Industry Insiders: Brandon Freid, Vice President, Impulsive Group; President, Sanctuary Hotel

Brandon Freid has worked the front desk, been a concierge, and developed new properties like the Sanctuary Hotel in New York. This background suits him at Impulsive Group, a major player in the rapidly evolving hospitality landscape. “We have anything from a young hipster hotel to a four-star hotel with five-star service,” he says of the company’s properties. I chatted with Freid at Haven, the Sanctuary’s gorgeous rooftop bar, to get the lowdown on his busy life in the hotel world—and enjoy a pretty pink cocktail.

Where did you grow up? What kind of stuff were you into as a kid?

I was born in Melville, Long Island. I went to junior high and high school there, and then I went to college at the University of Miami, where I graduated in 2001. Ever since I was young, besides playing a lot of sports, I’ve always been involved in working with my father [longtime hotelier and CEO of Impulsive Group Hank Freid] with hotels. I’ve done everything from demolition—which is fun when you’re a kid—to construction, to concierge, to the front desk, to sales trips. I’ve run the gamut as far as the hotel industry is concerned. I’ve done acquisitions for some of our properties. For example, I found the Sanctuary property several years ago, purchased it, and hired the designer. I’m involved with hiring all the contractors for everything from the architecture to the design to the construction teams. I have my hands in everything.

Is that just for this property or are you that hands-on for all the Impulsive Group properties?

It’s for all of Impulsive Group. Sanctuary was really my baby, my first hotel, well as Haven, the rooftop restaurant and bar. I was really completely hands-on with this project, but I’ve been involved with every Impulsive Group hotel.

Which hotels are those?

We have the Ameritania Hotel which is on 54th and Broadway. And then we have some on the Upper West Side. We have a Moroccan themed hotel called Marrakech. We have another hotel called Broadway. So we have anything from a young hipster hotel to a 4-star hotel with 5-star service. We have two yachts that we use for charter. One’s based in Miami, in the Caribbean. And the other one is in the Mediterranean, in the South of France.

So you’ve grown up in the industry.

I really have. From day one I’ve had a hammer in my hand, and now I’m in a tie and I’m up in Haven, our latest venue, making sure that it’s running properly, that the food’s great, the drinks are great, that the atmosphere is what it should be.

What exactly is your job title? It sounds like you do just about everything, but what’s an average day like for you, if there is such a thing?

I’m involved with the overall umbrella company, which is the Impulsive Group. I’m the Vice President of Impulsive Group. So I’m in contact with all five hotels on a daily basis. And on a weekly basis I visit every hotel. I’m constantly meeting with the general managers of each property to get updated on what’s going on. I’m also the President of Sanctuary Hotel. I oversee everything from hiring the general manager to the front desk employees, and making sure that the service is great. You know, we have 111 rooms here, and with 111 rooms you are able to really provide service above and beyond, because we don’t have 500 or 1000 rooms. We know every guest that comes in and out of this hotel. We know what they like, what they don’t like, and we really cater to their needs. When Haven opened in the summer, my hours of work got extended. Before, I was up at 6:30 in the morning and I was getting home around 8. Now I’m not getting home until like 11 or midnight, I’m sleeping for a few hours, and then I’m back here again.

Do you have a specific type of guest that you try to target with Sanctuary and Haven?

Sanctuary and Haven are both located in Midtown Manhattan, which is really the center of corporate America as well as tourism. It’s the number one tourist destination in the United States. So during the week we’re heavy with our corporate business and on the weekends we have a lot of tourism. So we have a very big differentiation between the two.

It sounds like you have a pretty fun job.

It’s a great job. I’m not complaining.

Is there anything you don’t particularly enjoy about it?

I almost don’t consider it work, because I love what I do. I was just away for two weeks in Europe and I was looking forward to coming back. I couldn’t be any happier being here today than I was in South of France on a yacht yesterday.

Do you have a secret to your success?

I think that the only way to ever own and develop and properly manage hotels is to experience doing the positions of front desk agent, the housekeeping department, reservations, being a manager, being a GM, and so on. You have to know what to expect from those people and the only way to know that is to have been in those positions before. So I’ve been there and I’m able to really identify what those positions entail and what they require.

Have you ever worked in hotels under other companies?

I did when I was in college, when I was in the University of Miami. While I was in New York, I pretty much always worked beneath my father.

What did you study in college?

I studied Business Management.

Do you think going to college is important in your industry?

I do. I don’t think that it’s absolutely necessary because there are people who have succeeded without it, but I think it does help and it does broaden your horizons. And it’s always smart to go out of your element, from wherever you’re from, for a few years and experience life somewhere else.

Do you have any future plans?

(Laughing) Yeah, I’m young. A lot more hotels.

Anything specific in the near future?

I am looking at acquiring another hotel. I really can’t say more than that right now, though.

My pretty pink cocktail arrives.

What drink did you get?

This is the Aura.

I created that drink. It’s a great drink. It’s got muddled raspberry, mint leaves, simple syrup, and a half a squeeze of lemon. I love gin. This one’s made with Bombay Sapphire.

It’s delicious. [It really is.]

I think it’s great that that’s the drink you ordered.

Are you very involved with the menu here?

I am. I had the chef make me three things that I have no interest in eating right now, because I want to know how they look and what they taste like before they go on the menu. I taste every drink and every food item before it’s served to customers.

Did you have a hand in the decor as well?

Every single piece of it. I completely designed everything here, from the cedar that wraps around there, the reclaimed lumber in the ceiling–I went to Brooklyn to find it–to the umbrellas, to the tables, to the cushions.

Do you do that solo or do you work with a team?

We do it as a team at Impulsive Group. But these days I’m really the person in charge of finding it and making it happen, and I bounce my ideas off them.

Do you work a lot with your father?

I do.

Is that a smooth relationship?

I have a very unique relationship with my father where we’re best friends. We have a great work relationship, as far as partners. It’s great because we have five hotels and we’re able to both be in different places. He’s able to shine where he shines and I’m able to shine where I shine. It’s great to have another person you can trust to work with, but who will have a different opinion and sees things a little bit differently than you do.

What are the areas that you shine in as opposed to him?

He happens to be very, very good in the management. And I’m more of the creative, construction, visionary person. And I spearhead the acquisitions.

Have you thought about expanding outside of New York?

I have. And we’ve looked many times. At this point we just haven’t found the right opportunity. But I do plan on doing it. I would probably go into a major city like Los Angeles, Miami, or Chicago.

What do you do to unwind when you have time off?

I like to work out. I play tennis. I love hanging out with my friends and seeing my family.

Do you travel a lot?

I travel quite often. For me, Miami’s always an easy two-hour run on a plane, so I’m there a lot. Or California. I’d say I’m there four times a year. And every summer I travel to Europe.

Is there anything else I should know about you or your venues?

Yes. Try some food. You have to try the tuna and you have to try the crab.

A Tuna Tower and the Crab and Avocado Palette suddenly appear on the low wooden table before me.

Do you like crab?

I do.

Jump in there.

That’s delicious. [It really is.] 

The food’s good right?

Yes it is. Is it mostly seafood based?

No, it’s French-American cuisine. We have a great cajun chicken dish. We have a steak. We do have other fish though. We have a tilapia. We have a salmon. It’s light and fresh. That is also, I think, one of the things that makes the Haven Rooftop stand out – our food. We have two chefs and they really execute and we have a ridiculous menu.

Do you get a lot of outside customers at Haven or is it predominantly hotel guests?

I’ll tell you where we get the most, and honestly it’s our best publicity – our neighbors. All these tall buildings around us. That’s Fox right there. The glass building over there behind you is Morgan Stanley. And they all are taller than us, so they look down on us and were watching us build. Look around – it’s all people in suits that are well dressed–these aren’t tourists. I don’t want to stare at them, but if you look, they’re actually all working in the neighborhood and they’re coming here after work to blow off some steam and have a few drinks. I love that they’re my clientele.

It probably ensures a regular crowd too.

It does. But you have to give them great service. You have to give them great food and great cocktails, otherwise they’ll just go somewhere else. I mean it is New York. Survival of the fittest. Do you want to try something else? Another cocktail?

Before I can respond, a plate of the aforementioned Cajun chicken arrives. Freid turns to a couple of friends at a nearby table and grins.

How’d I do with the interview, guys?

Industry Insiders: Joey Morgan, Owner of Traffic Bar and WashOut

Native Long Islander Joey Morgan (left) is the man behind Traffic Bar Midtown East, Traffic Bar Hell’s Kitchen, and Montauk’s coolest summer destination, WashOut. How did this down-to-earth guy, who “didn’t set out to own more than one bar,” become the owner and operator of this successful trifecta? In short, he’s a salesman. Fresh from Indiana University, the spry young Morgan was working unhappily at a PR firm, when his boss told him he needed to go into sales. “And even though I’m in the hospitality industry now,” says Morgan, “it’s still sales. I’ve never forgotten that.” We had a chance to chat with Morgan and find out just what exactly it is that he’s selling, and how he’s able to sell it.

Did you always want to own a bunch of bars in New York?

I never did set out to open multiple venues. I had been in the hospitality industry since I graduated college, and one job led to the next before I had an opportunity to manage a venue, and realized I could do it on my own and make money for myself rather than work for someone else. I really was fortunate enough that I was mentored by someone who had been doing this years before I began, and he saw a lot of potential in me and took me under his wing to give me the confidence to do what I do.

How is your brother, Brian Morgan, involved?

Well my brother is more of an investing partner, and not involved on a day-to-day level. We do speak all the time and he shares his ideas with me whenever he feels is necessary, but he has a full-time job in real estate and I oversee and run the businesses with my other managing partner.

How is it being in business with a family member?

We’ve been very close since we were little kids, and work very well together. We were never competitive with each other and were raised in a way which has allowed us to evolve in our adult paths to always be there to support one another in every aspect of our lives. So it’s pretty easy for us to be in business together.

How do you go about opening a new place? Are you always on the lookout for a new venue? 

Opportunities always seem to come about and we always will listen to anything. The operation which we implement is a philosophy which we believe we can replicate anywhere. This business has many different variables and if the positives outweigh the negatives where we feel it’s something we can work with, we then crunch the numbers and take it from there.

You’ve managed to open two successful sports bars in Manhattan and a summer destination bar in Montauk, all of which have a lot of competition. What is it that sets your bars apart?

I don’t believe I have reinvented the wheel. In my opinion, it’s exceptional hospitality which is the key foundation to making bars successful. People seem to forget the meaning of the word "hospitality" and I take pride in making sure every person who walks through the doors leaves with a positive experience. The question is how. It’s up to me to create an environment which is fun and positive so that when they leave, it’s with the feeling that they would most certainly want to come back. I feel strongly when I say that I am only as good as the people who work for me. I’m not a micromanager. If the staff is happy and having fun, that energy will be felt by the customers, and that is what I think sets my bars apart from other places in the city – that I go out of my way to remind everyone what exactly we are doing every day – and that is catering to people who have come to enjoy the experience which we offer.

Part of that experience is sports, right? Traffic Bar Midtown East is the New York home for Indiana University Alumni. What exactly does that mean?

Basically, we show all of the IU games and do special events with the alumni. I try to recreate Bloomington in New York. But I don’t want them to just come in for a game and never come back again. I want them to feel like it’s their bar. Like they can come in just for a drink, or on a date.

Do you think the IU affiliation has helped you succeed?

The specific sports emphasis and Indiana affiliation which I have built is for sure a bonus, as is the weekly corporate business, and the weekend and nightlife business, etc. But the consistent and core ingredient which contributes to the success is, and will always be, hospitality.

You seem very passionate about your job. What’s an average day like for you? Is there anything you don’t like about it?

Every day is a different day for me. I mean I’m up at 6:30 every morning, but each day is a different day. I do not have an average 9-5 day, so you never know what to expect. You do the best you can to anticipate problems before they happen, but it’s dealing with the issues which come up on a daily basis, and how you handle them, which, at times, can be mentally draining that I’d say wears you down. I love what I do for a living. And having the opportunity to create something and watch it grow is something which I really do enjoy. I can’t pinpoint one thing over another, but I will say it’s a humbling experience to walk into a place and see the vision I once had in my mind happening right before my very eyes.

Angela Friedman’s Vintage-Inspired Lingerie Hits the Racks

First, women wore animal hides to cloak their sexy, naked bodies. Then came corsets, those tightly-laced 18th century undergarments that gave birth to the hourglass ideal.  Bras were big for a while, until we burnt said bras, then bought new, nicer bras. And now there is Angela Friedman, a designer who represents the pinnacle of lingerie’s evolution. But while the design of a woman’s intimates has always been a hyper-feminine facet of fashion, it’s cyclical. With Angela Friedman’s recently-launched Versailles Collection, we’re seeing a modern take on great underwear of the past. Think Marie Antoinette, but with a lot more skin.

Friedman honors style as much as she does history. “I do focus a lot on trends, even though my work is primarily inspired by vintage styles,” she says. The Versailles Collection, launched in June, is a silky, lacy, ruffled line of vintage-inspired corsets, slips, robes, bras, panties, and more, all made by hand in New York’s garment district. 
 
“My love for lingerie comes from a lifelong interest in vintage clothing and the way the right clothing can make a woman feel confident and strong,” says Friedman. “I really want to offer women the chance to feel like they’re living the fairytale romance of the ballet.” And, as the head of the ladies’ department of the New York City Ballet costume shop for the past several years, she’s capable of doing just that. But while it’s every little girl’s dream to be Clara from The Nutcracker, the idea of wearing a historically-accurate whalebone corset is slightly less thrilling. 
 
“It can be a delicate balance,” she says. “But in the end, most modern women want to wear something that has the elegance of vintage clothing without the exact replication.” To strike this happy medium, Friedman incorporates modern silk fabrications that contain Lycra and spandex for movability into her designs, maintaining the desired aesthetic while enhancing comfort and durability. “All of my lingerie pieces are built to last,” she says. “If a ballerina can put it through the abuse of eight shows a week, then it will definitely withstand day-to-day wearing.”
 
Creations from The Versailles Collection can be found on Friedman’s website or in Greenwich Village’s high end lingerie boutique, La Petite Coquette. And be sure to save some space in the top drawer for a few Valentine’s Day delicates this February, when Friedman plans to show her upcoming line, which features an emphasis on steel grey, European pink, and metallic hues.

Seven Boozy Brunch Bashes in New York

“The brunchies” typically refers to that craving one gets around 1:00 pm for stomach-coating cuisine of the vehicle-for-grease variety. In short, a hangover meal. But what do you call it when it’s 1:00 pm, the bottles are just being popped, and the party is just getting started? A good time.

We’re talking daylife now. Cue the DJ beats, crank up the smoke machine, and start working that three-cheese scramble, it’s time for the daytime boozy brunch bash — designed for the person who likes to sleep, in the city that never does. For your daylife debauching needs, we’ve compiled a list of the 7 boozy brunch bashes in New York that you just can’t miss — unless, of course, you forget to set the alarm. 

Can’t Finish that Cabernet? CapaBunga Wine Caps to the Rescue

Perhaps you’re dining alone on a school night, or maybe your eyes are bigger than your liver. Heck, maybe your preteen daughter opened all your cab francs at once and then used the corks for an art project. Whatever the reason, there occasionally comes a time when you just can’t finish that bottle of wine and still be a responsible member of society. What to do with the leftovers? Leaving it unsealed will turn it skunky fast. Trying to recork it after you mangled the thing can be like un-ringing a bell. But there is a better way. Behold CapaBunga, a nifty, liquid-tight, reusable silicone cap that reseals uncorked bottles of wine better and easier than anything else out there.

Once your precious liquid has been CapaBungified, the bottle won’t dream of leaking,  whether you lay it on its side, hang it upside down, or smash it against a wall. Just kidding about that last one, people, it’s not magic, but it is the next best thing. You can order these glug plugs decorated with whimsical sayings, holiday sentiments, or custom designs of your own at capabunga.com. Now excuse us while we pop open this 2007 Opus One to sip with lunch. 

Ping-Pong Bars in Which to Live Your U.S. Open Dreams in Miniature

Toy poodles, Mini Coopers, Lil’ Wayne. Apparently, size does matter, and the smaller the better. So if you want to be really trendy this tennis season, go small or go home. What’s better than normal-size tennis? Table-sized tennis, of course. For those of you who don’t want to trek out to Flushing for the U.S. Open this year, we’ve compiled a list of New York’s finest establishments where you can play ping-pong, drink, and watch the matches all at the same time. Seriously, why would you want to see a life-size Federer? It’s so much cooler to see a mini Federer on a flat screen.

Best Los Angeles Bars To Watch the Olympics

Find yourself stuck in Los Angeles this fine Olympic season? Fear not, my friend. You can check out this year’s finest (and hottest, see Paraguay’s Leryn Franco) athletes from the splintery comfort of your favorite bar stool. Who needs London when you’ve got BlackBook’s trusty list of LA’s best British pubs for watching the Olympics?

Saint-Tropez: The Fall and Rise of the World’s Ultimate Beach Party

In March of 2011, Saint-Tropez’s infamous beach club La Voile Rouge was officially ordered to shut down after 45 years of world renowned, high-class debauchery. Apparently, those countless noise complaints lodged by its tony neighbors did more than just bolster its reputation as the world’s ultimate beach party. But in true rebel fashion, the club ignored the order and kept the bottles popping all summer, entertaining the celebrities and billionaires and counting the money until the police showed up with bulldozers. 

To the nightlife enthusiast, it seems drastic to force close an iconic day-to-night club that’s been entertaining VIPs from Brigitte Bardot to Bruce Willis since the ‘60s, becoming in the process the archetype for the good life, but we get it. Thumping bass lines, deafening helicopters, Paris Hilton’s banshee shriek as she’s showered with Moët: it’s enough to drive the best of us crazy at 4:00 am on a Tuesday. But then, if you live in Saint-Tropez, a maison de mischief for half a century, you shouldn’t expect tranquil summers of quiet contemplation.

Yet the locals finally gained the upper hand against the jet setters by enlisting the aid of Mayor Jean-Pierre Tuveri. “My wish is not to get rid of Saint Tropez’s bling image—that is part of its identity now,” Tuveri told The Telegraph. “My policy is simply to try and drag its brand image upwards via culture.”

Surely it’s his prerogative to shift the party from champagne spraying to champagne sipping, but Saint Tropez’s chief source of income is tourism. It’s an economy that thrives on Joe Yachter’s nightly six-figure bills at beach clubs like La Voile Rouge. If Tuveri wants to class up the town by putting a muzzle on the party, Saint-Tropez will no longer be the place where anything goes, for a price. It’ll be the place where most things go, with some caveats, curfews, and curtailments. And that might just be enough to send the beautiful people elsewhere in their search for high-end hedonism. Those in the know are already reporting that many of the bumping, boozy, fleshy, paparazzi-swarmed parties have moved up the coast to Cannes. 

To get some local perspective, we reached out to industry insider and longtime Saint-Tropez resident Celia Gumbau, co-founder of the luxurious Hotel Muse. “Nightlife in Saint Tropez is less fun and rich than it used to be,” she says. “Cannes has definitely become more nightlife-oriented, with huge nightclubs like Gotha and Palais that have international DJ lineups.” 

So does this mean the party’s over? Has Saint-Tropez surrendered its crown as the world party capital to its film-loving cousin up the coast?  Non. It takes more than a few flustered neighbors to flay this beast. Despite the crackdown, some Saint-Tropez clubs—such as the Paris Hilton-approved VIP Room, and Jay-Z’s go-to spot Les Caves du Roy at the Hotel Byblos—have managed to maintain their riotous reputations. Other hosts have gotten creative. 

“Most of the parties are happening on yachts and in private villas, owned or rented for the month,” says Gumbau. “Saint-Tropez is still Saint-Tropez, and you still see all the world coming, celebrities, billionaires … ” She trails off, thinking of the endless parade of glitterati. So the party isn’t over, it’s just been moved to the150-foot Ferretti on the water, where the cops will need snorkels to bust it. 

Holy Ghost! Plays at Samsung Galaxy S III Launch Party

Thanks a lot, Samsung. The human brain is now obsolete thanks to your neat new Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone. But maybe I’ll find a new use for my gray matter, because last night I attended the New York launch party for the futuristic device, which was hosted by a chipper Ashlee Simpson at Marquee nightclub in Chelsea, and I left pondering just how clairvoyant a tiny, shiny little gizmo can be. 

As I’m ushered into Marquee, I feel as though I’ve caught Gloria Swanson without her makeup on. The lights are bright, the wooden floor is clean, and there’s not a spilled drink or dropped straw in sight. Suddenly the lights dim and everything becomes blue, save for Simpson’s shiny red leather shorts. An army of leggy, blue-sheathed girls flit about the room, setting out cocktail menus and powering up the Samsung Galaxy S IIIs displayed on every table. Throughout the party, guests use the S-beam feature to order cocktails (you’ve seen the commercial with the guy holding two phones back-to-back and transferring a photo), and play with the countless other intuitive features. 
 
I’m waved in to the back VIP room, where the AC blows and the champagne flows, to chat with New York duo Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel of the popular synth-pop band Holy Ghost!, who will be the entertainment for the evening. The long-haired Millhiser and clean-cut Frankel met at age 6 and have been music partners ever since. 
 
Originally part of the hip-hop group Automato, which broke up when their rapper stopped rapping, Millhiser and Frankel turned their beat-making skills into the dynamic duo that is Holy Ghost!, named after one of their favorite songs by the Bar-Kays. They may look like just another couple of synth-wielding hooligans from the ‘Burg, but they’re set apart by their nostalgic approach to music. Their sound takes cues from ‘80s pop and ‘70s disco, and Millhiser says his dream venue to play would be Shea Stadium, the old Mets stomping ground, which was demolished in 2009. But fear not retro-philes, they can usually be found DJing at Le Baron in Chinatown. “It’s like an underground party,” says Frankel, “a dark room with a smoke machine.” 
 
Their eponymous album was released by DFA Records last April and they’ve just finished two years of touring, partially with their recently dismantled lablemates, LCD Sound System. 
 
“We are in the studio writing another record,” says Frankel, “so we probably won’t start touring until the end of this year. And the album will come out next year maybe.” 
 
When asked which band, dead or alive, they would tour with if given the chance, Frankel paused for a moment, before saying, “LCD Sound System,” with a laugh. 
 
“Dead!” chimes Millhiser. “It’ll be a reunion tour. They’ll be opening for us. At Shea Stadium.” Then he mutters, “Fuck you, Shea Stadium.”