Kings of the Night: Jason Strauss and Noah Tepperberg

Eugene Remm & Mark Birnbaum

In 2006, Eugene and Mark teamed up with entrepreneur Michael Hirtenstein to create EMM Group, a hospitality, lifestyle, and management company that operates some of the city’s exclusive and celebrated establishments. The first of these to open its doors to much fanfare was Tenjune, a trendy celebrity-infused haunt in the Meatpacking District. Their success continued with private-event venue EMM Group Estate in the Hamptons, The Chandelier Room at the W Hoboken Hotel, and Abe & Arthur’s. Their latest venue, SL (or Simyone Lounge to those not in the know), took over the former Lotus space in September, and also took over the social calendars of the city’s elite.

Haute Living: When did you first become interested in the nightlife industry? What about it sparked your interest?
Eugene Remm: In high school, I would take the train or the bus into the city and go to all the different raves. We really loved the idea of going out, and the DJs, and the business aspect of it all. Then in college, I worked at the one, hot bar in town. It was very much like a Cheers mentality. The bartenders controlled what went on, and that where I began to learn the industry—the basics of bartending, working hard, working with revenue and the register, taking care of regulars, and bringing in great people so that they would hang out at my bar. On a very small scale, it was like overseeing the college version of New York nightlife.
Mark Birnbaum: When I was a senior in high school, I started throwing after-prom parties. We sold tickets to clubs in New York City and it was the first time I made a little money doing something that was fun. When I went to college, I was promoting parties during the summers and school breaks, and also ran a 22,000-square-foot nightclub. After college, I went into finance, which I hated, but I did it anyway because it seemed like a stable thing to do. But on September 11, I was living across the street from the World Trade Center, and I also lost a friend to cancer at almost the exact same time. Those two events were my wakeup call and I realized life is too short and I was going to do what I wanted to do and hopefully it would all work out.

HL: How would you describe the crowds that your venues appeal to? How do you continually attract the attention of an A-list crowd?
ER: We try to find the best, most interesting people from all different fields. The best way to do it is like a salad where you have a little bit of everything: you have your lettuce, your tomatoes, your chicken, which translates to people from fashion, art, entertainment, and business. Not too much of one thing and definitely not focusing on just one specific type of crowd.
MB: We’ve always said that we can get anyone into one of our venues once. The real challenge is to get them to come back, and so we concentrate on consistency of the product. Hospitality is first, along with the quality of staff and the products.

HL: There are so many choices for nightlife in the city. Why should an Haute Living reader go to your venues?
ER: First and foremost, it’s our service. I think the attitude of ‘you should be honored to be in our venue’ is silly. At Tenjune, once you get past the door, it’s unconditional hospitality.Whether you’re buying one bottle or spending $20,000, we treat everyone with respect and really try to create that mentality where “everyone knows your name.” Keeping a consistent staff and consistent management is a big part of our business. In such a transient city, that’s what keeps people coming back.

HL: Describe your dream nightclub/lounge project:
ER: My dream project would be something that has an amazing view, a unique space with with windows overlooking the entire city or an island. I love tropical places because you always feel like you are on vacation, which makes everyone have a better time.
MB: My dream at the moment, which changes every year by the way, is to go into the next progression, which is to own a piece of real estate like a hotel or a resort and own the food and beverage components. That takes time, and it’s a marathon so we’re just trying to expand slowly and not just for the sake of expanding.

HL: Tell us about the craziest moment that took place at one of your venues.
MB: One of the craziest nights was our first birthday at Tenjune, on June 10. Eugene and I share the same birthday, and it was also Kanye West’s birthday, so he celebrated with us. He performed and sang happy birthday to us. I found that to be one of the most surreal experiences because we were new in the nightclub business and everyone under the sun came and sang happy birthday to us. On our one-year anniversary, when LL Cool J got up and did “Mama Said Knock You Out.” He was one of my heroes as a kid; cut to more than a decade later and he’s on stage with his arm around me. I guess it doesn’t get much better than that.

HL: What is the biggest/most exclusive event that you have hosted?
ER: The opening of Tenjune! We were very young and green and I remember the feeling of walking to Tenjune that night and having no idea what to expect. Puffy hosted the party, Penelope Cruz was there, Jay-Z was there, along with Kanye West. Sharing that with Mark and our entire staff was just a dream. That will forever live in my memory as the most exciting night of my career.