Industry Insiders: Rob Shamlian, Downtown Turnaround

Rob Shamlian has been in New York for 15 years. Pretty good for a guy who’s opened five restaurants and bars in a two-block radius on the Lower East Side. The L.A.-native comes from a background of the hospitality savvy, and his brother Will is huge on the West Coast (Library Bar, Spring St., Laurel Tavern). More on his newest addition, the “cantina with a club feel” and some input on the age-old New York v.s. L.A. war.

On his background: I did photography for ten years. I had agents in every city, and then it ran its course. I was traveling a lot and living off editorial. So, I did a lot of magazines and I figured, “You know what? It’s time to make some money.” My brother was in L.A. doing several places. So basically, I just said, “I want to do something here [in New York],” and asked him how to open a place. He wouldn’t tell me a thing, he just kept telling me not to do it. I opened Darkroom and he eventually gave me advice the whole way. From there, I opened Fat Baby, Spitzer’s Corner, Mason Dixon, and Los Feliz.

On the simplicity of opening bars: After photography, this was a piece of cake, actually. In editorial photography, there are so many elements to master. Half of its production and half of it is putting together teams. Stylists, hair, make-up, models, you deal with so many elements. Opening a space is similar, but it seemed like a cakewalk to me. When I was doing fashion, I was focusing 24/7. There’s no break at all. Here, you open up a place, you move on. Basically, you work your own hours.

On the lead-up to working your own hours: I want to open as fast as possible! I open, I put management in place, and I oversee them. If I do multiple places at once, I’m in touch with the other places and I move on to work with the other places and do tweaks. The manager is the one who will spend most of the time on the premise, and I check in daily. I don’t really micromanage unless there are issues.

New York v.s. Los Angeles: In L.A., bars close at 2 a.m. In New York, people live in very tiny places, so they want to get out. There’s a lot more energy on the streets here, and if people get hammered, they take a cab. I L.A., you can park yourself in front of a big TV. You have a pool and a 12-bedroom house.

On the new joint, Los Feliz: Los Feliz was meant to be a café on the top floor and a very casual place–a cantina with a club feel. We happened to get a really good chef, Julieta Ballestero from Crema, so our food ended up more upscale then I originally wanted. We still price it very fairly, but it’s not just plain tacos. There are very different ingredients. It’s all fresh.

Favorite menu item: All of it! There’s a really good ceviche on the menu that I eat a lot. There’s a foie gras taco that’s really good.

On future expansion: Basically, I’ve opened five places on the Lower East Side within two blocks. It’s great because I go back and forth. That’s where I’m looking right now. I’m trying to put together investors for basically five other places that I’m going to do around the city. I’m doing stuff in Brooklyn and I’m trying to diversify around the LES.

On his block: I liked the location of Spitzer’s. I was talking to the owner for six to eight months at least trying to get that space. They were going to give it to Starbucks. I talked to the other owner of that space. First, his thing was, “I’d give it to you, but my dad works here.” I said, “That’s okay. I’ll give him a job.” Eventually, I wore him down and he rented it to me.

Go-to’s: I’m not a big fan of the club scene, because I’m a little bit old for that. We take the kids to Brooklyn Teahouse. I hear The Meatball Shop is pretty good. My brother’s place, Laurel Tavern in L.A.

Worst habit: Poker. I’m a gambling freak. I don’t know if I feel guilty about it. I’m not scared of losing.

The Rick’s Cabaret Guide to New York

Where do the dancing girls of publicly traded flesh palace Rick’s Cabaret like to hang when they aren’t putting themselves through school? Sure, you saw the stripper interviews yesterday, but wouldn’t you rather get intimate with the source material? After the jump, the Rick’s lovelies page throuh our “notes” regarding where the ladies kick it when they’re not working the pole. Can you get a Pulitzer for blue balls?

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Jennifer’s Picks:, Son Cubano, Little Branch, Bourgeois Pig, Boss Tweeds, Le Souk

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Becky’s picks: Dos Caminos, Blue Water Grill, La Zarza, Lil’ Frankie’s, Rick’s, Kum Gang San, Wildwood, Ace Bar, Mason Dixon, Boss Tweeds, Little Branch, PDT, Lucky Cheng’s

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Jazz’s picks: Cielo, Pink Elephant, Esperanto, Cafe Mogador Suzy’s Picks: 7B, Niagara, The Box, Apothéke, Big Wong King, Rick’s

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Where Strippers Go for Fun in New York

Everyone’s got an office. For Mario Batali, it’s the kitchen; for LeBron James, the court. And for BlackBook staffers, it’s an actual office. But for the girls who work at Rick’s Cabaret and Steakhouse, the office is something entirely different. It’s the stage-to-ceiling brass pole, or the giddy lap of an Asian salaryman. But when daily tasks include gyrating your hips to a T-Pain banger or sipping bubbly with VIPs in the champagne room, what space does that leave for a regular nightlife? Last week, after a long day at our office (be sure to check out the raw source material), we decided to visit theirs to fulfill our journalistic duty by asking them the essential question: Where do you like to go out in New York?

Ashton, age unknown Where are you from? Moscow. Where do you like to go out in New York? Usually I like to go to Pacha. How long have you been in New York? Two years. And do you and the girls go out after work? No, after work I’m so tired. I just want to sleep. Do any of your customers ever invite you to go out with them after work? Never. It’s like my rule. I never give my number.

Suzy, age unknown Where do you go out in New York? I like to go downtown a lot. If I’m just chilling out, I usually go down on the Lower East Side. Like, to Niagara and 7B. Or, if I want to go out — I know a bunch of, like, promoter friends — I go to The Box. Or, I live really close to Apothéke. Do you and the other girls from work ever go out after a shift? I’ve gone out with some of the girls. After a shift, there’s not that much open — like, as far as alcohol. So, we’ll go out to like, the next block and do karaoke. Or we’ll go to like, Noribong, or go out to eat. And what restaurants do you like to go to? I don’t know. I like to go to a whole bunch of restaurants. I love eating. Everywhere. Have you ever given a lap dance to anyone famous? Not in the sense like, in the media. Because they always like to bring them to someplace private, and so they usually bring girls who are like, you know, typical stripper, with huge implants. You know, like, in your face. And me, I’m not like that. I’m like the pseudo-stripper. Can we take a picture of you? No.

Becky, 24 And how long have you been working at Rick’s? Two years. Do you like to get drunk? Ha ha, I love to get drunk! Okay. And you love to get drunk? Yes, I love to get drunk. How many nights a week would you say you drink? Probably 6 days, or 7? I drink too much. Do you drink at work? Yes, all the time. For free? Yea, most of the time. And do you go out afterwards? No, I usually go right home. I’m not big on going out after work. Sometime I go to Niagara or Ace Bar. It’s an amazing place. You’ve got the Skee-Ball. You’ve got all kind of games. It’s a real laid-back, chill kind of place, you know? Do you ever stay in? Hardly anymore, no. What restaurants do you like? I love Stanton Social. I like La Zarza. What about clubs? I’m not a club girl. I’ll go to like, Buddha Bar. But I’m not into the club thing. Everybody’s all coked up. You can’t talk, you know what I mean? I’m kind of more like, Little Branch, PDT, Mason Dixon. What’s your favorite cocktail? Stoli O, on the rocks. No hangover. I take it all night.

Shaleen, 19 Where do you go out? I don’t. Why not? Because I’m a hard-working mother. I work and I go home. Do you ever go out to restaurants? I went about 2 weeks ago to Asia de Cuba. I heard it was really good food, and it was. It was wonderful. How long have you been living in New York? I’ve been living in New York my whole life. So where did you go out before you were a hard-working mother? Well, that was when I was a teenager. I was just going to teen parties. And how many nights a week do you work at Rick’s? Usually 3-4 days a week. And do you drink when you work? I do not. Not at all. Have you been out in the last month? I went out once to the Cellar Bar in the Bryant Park Hotel. And do you ever pay for your own drinks? It’s rare. Do you get hit on a lot? I mean, I get hit on. It’s to the point where most men that are with their girlfriends look like they want to be with me.

Dior, 20 How long have you been working at Rick’s? Only like, 2 months. How long have you been living in New York? I was here about a year and half ago, before I left for Miami. And now I’m back for good. Where do you like to party in New York? I’m boring. I Like loungey spots. So, I haven’t found anything in New York, yet. I’ve been to Mansion once (now called M2). Mansion is fun. Like, when you want to just get all the party out of your system — go to Mansion. And I go to a lot of restaurants like Wolfgang’s Steakhouse up the street. Do you ever have to pay for your own drinks? I don’t ever pay for my own drinks. I refuse. How many nights a week do you go out after work with the other girls? Being at work is kind of like going out. Plus I’m new here, and I keep my co-workers at a certain boundary. So all the friends I have are all quote unquote “normal.” Do your parents know you’re a stripper? Technically, no. What do they think you do? They just think I work in a bar. They probably know I’m a stripper … it’s just a conversation we choose not to have. .

Saki, 25 Where do you go out in New York? Besides here, I love going to the Meatpacking District. Spice Market, Hotel Gansevoort. I’m not that exclusive, so I don’t really go anywhere that’s secretive. I’m not that VIP. Do you want to be? Yes, I do. Why do you like Hotel Gansevoort? Because it’s relaxing. There’s places to sit. It’s more like a lounge, and not so much a discotheque. I can’t stand clubs. Why not? Because it’s a huge exercise in futility. There’s a lot of sweat, and there’ s a lot of people who just get drunk, or get stoned. And it’s not that interesting to me. Do you ever go out after work? Oh, I’m here until 4 in the morning. I told you, I’m not that exclusive, so I don’t go to any after-hours hang-out spots. When you go out, do guys pay for everything? Not really. I have to buy everything. I’d rather not be bothered. If I got out and a guy tries to talk to me, and if I’m really not interested — I don’t want anything to do with him, like not even free drinks. Because I just don’t want him to follow me around. Are you friends with any of the strippers here? I’m friends with Suzy. I think you talked to her, earlier? How long have you been at Rick’s? Oh, since the day I started. Like, 6 months ago. Do you get drunk at work? Not really. You develop a huge alcohol tolerance here.

Gaby, 20< Where do you go out in New York? I don’t go out, especially when it is too cold. And I use my computer a lot. I play poker and Facebook all the time. So I’m more of a house person. All of my friends are promoters. They’re always inviting me to Marquee, Johnny Utah’s, 49 Grove, Tenjune. So why don’t you go? Because when it’s a promoter, it’s like a bunch of girls, and maybe 1 or 2 guys. Because they’re promoting tables. If there were more guys, I would go. But I mean, come on. Do you like to get drunk? I have never been drunk in my life. I have had like one or two drinks, and they got me. But not like, drunk. I’m always sober. I just go to flirt. And dance with the guys How long have you been working at Rick’s? Like, a year. How long have you been in New York? 6 years. Do you ever tell guys you meet that you’re a stripper? No … unless they are my boyfriend, I don’t have to say shit.

Patricia, 27 Where do you go out in New York? Just here. You don’t go out anywhere else? Just at Rick’s. You don’t go out to clubs? Or bars? Restaurants? Nope. How many nights a week do you work here? Five. 5 nights a week. So the other 2 nights you stay home? Well, no. These nights I’m in the spa. I stay all day long in the spa. Sometimes I go out with my friend to eat some Brazilian food. Are you Brazilian? Yes. How long have you been in New York? One year and one month. How long have you been at Rick’s? One year. Do you like to drink? Nope. I like to bring very hot men in the champagne room. I like champagne, I like strawberries. But he would have to be very hot. What do you do in the champagne room? It depends. If the guy’s very hot, I’ll have some champagne and some strawberries and cream. So, if they’re hot, you’ll bring them into the champagne room? Yes. Very hot and fun. And rich? That’s necessary. But if they are hot, and they are fun — But there’s no sex in the champagne room, right? No sex. But we have a great time.