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Q&A with David Rabin and Geoffrey Zakarian

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Throughout the New York City Food & Wine Festival this weekend, Eater welcomes bloggers, journalists and food world stars to our lounge at the Standard Hotel. As the peeps pass through, we're going to chat them up and spit out the dialogue here in this business, From the Eater Lounge. Right now: Meatpacking District mayor David Rabin and restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian.

2009_10_gz.jpgWhat are you guys up to right now? David Rabin: Well, Double Seven is coming. That’s probably the first thing. The architect is saying November, but I think it’s going to be December.

For the readers who don't remember the place, what's it like? DR: Double Seven was a cocktail lounge we did in 2005. At that time we tried to take the best of what we saw elsewhere and the idea we had was nightlife for grownups. Back then there were really only a few places—Flatiron Lounge, Milk and Honey, but no one had taken it to the Meatpacking District. So we got Sasha [Petraske] involved. We came up with this idea and Dodd Mitchell’s design. It was a very cool little cocktail lounge with Milk and Honey-esque cocktails. People loved it, but after 18 months, our landlord kicked us out. So now we’re going to Gansevoort Street.

How big will Double Seven be? DR: It will be small, it’s meant to be very intimate, very homey. The whole idea is to not play the music very loud so you can talk and have a conversation.

Seems like it’s a good time to be opening up a place in MePa? DR: People kept telling me the neighborhood isn’t ready yet. I’ve always been a cheerleader of this area. It’s really a neighborhood that has no residents, so you don’t have the community board problems you have on Jane Street or on The Bowery.

And how’s the nightlife association going? DR: It’s going pretty well. I think that city government is opening up the fact that we need late night establishments. They’re opening up to the idea of the other 9-5, that 9-5 provides jobs to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to support what they’re doing. Whatever it is they’re trying to do, they wouldn’t be able to do it if they couldn’t work at night. Politicians are starting to understand that. I’m glad you guys are helping by covering it, I tell all the politicians to read Eater! We’re hopeful that maybe we’ll be brought back to 50-50. We’ll have responsible operators opening responsible establishments.

Let’s switch gears for a minute. You’ve got a new restaurant opening up soon as well? DR: Yes, I don’t talk food and so I wanted to drag Geoffrey down here to talk about our upcoming spot The Lamb's Club. The developer is telling us that the Chatwal Hotel will be ready between March and April. When the hotel opens, The Lamb's Club will be ready.

What’s the restaurant going to look like? GZ: Well, the hotel is being designed by Thierry Despont, who designed Bill Gates’ house. Our first meeting with Terry, he was dressed head to tow in Hermes, so it was incredibly intimidating. Then walks in and tells a Borat joke! We’re like, oh god we can relax. I thought like I was back in college. He’s the coolest guy.

What's the building like? This hotel is going to be Mr. Chatwal’s baby—he’s not messing around. I don’t think that they wanted to rush it. We’ve got some gorgeous details. We moved one of the old fireplaces into the restaurant. Because it’s a landmark building, we’ve had to restore everything to its original details. I mean, we have all these amazing windows that we’ve had to restore to their original state, which is all mahogany. It’s beautiful, but it takes time.

Have the delays been because of restoration? GZ: That and the financial crisis. It’s going to be grand. It’s a luxury property. My goal is to have this be a luxury bar and grill. It’s great for us that they’re actually taking their time and getting the work done properly.

Have you guys been up to anything else? DR: We’re going to be doing a very fun and casual caf&eacute in the Dream Hotel, it's right near the Maritime Hotel over on 17th St., between 8th and 9th. It’s going to have a bit of a beach feel—it’s got a pool and a rooftop lounge.
· All NYCWFF 2009 Coverage [~ENY~]