Industry Insiders: Michael Capponi, Club Kid on a Goodwill Mission

Like the city he hails from, Michael Capponi’s life is a story of triumph over adversity. Credited as the man who helped land Miami’s South Beach on the jet-set party map by promotiing such influential nightclubs as Warsaw and B.E.D. Miami, Capponi battled addiction and health problems until a successful stint in rehab gave him a new lease on life. His career has taken off from there, with his development company, Capponi Group, and club ventures like The Wall at W South Beach, and pool parties at the Mondrian. But after spending months in Haiti assisting with the 2010 earthquake recovery effort, Capponi decided to build a hotel there, creating a world-class destination for vacationers, while giving locals opportunities to rebuild their lives as he himself has done. 

What has turned your attention to humanitarian work?
In the mid-nineties I dealt with a lot of personal and life-altering things, ranging from major drug addiction to brain surgery and ending up in the streets for a stint. Since my recovery in 1999, I have really tried to contribute to good causes and have lived with a motto of " duty first."
Has your career in nightlife helped you with your efforts in Haiti?
While nightlife remains a somewhat controversial topic, it has opened more doors for me than anything I have ever done. In over 20 years in nightlife, I have had the opportunity to meet thousands of people, presidents, dignitaries, celebrities, moguls, developers, publishers etc. When you start looking and connecting all the dots, you realize that all those relationships can really serve Haiti in a big way.
How are you putting those skills acquired during your club days to work? 
I think my main skill set is that I’m hands-on. Also, I understand development as a developer but, most importantly, I understand the art of rebranding, PR, and promotions. It’s all these key factors that are needed to help recreate a positive image for the new Haiti.
Are you worried that our attention on Haiti is waning?
No, I don’t see Haiti being forgotten. There was too much money donated and too much media and celebrity attention devoted to it. People like Donna Karan and Sean Penn continue being in the headlines, reminding people how important it is to stay focused on that island.
What is your plan of action there?
After 18 aid trips, I realized that Haiti needs to be fixed in a completely different manner. I’m developing a hotel on the southern coastline of Haiti, in Jacmel, where my focus will lay on creating tourism there, while preserving the local culture. Really, I thought about a hotel to create jobs there, and give tourists a nice place to stay when visiting. It maybe a small model, but with it I hope to lead the country into the world of self-sustainability.

Grey Goose Outside Insiders: Herbie Gimmel, Fully Loaded

Herbie Gimmel spent over a decade performing in various rock bands before landing his first hospitality gig as a bar manager at B.E.D. nightclub in Miami, where he was mentored by owner Oliver Hoyos. The North Carolina native then moved to New York to manage the bar at the Gansevoort Hotel’s rooftop lounge, and four years ago he assisted with the launch of the Empire Hotel Rooftop Bar & Lounge. Now, as general manager, Gimmel is responsible for everything from promotion to organizing live music events and generating new business.

What are your responsibilities as general manager at the Empire Hotel Rooftop Bar & Lounge? My day to day involves a variety of tasks from marketing the establishment, to generating new business, and maintaining the clients lists that we already have. The Empire Hotel Rooftop Bar & Lounge is not just a nightlife destination; we also put on music events with Jazz ensembles, for example. Currently, I’m working on a movie themed night, and toying with other similar ideas.

How did you land your first hospitality gig? I had been in the music business since I was 17-years-old, playing in different rock bands across the country until I was about 28-years-old. After that I befriended Oliver Hoyos, the owner of B.E.D. nightclub and he moved me down to Miami. I worked as a bar manager there and learned the business from him, then a few years ago I moved to New York and remained in hospitality.

Where did you end up after working at B.E.D.?I worked for Jeffrey Chodorow at China Grill Management as a bar manager at the Gansevoort rooftop. And after doing that for awhile, we opened the Empire Hotel rooftop together four years ago.

What has your job taught you about entertaining guests at home? The most important things are being in a gorgeous space with good music and good people, and certainly having a cocktail or two, to make the moment right. I love having a good time and making people happy. Throughout my life I’ve loved throwing parties—whether it’s a house party— and having the responsibility of making my guests feel welcomed.

How do the summer months change the flow of business? The pace changes dramatically, we triple our business in just three to four months. And there’s not much time off for anybody in the rooftop business because it has definitely grown in the seven or eight years that I’ve been involved in New York nightlife. At B.E.D we were the only ones with that feature, but at Empire we’re one of many, so it’s definitely more competitive. But I think the Empire has a lot to offer; great views, all different types of spaces, and a great location.

Will there be any new cocktails featured on your summer menu? Strawberry Fields: 2oz. Grey Goose Le Citron flavored vodka ½ oz. lemon juice ¾ oz. simple syrup 2 muddled strawberries Top with Prosecco Garnish with strawberry

Miami: Top 5 South Beach Spots with the Sexiest Scenery

imageAll the pretty people …

1. Mynt Ultra Lounge The body beautiful principle rules. Designer labels, too. Suck in your stomach. 2. Skybar Lofty ‘tude brings in JT and Jay-Z. Outdoors: couches and bars for bold names. Inside: famous Red Room for tweaked-out celeb spotting. 3. The Delano Trendy beyond measure, billowy curtains and models. Candlelit tables and … that pool. Secluded bungalows we want to invade.

4. The Setai No neon lights here. Earthy Zen vibe, with the scantily clad glowing from incredible onsite spa treatments. 5. B.E.D. Conceptually, a place to eat, but more of a high-concept show. Seating atop large lounging beds for SoBe’s favorite sport: exhibitionism.