At 33 years of age, Matt Shendell is a veteran by nightlife standards. The club and restaurant owner began his impressive career at 17 as a promoter and doorman, and has since tried his hand at multiple stations in the fluctuating business. From his first venue, Chinawhite, which opened in New York in 1998, to Southampton mecca Dune, to his new DUMBO outpost, Pub One, Shendell has used his experience to create hyper-current and markedly New York-centric hotspots. Here, he gives a brief rundown of his rise to the top and his predictions for the next wave of nightlife trends.
On his main draw to nightlife: Nightlife is something I’ve been involved in since I was 17. I’ve always been intrigued by it and I’ve worked as a doorman, bartender, and pretty much every other position in the industry. After opening up our first place in 1998, everything we did — including Dip and our sports bar The Hill — became bigger and better. We were good at it, and kept being successful, so we kept going. It’s an interesting and exciting business, and we’ve been lucky to always have a great team to help us.
On New York nightlife, as it was and as it will be: The big clubs have had their day, but I don’t think they’re in anymore. New York City is oversaturated with touristy, bridge-and-tunnel places. Gastro-pubs like The Breslin and The Spotted Pig are the next wave. For example, what we did with The Ainsworth – the comfort food and British pub style — that’s what you’re going to see in the next five, ten years.
On the most challenging part of the job: There are two things that stand out. One is dealing with the staffing, personalities, and finding the right people. There’s a high turnover in my business, so dealing with that can be a little crazy. Secondly, loss prevention, theft, and watching the money is another big battle.
On Dune and the Hamptons: Originally it was called Jet East and then Cain the first year we bought it, but it’s been Dune ever since. We came up with Axe Lounge one summer — a marketing partnership with Axe Body Spray – with the help of our marketing partners, Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss of Strategic Group. We’ve kicked around Dune for expansion, but it’s more Hamptons-specific. I don’t know if it’s a brand you can just place anywhere. I don’t think you could put a Dune in Chicago and have it be a hit just because it was Dune in the Hamptons.
On his latest, Pub One: We opened up Pub One in DUMBO three weeks ago. It’s going to be a relaxed sports bar – a smaller version of The Ainsworth, which is 6,000 square feet with 25 foot ceilings. It’s going to be a real neighborhood haunt, a comfortable spot with antique lighting, wood paneled walls, and over ten specialty burgers. We want it to be a real neighborhood staple where you can watch the game and have great food and great drinks. We’re also looking to open one in Manhattan, to expand the Pub One brand. Maybe we’ll do something big with The Ainsworth in a casino destination like Atlantic City or Las Vegas, but Pub One is a newer entity that we really want to get behind. We’re also looking at a place in Nolita, which we should close on soon.