Z was the perfect fixture,” confirmed ‘Chicken’. “It’s 200W LED has incredibly bright output, so it works in the large space. It also has all the features we needed at a price that worked for the client. We then used smaller fixtures from the Focus Series – the ONEs and TWOs – for The Gallery and The Parlour. Now The Ashford has the versatility to be a sports bar and restaurant by day and a full-on nightclub by night!”
Programming of the lighting system was carried out by ‘Chicken’ who used ADJ’s myDMX 3.0 software, running across three DMX universes. To make day-to-day operation of the lighting easy for The Ashford’s DJs and managers, he configured three ADJ myDMX RM hardware interfaces to provide simple control of the system at the touch of a button. Each of these rack mount units feature 16 touch buttons, which can each be assigned a lighting program via the myDMX software which is then stored to the myDMX RM for standalone playback with no computer required.
A remarkable venue to begin with, thanks to its impressive interior décor and high attention to detail, The Ashford steps up a gear when the ADJ lighting system installed by Canal Sound and Light comes into play. During the day the subtle colored pin spotting and wash lighting create the perfect ambiance for enjoying a drink or sitting down to a delicious meal. Then, when the sun goes down, the soundtrack is turned up and the party crowd come out to play, the moving heads dial up the atmosphere to create a high energy night spot filled with movement, GOBO patterns and vibrant colors. No wonder this unique venue is developing a reputation as one of the best nights out in Jersey City!