In the weeks leading up to the opening of the Eldridge on the Lower East Side, it seemed that the venue would be an Ishtar like disaster. But lo and behold, first time owner Matt Levine has weathered both the backlash and the recession and is still going strong after almost twenty months. Eater checks in with Mr. Levine.
The Eldridge opened in August, 2008 and immediately became known for its tight door policy - has it been hard to maintain the rep and the bar's status?
We have maintained the same door policy since we opened - it's a pretty simple process, you have to know someone inside to get in. This creates a great environment: with friends of friends, and guests of guests. The Eldridge has grown into a neighborhood speakeasy as much as a destination lounge.
Have you had to loosen the door at all as customers naturally shift towards newer venues?
I am in favor and support the opening of all new venues - it shows growth in our overall industry. The shift is natural in our business because people are interested in the new venues and what they have to offer. However, with The Eldridge, - you are always guaranteed great DJ's, great cocktails, and our size continues to let us dictate our crowd. Because of the fact that we have 18 months under our belt, our, "family of guests" has grown and our outreach of customer base as well as special events will continue to expand. When we first opened we were just a concept and a vision. Now 18 months later, we have grown into our space: our concept and vision has come to life - which is evident in our resume of attendees and events.
What is the biggest surprise you've found from running your own venue?
95% of the work is done during the day, 9:00am to 6:00pm - and 5% is execution at night.
What is one thing you wish you could change from the past 18 months?
Over the past 18 months, because of our special events calendar and work schedule at The Eldridge, it gave little opportunity for myself and our team to explore the city, and check out new venues, so over the next 18 months I hope to support our industry more. Our industry thrives on evolution and growth, you must keep up with the times to succeed.
What about the press coverage you got when you were about to open? Does the more experienced Matt Levine look back and think he could have handled it better or differently?
I believe with more experience comes better judgment, however looking back - I am very happy with the results of our press coverage.
Any lessons you could pass on to those who want to open their own place?
Create your own niche, stick to your concept, stick to your vision - and make sure you execute your plan.
Why is Justin Bieber eating cheeseburgers and fries at the Eldridge?
Justin Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun is a good friend of mine. When Justin's Album Release Party at Lucky Strike became unsafe for Justin and his fans - Scooter called me to open up The Eldridge, so that Justin had somewhere safe to go. It wasn't planned, we opened up The Eldridge from about 7:00pm to 9:00pm, they ordered some food, celebrated his #1 album with his family and close friends - and then headed back to their hotel. Ironically, we had Usher film MTV News the next morning at The Eldridge - Usher co-manages Justin Bieber with Scooter.
Are you planning any changes over the next year to help keep things fresh?
We will continue to focus on private and special events, it’s been our formula for success. For example, not many venues can have a super-star such as Beyonce perform one week,and then an up & coming pop-star such as Reni Lane perform the following week, or host an event for an established brand such as Louis Vuitton, but then also host an event for an up & coming brand like Public School. I believe our diversity to mix these kinds of events, keeps us fresh.
We will also continue to do satellite locations - Bonnaroo, Coachella, Paris Fashion Week, Superbowl, Sundance, and so on - for example - next week, h.wood / tea.room from LA is taking over The Eldridge for 3 days - March 31st to April 2nd, then The Eldridge is taking over tea.room in Los Angeles April 7th & April 9th.
How has your deal with THOR impacted the Eldridge?
I think neighborhood hotels always feed and impact neighboring lounges...In my opinion, if you look at each successful lounge in the city, there is a hotel anchoring the neighborhood.
Finally, any plans for the Hamptons this summer?
Finalizing all summer plans shortly. I recently partnered up with Kelly Brady, the former VP of Lizzie Grubman PR, to create Brandsway Creative, a branding, marketing and public relations group - representing - people, places and products, and our primary focus is to creatively turn them into brands. We anticipate our clients having a large presence in the Hamptons this summer as well.
So does that mean the you will not be involved in Georgica or operating at the same venue as 2009?
Yes, I will be involved with Georgica this summer, but also looking into other opportunities - daytime activation and programming.