Hamptons Godfather Mark Baker on the Upcoming Summer
Personally, I’m a Hamptons Shmamptons kind of guy. I must admit, I have spent many a winter weekend in Montauk beach-combing and walking puppies, but the mayhem and traffic and insanity of the “season” always left me limp. This weekend, I will absolutely enjoy the empty city. Mark Baker, however, will not. The nightlife guru has been “Hamptoning” when most of you were riding in the back of the car in children’s seats, spitting up on yourselves. Mr. Baker, with his James Bond-ish manner, is getting his game plan together, and is ready to shine this summer with his new club, Elm.
You are the godfather of Hamptons nightlife. Tell me your Hamptons history and how the scene has changed over the years. Godfather or grandfather, I definitely have been running clubs and events for longer than most. I should have had a mansion on Meadow Lane by now, just for my long-time service in the Hamptons. Seriously though, there has been a change regarding nightlife and the whole scene in general. In the early days of Conscience Point, our venues were outdoors on the water and it was a lot more relaxed. Everything seems to be so serious these days. I think people should take a deep breath and just enjoy the beauty of The Hamptons. You just have to find those little places, where you can breathe in the nature. Club-wise, I think nightlife got stale—same shit, same venue. With the opening of The Elm, our fabulous new Southampton venue, and Beachfest, the brunch and beach party at Gurney’s Montauk, and all the events we are organizing around the Hamptons, we hope to inject a little spice into the scene. And PS, when I did the first Model Celebrity Beachgames at Gurney’s in ’94, Montauk was a “little village at the end of the island.” How times have changed.
How about the competition? Will revelers be popping from place to place more than ever, or is there more of a brand loyalty thing? There have been the same 4 or 5 venues forever in the Hamptons, and every year a different NYC operator comes out and takes one for the summer. EMM at Lilypond and Jonathan at Tavern, and Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss are absent this year. As I am the Godfather of club owners, as you put it, you know that I welcome any and all venues in the Hamptons. There is room for everyone, and the ones that are the best and most fun will prevail. Having a New York operation can help or hinder, as I believe it can limit your client base. I have assembled a huge team of top guys including, the Koch Brothers, Rocco Ancarola, Alex Martini, and David Sherman, to participate in all our Hamptons fun activities. I really think that the business as a whole has become too serious and negative. Everyone should just work hard, but relax and give the public what they want, which is a good time, not club bullshit and politics.
What are you driving and what is the house you are staying at like? Come on, you know the answer to that one. For the winter I have my mountain bike, and for summer it has to be the triple black 430 F1 Spider Ferrari, with some devilish modifications that will blow away any motorcycle or car. And thanks to Ferrari Maserati Long Island, I have a black two-door Rolls Royce Ghost. I am not that wanker with a flash car. I love to drive at 2am in the city, roof off, music blaring, at a speed most definitely over the speed limit. As far as my house, no after parties anymore. But last year we had a gorgeous mansion on the water near Sag Harbor, and I think it is necessary if possible to just be in nature. The old Hamptons farm line feel is hard to find, but Sagaponack still has the magic.
With rents, insurance and other costs paid for the full year, plus operating costs, including costly housing for you and staff, and other factors like fickle weather and 15 or so weeks to cover these costs, can you make money out there ? Opening any business in the Hamptons is hard work. The locals are continually screwed every year by all the operators. The Hamptons community is gun-shy, and operators need to understand the positive and negative impact venues have on their community. Venues are normally rented Memorial Day to Labor Day, and you have fifteen weeks to make your money. It sucks for sure. Money has never been my primary motive for doing this stuff. I love the Hamptons and have friends for twenty years in every department there. My special friend from Southampton police department has regular horror stories relating to venues and irresponsible operators. We have to respect their communities. Inject money and jobs for the locals in the town, and you will find a much more respective partner in the community.