Business

Wait. Is New York Turning Into Los Angeles?

It’s a balmy January afternoon. You buy an avocado and pickled turnip sandwich from Gjelina and some legal weed at a high-end smoke shop. After popping by a Fred Segal boutique, you meet friends for early mocktails under the trees at San Vicente Bungalows.

It’s an ideal Los Angeles day. And soon you won’t have to leave Manhattan for it.

New York City may think of itself as singular, but it’s increasingly possible to live the Los Angeles lifestyle here without the inconvenience of a cross-country flight. New Yorkers drive more and ride the subway less. They’re eating earlier, dressing sloppier and doing ketamine. The mayor parties at a Kardashian hangout, and there’s an organic mattress store on Fifth Avenue.

Is this the Los Ang-ularity?

Cultural exchange between the two cities dates back decades, and innovations like juice bars, fad diets and luxe leisure wear long ago brought a California feel to the gilded Manhattan of Carrie Bradshaw and Blair Waldorf.

But these days, in the bicoastal vibe wars, New York is giving L.A.

New York’s first legal recreational pot store opened last month, bringing a staple of Los Angeles living to Lower Broadway. New car registrations spiked 28 percent in Manhattan between 2019 and 2021. A beach is being built off the West Side Highway, beneath the Whitney Museum.

Eleven Madison Park, Manhattan’s pinnacle of four-star dining, went vegan. Midtown is chockablock with Los Angeles culinary favorites like Katsuya, Dave’s Hot Chicken and Sugarfish. Keith McNally, the ultimate New York restaurateur, has a son who just married a Spielberg. Netflix bought the Paris Theater — the city’s last single-screen movie house — and built a 170,000-square-foot soundstage in Bushwick.

Even the clearest distinction between the two cities — climate — has been smoggier of late. On Wednesday, Los Angeles reached a high of 61 degrees; in New York, the mercury hit 66.

OK, so Manhattan will never have palm trees. (Soon, Los Angeles may not either!) But a convergence of forces — social, economic, epidemiological — seem to be bringing the cultures of the two cities closer together.

First, the pandemic: the time of Peloton, suburban fantasies and acute health consciousness. Deprived of their usual energies and social delights, New Yorkers lusted for wide open spaces and spiritual awakenings, innovative exercise regimens and controlled environments.

“The entire pandemic was the L.A. lifestyle,” said the Bravo host and longtime New Yorker Andy Cohen. “We stayed at home and did nothing!”

Sue Chan, a food industry event specialist who splits her time between the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles and the Lower East Side of Manhattan, said that New Yorkers’ isolation during Covid fueled an obsession with “self-improvement, self-care and self-love: a.k.a., the epitome of Californian living, where one can go for days without seeing a single human.”

Enter the wave of woo-woo.

Credit…Photo Illustrations by Adam Powell for The New York Times

Luxe wellness spots have proliferated. At Sage + Sound on the Upper East Side, the owners blessed black tourmaline crystals and buried them under the floor before opening the 5,000-square-foot store in October.

Remedy Place, the Los Angeles health club that opened in the Flatiron neighborhood of Manhattan in September, offers lymphatic drainage suits and hyperbaric chambers to members who pay fees of several thousand dollars a year; one sound healing class features “harmonic frequencies of multiple Himalayan singing bowls.” The club’s motto — “When we remedy together, we amplify the shared experience” — promises togetherness, the kind of Los Angeles thing that New Yorkers once loved to avoid.

“There was always a cynical New York nostril flare about horoscopes and anything considered more Southern California, and that’s been completely normalized,” said Jill Kargman, the actress, writer and native New Yorker, citing acquaintances who now dabble in ayahuasca and kambo, an Amazonian frog toxin used for purging. “People microdose to get through a P.T.A. meeting.”

Even Mayor Eric Adams — a self-described vegan who secretly eats fish — recently told New Yorkers: “I deserve good work-life balance.”

New Yorkers have also adopted another habit of Los Angeles living: early dining.

Lauren Young, a spokeswoman for Resy, the reservation app owned by American Express, said that New Yorkers have “shifted a little toward earlier times, whereas L.A. historically already did dine earlier.” From 2019 to 2022, 5 p.m. reservations in New York City increased by 1.9 percent. “This might not seem like a big shift, but it amounts to thousands of reservations,” Ms. Young said.

“New York used to love to pretend it had a European-style, 9 or 10 p.m. dinner culture,” said Chris Black, a New York fashion consultant and a host of the “How Long Gone” podcast who now lives in West Hollywood. A recent return visit was less Marais, more Marina del Rey: Mercer Kitchen and Il Buco “wouldn’t seat me for dinner at 7 p.m., because it was so busy,” he said.

Manhattan’s next big Los Angeles moment will be the opening of San Vicente Bungalows, the West Hollywood private clubhouse that is a favorite of Hollywood’s apex predators. Its owner, Jeff Klein, is opening a branch at the Jane Hotel, whose rooftop will be adorned with soil and trees to better replicate the verdant original. Gabé Doppelt, a former Condé Nast editor and gatekeeper of Tower Bar on Sunset Boulevard, another Klein property, is set to move to Manhattan to ensure the social caliber of the new establishment.

Avocado Green Mattress sells California-made “vegan mattresses” at its Fifth Avenue “experience center.” Detox Market, an Abbot Kinney favorite, has become part of the East Houston Street landscape. Nushama, a psychedelic wellness center featuring $4,500 ketamine treatments, opened in Midtown in 2021 and plans to expand to the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Steven Phillips-Horst, a host of the podcast “Celebrity Book Club with Steven & Lily,” said the collision of West Coast wellness culture with New York decadence has resulted in something he calls “responsible hedonism.”

“People definitely want their green juice and their matcha negronis,” he said. “There’s an element of indulgence to both cities that fuses a more traditional ’90s L.A. idea of green juice and health food and the New York, old-school brasserie vibe, putting that together in this incomprehensible TikTok slop.”

A useful case study is NoHo, the downtown Manhattan neighborhood once home to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Robert Mapplethorpe that has recently turned into LiLA: Little L.A.

Gjelina, the vaunted organic food destination on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, opened its New York outpost on New Year’s Eve on Bond Street, a few doors down from fellow Los Angeles imports Reformation and Goop. Hillsong, the megachurch once favored by Angeleno A-listers like Justin Bieber and Vanessa Hudgens (at least until its pastor’s scandalous downfall), is opening a new headquarters off Great Jones Street. There’s an Edie Parker Boutique that sells $795 luxury bongs and a Bowery “wellness dispensary” with affirming neon signs like “Goodies Vibes Only.”

That first legal recreational pot shop? It’s around the corner just off Astor Place.

The trend extends south to SoHo, where Fred Segal, the longtime West Hollywood fashion mecca, opened its first Manhattan location in November. Inside, shoppers can browse brightly colored cotton basics named for Los Angeles neighborhoods (“Pico” tee, $180) and a $48 baseball cap embroidered with the word “Free.” The shop, a pop-up that will be open at least through April, abuts a parking lot, “so it sort of felt like home,” said the owner, Jeff Lotman.

Credit…Photo Illustration by Adam Powell for The New York Times
Credit…Photo Illustration by Adam Powell for The New York Times

The new Fred Segal is near a new Staud, the highly Instagrammable West Coast fashion brand whose founder, Sarah Staudinger, recently married the Hollywood superagent Ari Emanuel. Irene Neuwirth, the popular Los Angeles jewelry designer, debuted her first Manhattan store in December; Jennifer Fisher, another jewelry designer, whose clients include Selena Gomez and Lisa Rinna, just opened a new SoHo flagship.

Kate Berlant, the Angeleno actress and comedian, attended New York University. But she discovered a different East Village after returning in the fall for her current one-woman show, “Kate.” “There’s this matcha hellscape — and I love matcha!” she said. “It really depresses me, all that athleisure and wellness. There’s that eerie feeling of an aesthetic taking over the culture entirely.”

The L.A.-ward tilt is also evident in New York’s culinary scene, where nonalcoholic, or NA, cocktails are now de rigueur. “Juices and tonics are California clichés, but now it’s nearly impossible to see a beverage menu in New York City without a NA section,” Ms. Chan said.

Corner Bar, the scene-y Dimes Square spot, features three spirit-free spirits on its cocktail menu, including an $18 “amaretti sour” that mixes nonalcoholic bourbon, almond, lemon and honey; the newly reopened Monkey Bar in Midtown offers a $19 “phony Negroni.” Compare that to old-school haunts like Sparks Steak House, whose “beverage and cigar” list includes a single virgin drink: nonalcoholic St. Pauli Girl beer.

Even the latest booze served in Manhattan is supposedly better for you: Body, a low-proof vodka that touts “non-GMO Indiana corn” as an ingredient — and was founded by Jilly Hendrix, a close friend of the “Hills” star Lauren Conrad — is stocked at the Rockefeller Center cocktail emporium Pebble Bar and the new Aman New York on Fifth Avenue.

Maer Roshan, the editor of Los Angeles magazine, said he was not surprised that New York, his former home, was taking cues from its West Coast rival. “Everyone I know here had a shaman five years ago,” he said. “And now I’m hearing from my friends in New York, ‘We found this great shaman in Long Island!’”

Ms. Kargman pledged to do her part to beat back that trend.

“I dress up, hate vegan, loathe pot and don’t work out,” she said. “I was just asked if I wanted to do a mommy mushroom journey. Kill me now!”

Still, the true Los Ang-ularity may not occur until New York gains its very own branch of the ultimate Los Angeles symbol of health and wealth: the upscale organic grocery store Erewhon.

“That’s the final frontier,” Mr. Black said, echoing other commentators who wondered why it hadn’t happened already.

On that front, there may be some hope.

“It’s a big and exciting question, huh?!” an Erewhon executive, Demi Marie Alhaik, said when asked about the prospect. She added that while Erewhon has no current plans for a New York opening, “it is certainly on our radar.”

“It will happen,” Ms. Alhaik said. “It’s just a matter of when.”

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