“What do you think of this ceiling?” asked Josh Boyd.
Overhead, a vaulted expanse of freshly coated silver paint was already peeling.
“I think we should all just scratch our initials into it,” he joked in a husky smoker’s voice. “We flew in a specialist from Canada and this is what we got. … You should write a story called ‘Hoodwinked by Canadians.’
“Where was she from, Toronto?” Mr. Boyd asked his partner, a tall, lanky fellow dressed in an untucked pink oxford shirt, jeans, and a pair of flip-flops emblazoned with the Brazilian flag, who was standing beside a nearby piano.
“Toronto, yeah,” replied Darin Rubell.
To veterans of the Manhattan nightlife scene, the surname should sound familiar.
“Obviously, my cousin Steve ran Studio 54,” Mr. Rubell said matter-of-factly.
He was referring, of course, to Steve Rubell, the legendary disco mogul who, in addition to founding the most iconic (and some might say notorious) nightclub of the 1970s, went on to convert the former Palladium concert hall into a flashy dance club adorned with artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol.
Now, more than two decades later, the late impresario’s young cousin Darin prepares to hang two Warhol prints on the walls of his own forthcoming nightspot, Ella, scheduled to open Oct. 1 in the former Julep space at 9 Avenue A.
“I’ve been surrounded by the business my whole life,” said Mr. Rubell, 34, whose father once co-owned a chain of steakhouses with cousin Steve. “I bartended and bar-backed my way through high school and college,” he added. “I didn’t really know what my passion was.”
Armed with a communications degree from Marymount Manhattan College, Mr. Rubell spent a few years working for various Internet companies, including DoubleClick and Yahoo!, before ultimately deciding to get back into the restaurant business, helping to open the former Chango eatery on Park Avenue—where he met his future partner, Mr. Boyd, also 34—and later Mercadito in the East Village.
Yet, as he carries on the family legacy in hospitality, the saloon scion also seems wary to not follow in his cousin’s footsteps too closely.
Mr. Rubell and Mr. Boyd, who also co-own the artsy GalleryBar on Orchard Street, try to style themselves less in the mold of the old Studio 54 tandem of cousin Steve and Ian Schrager, who both spent time in jail for tax violations, and more along the lines of current B Bar & Grill and Bowery Hotel honchos Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson.
“I think they do it right every time they do it,” Mr. Rubell said. “I love how they diversify themselves and immerse themselves into all their projects. It’s not just a restaurant. It’s not just a bar. It’s a bar, it’s a hotel. Their thought processes and business plans are much grander than just a small restaurant or bar operation. I admire that.”
Mr. Rubell and Mr. Boyd have their own grand schemes beyond the new Ella, including expanding their GalleryBar concept to other cities, probably starting with Los Angeles.
But first, something has to be done about that horrendous ceiling.
“Black and white stripes,” Mr. Rubell said. “A little better than that shitty silverleaf.”
ON SEPT. 3, the partners took The Observer on a tour of their yet unfinished, two-level, 2,200-square-foot piano lounge and cocktail bar, featuring an intimate downstairs performance space with seating for about 40 people.
The theme of the new club, like so many downtown bars these days, including Employees Only, Milk & Honey, and Death & Co., harks back to the Roaring Twenties—but, please, don’t call it a speakeasy.
“We were sick of speakeasies,” Mr. Rubell said, “and I think that there was another area in the 1920s …”
“And ’30s,” Mr. Boyd added.
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