Purple Diary

[March 20 2023]



Leo Jacob, Phil Meynell, Justin Sievers

Interview by Olivier Zahm


OLIVIER ZAHM – The project of the Mulberry began with friendship, that is usually the best foundation, right?


PHIL MEYNELL – Exactly, we’re all mates. And the actual idea for the Mulberry came to us, drunkenly, at an Irish bar.


LEO JACOB – Yeah, Justin had been eyeing the space for a different project.


JUSTIN SIEVERS – The ground floor got rented, so only the basement was left. They were renting them separately. I didn’t think we could do a restaurant in a basement, but these guys were talking about it and we decided that it would be perfect for a bar or club, actually.


LEO JACOB – I was at Swift having a Guinness, and Phil called me and he was like, “There’s a space on Mulberry. Do you want to open up a bar for all of our friends?” And I was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.”


PHIL MEYNELL – Having been in New York for a long time, Leo’s job and my job is in part to look after people when they come to town. I’m the English guy they will reach out to. But there’s less and less places we can take people to. There used to be Rose Bar and the Beatrice, and then later Cabin and Kenmare. Those were the days after Bungalow 8. There’s nowhere to go anymore, so if we invent and build our own place, they will come.


OLIVIER ZAHM – So what’s your definition of a perfect club?


PHIL MEYNELL – I think it should be a playground for like-minded people that gravitate towards each other. The Mulberry is not necessarily a club, this is a bar and you can come in here to have a conversation and if the night goes wild then let it be, you know? And we love the little hiding areas with low ceilings and dim lights. It feels like you’re in your living room.


LEO JACOB – Our opening party was a great indicator of that. We had so many people come in here, and it felt like a party where you see old friends and you commiserate over lost time and then start having drinks together and catching up. Then the music turns up and people start dancing, and then we have to throw them out at some point [laughs].


PHIL MEYNELL – It’s actually a dream scenario for New Yorkers or even people like you, that I haven’t seen out for years. It’s a testament to what we’ve been missing.


OLIVIER ZAHM – And how would you define this world? Because there are tons of bars and places but we don’t want to go there. How would you define this difference, because for people who don’t know nightlife, it’s invisible.


PHIL MEYNELL – New York has become very money-driven and lazy, and places are open to anyone. You can go to a great new bar but you don’t want to see half of the people there. But we’re going back to the old-school laurels of New York—this is a tough door, and this isn’t for everyone. It’s a place for those who gravitate towards the Mulberry, whether it’s a VIP, or just a cool kid, or someone in the creative industry, or fashion. Once they’re in a room together, they love the aesthetic and the music.


OLIVIER ZAHM – And it’s beautiful, cozy, and unpretentious – which is important because an over-designed place is terrible.


LEO JACOB – We had a lot of back and forth to make sure the place wasn’t over-designed. We all had our notes about our specialties and the rooms. The room we’re sitting in now is the whisper room.


PHIL MEYNELL – And you need a little room like this, honestly….It’s a safe haven within a safe haven. You close these curtains, you have your own server, you can turn up your own music, and have a completely different vibe if you want.


OLIVIER ZAHM – What were your cult clubs of the past, that you wish you had gone to or that you have as a reference?


PHIL MEYNELL – Studio 54 would have been fucking amazing. I worked for Ian Schrager for a long time… And he invented that. When you see all the iconic pictures and you think, “Oh, every celebrity went there.” But Ian and Steve Rubell were working hard booking after parties for fashion shows, exhibitions, and talking to movie reps. They were the first to bring people to a party and make them feel at home.


LEO JACOB – I’ve never been a nightclub person. So, when we opened up this place, it was very important for me to give it soul. I’m more of a “dingy dive bar, smoking in the corner” kind of person.


JUSTIN SIEVERS – It really melds those worlds together. And Studio 54 is a pretty good reference for me too. It’s where a lot of things originated, and it was the coolest club in New York. Before my time, fortunately and unfortunately.


OLIVIER ZAHM – What do you like about New York today, post pandemic? Because the city is back.


LEO JACOB – Yeah, it phased out a lot of what we didn’t want. Downtown has resurged and we’re slowly seeing more places opening up. And, it’s not even a competition. As New Yorkers we’re trying to do our part.


PHIL MEYNELL – Yeah, and it adds to the scene. Back in the day, there was rivalry between all the clubs. But now we’re supporting each other, trying to make cool and creative places to go to.


OLIVIER ZAHM – It’s important to create a connection. Before there was crazy competition.


PHIL MEYNELL – Crazy competition! DJs couldn’t play in different clubs, or a door guy couldn’t come in because he was from another place. But now it’s about getting together and remaking New York, and this resurgence is going to be important.


OLIVIER ZAHM – But there’s a great connection happening. How would you define the Bowery in the context of downtown?


JUSTIN SIEVERS – It’s fucking real. In New York there is a mix of all sorts of different things going on–you have multimillion dollar apartments and a homeless shelter right next to each other.


LEO JACOB – One of my favorite movies is The Pope of Greenwich Village, and there’s a great scene where Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts are banging around the village. And if you go around the neighborhood, there is a common thread. And we’re seeing that again, in the Bowery, Nolita, and Soho, you can knock around. You can go to Lure, or the Smile, or Ray’s, or you can come to this place. There’s a place for everybody and it’s all within ten minutes by foot from each other.


OLIVIER ZAHM – And downtown NYC still has an edge, it’s still unpredictable and free.

Photo by Zenith Richards

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