The Reneg: Merkato 55 Day Brunch Parties And The Koch Brothers

You know, sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet, and admit you were wrong. Via Grub Street, the infamous Saturday brunch parties at Merkato 55—hosted by Derek and Daniel Koch—show no signs of slowing. Their handling of their own news cycle—they’ve had print press features from both the New York Times and New York Magazine in the last few weeks—is impeccable. And I’m coming out on this one, and admitting I was wrong about something. Here we go:

I’m not a traditional “nightlife” person, by any means. Anything with a rope and a line resembles an Outbreak-like quarantine to me. I go to bars, where drinking is done, and that’s about it. It helps to have good music.

When I interviewed the Koch brothers back in November as one of my first assignments for BlackBook, I had no idea what the hell they were talking about. I couldn’t conceptualize a “day party” as anything but some kind of batshit insane European thing that was destined for failure in the face of the impending doom of the economy; it didn’t help that Merkato 55 had been plagued with nothing but lukewarm press since Day 1. That being said, the Koch brothers struck me in three very distinct ways: (1) how young they are. 26 years-old, and they’d essentially carved a nightlife niche into New York that sounds like (in theory) a totally insane idea that would never work; (2) these guys are stereotype-busting—say whatever you will about anybody who used to wrestle in college, in Ohio, and dropping out after that, but they came to New York, and hustled a business they worked in from the bottom up. It’s impressive. And finally, (3), they gave me 40 minutes of tape. I might’ve gotten four words in during the entire interview. Their ideas came at me furiously fast, stunningly articulate, and were spoken of with the kind of conviction and wild passion you might hear quantum physicists discuss the transfer of particles or the Haradon Collider—with an inexplicable, borderline-manic enthusiasm.

About two weeks later, I went to the Merkato party. I sat in the back, had some waffles, and watched as the room turned from your typical brunch service into a raging, loud, dancing-on-banquettes, serving-sparklers-with-magnums, ragingly insane party. My friend who I brought with me was just as stunned as I was; What the hell is going on? was the general consensus between us. It’s literally something that has to be seen to be believed. Most New Yorkers walk out of brunch slightly buzzed, full, and ready to go home and nap. These people leave Merkato down a few hundred, plastered, and ready to keep going.

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