Industry Insiders: David Sarner, Owner of the Pink Elephant

With the latest incarnation of the legendary Pink Elephant nightclub firmly established on 8th Street in Manhattan, and locations in Brazil and Mexico, you’d think owner David Sarner could relax a bit. But he’s busier than ever, expanding the brand to Miami, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, and Dubai. Sarner is one of those people who gets more done in a day than most people do all week, so we picked his brain a bit to find out how he got into the nightlife business, where he sees the Pink Elephant going next, and his unusual part-time jobs growing up in the city. Check it out. 

Where were you born, where did you grow up, and what kinds of things were you into as a kid?

I’m a native New Yorker. I grew up on Central Park West, so the park was kind of my front yard. Growing up in the city was amazing because everything was so accessible. From playing sports in the park to going to movies, museums, and nightlife. Everything was available. My parents were pretty liberal, so I had free reign of the city from an early age, going out on Friday nights to Rocky Horror Picture Show at the 8th Street Playhouse at 13 to Xenon and Studio 54 at 14. The drinking age back then was 18 and the city was a different place, full of edginess, grit and 24-hour excitement. It was a little crazy and I would never let my own kids act that way, but I had a blast. The stimulus of the city really gave me tremendous creative inspirations from which to draw.

What jobs did you have when you were just starting out?

During high school, I worked at various jobs both after school and on weekends, including a cashier and fruitman in a grocery store, a butcher shop, and a couple of restaurants to make money to go out at night. I have been working in the nightlife industry for 20 years. My first nightlife job was as the doorman at Studio 54. Through a restaurant where I was working I catered an event for Michael Jackson at Studio 54 and the owners were so pleased that they hired me on the spot to work in the marketing department and do the front door. It was pretty funny, because I would do the door at night, and then go to high school during the day. There were many nights that I would go directly to school from the club or some after-hours party and show up to class in black tie. Things were very different then.

What was the first nightclub you opened and what was that experience like? What did you learn about how to operate nightlife venues both in New York and beyond?

The first true nightclub that I opened was Spy Bar on Greene Street in Soho. It was an amazing experience because it was the first time that I had taken a project all the way from initial concept to completion and then execution. It operated seven days a week, and became this wonderful mix of all sorts of creative downtown people from art, fashion, media, and entertainment industries. Growing up in New York, you have limited space to entertain, so I wanted to have a huge living room where I could have a party every night, but then not have to clean up. So I took this concept of an Old World dilapidated hotel lobby that wasn’t too stuffy and designed it to feel really comfortable and lived-in. It instantly became this great cross-pollinating hotspot of people on a nightly basis. The thing that made the biggest impression on me is that if you treat people well, make them feel comfortable, and give them a fun time, you will  always succeed.

How did you decide to expand the Pink Elephant brand internationally, and what was that experience like? Where do you have Pink Elephant clubs now, and how often do you visit them? What is different about each location, and what remains the same?

Building nightclubs can be fun, but it is also tremendously labor and capital-intensive. Unfortunately, single establishments have limited life spans and can grow stale, so a great way to keep a venue hot long term and realize continuing revenue streams is to have brand extensions in other markets. This provides international recognition and drives public awareness. I had the experience of owning other nightclubs in multiple markets with Chaos in New York, Miami and Brazil. This time around, I wanted to create something more enduring that could translate in multiple languages, hence the image of the Pink Elephant. At present we have Pink Elephants in the US, Brazil and Mexico and we are expanding internationally into Hong Kong and Dubai over the next year and domestically into Miami and Vegas. I tend to spend about 50% of my time on the road these days, visiting existing locations about 6 times a year and researching and developing new locations. It’s a lot of work, but there is no substitute for personal observation and attention. Each of the venues has the same signature features, but has its own unique influences that are respective of the cultures of the individual markets.

After originally operating on W. 27th St., Pink Elephant is now in the Village. What was the experience like reopening the place? Did you apply any of the wisdom you gained when it was on 27th? What’s it like operating in a different neighborhood?

Well, this is actually the third Pink Elephant in New York. I like moving because it gives the ability to create something new and reinvigorate the brand. There is always a learning curve, and this time around we created a more intimate venue and included a separate mixology bar where people can mingle. We realized from the last incarnation that upbeat house music is great, but that people also want to slip away and chat with someone interesting at some point during the night, so we wanted to provide that option, along with a fantastic mixology experience. In regards to the new neighborhood, it’s great being in an up and coming area where there is a feeling of growth and exuberance, so the whole resurgence of 8th street is very exciting for us and our clients.

What is it about Pink Elephant that sets it apart from other night spots? I like the idea of having a mixology bar – all too often these fancy places don’t go much beyond vodka with some mixers, so upscale drinks are most welcome. What else is unique about it, from the design to the ambiance to the music?

So much of our DNA comes from service and energy of our staff. We really love to throw a great party, have cutting-edge entertainment, and really provide our clients with a fun experience. So much of the nightlife today has become so formulaic and trite that the industry has actually become stale. We love to provide our clients and friends with a unique experience, from incredible international DJs to high quality drinks from amazing mixologists, to surprise live entertainment, and of course the ubiquitous appearance of the Pink Elephant from time to time. We also have an unbelievable sound system designed by Steve Dash of Integral Design that is so clean that you can feel the music vibrating through your whole body, yet it’s so clear that you can talk to the person next to you without raising you voice.

What’s your official job title, and what are your responsibilities with Pink Elephant? What is an average day like, if there is such a thing as an average day?

Although my official title is Owner, it really should be Jack of all Trades. I tend to get involved in every aspect of the business, from marketing, branding, promotion, ordering, financial planning and analysis, budgeting, everything really. There are definitely areas that I like more than others, but in the fast-paced world of nightlife, you have to be on your toes and able to understand and perform every function on a moment’s notice. That’s the part that I like, the fast paced need to react in real time.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

I love conceptualizing and bringing projects to fruition. That is the most satisfying part for me. To take the seed of an idea, germinate and nurture it to grow into something beautiful and amazing. I also love to provide people with an outlet where they can cut loose, have a great time, and forget the hardships of their everyday lives. It is so empowering for me when people tell me that they met their spouse or significant other at one of my venues. It makes me feel really good, like I have done something meaningful. We’re always changing and innovating, that’s what keeps us fresh. We’ll have a whole new host of fall drinks made by our master mixologists along with more great international DJs for the New York venue. This year we have two additional clubs opening in Brazil (in Sao Jose and Terezina) as well as Miami and Dubai which is slated for New Year’s Eve.

Many people have tried and failed to do what you do. What is the secret to your success? What advice would you give to a younger person looking to follow in your footsteps?

I think the secret to my success is that I came from a very stable upbringing that provided me with an amazing education and ability to travel around the world and experience all sorts of cultures and hospitality. It gave me an appreciation to think outside the box and dream big. My college education was focused on International economics and finance, so I had the skill set to manage my own businesses and understand foreign markets. My advice would be to work in all different jobs in a desired industry to understand how each of the pieces of the machine work. In hospitality, I have done everything from waiter, bartender, dishwasher, office manager, doorman, promoter, mail room, design, etc, so I have a pretty good understanding of what different jobs entail and how they all need to interact to work effectively.

When you do have time off, what do you do to relax?

My passion is travel, so I always try to mix a little business with pleasure, or is it the other way around? I guess that when you love what you do, it’s really not work.  I travel a lot so I always try to make each trip a bit of both to get ideas and inspiration from other businesses and cultures. I just got back from two weeks abroad sailing in the Aegean, interspersed with relaxing and reading. I managed to experience some great nightlife in Istanbul, Bodrum, Mykonos, Santorini, and Athens. I’m always trying to see what people are doing differently and new, and how customers react, so that it can spark ideas and provide my own twist on entertainment and hospitality.

Industry Insiders: Talking to DJ Diego Harispe

For our Oct./Nov. issue’s Industry Insider section, we interviewed professional house music DJ Diego Harispe. In the business for over 10 years, Harispe approaches his craft old-school, mixing CDs and vinyls, and weaving the sound into a story. Currently based in Miami where he’s found DJing at such spots as Nikki Beach and Mynt, Harispe has DJd across South America (Crobar in Buenos Aires) and Europe, where he honors the local cultures’ music. Here, Diego shares what he thinks a DJ should never do, the one song everyone loves, and what he reminds himself in the midst of success.

You’ve DJd all around the globe. What place do you look forward to spinning in the most?
That’s a hard question. I think every city and every country has something special. My favorite place is always the next one to visit, so this week it’s Ibiza. In Ibiza, every dancefloor is filled with different nationalities and cultures, but what is amazing about this magic island is that everybody speaks the same language: MUSIC. 

What’s a DJing-don’t? Something a DJ should NEVER do?
A DJ should never become a DJ for other reasons than the love for music itself. Unhappily, we have lots of supposed “DJs” in the industry  that are there just for exposure, a certain lifestyle, or other vein reasons than the music.

What is one song that people always love?
Gotye’s “Somebody That I Use To Know.” There are so many good remixes of it.

You’ve been a pro for years. What have you learned about success?
It’s not something that you finally reach. Success is being able to do what you love. It’s a forever path, and the key is to have faith in you. No matter how hard things get, with faith and consistency you will always achieve what you want.  

Industry Insiders: Chad Campbell, Night Rider

With a capacity of just 110, Mister H at the Mondrian SoHo is one of the most exclusive nightclubs in Manhattan, but general manager Chad Campbell works hard to keep it humble. The Kansas City native, who traveled the world before helping to open such New York clubs as Top of the Standard and Jimmy at the James hotel, aims to create a cozy environment, where the 1930’s Shanghai design stimulates conversation among guests.

His welcoming approach can be seen in the eclectic crowd that fills the space every night, where bottle buyers and models rub elbows with actors, artists, and creative people of all stripes. “I’m looking to see who’s going to add something to the energy and vibe of the room,” he says. “We want it to be a social, unpretentious environment where people are inspired to talk to their neighbors with no confines.”

Industry Insiders: Sam Keywanfar, Hype Man

Using celebrities to endorse products is nothing new, but with Hype Creative Agency, founder and CEO Sam Keywanfar has raised it to an art form. Since its inception, Hype has created wildly successful marketing campaigns, PR strategies, product placements, and events featuring such notable figures as David Beckham, Ke$ha, and Jay-Z. Two main points set Hype apart from other agencies, he explains. "One is that we’re a creative agency where we conceptualize the majority of the campaigns," Keywanfar says. "The other is that we have personal relationships with the talent, so we can get deals done quickly and efficiently without a middleman."

According to Keywanfar, it’s not enough to enlist a bold-faced name; the product, strategy, and countless other factors have to click as well. "Celebrities trust us to bring them the right deals, structured in the right way," he explains. "They usually find that they’re not only financially rewarding, but will also propel them further into the work that they’re looking to do." 

And while Keywanfar admits that his experience in the business provides a certain "x-factor" in executing campaigns for clients like Casio, Jeep, and Gatorade, the ultimate formula for his company’s success isn’t hard to explain. "The brands and the celebrities we work with are all relevant to our audience and we have a lot of fun with them," he says. "When you take the best celebrities and the best brands and put a great agency behind them, you’re going to get some magic." 

Industry Insiders: Rande Gerber and Roberto Serralles, Spirited Entrepreneurs

Having mastered the art of owning and operating stylish bars and lounges, nightlife entrepreneur Rande Gerber (right) decided to enter the next closest line of business: producing and marketing his own spirit. "I love rum, but I wanted to do something different," Gerber says. "I decided that if I wanted to do well, I needed to team up with the best." The best, in this case, is represented by Roberto Serralles (left), a master of distilling, blending, and aging whose family has been producing rum in Puerto Rico for nearly 150 years. The result of their collaboration is Caliche, an aged white rum with citrus, caramel, and vanilla notes that’s smooth enough to enjoy on the rocks, while versatile enough to mix into daiquiris and other cocktails. "The idea is to make a really light distillate and then let the barrel do its magic," Serralles explains.

Caliche rum is available in the Gerber Group’s many venues, including Lilium in New York, Stone Rose Lounge in Los Angeles, and Whiskey Sky in Chicago. 

Industry Insiders: Matt Levine, Native Son

New York entrepreneur Matt Levine is busier than ever these days. Not only is Sons of Essex, the upscale American restaurant he co-owns with Michael Shah, one of the hottest tables on the Lower East Side, he’s also staying on top of the duo’s just-opened drink spot, Cocktail Bodega. We caught up with Levine to ask him about his background, his hospitality ideas, his favorite hangouts, and what exactly goes into a “Gin Hulk” cocktail. 

Where are you from and how did you get into the hospitality business?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, then grew up right by the JFK airport, in the Five Towns area. You could say I grew up in the hospitality business, bar-backing and serving while in high school and then bartending during college, and eventually bartending in the city every summer.  From my later teen years and early twenties, I started throwing parties and special events throughout the city. Working within the fashion and nightlife world, I started a clothing line in 2004.  Besides giving me an opportunity to travel, the clothing line gave me a creative outlet and the resources to eventually invest in my real passion-hospitality. At the age of 26 I opened The Eldridge.
What was the Eldridge like?
The Eldridge provided another creative outlet, and in that 1,000 square foot space, we did some amazing things.  The Eldridge had a great run, was a learning experience from an operational standpoint, and gave me the opportunity to operate F & B on a hotel level, as well as open up satellite locations and management deals. And then when 133 Essex Street came into discussion, I had an asset with The Eldridge, and an opportunity to sell the liquor license and the lease for 247 Eldridge Street, so I did so, and started building out what is now Sons of Essex.
What is an average day like for you, if there is such a thing as an average day?
I generally wake up at 7:00 am every morning, check emails, watch a little ESPN, walk my extremely lazy and stubborn English bulldog, Boss, and get to my office by 8:30 am.  I’ll head to Sons of Essex in the afternoon for meetings, and to our new project-Cocktail Bodega.  I generally get home around 8:00 pm, walk Boss again (or should I say he walks me) – then head back to Sons of Essex for dinner with friends and then … it starts all over the next day. Exciting, right?
What’s the greatest challenge of running a successful restaurant?
The greatest challenge is keeping consistency levels to the standards we expect. It’s always someone’s first experience at Sons of Essex, always someone’s first Asian calamari salad, someone’s first truffle mushroom pizza and so on – so it’s important to have the customer service and quality of product perfected. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
What kind of place is Sons of Essex? Where did the name come from?
We named the restaurant after the Sons of Liberty, who were a movement of shopkeepers, artisans, workers, and tradesmen who held down places like the Lower East Side when the British tried to take it over.  The Sons of Liberty were the voice of the people, the voice of the streets (organizing the Boston Tea Party, taking down the Stamp Act) and with us being located on Essex Street, we wanted to pay homage to those who looked out for our rights, the people’s rights. Sons of Liberty + Essex Street = Sons of Essex
What’s the menu like?
The Sons of Essex menu is a reflection of the diverse melting pot of cultures that have helped develop the Lower East Side to what we know of it today.  The old-school scene has been described as a Bowery Boys atmosphere and Gangs of New York vibe that pays homage to the history of the Lower East Side. We fuse a traditional American comfort food menu with the spices of Lower East Side immigrants and the use of local ingredients and Essex Street Market fruits and vegetables.
Tell me about Cocktail Bodega. 
Cocktail Bodega serves liquor-blended smoothies and spiked fresh-squeezed juices, with a creative and innovative take on traditional street food by my dude, Chef Roblé.
Where does the Bodega part come in?
Bodegas represent a strong sense of community within the Lower East Side, and with the use of fresh fruits and fresh vegetables in the cocktail program at Cocktail Bodega, the name Bodega seemed like a natural fit.
Will cocktail bodega specialize in any particular spirits or cocktails?
Throw a little vodka into your strawberry-mango smoothie, or have some rum with fresh vegetable juice, that’s what Cocktail Bodega is all about.
What’s your favorite cocktail to get there?
My favorite cocktail is the Gin Hulk: Hendrick’s Gin, freshly juiced apple, freshly juiced cucumber, freshly juiced spinach, lemon squeeze, and a cucumber garnish.
Other than your own venues, where do you like to go out in New York?
When not at Sons of Essex, I have my Lower East Side comfort zone. Barrio Chino, Les Enfants Terribles, Fat Radish for dinner, 169 Bar, Epstein’s, and Motor City for cocktails.  Throw me anywhere with my friends, a beer, and I am good.
To what do you attribute your success? Any secrets you can share?
I think it’s important to put your staff and team first, and lead by example.  When you walk into Sons of Essex, you aren’t coming because of the owners, you are coming because of the atmosphere and vibe, the customer service, and of course, most important – the food itself. All of this is a shared vision. I laid out the foundation and the operations, but the staff executes all the deliverables for the customer experience.
What do you like to do in your spare time to relax and recharge?
Bikram yoga is my relax & recharge time, checking out Hester Street Fair on Saturdays for good grub, hanging at Tompkins Square Park to chill, checking out an indie film at the Angelica or Sunshine … all help me balance the work week.
[Photo: The Lo-Down]

Industry Insiders: Clarice Lam, Chef and Owner of The Baking Bean

Clarice Lam swapped Prada sportswear for kitchen whites when the former model-turned-baker launched The Baking Bean, an online pastry business. Everything from rosemary butter croissants and raspberry to mango peach pie is made to order and delivered to your door. Here, our September 2012 Industry Insider and sweets-expert shares what inspired her to dive into the pastry business, the challenges she’s overcome, and how sweet it is to do what you love.  

How did you first launch The Baking Bean?
I had always been doing special orders and custom desserts for friends, and through word-of-mouth on the side. At their behest, I put a name to it, and thus The Baking Bean was born.

What makes your business unique from other online pastry companies?
We don’t have a set menu. You can really order anything your heart desires AND it will be delivered to you! We also offer a monthly dessert club, which for $100/mo you can get four desserts a month, with one delivery per week!

What’s your favorite treat on the menu, and how would you describe your signature style?
I love the peanut butter and jelly smores. It’s peanut butter shortbread cookie with raspberry jam and marshmallow, all enrobed in Belgian milk chocolate and topped with peanuts and fleur de sel. So addictive! And my style is definitely elegant, whimsical, and a little bit of street.

You’ve worked as a model for years, traveled and lived in various parts of the world, and studied fashion. How has that lifestyle informed your current work as a baker?
Thanks to my travels for 10+ years, I was able to study the food from different cultures while simultaneously being influenced by the beauty of those cities. All of those flavors have made their way into my work now.

What do you love and not love about the pastry industry?
I work in pastry because it’s my passion and because I love it. What nobody loves about the industry, whether it be pastry or savory, is the pay. We work really hard for not that much, but we do it because we love what we do.

You’ve encountered and overcome great trauma as well. What would you say was the foremost thing you learned from that experience years ago, and how has that lesson affected your work?
Being in an accident that left me nearly paralyzed or dead has taught me to never give up and to always fight and work harder. It has made me even more driven than I already was. When I first started in this industry and still had problems walking, I never used it as an excuse to do a mediocre job or to catch a break, and I never will. I will always use any hardships that come my way to make me a stronger and better person.

What’s your ultimate goal with your business?
Let’sput it this way… if someone were to be shown an ink blot of something resembling a cake, I would want their response to be The Baking Bean.

For a list of all of Clarice’s favorite spots for sweets, click here

Industry Insiders: Jo Rausch, Maitre D’ at Lexington Brass

At Lexington Brass, Iowa-native Jo Rausch knows most of her guests by name—and with good reason. As the maitre d’ of one of New York’s classiest American bistros, she encounters a gaggle of regulars daily, all looking for an enjoyable time alongside their lobster mac ‘n’ cheese and buttermilk fried chicken. But her career didn’t start as maitre ‘d; she worked her way up across the EMM Group’s lauded venues, from bottle waitress to host. Here, our September 2012 Industry Insider shares her average day, where she gets her favorite cocktail in NYC, and her encounter with one of the hottest actors in Hollywood.

What inspires your work in the hospitality business?
When I went to the University of Northern Iowa, I took advantage of every travel program offered. I climbed the ancient steps of the Acropolis, ran straight off of the Swiss Alps with a parachute on, stood in awe of the Sistine Chapel, and danced and sang on tables at Oktoberfest. Travel opens your eyes and puts you on a different level of understanding people and culture. You can manage life so much better with an open-minded view of things. That is directly transferable to my everyday life working in hospitality.

What does your job as maitre d’ entail? What’s an average day like for you? 
My day starts with a giant cup of Stumptown coffee when I get to work—it’s life changing. We serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Lexington Brass so there is never a dull moment for us. I go through reservations and plot the floor for lunch. A casual diner won’t pick up on the amount of planning that goes behind your seating arrangement. I spend the afternoon reaching out to guests and keeping up with our regulars. Hospitality doesn’t have a down time and that’s one of the many reasons it keeps me interested and challenged.

Describe the food and atmosphere at Lexington Brass. What do you think is unique about it that keeps people coming back?
We have an awesome team here and when you start with that solid base the rest comes very easily. Our menu is classic American bistro with a lot of unique flavor pairings. Executive chef Chris Leahy is so creative and always trying out new things here for us. The dessert menu is where I get into trouble though: the Fried Apple Pie is incredible! 

You’ve been working with the EMM Group for years. Describe the brand and what has kept you working with it.
When I started with the company, The Chandelier Room was their second venue. I’ve watched the company quadruple in size over my three years with them. That in itself is a phenomenal testament to the drive and work ethic that keeps them going. I’ve also loved being part of a company that you can grow with; if you have the drive, they recognize it and help you actualize your potential.

Where are your favorite places to drink and dine?
My friends and I have been working our way through Adam Platt’s top 101 restaurants list and, as you might guess, Eleven Madison Park has been my favorite, but I also love classic tiny spots like the original Westville. For drinks you can find me all over the place, from The Red Lion listening to an amazing David Bowie cover band, to Catch with my favorite tequila cocktail—the Cane—in hand. (For an extended list of Jo Rausch’s all-time favorite NYC spots, click here. )

What’s the greatest lesson and advice you’ve learned across your career in nightlife?
You have to remember that everyone that walks through the door is there to have a good time and your job is to make sure that happens. If you aren’t having fun, that will manifest its way to your guests. When I go to work I don’t feel like it’s a job and I think that’s the key to happiness in your career.

Amid your work as a bottle waitress, host, and now Maitre D’, what is the craziest thing you’ve encountered someone do?
That’s a story to tell over drinks but it involves John Stamos, or maybe that was just a dream I had.  

Industry Insiders: Celine Valensi, Nest Watcher

With a wealth of experience that includes opening eight restaurants, including three with hospitality legend Sean MacPherson, general manager Celine Valensi has just the right touch to ensure guests at the Crow’s Nest Inn in Montauk have the time of their lives. We caught up with Valensi to get the scoop on her hospitality background and the secret to staying calm amid a flurry of activity. 

Where were you born, where did you grow up, and what kinds of things were you interested in as a kid? I was born and raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan where my mom still owns and operates the restaurant she opened when she was pregnant with me, Mon Petit Cafe. As kids, my brother Nick (Nick Valensi of The Strokes), sister Alessandra and I used to sit and do our homework at a back table and wait for our mom to finish work.

Has your career always been in restaurants and nightlife?
Hospitality is in my blood – it’s all I’ve done.
What’s it like working with Sean MacPherson? 
I first met and started working with Sean MacPherson when I was 21. Still a sassy kid then, and I generally had problems with authority/bosses because I felt like I knew more than everyone else, especially in my industry. I thought because I had already climbed the wall of working in 1, 2 and 3 star restaurants, I had reached a ceiling of what I could learn in my business. Sean, however, is far more punk rock than I and continues to take me to school on a daily basis on everything from electrical wall panels to water service. He’s seemingly psychically plugged into what people don’t even know they want yet. Within the company we call it his Midas touch.
What is an average day like for you, if there is such a thing as an average day? 
I live on property at The Crow’s Nest so I can be there just about every waking moment. We run a 16 room inn in addition to our restaurant which keeps me putting out fires most of the day. While it’s a 7-day work week from May through September, I sneak out most days when the heat and sun are highest because my office doesn’t have AC. Between noon and two most days this summer, you can find me at Ditch Plains beach either tanning or surfing.
What do you enjoy the most about your job, and what are some of the challenges? 
Crow’s Nest has the advantage of being on "island time." Most people in Montauk are on vacation, and generally easier to please (as well as more tan and more fun). A major disadvantage to our location is the mere distance to everything. If we need birthday candles in a pinch for instance, no busser is running across the street to the nearest bodega as he might in NYC. Out at the very End as we call it, what you go into service with is all you’ve got.
How do you help people feel relaxed and have fun while also making sure they’re having a special experience? 
I wear a miniskirt.  No, just teasing – it’s about value. People want to see value in the dollars they put out. In our case, we have a tremendous advantage of being positioned on Lake Montauk, adjacent to wetlands. The environment alone launches guests into a serene mindset, with gorgeous sunset views (each room has a private deck) and endless bottles of rosé.  
What advice would you give someone who is interested in doing what you do? 
Go out to your local diner, bar, bistro, cafe or wherever you can imagine yourself working and get a job – any job. After opening 8 restaurants (3 of which for Sean) and working in a handful of others, I’ve learned that secretly, every restaurant is the same. While the variables will undoubtedly change from spot to spot, the principals of labor/food cost are the same everywhere. And hospitality, at its core, is unwavering.