The owner of the flagship Pacha in New York on international clientele, the rough lifestyle required for nightlife connoisseurs, and flushing out the phonies.
When you’re not partying at Pacha, where are you? I always find myself at Sushi Samba on Seventh Avenue. I love the outdoor roof. It’s a great place to entertain. I’m forever hosting people from South America and Spain there. They treat us well, and the food and the vibe is great. Asia de Cuba has great service, great food, and a great energy. I like Henry’s End in Brooklyn at the end of Henry Street. The owners are real wine connoisseurs … they search the globe and feature five reds that are unique. Just had a great meal at Dovetail, another great spot.
How did you end up here? I knew I wanted to have my own business, but I didn’t know it would be a nightclub. The opportunity presented itself. We put together a business plan to open this little bar in Bay Ridge, and then we owned about 15 places. It’s a lot of late hours, a lot of grueling work, but it’s what I do. I have moments when I’m tired and want to do something different — and then I realize that I love the people, the experience of making people happy, of employees doing well. We’re the biggest nightclub in New York, and everybody’s trying to take us out, so you need a strong constitution to come in every day and keep on fighting. It’s an exhausting battle. I was 24 when I opened my first place, and 28 when I opened another couple of places. People sometimes ask me my secret: I think long term and don’t take short cuts.
Who do you admire in the hospitality industry? The first thing I think of is longevity, not the flashy guys who are in for six months. I think of Jeffrey Chodorow and Steve Hanson. They’re successful with different restaurants with different menus in different neighborhoods. Promoters who have been successful owners include Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss from Marquee and Mark Packer of Tao. And then there are people who get into this business for the wrong reasons and muck things up.
What’s a positive trend you’ve noticed in nightclubs? I think what’s going on now is economical. The economy is going to separate the men from the boys. Over the past couple of years, people have become so money-driven that they don’t care about quality, just about how much they’re going to make before they produce anything. So, as tough as the economy is, it will flush out the phonies. The strong will survive. It will bring the quality up because there will be more good people working in fewer places. We’re making adjustments here, but we’ve buckled up and made some tough decisions. We have a viable product — a world-class nightclub — and DJs around the world want to play in a successful place more than ever.
And negative things? We don’t have enough unity in nightlife. Some people feel that it would compromise relationships, and others feel it’s getting too close to the competition. There’s too much at stake not to unify. We would get a unified voice to get the positive things that we contribute to the city to overcome the negative image. People are quick to report negativity. If there’s an arrest, if there’s a problem somewhere, it gets reported — and it’s really not fair, it’s a one-sided story.
What do you love about your joint? There’s nothing better than to be here on a Friday or Saturday night to hear the accents from around the world. More than half of the people here on New Year’s Eve were from Europe and South America. They came to celebrate at Pacha . That’s the greatest compliment of all. My doorman speaks four different languages, just to accommodate the questions from people who don’t speak English.
What is something that people might not know about you? I’m obsessed with sports. I’m a big Mets fan, but if Derek Jeter was in the club, I’d love it — he doesn’t take short cuts either. I could watch sports day and night. I watch ESPN six nights in a row. I love college sports, but right now none of my teams have had the best year. But I’m a fan, so I’m eternally optimistic. Ballplayers will come in here, and I’ll be introduced to them. I’ll tell them about their careers because I’m a statistics nut, and sometimes it spooks them.
What’s on the horizon? I’ve had several places over the years, but Pacha is a full-time project, and anything going forward will be more and more Pacha stuff to expand the brand throughout North America. The economy means we’re proceeding with caution. I take it very seriously. It’s a big responsibility, and we’re doing everything we can to keep from laying off people.