Matt Abramcyk may have hit the hipster jackpot in April 2006 when he leased the old Beatrice Inn at 285 West 12th Street. Though, at the time, it probably seemed like a consolation prize.
“The only reason that we got it was because no one else wanted it, to be honest,” Mr. Abramcyk said. “The price was high for the shape, and the space was so unconventional, with the lack of windows and other types of things you’d normally want to showcase in a restaurant.”
The 29-year-old former hedge-fund manager and investor in the Hudson Street cocktail lounge Employees Only had been looking for a place to open his own bar; although he initially coveted an entirely different Greenwich Village address.
“I tried to get the Waverly Inn,” Mr. Abramcyk said, referring to the historic restaurant at 16 Bank Street, a space ultimately gobbled up by a group of well-heeled investors, including, most notably, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.
When that deal didn’t work out, Mr. Abramcyk and his partner, Paul Sevigny, eventually settled on the abandoned Beatrice, a onetime speakeasy turned Italian eatery spanning roughly 2,000 square feet in the tight-quartered basement of a landmarked building that dated to the 1860’s.
“In hindsight, the Beatrice is definitely the place for us,” said Mr. Abramcyk, a lifelong New Yorker and self-professed antiques junkie who outfitted the ancient space with various “elements of Americana,” including old nautical mirrors and oil paintings.
Since it reopened in December 2006, the Beatrice has emerged as perhaps the hippest nighttime destination in all of Manhattan; an exclusive spot, though perhaps not quite as snooty or cost-prohibitive as the Waverly—and yet, arguably, twice as fashionable, at least among the young professional set.
“I wouldn’t say they are close to us in cool cred,” Mr. Abramcyk said of the rival West Village venue. “As far as the power-dinner crowd, I think the Waverly sets the bar. It’s the place that every other place is judged against. But nightlife places, that’s what we are; it’s a different thing. I would say there are maybe more cool people that come to our place because they can afford to. The Waverly Inn is very expensive.
“Obviously, it’s become one of the best places in the world of all time,” Mr. Abramcyk said of the Beatrice. “Not to sound like an arrogant fuck, but I believe in what we’re doing.”
“I think you have to be pretty impressed with what they have pulled off,” said Scott Solish, author of the blog Down By The Hipster, which chronicles Manhattan nightlife. “Beatrice is not a nightclub, they don’t pay for publicity, yet they have packed that place with a top downtown crowd for a pretty good stretch of time, including celebs, for whatever they are worth.”
The place’s popularity probably has a lot to do with Mr. Abramcyk’s partner, the veteran scenester Mr. Sevigny, a former professional skateboarder, a celebrated DJ, and a member of the downtown rock band A.R.E. Weapons—not to mention the older brother of the Oscar-nominated actress Chloë Sevigny. “Paul has just been around forever and knows a lot of people and, really, it’s a credit to him that the space is what it is today,” Mr. Abramcyk readily admitted.
But credit Mr. Abramcyk for locating such a stylish place to begin with. “I find all the spaces,” he said. “I do all the deals.”
THE DEALS ARE coming fast and furious these days for Mr. Abramcyk, whose career as an up-and-coming hospitality impresario seems to be blossoming as rapidly as patrons’ noses at his various gin joints. Just six months after reopening the Beatrice, Mr. Abramcyk also opened Smith & Mills, a tiny, 450-square-foot bar and restaurant on North Moore Street, located just a few blocks from his Tribeca apartment.