LES Pop-Up Speakeasy Buzz: An Exclusive Interview With PPX Hospitality's Gabriel Scott-Dicker

by Ross Kenneth Urken · February 24, 2011

    Gabriel Scott-Dicker, whose PPX Hospitality will facilitate this smattering of hipster lairs in the former B.East space, spoke to GofG about his vision for the pop-up trend this spring. Grunge, it seems, has a fine dining bent. As we reported on Tuesday, Ron Castellano has decided to close B.East, his LES subterranean speakeasy, in order to open this series of limited-run pop-ups. Scott-Dicker has an interesting task ahead in dealing with the building:

    The bi-level space comes equipped with the upstairs location formerly inhabited by Castellano's restaurant Broadway East. The unique bifurcation allows for a multitude of possibilities for each version of the club.

    A 26-year-old NYU grad, Scott-Dicker is the founder PPX Hospitality. Starting out, he got his first job on his own with the Starr Restaurant Organization and parlayed that experience into creating his own business.Based in Manhattan with a Jersey office in Montclair, the rising hospitality innovator is looking to make his mark on the downtown hipster set. His answers to our questions are below.

    [Broadway East, via]

    GofG: What is your strategy in reinventing the Broadway East/B.East space as a series of pop-ups? How long will each last, and are you looking for a particular blend of variety or a homogeneous vibe to each?

    GSD: The pop-up concept is going to provide a completely different and exciting dining/nightlife experience like none other. The Lower East Side location is a diverse, vibrant, and interesting dining destination for foodies which provides the perfect setting for the build out of Broadway East ,because it breeds a successful restaurant operation. It's obvious that a lot of time and thought was put into the space. The kitchen is huge and beautiful, the bi-level/duplex lay out is awesome. The high windows--just everything about it is very chic and sexy. The time-frame for each concept will vary. We've had discussions about one-night pop-ups, and we've had the same interest in three-month long concepts (which is the longest we will go). The concepts being discussed range from noodle concepts, to small plates, all the way to nine course prix-fixe menus.

    GofG: What does it take to succeed as a restaurant these days? Are those ingredients different than those for a club?

    GSD: The most important ingredients for success in the restaurant business are maintaining the highest level of customer service, consistency, knowledge of the product and concept being sold, offering value, and an internal team commitment. Too many restaurants/hospitality ventures neglect these five key factors, which is why the failure rate in our business is so high. As far as nightlife goes, the same principles are needed to succeed, aside from the fact that most clubs don't have food elements. This allows the club to focus more on guest services, operations, etc. In both industries, however, you have to constantly be looking over your shoulder for the next new big thing. However, if you can maintain your focus and execution of your concept you will succeed.

    [B.East, via]

    GofG: What's unique about the Lower East Side these days, and how do you think Ron Castellano's new places can stave off competition from the garden variety of LES dive bars?

    GSD: The LES has so much character and history that it's hard not to fall in love with it. There are so many "underground gems", and so much untapped territory. This new venture will allow and invite guests to come down to the LES to experience its beauty and unique qualities, all while experiencing these dynamic concepts that we'll be offering at the space. We don't see it as being competition because Broadway East was never a bar, nightclub, or speakeasy to begin with. B.East got lumped into the trend merely, because there was a second entrance to the venue. The late night environment was and will continue to be a complement to the dining room. However, regardless of the fact that we'll be adding a new business to the area, it's important that we all continue to look out for and support each other's business ventures. We will still continue to visit our neighbors' locations as well, and we would love to see them be a part of our new concept.

    GofG: They say the LES real estate is more digestible these days: Why couldn't B.East make it?

    GSD: Regardless of how "digestible" the real estate on the LES is, that doesn't always make for a successful business. It definitely helps the bottom line, but that doesn't ensure that you will have a successful business. B. East was very popular, and was successful, but I believe that it lacked the stability, structure, and consistency that makes a restaurant successful and profitable.

    [Ron Castellano]

    GofG: Are speakeasies played out? PDT behind Crif Dogs, for example, seems like it's really jumped the shark. Is this type of cloak and dagger secretiveness still a viable model and why?

    GSD: Speakeasies--are they played out? Maybe, but that's not to say that they can't be tweaked or re-invented in one way or another. There is an undeniable special feeling that you get when you're having a drink (or three) in the speakeasy environment. PDT does a great job. As far the the "secretiveness" and "exclusivity" aspect of a concept, I think that's always going to be a viable model. People love being part of an "underground", "secret" movement/operation.

    -GofG: What kinds of people do you expect to attract?

    GSD: We hope that everyone will feel comfortable in dining in one of our new concepts, or just coming to have a drink. We are looking to attract people who love food, our industry, a new concept, and New York City.

    _GofG: Will the two levels be the same space?

    GSD:This is also dependent on the concept, but there will absolutely be cohesion throughout all of the rooms. The food and drinks will all vary depending on the concept that is in the space at any given time. Everything from the food, drinks, decor, to the lighting will play off of each other.

    [B.East Aftermath: The New Pop-Up Speakeasies]