Twenty-nine-year-old Michael Sinensky and the ageless Sean McGarr juggle the ownership of SideBar, Vintage Irving, The Big Easy, Hudson Terrace, and the Village Pourhouse, along with Michael’s personal projects: corporate event management, “disco sushi,” and the NewYearsEve.com. The much-anticipated opening of Hudson Terrace is slated for May 5, so the hospitality and nightlife pros gave us a glimpse at the new joint and the forces behind the machine.
How would you describe yourself? Michael Sinensky: Sean takes his two daughters to school every day, and I clean my baby’s diapers. He handles the sponsorship acquisition. The goal with operating numerous places is buying power on Sean’s part. I deal with day-to-day operations. Sean McGarr: Michael is definitely the brains behind the operation, and I’m just looking to retire.
How did you get your start together? SM: I owned Webster Hall for ten years and last December sold my interest back to my partners, the Ballingers. I met Michael eight years ago when he had his event marketing companies and two successful bars in New York, the Big Easy and Proof. He would come to me for time to time for special events, and through all of my years, Michael was the only one who consistently under-promised, and over-delivered. We developed a friendship first, and respect for the work. When it came to opening our first Pourhouse location, we joyfully did that together. We both brought so much to the table. I had experience with buying power because of my clout at Webster Hall, and Michael could run anything. We both owned our own marketing and advertising agencies, so we put together a powerhouse saloon across the street from Webster Hall, and we signed and delivered the deal in 12 weeks.
What inspired Hudson Terrace? SM: Hudson Terrace is really a place from conception — the building was custom built for us. Everything put into it screams luxury, and from all of our favorite places, our place was born. When Marquee opened, we loved the service and the way the servers handled their customers, and like that, we incorporated this into ours. We constantly came across Lee Blumer of Crobar and then Mansion. We wanted her to come and work with us. She’s one of the best event planners in the city, so rather than hear about one of the best planners going elsewhere, we incorporated her into our business. MS: That’s our secret to success — taking other people’s secrets of success and doing it just a little bit better. Suede Lounge was one of my favorites in the city. Every single time you went there, you had a good time. They took something that could be considered snooty and turned it into a bar atmosphere where everybody remembered your name whether you spent $10 or $10,000. We made sure that customer service was our #1 priority. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel; you just make it with better wheels.
Who do you look up to in the industry? MS: I’ll say Frank Steo. While I was going to all of these events with Sean, he was the first to nurture me, teach me right from wrong, and he put me in the right direction. I learned that you don’t cut back, make your employees happy, don’t’ fire to make the business more money, and you create loyalty. From there I opened two places with him, and that’s how I met Sean. SM: I would have to say the Ballinger brothers at Webster Hall who gave me the opportunity to get to where I am today. We were the Kings of the Nerds. We made a business out of going after the average person. Everyone who came to Webster Hall had a mom and dad who loved them.
Any bad hospitality trends that you took into consideration when preparing Hudson Terrace? SM: There’s so much on the negative. We’d have to say really good plastic cups. Hudson Terrace would have benefited from bottle service, but what’s so positive about the nightlife business? We battled for 18 months to get our liquor license. Every time someone said we did something wrong, we had to hire a lawyer to prove them wrong, and we’re rather sour on the nightlife business now. It’s just very slow in New York City. MS: The “going away” from the bottle business. But Sean’s right, it’s actually a negative thing because of the economy. The payoff isn’t that good. We’re just opening more businesses to lower costs to make some money. Every aspect of every business — it’s getting harder and harder. The city and state are making it more difficult with licenses and permits. It should take days, not a year and a half. Most people go under. We were just lucky to have an open-minded landlord.
Positive trends you’re happier about? SM: If you’re the best, you can do very well, and that’s the fate of Hudson Terrace. We will make money. Michael and I will always end up on the winning side of things. This year, our companies will create 150 new jobs. MS: The positive spin on this horrible economy is that the people who are left standing are at the top of their game. Hospitality is the one industry that is hiring now. We need good people on many different levels to help us become more efficient, and to make it. As an entrepreneur, you can hire more people and do more events for charities.
Something that people might not know about you? MS: I’m 29, a father, and married. I’ve been doing this since I was 17 and throwing events in high school. What nobody knows about Sean is that he grew up in a trailer park and he had nothing — forget middle class, lower class. His is a great success story. SM: I also have two little girls: Hannah and Lily. Michael and I are living a dream — we’re able to have this exciting owner’s life.
Something you love? SM: My favorite thing is having no boundaries, no limits, no roof. Living in this country, you could do as much as you wanted, be whoever you want to be. It’s just really hard work. MS: Peking duck wrap at Peking Duck House. Sean thinks they’re too fatty. And going to my parents’ house in Queens, shutting off my phone, and sleeping the whole day. It only happens once a year.
What are you doing tonight? MS: I have a meeting at the Nets game with a potential client, then I have to rush home and change diapers. SM: Michael still wears diapers. I’ll be in countless meetings at the New Jersey location, with contractors, floor people, an attorney, and I won’t be at the Nets game eating and drinking. I’ll be eating cold soup and wearing flannel.
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