Tell us a bit about your experience in hospitality? And how Nitecap came to be?
I’ve been working in hospitality since I was 18. I moved to New York to attend NYU and needed a flexible job so I somehow landed a bartending gig and an Irish Pub in the East Village without having ever working in a restaurant or bar before. From then on I just kept working in the industry. Everything from cocktail waitress in 6 inch heels, to coat check to eventually managing a busy café. A couple of years post college I realized that I loved my bar job more than I did my day-job, so I decided to pursue it full time. After spending time behind lots of different bars, Alex Day and Dave Kaplan approached me about opening up a spot together. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, and so Nitecap was born.
I was born in Germany to my Japanese American mother and my Israeli father. Both my parents are classical musicians so my older sister and I spent most of our childhood traveling from opera house to opera house. After my parents divorced, my mother and I eventually moved to the States where I attended High School. Then came New York to pursue a career as an actress. After college I was pursuing acting full time (with bar and restaurant gig to support me financially) and after a few years I realized that the business wasn’t for me. So I fired my agents and decided to bartend full-time.
I’d love to chat a bit about you being a mum and running a bar. Naturally, in 2019 we can make any type of work/life fit should we will it, but what have the challenges been? What have the unexpected silver linings been?
Being a working mom in any profession has its challenges for sure! And balance, well that’s just not a thing ha ha. The service industry certainly doesn’t make having a family easy– no benefits, long hours, late hours etc. Owning my own bar was always a goal for me because being a mother has been my number one dream since I can remember. And while I own my own bar and can try to dictate my schedule, I am also a small business owner, so I have limited resources to rely on, can’t really outsource a lot of my work and am involved in every aspect of operations. So honestly it’s just about learning to accept that nothing is going to be perfect anymore and that at the end of the day, it’s just a bar, it’s just drinks and everything will be fine! I’m also very lucky in that I have very supportive business partners and an incredible Bar Director (Lauren Corriveau) who bends over backwards and is super flexible to adjusting to my needs. I’m currently pregnant with my second child and now live in upstate New York, something I did for the health of my family, 2 hours away, so a bunch of new challenges are certainly ahead.
But I’ll say this, parenthood is a messy, bumpy, insane roller-coaster ride for any parent. On days when I feel like I’m kicking ass at work I feel like I’m failing as a mother and on days I feel like I really kicked ass as a parent, I feel like I let my work down.
So I’ve learned to be kinder to myself, to not let the little things get to me so much, to ask for help and to be ok with the fact that I can’t do it all. And while the bar world isn’t a “traditional” setting to raise a family, it has many pros, including something that is oh so important– flexibility!
What would you like to see change in the bar scene/ hospitality industry?
Well wouldn’t it be nice if working Americans, not just hospitality workers, had a support structure that enabled them to have children if they choose? While I would love to offer my staff health insurance, there is no way financially I can as a small business in New York. So I’d like to see access to free healthcare for all! Government funded maternity and paternity leave.
And of course as a woman working in hospitality, I’d love to see more bars and restaurants becoming true safe spaces for everyone. I’d like for owners to protect their staff, not just from abusive co-workers or managers, but also from abusive guests. As a young woman working in nightclubs I had no voice, didn’t feel safe and endured some pretty harrowing encounters. The industry and world is finally confronting these issues and I hope we as a community continue too.
What advice can you give to those looking to follow in your footsteps.
That nothing goes according to plan, owning a small business means being on call 24 hours a day, being a parent means being on call 24 hours a day, hard work and humility go a long way, being reliable is everything, be kind, don’t (or at least try not to) compare yourself to other “super-moms,” and that it’s all worth it!
What are your goals or visions for the next 5 years?
I want to be present for my children and husband. I’d love to see Nitecap continue to evolve and grow and be a home to a diverse team that continually strives to be an inclusive and welcoming space. And I’d love to open something small near my new home in upstate New York.
Top 3 bar/restaurant recommends?
Death & Co.(New York City) – it’s the first bar I visited where I had an “ah ha” moment! The drinks are always innovative yet classic, the staff is friendly and knowledgeable, the room is sexy yet comfortable. Whenever I want to feel special, this is where I go 🙂
Le Mary Celeste (Paris)- a perfect little restaurant with delicious food, wine and excellent cocktails. Great for people watching. Fun, lively atmosphere.
Gaskins (Germantown, upstate New York)— pretty much everything I want for a relaxed date night (which hardly ever happens) with my husband. Home-made pasta, the best burger, huge fresh salads and lots of natural wine.
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