When I used to actually run joints, people were often surprised that I did "day" work. They though the night life was showing up at 10pm, acting suave and sophisticated and witty, and then engaging in a spiral of booze and drugs that ended with a crash, burn, rinse, and a repeat. I have met very few successful people in this business that can pull that kind of act off. Those types get left by the cab stand pretty early. The norm in the business is educated, hardworking, creative business types that maintain office hours and desks and have a large support staff. What happens at night is the work of long hours by day, which includes analysis and often lots of risk and soul searching.
When speaking of risk, my mind always wanders to my pal, Lindsay Risk, a nightlife professional who has had enormous success with the Gerber Group until recently popping over to Steve Hanson’s empire B.R. Guest. She is a 24-hour create-a good-party kind of person. When she dreams, the music and the clang of glassware are always there. She wakes up raring to go…to get to her new challenge and succeed. Success drives her car and she is bringing this drive to the old Japonais space. She is, as the song goes, “spinning" this property "right round like a record baby.” She is making the necessary changes while balancing the parent companies’ mantra. She is spinning it all on The Loft, a sexy perch overlooking the restaurant, which has been renamed Kibo. It means "the wish,” or something. Lindsay’s wish is to reinvigorate this great off-Park Avenue property and then move on to the next. Real night-lifers have to keep moving on…to the next.
You have come over to Steve Hanson’s company after a very successful stint working with Scott and Randy Gerber. What is it about you that has these empire builders wanting you on board? And why are you attracted to working for these top-tier companies?
My favorite quote that my father preached was "The best or nothing – that is what drives us.” I grew up with the Gerbers and they will always be my family. They threw me challenges from age 18 to 29 that were, at the time, unattainable, especially "being a girl in a man’s world," but they trusted me. Guest came about when I was the GM at The Living Room TSQ/ Whiskey from 2007-2009. I made relationships with the managers at Blue Fin/Steve Hanson property. I saw the intensity and the perfection of the operation and always had it in the back of my head that "Wow, they really define hospitality." BR Guest took a liking to me, because of my appetite for creation, my ability to invigorate, and my favorite saying: "MIH"-Make it Happen.”
The property you are working on was the once-successful Japonais space of Park Avenue South. How will you reinvigorate this property? What are the hurdles you see before you? What are the pluses of Kibo?
Kibo is a space that is off the beaten path of Park Ave., which is a hurdle, but people find secret underground coves for "speakeasy" cocktails, so I have written this off as an actual obstacle. It is a monster in terms of size and it is absolutely beautiful! The Loft space is a nook that is now unveiled and it has become my baby! It is simply peerless and slightly secretive. It is a perfect date spot mid-week, and on the weekends it’s not cheesy or pretentious.
You have had some great early success at Kibo. What is your goal with the property?
Our recent success has been a collaborative effort: an amazing dinner by Joel Roubuchon in Kibo, cocktails in The Loft. Most of our guests stay for the duration of the night because the music is that good, but some look for late-night club spots: 675, The Bunker Club. Regardless, the experience at Kibo is sexy, fun, stress-free, and a repeat destination.
Tell me about your music programming. At Gerber, that would have been someone else’s specific job. Do you have more freedom to put your stamp on Kibo?
I was given the freedom to "put my stamp on Kibo.” which has been amazing! We’ve had a tremendous amount of positive feedback in terms of our music selection.
I’ve eaten there two times so far and the experience was wonderful. How do you add a nightlife component without negatively impacting the food program?
The "nightlife" aspect at Kibo is an added component that is rapidly growing. Kibo is a destination restaurant for the cuisine. My vision is a one-stop destination. You enjoy an amazing meal, and then you party in the The Loft with the option of bottle service, a glass of rose, or a cold beer.