If you've ever had a memorable night on a stylish New York rooftop or at a swanky hotel haunt, you can probably thank Scott Gerber (you know, for the fun parts - that hangover is on you). The Principal and CEO behind Gerber Group, Scott has been leading the industry for 30 years, opening up decade-defining hot spots on both coasts, as well as redefining the concept of the "hotel bar" at locations across the country.
An OG nightlife and hospitality guru, Scott has undoubtedly seen it all - so it's no wonder that he even found a way to see Gerber Group, and its various venues, through the unprecedented challenges of a pandemic. Now that we're finally making our way through to the other side, he's confident in the city's comeback.
We caught up with Scott for his thoughts on a summer of rooftop revelry, the return of socializing, and the successful opening of Gerber Group's latest buzzed-about destination.
We've made it to the finish line - NYC has officially, fully reopened. When did you imagine this moment happening when everything first shut down last March?
We expected to re-open within 30 days when the pandemic first hit. Then as time went on, we had no idea, but we knew if anyone was going to make it, we would.
The past year has obviously been extremely challenging for the hospitality industry. How did you and your company navigate it? Has the experience led to any permanent shifts in how you approach your ventures?
First and foremost, we wanted to take care of our staff. We have always treated our team members as family and wanted to ensure that they could provide for their families. To that end, we opened a food pantry at our restaurant Irvington at the W Union Square that lasted for months. We held on to as much cash as we had, managed our payables efficiently, and with the help of our partners, we did what we could to survive financially. We were reminded again, how life is too short, so we will again focus on partnering with people that we enjoy working with over places where we can just make a lot of money. With the difficulty in hiring staff for all positions, we are using technology to help alleviate these pressure points, with QR codes for menus, ordering on your phone, paying on your phone, etc.
Now that things are looking up, what do you expect this summer to look like?
We are already seeing the tremendous pent-up demand at most of our properties. The rooftops at Mr. Purple and the Crown have been extremely busy. Midtown will be a little slower to recover, as many people are not yet back in their offices, or commuting through Grand Central, but if the incredible response we have had to the recent opening of Nearly Ninth at Arlo Midtown is any indication, we are well on our way to a busy summer season (the views from the rooftop are incredible!) Once the tourists return to the hotels, and the business types start to travel again, we will be back to pre-pandemic levels.
Speaking of rooftop season, and you know quite a bit about that, what makes the perfect rooftop hot spot?
It’s simple really, great views, great cocktails, great food, and most importantly, GREAT staff!!!!
Gerber Group recently debuted Nearly Ninth at Arlo Midtown. Were there any challenges involved in developing a new spot during the pandemic? Any must-order recommendations on the menu?
There were certainly challenges, from supply chain issues, to when was the right time to open the hotel and roll-out the different elements of the F&B. Staffing was a challenge too. But ultimately, we are fortunate to have a great team, with many having been with us for a long time. This gave us a great base to start from.
Our Executive Chef Corey Becker has done an amazing job creating a menu of Italian influenced dishes with elevated ingredients. My personal favorites are the charcuterie and cheese to start , along with fried artichokes. The tuna poke is amazing too. My go to main dish is either the Pat LaFreida burger, or the chicken parmesan. And you can’t go wrong with a Negroni on tap!
Finally, are you optimistic about the future of hospitality and nightlife in NYC?
Without a doubt. No one should ever bet against NYC! We are very optimistic about the future of NYC, but the issues that we are all aware of, need to be addressed. Crime, homelessness, etc.