David Rabin on Club USA, Lotus, Cafe Clover, and Working Out!
David Rabin is definitely one of the original innovators on the New York Nightlife scene with famous spots like Lotus, The Lambs Club, Skylark and his new-ish west village hot spot and restaurant, Café Clover, which has a great hipster vibe and terrific food to match! When I was a fashion stylist and nightclub hopping New Yorker, I had the great pleasure of befriending David Rabin at Club USA. These were the days (before I ever did a triathlon, ate Kale, or shopped at the Farmers Market) when I would be at The Sound Factory dancing as a workout, then hitting Florent for Grillled Cheese and French Fries and heading home to sleep for three hours until the next morning. Tonight , as I’m eating dinner at 7:00 PM at Cafe Clover so I can get up for a 7AM, 10 mile run – I am reminded that besides nightlife, one thing David & I have always shared is our interest in fitness and working out.
What are you doing these days to work out?
I'm kind of a creature of convenience and habit. I'm so busy that I stick to a weekly schedule of about five 45 minute workouts of aerobics (bike, elliptical, stairmaster) and I add on about 30 minutes of weights/jump rope/burpees, etc for three of those times. In Summer I probably play tennis 10 or 12 times and in Fall we play touch football on weekends in Riverside Park. A bunch of times a year I try to add in a Barry's Bootcamp or an SLT. I want to do more of that, but Equinox is great and is literally across the street from my apartment--which is great--no excuses.
Do you remember when we talked about offering yoga classes at Lotus in the “off” hours? Now lots of places are doing this. Do you think the two go together? Fitness & Nightlife?
You had a good idea, ahead of your time. There is actually rooftop yoga done by a friend of mine, Millana, and her group Serene, up at JIMMY (www.jimmysoho.com) during the summer months. I think fitness classes can work well in nightlife facilities so long as it's not too taxing on the staff from the venue to open up early hours for the classes.
How do you find the time to exercise between running your many restaurants, The Lamb’s Club, Jimmy at The James, The Skylarke and Cafe Clover and spending time with your family?
I've been exercising my whole life. I played a bunch of sports as a kid and started working out more purposefully for lacrosse when I was about 14 or 15 and really have never stopped. I have a compressed disc which keeps me from running long distances outdoors which I really miss. The elliptical is boring but I deal. I don't golf so I'm not gone for six hours doing that. My wife is very patient. And my son and I have been playing basketball together for years. He's now 14 and my height and much better than me, so, it's a great workout for me.
How did you get started in the nightlife business?
I was a lawyer and a close friend of mine from Tufts was in finance. We were both running around in nightlife (as customers) with a crowd from music/fashion/modeling/art. One night, over too many shots, we looked at each other and said "we hate our jobs...let's quit and open one of these clubs." It started kind of as a goof but it turned into a real idea
What is your secret formula for success?
I don't think there is one, besides hard work and perseverance. We've had some good successes and some real failures. Being under-capitalized and getting hit by recessions is not the best thing (to say the least) and we've had that happen to us a couple of times.
How has nightclub and lounge design changed since we met back in the Day at Cub USA? I know you have an eye for design and always empower talented designers and architects to create your spaces.
Club USA was all Peter Gatien and the genius of Eric Goode and Serge Becker. We've been lucky to work with some really talented people who've created some memorable spaces. Right now, The Lambs Club was done masterfully by Thierry Despont; Steven Gambrel did wonderful work on Cafe Clover; Meyer Davis built a great venue for us at The Skylark, and Thomas Schlesser created both JIMMY NY and Chicago. It's a thrill to work with such talented people.
How has nightlife scene changed over the past decade?
I think it's vastly different. It's more promoter-driven. It's more driven by spending. And there is no "one place" to which "everyone" goes every night. I think there are enough factors to warrant an MBA case study, but, high rent, the spread of younger people to Brooklyn and Queens, the proliferation of venues, the explosion of nightlife in Vegas and Miami and even the vast growth of music festivals, have all contributed to the lack of dynamism in NY nightlife. There are some really well-run places that are very successful and worthy of admiration. But as this point in my life, I'm more comfortable in the kind of spots we've created that don't really qualify as "nightlife" per se.
What’s on your workout playlist?
My music taste is all over the map. You can hear a pretty good mix of it at The Skylark and Cafe Clover. I'm a lot of old school hip hop, old soul, neo soul, funk, R+B, blues, and 60s/70s rock. Zero EDM.
What fitness brands do you wear to the gym? As for the gym, I've got an assortment--Nike,
Under Armour, Puma, Adidas, New Balance--and those Pearl Izumi bike shorts.
Do you have a mantra or philosophy you live by?
I'd have to think too hard to figure that one out. I was just asked a similar question and I quoted Spike Lee as sort of a shortcut: "do the right thing"