This Week’s Miami Happenings: Full Moon, Rec Room, Scarpetta

SATURDAY: Lunar Activity
Full Moon Party Gets Groovy
Good vibes infused with metaphysical energy reign supreme at this month’s gathering of conscious souls celebrating the inaugural full moon of 2013. A hybrid of a traveling hippie commune and one bad ass dance party, the wildly popular Downtown Full Moon celebration takes place at the Moksha Family Artist Collective. There will be an open mic session, the opportunity to show off mad dance skills and reflect on words of wisdom spewed by those enlightened in attendance. Naturally, drums are welcomed.
The Downtown Full Moon Party is happening at the Moksha Family Artist Collective (228 NE 59th St., Lemon City) on Saturday the 26th. Check out the details by visiting the official Facebook page.

NOW: Positively Recked
Rec Room, LDV Hospitality’s latest edition to its booming nightlife division, has officially open its doors at the new Gale South Beach. The subterranean lounge – reminiscent of a ‘70s basement – will be home to the nightly shenanigans fueled by quality cocktails from the bar. All that, plus back-to-basics tunes, courtesy of Rec Room’s expansive vinyl library spun by notable DJs.
Rec Room (1690 Collins Ave., South Beach) is happening now. For the inside-info, read the listing at BlackBook Guides.

TUESDAY: Wine and Dine
The launch of the Fontainebleau hotel’s Cellar 1954 Wine & Dinner Series kicks off this week at Scarpetta, with pairings between the restaurant’s Italian menu and offerings from Bertani Winery. Dom Perignon, Kosta Browne, and Penfold’s Wines are said to follow suit. Seating is limited and will set you back $195 per person.
Cellar 1954 Wine & Dinner Series at Scarpetta (297 NW 23 St., Wynwood) is uncorking this Tuesday. For the inside-info, read the listing at BlackBook Guides. Tickets for the prix-fixe menu can be requested by emailing cellar1954@fontainebleau.com.

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Industry Insiders: John Meadow & Curt Huegel; Partners, LDV Hospitality

John Meadow (left) and Curt Huegel (right), the partners behind LDV Hospitality, have never been busier. As the duo responsible for such hot spots as Veritas in New York, American Cut at Revel Resorts in Atlantic City, and Scarpetta, which has locations all over the country, they’re on a tear, but they always maintain the quality of their various venues. Their latest must-visit spot is No. 8, an upscale Chelsea nightclub they opened with Amy Sacco that carries on the tradition of the legendary Bungalow 8. We chatted with the hospitality duo to find out how they keep sky-high standards across their growing portfolio of properties.

Where are you from?

John Meadow: I grew up in Connecticut and went to Choate Rosemary Hall and Cornell hotel school.

Curt Huegel: I was born in New Jersey and lived in 16 different places by the time I graduated from high school, including Chestertown, Maryland (twice) and Arlington, Virginia. My mother was a decorator – she would buy fixer-up houses and I knew when she finished the bedroom we were moving.

How did you get into the restaurant business?

Meadow: My first job was at the Plaza Hotel in the food and beverage program. It was tough grind, but also very exciting to work in such an iconic company in the center of it all. My family was right around the corner growing up, and we’d always go to the Plaza for Easter.

Huegel: I have always been in the hospitality business – I worked my way through college waiting tables and after graduating I owned my first bar in New York City on the Upper East Side and never went on a job interview.

Meadow: It was important for me to own my own business. I was 24 and I met Curt and we opened a bar together called Local on 33rd and Eighth with some other partners. It was a grand slam. Then I left and opened a place called Gin Lane in the Meatpacking District. Gin Lane was a tragedy – I lost everything. There was lots of hype and lots of celebrity, and then it was tragically out of business. I learned a lot from the experience.

What made you decide to launch LDV Hospitality and what was that process like?

Huegel: I had always been in the bar and restaurant business, and the reason for forming LDV Hospitality was the natural progression from doing one-off restaurants. We wanted to create a hospitality company that would fill a void. LDV Hospitality’s first project was partnering with Scott Conant to form Scott Conant Management and open Scarpetta in the Meatpacking District in 2008. We learned that choosing your partnership wisely is paramount to your success in this business.

Meadow: We went on to do Veritas, where we brought in (executive chef) Sam Hazen. Veritas was awarded a Michelin star and got a three-star review in The New York Times. Then we developed the new Revel projects in Atlantic City, Azure, American Cut, and Lugo Caffe—the original location of Lugo is at One Penn Plaza. We wanted to do something on a more accessible, commercial level. It’s a heartfelt, passionate project at a level that’s attainable to the masses, yet with the same level of true hospitality of our other places. That’s largely the future of our business. American Cut and Lugo are the brands we want to run with now.

How’s are the Revel properties going so far?

Huegel: Things are going very well and we believe that the three restaurants that we opened at Revel – American Cut, Azure, and Lugo Caffé – are on par with any other restaurant in any casino or hotel project in the world.

Tell me about No. 8.

Meadow: For our last, most exciting deal, we partnered with Amy Sacco for No. 8. Amy represents an organic, real aspect of social life in the city. It’s very organic, it’s very natural, and it feels like New York City. There’s no shakedown to get you to spend $10,000 on a table. You’re either on that guest list or you’re not, there’s no negotiation at the door. As with all of our businesses, we take care of our guests. It’s working. It’s going great.

With so many different bars and restaurants to oversee, what’s an average day like for you? Do you go to an office or do you divide your time between the venues?

Huegel: My average day is long. With so many venues to oversee you have to believe in your staff – we have a director of operations that we trust implicitly. Our time is split between the office and venues and we visit them at night to see them in action as often as possible.

Many people have tried and failed to do what you do. What advice would you give to a young person interested in owning and operating upscale restaurants and lounges like yours?

Huegel: The hospitality business has to be something that you love and are passionate about. It picks you, you don’t pick it. One simple secret to success is to always be striving to exceed your guests’ expectations.

Meadow: It’s either all buzzwords, or you make it something real. We’ve created a team of empowered individuals and we’ve been aggressive about developing a brand.

Atlantic City, After Sandy

Tomorrow many of us give thanks for our families, our health, and the food at the table; but while we feast in comfort, areas of New York and New Jersey have yet to bounce back after Hurricane Sandy. One place that does have something to be thankful for is Atlantic City and many of the businesses there, which, miraculously, didn’t suffer as much damage as you might think.

“Thankfully we were not structurally affected,” said chef Alain Allegretti, a partner at Azure by Allegretti in Atlantic City. “Besides being closed for a total of 12 days, the only problem we had was contaminated water.” John Meadow, a principal/founder at LDV Hospitality, which owns and operates three restaurants at Revel Resorts, mirrored that sentiment and said, “The overall theme [of the hurricane] seems to be that it’s terribly devastating in the surrounding areas, but in Atlantic City you couldn’t see any effect. We lost food when we shut down, but Atlantic City proper is surprisingly in good shape.”

The worst damage to the area occurred in the residential area, ABC reported:

“The Atlantic City Boardwalk that was washed out by Hurricane Sandy is an area limited to the Boardwalk fronting the Absecon Inlet only,” Thomas R. Gilbert, District Commander of the Atlantic City Tourism District, told ABC News following our initial report on the damage. “That small section of the Boardwalk is located in South Inlet, a prominent residential section of Atlantic City.”

While everyone just assumed the glitzy, seaside gambling town was washed away, and earlier reports said as much, actually, it’s not too bad. Yes, since most people don’t know that, they haven’t had much business since Hurricane Sandy. 

“People think it’s under water, but that’s not the case,” said Meadow. “Business has been significantly hurt by virtue of this general fear factor.”

Meadow isn’t callous to his neighbor’s plight, he said, “You don’t think about having good steaks, good wine, and whole fish when your neighbor just lost his house.” However, he mentioned the majority of their customers that first week were people who had just lost everything and needed a little escape from the wreckage.  

Now, he and other Atlantic City business owners are urging others to take break from reality and head to the one part of the New Jersey shore that survived the storm. In the end, it appears a little debauchery pays off.