If you’re wondering where your millennial kids have been spending their trust funds over the last fifteen years, chances are that a chunk of it ended up in the pocket of Jamie Mulholland.
Starting in the mid-2000s, with business partner Jayma Cardoso, he opened a string of epically successful venues including the nightclubs Cain and GoldBar in downtown Manhattan, and Cain at the Cove in the Bahamas. But their lasting monument may be Surf Lodge in Montauk, which opened in 2007 and is arguably the most successful hipster-hospitality brand to ever launch in the Hamptons.
Now, after cashing out a decade ago and doing other things, Mulholland is back with Ketchy Shuby, a new SoHo restaurant that is once again defining downtown buzz. And he tells Palmer that Palm Beach is next on his wish-list for expansion, followed by the Hamptons, Dallas, and Atlanta.
Mobbed with scenesters since soft-launching during New York Fashion Week (yes, that was that Poppy Delevinge nuzzling young Prince Achileas of Greece in the corner) earlier this month, Ketchy Shuby takes its name from a song by Jamaican reggae legend Peter Tosh. In fact the quiet murmur of conversation you hear playing in the restrooms is a series of interviews the singer did with Bob Marley, just one of the restaurant’s many grace notes.
With its wood accents and indoor trees, the ground-floor dining room is meant to evoke a forest canopy, while the club level underneath represents its roots. In keeping with the rasta theme, also downstairs is a large cannabis plant behind glass–an installation by Elias Kambourakis and Eric Ortense that is legal as artwork, even if its leaves can’t be sampled. (Bob’s son Rohan Marley and photographer Lee Jaffe are also creative consultants.)
Ketchy Shuby’s menu, led by chef Sean Olnowich, is heavy on vegetarian options. But with steak, burger, fish and chicken entrees also available, carnivores can hardly complain, and at $24 to $52, the tariff is positively reasonable for SoHo.
Not that the table of young men in finance-bro sleeveless fleeces who were enjoying dinner on a recent weeknight would have noticed the prices; they were too busy rubbernecking the models who had begun filtering in for a party downstairs. Should anyone doubt Mulholland knows how to put a scene together, here’s a fun fact: At its peak, Cain was not only the highest-grossing nightclub in New York, but also the largest buyer of Dom Perignon in the United States.
The downside of such success, however, is that it can mean you have to work all the time. And by 2010 Mulholland had a son, now 17, who was growing up without him, so he decided to step away.
“His grandfather had to come down from Canada to build him a tree house, and it should have been me doing it,” Mulholland recalled last week over a spicy mescal margarita, one of Ketchy Shuby’s signature cocktails. “I had three incredibly successful concepts, but it got to a point where there were quite a lot of partners involved and it just wasn’t beautiful anymore, it started to become about money. I remember the day when I made the decision in the parking lot of Surf Lodge. I thought, ‘I’m just going to sell everything and start from the ground up again.’”
So why is now the right moment to come back to work?
“There has been so much upheaval in New York, with Covid and people moving away,” he said. “But hospitality for me was always this beautiful thing, and I thought if there’s any time when I thought I could do a concept that I thought was uplifting and could impact people positively, this is the time.”
Judging by the scene at the bar of Ketchy Shuby, and the elegant young crowd milling around outside in hope of getting a table, his plan is working.
One final question, though. How does he respond to people who say the phenomenal success of Surf Lodge–and all the money, Ferraris and influencers in designer duds it brought to the sleepy beach town–ruined Montauk?
Mulholland doesn’t even have to think about the answer: “They’re f—ing right!”
Maybe he can make amends with Ketchy Shuby.