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Kenmare's Juan Skinner on Bribes, Two Hour Waits, Celebs

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Kenmare, the brainchild of nightlife/restaurant dream team, Paul Sevigny, Nur Khan, and Joey Campanaro has been open not even two months, and from day one has been one of the most sought-after resys in town. Like so many others of the ilk, the restaurant started off hosting celebrity parties during Fashion Week, acquiring a serious level of cachet before officially opening. Some were even calling it the 'New Beatrice Inn.' Accordingly, your chances of scoring a table at this Nolitan aren't always great. We sat down with Kenmare's Juan Skinner to get to the bottom of all the hype, and find out the best way to snag a table without a famous face.

Juan Skinner, Assistant GM: I've been working in restaurants/nightlife for about 12 years. I worked at the Laundry in East Hampton, I opened the Inn LW12 and Soho House. Most recently I worked at the Cooper Square Hotel which is how I heard about the job here. Most people think that Paul and Nur just want to have an extension of a club, but they want more of a neighborhood restaurant. They want people to come here and feel comfortable and enjoy themselves and the atmosphere.

Do you have a favorite seat? In the lounge area at the end, table 17 because it’s kind of away and you can sit with a nice bottle of wine and watch everything. In the dining room, table 31, the banquette in the back. It's a good seat for parties of 6.

It's 8pm on Saturday night. What is my wait time like? The wait will be at least 90 minutes to 2 hours, kind of depends. If you come in around 7 that’s definitely a good time to get sat. But once it gets to's going to be awhile.Are there actually resys available right now that aren't at 6:30 or 11? Yes there are some slots available. It’s kind of like luck of the draw. When I wake up in the morning, I check Opentable at home. I roll out of bed, and go straight to my Blackberry and look to see what we can physically fit in. If someone walks in either from the nabe or a celeb, chances are it's going to be pretty hard even for them. No matter what, some people are going to have to wait.

Is there anything I can do to speed my wait along? Cash or gifts? Ha no, those don’t work. Do you get that a lot? Yes! In the last couple of weeks, women in particular has been trying to slip me money. There’s no reason for me to take your $50 or $100. I can't physically seat you anyway and you’re still going to have to wait. But gifts are always good. Ha.

Any favorite customers so far? Fran from the neighborhood, she’s really funny. She’s been in the neighborhood for ages and she always pops in. Celebrities? Oh yeah, we get our fair share of those. I don't want to name names. Let's just say the place can be full of celebrities every night.

When VIPs walk in, is there a scramble to accommodate them? There’s always a sense of urgency but the thing is if you still don’t have a table, the best thing to do is to make them as comfortable as possible until something opens up. You can always have a drink at the bar or downstairs. You can always finagle something. Do you get a lot of “do you know who I am?” Actually no, which is really surprising.

What is the most outrageous request you've ever been asked? We haven’t had any yet. Thank god. Have you ever a request you could not accommodate? A couple weeks ago we had a group come in and the girl wanted to look at the menu, and I thought she said a party of 2, and she actually had a party of 20, at 8:30 and she wanted to be sat in 30 minutes which was of course, impossible. Especially because we only take up to parties of 6.

So what's up with the downstairs lounge? Some people are saying that is what makes this place the "new Beatrice Inn." Not really. It’s just an extension of the restaurant where people can have drinks before dinner, after dinner.

You're a veteran of the NY nightlife scene, how do you think things have changed in NYC in the past decade or so? I think people used to be more anonymous. In a given night you would see famous people partying with everyone else. Now everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame.

What is the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? Chocolate cake. I get it next door at Village Tart. Pichet comes in sometimes. They’re just so nice over there. I especially love the chocolate cake with the brandied cherries on top. People will be like, have you had your chocolate cake yet today? It's important to breathe and relax too, obviously. You're going to encounter some very different personalities in the course of a night.

When you’re not here, where do you like to eat?
Moto in Williamsburg. I like quiet places...small, neighborhoody spots where you can just go and sit at the bar. Via Della Pace in the East Village is one of my favorite places. They have great Italian food. The bartenders are so sweet and it's just a chill, laid-back atmosphere.
· Previous Editions of The Gatekeepers [~ENY~]


98 Kenmare Street, New York, NY 10013


98 Kenmare St., New York, NY

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