Sometimes Nice Guys Finish FirstOctober 11, 2012 By: Steve Lewis
Jamie Mulholland is one of those guys who reaffirms that taking the high road can lead to great things. He exudes honesty and class and is hard at work developing his next concept. After huge success with Cain, Cain Southampton, Cain at the Cove Bahamas, Surf Lodge Montauk and Goldbar, Mulholland’s desire to offer what the nightlife scene is missing hasn’t quit. Each one of his brands are unique ventures and a little bit different then the undertakings that came before.
The Surf Lodge brought cosmopolitan nightlife to Montauk; farther east than it had ever gone before. Goldbar sat on the edge of little Italy away from the Meatpacking district and West Chelsea where everyone else was opening. Mulholland is a steady operator and striking figure, more Roger Moore than Sean Connery. You will never see him sweat. He brings class to the table in an industry where most operators came down another path. He's up to something new and very soon.
Nightclub Confidential (NCC): What are the fundamentals that you apply to each and every venue time and time again?
Jamie Mulholland: I have started to slow down and think everything through as much as possible. I take an enormous amount of time in hand selecting each person and the role they play. The staff is clearly the life of the business. To find people that are not only like-minded but put the product first is extremely challenging in this business.
NCC: Montauk was a quiet place too far for operators yet you made your mark with Surf Lodge. How?
Mulholland: The success of Surf Lodge was a double edged sword. It was my first venture in owning a hotel, retail store and restaurant all at the same time. Being a seasonal business, its huge popularity left very little room for error with a steep learning curve. I learned an enormous amount from not only the success but also the parts that I struggled with. It was a very rewarding experience to see so many gravitate towards the venue.
NCC: You are linked to that old bank space on Houston Street, NYC. Is it a new brand or an extension of an established one?
Mulholland: Yes, there has been some talk with the old bank. We will see what happens, I have a brand that I have been working on for a while and am working feverishly on opening there or in another venue shortly.
NCC: You have had venues on main roads and off the beaten path. How do you choose what location works best for each concept?
Mulholland: Mate, I could be wrong but I have never chosen an area because it would help make the business successful. The thing that makes your venue successful is the product. A busy area can be a bonus for extra foot traffic but it can also get unwanted attention (27th street). A removed area can keep people there as there is less hopping around but again, it's the product that will bring them there and keep them there.
NCC: What does that term “good service” mean to you?
Mulholland: Service can mean so many things to many people but to me it means warmth. How we look after people and how we genuinely care for a person is what I believe is service and true hospitality. You really need to have the innate ability of wanting to take care of people.
NCC: We talked about enjoying what we do. How important is it to love it?
Mulholland: I believe in it as do you. It is such an incredibly challenging business, with so many pitfalls. Unless you really love it, I cannot believe you could stay in it too long. It has to fill a void.
NCC: Was the Bahamas property a "were going to be here anyway might as well build a place"?
Mulholland: No, I bid for it with three other operators and was very fortunate to be involved in the property and the venue. It is a great venue and loved by many friends and clients out of Miami and New York.
NCC: To some the "be all" is a Vegas property. Do your brands translate to sin city?
Mulholland: No, I don't think so mate. Not the ones I am working on presently. Jason [Strauss] and Noah [Tepperberg] have it on lock down and you would have to be a pretty serious individual to go up against those brands and what they have achieved out there. It isn't what I want to do or the path I have chosen.
NCC: How did you get into the business and how do you plan on getting out?
Mulholland: I started when I was about 16 in South Africa and continued through Europe (working in every position I could in the industry and learning as much as possible). I ended up in New York and am thankful for the many opportunities I got here and the operators that gave them to me. I truly love this business and how we affect people's lives in New York. I don't think there is an exit strategy.