Shawn Kolodny is a serial entrepreneur, who has spent over 20 years in the hospitality industry. Shawn was the founder and operating partner of the Pink Elephant nightlife brand, which had locations in New York City, The Hamptons, Brazil (Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre) and Mexico (Playa del Carmen), as well as pop-up locations in St Barths, Cannes, Park City, and Miami. The Pink Elephant had over 120 employees and annual sales in excess of $20 million in the New York City and Hamptons locations alone.
Shawn was then poached by the Tao Group, where he became a Director. He was tasked with running the front of the house operations for LAVO, the highest grossing restaurant and nightlife brand in NYC. He left the Tao group to become managing partner of the Tri Hospitality group, which built and manages three brands: VIP ROOM, FC Gotham a sports themed pop up, and their newest restaurant property, Holden & Astor
How did you get into the nightlife industry?
I grew up in NYC. After university I started work in a small bar as a barback, and worked my way up to bartender, manager, and eventually partner. Sweat equity as they call it. This was all by the age of 22. I started with owning small bars, then eventually began opening nightclubs. I have been fortunate enough to work with amazing people over the years and been involved with some of the most successful nightlife brands in NYC, including the Pink Elephant, LAVO and VIP ROOM
In such a volatile industry, how does VIP Room stay so successful?
We make sure the guest experience is a great one. That means great music, great service, Beautiful people, celebrities, great performances, over the top production, amazing light show and sound to match. We look at nightlife as an experience, a show that our guests participate in every night, and work to make it the best show possible.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented for VIP Room that have made it such a success?
We are fortunate to be part of a very successful international brand founded by Jean-Roch, with locations in Paris, St Tropez, Dubai, as well as having successful pop ups at the cannes film festival, the grand prix of Monaco and abu dhabi and sardinia to name a few. This gives us access to an amazing international clientele as well as big name talent. Being part of the big international VIP ROOM family has helped make us a success.
Describe the ideal customer experience at your nightclub.
They are greeted at the door by the doorman or a host, escorted though the ropes, and brought to their table where a waitress or waiter is waiting to take their order and get their night started. The waitress provides attentive service with an attention to detail. Depending on the guests order perhaps some sparklers or their name in lights around the club on our 280 degrees of LED walls. As the sparklers light up the table, confetti fills the air, and the party ensues.....
How important is location selection to the success of your nightclubs?
Very Important. In NYC we are located in the meatpacking district, which is one of the main hospitality centers of the city, with a plethora of top restaurants hotels and nightlife. VIP ROOM is in the center of it all, giving us access to a great clientele.
What trends are you noticing in the club industry and how do you capitalize on them?
The industry has begun to consolidate. There are fewer small mom and pop venues. Large hospitality groups are starting to open multiple venues in each city, gaining structural advantages over some of the smaller players. Thats why it has been important for us to be connected with such a strong international brand VIP ROOM.
How important is design/architecture?
The nightlife industry is becoming more and more competitive, especially in the bigger markets like Miami, Vegas, La and of course NYC. It is important to be in the lead when it comes to design . At VIP room NYC we have tried to push the envelope and do what no other club has accomplished in nyc. We are a strong believer in technology and have the first club in NYC to have LED display around 280 of the entire venue. This allows us to put custom content around the whole room, changing the way the club feels with the push of a button.
Your advice to an aspiring nightlife impresario?
Understand this profession is as much a lifestyle choice as is it a business. You work all hours, and everyone else's play time are your work hours. It is not for everyone
What do you love most about nightlife?
I have met the most interesting people in the world. From celebs to royalty, from financiers to entrepreneurs. I constantly get exposed to interesting and fascinating people from all walks of life.
Favorite travel destination?
What are your favorite brands of alcohol/favorite drinks?
Work hard, Play Hard
What's next for VIP Room?
You will have to come and see for yourself