The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2012

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Page 48 of 124

GERBER GROUP CELEBRATES ITS 20TH BIRTHDAY WITH A NEW VENUE IN NYC Gilding the Lily by Lana Bortolot / photo by Doug Young F or its 20th anniversary, Gerber Group gave itself a birthday present that was both old and new. The premier hotel-bar creator opened Lilium, a reinterpretation of Underbar, its iconic underground property in Union Square's W Hotel. While the décor is now dark, sexy and slightly more feminine in spirit—the black steel lilies are a nod to its name—the basic bones that make this a Gerber venue remain: association with an upscale partner, a cocktail menu that's creative without intimidating and a "a rock 'n' roll spirit" thanks to the DJ/curators. Though the company boasts some 23 venues throughout the country, its principal, Scott Gerber, considers New York City Gerber's spiritual home. But, mind you, that hasn't stopped him from opening in Santiago, with plans for Paris and Toronto. It's part of his master plan to ensure that no one within the vicinity of a nice hotel goes to bed without the opportunity for a good nightcap—whether they're guests there or not. "Before us, you never went to a hotel bar," Gerber says from his perch in Stone Rose Lounge, overlooking Columbus Circle. "Twenty years ago there were great iconic bars—The Oak Room, St. Regis, The Carlyle. They were classic bars, but not a scene, and if you were a local, you never went to the hotel bar. We made the hotel bar cool." A combination of creative cocktailing, savvy lifestyle- driven design and partnering with the right brands at the right time helped propel Gerber into the chicest cit- ies. Their alignments include the likes of Host Hotels & Resorts, Accor, Sofi tel Luxury Hotels, Strategic Hotels & Resorts, Related Companies, Noble Investment Group and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, with whom they developed the W Hotel brand. The projects with their cool vibe have been envied if not copied all over the world. "I can't say they're all doing it because we started it, but I'd say we made it clear the bar could be a good revenue generator for the hotel and attract a certain kind of guest," Gerber says, adding, "We market the company as a whole, but we're not a McDonald's." "A Gerber bar should be comfortable, have good drinks, good-sized bars and soft seating," he says. Managing partner Jeff Isaacson adds, "We didn't set out to create a brand, but it evolved." Gerber works closely with Isaacson, who directs daily operations, including the cocktail program, has been with the company since 1991. With 30 years in the bar business, Isaacson is a longtime pro who now employees hundreds of mixologists. Over time, he's kept the bar program fresh by tracking consumer trends, offering quality and selection and showcas- ing it all in a backbar that's high on aesthetics and uniformity. "From day number one, we never had well brands and always had diversity," Isaacson says. "Your customer creates a trend by multiple requests. We represent the lifestyle they try to create with the brands we carry." Scott Gerber (left) and Gerber Group managing partner Jeff Isaacson, photographed at Stone Rose Lounge. 48 / the tasting panel / march 2012 And that predictive know-how applies to knowing when to abandon a trend, too, say the men. When do you walk away? Says Isaacson: "I draw the line at making my own bitters and chipping specifi c ice for specifi c drinks—please!"

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