31 Jul - Bring your own vibe – and we’ll provide the wines
We’re proud of the relaxed, accessible vibe of all the bars and restaurants in our Freehand hotels nationwide — from the award-winning Broken Shaker to the Exchange Restaurant in Los Angeles. Our spots are the kinds of places where you can have a big night out, or just stop in for a quick drink in between outings. Elad Zvi — along with his partner, Gabriel Orta — are the individuals behind the vision, and they’ve been in this business for long enough to know what makes a great place to hang out. We sat down with Zvi recently to find out more about his life before the Freehand (he got his start as a dishwasher!), and how a place like the Broken Shaker came to be.
Freehand: How many bars do you run in total?
Elad Zvi: We have Chicago, New York, LA, Miami, but in Miami we have Broken Shaker and 27, and in L.A. we have The Exchange Restaurant and Rudolph’s Bar & Tea.
FH: What’s it like being in charge of the coolest place in town?
EZ: We don’t want to be the coolest place in town. We just want to just be nice to people. We want to be the opposite of exclusive. We want to be able to offer something for person spending $25 for a bed in Miami because [Broken Shaker is in] a hostel, and we want to be able to cater to people who paid a bit more money, too.
FH: I assume that because you started as a dishwasher and now run your own bar consulting company, you must have done every job in the industry.
EZ: Yes! Everything besides GM, I was never a GM.
FH: So you were a bartender in New York. What era was that?
EZ: There were not a lot of mixologist bars, and I was very fortunate to be part of that movement. There were maybe four cocktail bars in the city back then: Milk and Honey, Pegu Club, Flatiron… believe it or not Sushi Samba was making really good cocktails, and then a couple of other people were doing cool stuff. Then, of course, all those cocktail bars started to open and do a branch, et cetera.
FH: Exactly what is your job?
EZ: The number one thing in my job is to make people feel comfortable. The people who work with us. I’ve never said people that work for us. I need to make sure that they feel comfortable because if they’re not happy, my guest will never be happy. I know if they’re happy, I know the product will come out great and I know the service will be amazing.
The second element is consistency. We always try the drinks. I don’t drink a lot, but I order drinks and try them to make sure that the consistency is on point, whether it’s the restaurants that we have in L.A. and Miami, or the drinks in Chicago and New York. Also, we like making sure the vibe is on point: music and lighting are huge elements of what we do. We’re very, very picky with the music. I can show you a vintage sound system and a reel to reel here, or in Miami, the band that we have; if it’s in LA, the recording that we do; in Chicago it’s the DJ that we book. As far as lighting, when I say lighting, I mean the overall kind of feel, the warmth of the room. We travel from place to place to make sure that there is a comfortable feeling.
FH: You have a lot of time to think when you’re a dishwasher.
EZ: I don’t remember. I remember I was so mesmerized by everything, really. Working in big places, and even washing dishes, it was an honor. It still is. I still love washing dishes, I still love clearing plates from the table, I still love to show someone to his or her table, I still love making drinks. I love it. I love serving people. That’s my shtick.
FH: Where does it come from? Is there a Middle Eastern sensibility?
EZ: It comes from a couple of things. I want to be part of the party, but I don’t want to be in the party. You know what I mean? You would never see me and my business partner when it’s busy chilling out and drinking and having the best time of our life. No. We work. We like to work the room. We love being part of it, but we don’t want to be in it. Now for example, I’m DJing a lot because I love music, I love the party scene, I love the service industry, but I don’t want to necessarily go to party. I just want to be behind a turntable and just play music.
FH: What’s the origin story of Broken Shaker? It started as a pop-up at the Freehand, right?
EZ: Before it was the Freehand. When Sydell Group took over it was the Indian Creek Hotel. My friend called me and he’s like, “Hey, we have this hotel, can you do a cocktail list for a month that we can serve people at the pool while we do some construction on the hotel?”
I went there with my business partner and I thought, This is amazing, I want to do a pop-up here. And they were like, What is a pop-up? Seven years ago, not a lot of pop-up bars back then. I was a bartender at the W hotel at the time. I didn’t finish university. My business partner, same thing. We were just very creative bartenders. But I went home, closed the door for 12 hours and put a business plan together. I sent it thinking it was never going to happen. 12 hours later they said, “We wanna do that bar.”
Back then in Miami it was all bottle service, and we just wanted to open the door and put on really nice music. The moment we opened the door, it was an instant success. Like, the first day we opened the door we’re like, “Oh fuck yeah dude, we have something very special.”
FH: What was the original concept?
EZ: It’s a Miami kind of vibe. It’s tropical, it’s very Caribbean, it’s island-y, but there are also a lot of touches from Puerto Rico, from Columbia, from Cuba, a little bit from the Middle East, from things that we love. It’s really a mishmash of stuff. We love to be eclectic.
FH: How has Miami changed in the seven years since Broken Shaker opened?
EZ: There’s a huge difference. Seven years ago I couldn’t eat there. I came from New York. I was like, what is this place? Now? There are a lot of places I love to go out in Miami— high-end and not high-end.
FH: What inspired Margot, the natural wine and aperitivo bar you’re opening in Miami later this year?
EZ: There is a huge movement of people who are not necessarily into drinking strong cocktails — people who think, I love my strong cocktails, I’m going to drink on the weekend, but I want to enjoy myself during the week with a glass of wine or an aperitif. Besides the flavor profile of natural wines, they’re also better for the environment and, in my opinion, they’re better for your body. I wanted to create a place for my neighbor, for my friends, for people who aren’t snobs. That’s very important. And I know they’re going to love it. It’s gonna create something special.
FH: Do you have any advice on creating a vibe?
EZ: Bring your own vibe. Don’t copy and paste because everyone can tell when it’s not genuine. You can always tell. You can smell it.
Written by: Tammie Teclemariam