It’s been five years since Jack Mulqueen and Thatcher Shultz first met. Wednesday night. The Westway. Summer 2013. It was at a weekly party called “Gomorrah” that was run by Mulqueen. The friendship that developed would lead to the two working together. Countless collaborations followed–the most recent of which is Make Believe, a freshly minted rooftop bar and lounge concept at SIXTY LES.
Along with SIXTY’s nightlife guru Zac Nichols and interior designer Pao Lopez, Mulqueen and Shultz have conjured up a space designed to transport you to somewhere implacable and not exactly of this realm. Hot pink banquets inspire languorous days and nights while a DJ booth trimmed in blush fauna anchors the action. Panther-print wallpaper howls from the walls and disco balls flicker from inside birdcages. Everything glows like a dream from which you never want to wake up. Mulqueen and Shultz call the blend an equal mix of “class and self-aware kitsch.”
In the years since Mulqueen and Shultz teamed up, they’ve learned a few things about creating spaces bursting with energy. The Black Lodge was their first brick-and-mortar collaboration, and it’s where they learned how to foster community and a social scene through booze, through food, through music, and through, simply put, how the room feels. They are consummate hosts, preferring to throw the party than to attend it.
With Make Believe, Mulqueen and Shultz have stretched their creative wings. They took inspiration from the glamour-drenched photo albums of their parents, dancing up a storm at Studio 54, El Morocco, Regine’s. Mulqueen and Shultz noticed that everyone had assumed an almost fictional persona for the night, an ideal version of themselves. It’s something the two hopes their own space inspires. “This is the spirit of Make Believe,” Mulqueen and Shultz tell SIXTY. “Be somebody of your own creation.”
Imagination also comes into play with the booze. The menu takes its cues from the flavors of Japan, where notes of ponzu, yuzu, and jasmine serve as unexpected partners in cocktail crime. During the day, Make Believe expands its offerings. For caffeinated work meetings, there’s matcha lattes courtesy of MatchaBar and magical positions by Craft Rejuvenating Elixirs. Rosé, sake, Bloody Marys–whatever you need to transport yourself, Make Believe has it in a glass.
One week since Make Believe‘s grand revealing, we talk to the two about unexpected civic duties, venue hopping, and digging for hidden nightlife gems.
Where are both of you from originally?
Mulqueen: I was born uptown, and have lived in New York City my entire life.
Shultz: I grew up on an island in Maine called Arrowsic Island. It’s the size of Manhattan with a population of 400.
What part of New York City do you currently live?
Mulqueen: I live on the Upper East Side with my girlfriend and two cats, not far from the apartment I grew up in. It’s sleepy, which is a nice change of pace from the chaos of downtown. I enjoy leaving my apartment in sweatpants on Sundays and not worrying about running into anyone I know.
Shultz: I currently live in SoHo, but I’m moving to the Lower East Side to be closer to Make Believe for the first year that we’re open. Jack and I found that it was helpful for me to live up the street from The Black Lodge when we opened it over a year ago, so I’m moving to LES for the same reason.
What does it take to keep the magic of NYC nightlife going?
Mulqueen: New York City has always been the cultural epicenter of nightlife. Unfortunately, as of late, its nightlife offerings have grown increasingly homogenized. This is due to a lot of contributing factors: financial pressures, difficulty acquiring licenses and permits, etc. The spirit of entrepreneurship is still very much alive though, and DIY operators have inherited the onus of enriching the city’s offerings and adding to its deep-rooted nightlife heritage. There are still more hidden gems in this city than anywhere in the world. You just have to dig a little deeper to find them.
Shultz: Staying relevant is the biggest challenge in NYC nightlife. This industry is constantly evolving, especially when it comes to “lounges/clubs.” Traditional bottle service has been overdone to the point where people are generally over it. One example that comes to mind: Jack and I started bringing out pints of OddFellows ice cream with a sparkler sticking out of it to our most coveted DJ friends who were playing for us at The Black Lodge. People loved that because it’s different.
What’s the perfect nightlife recipe?
Mulqueen: It starts with the people. You can have the most beautiful and distinct room in the world, but if it is empty nothing else matters. We will always build our projects with our friends in mind. You also need a happy, motivated, well-rested staff. Add in a sprinkling of your own personality and voila. It has to feel authentic. The discerning patron can always tell when you are not genuine in your offerings. Money is great, but it cannot be the determining factor of your creative decisions. Stick to your concept, put forward something unique, and the good times will follow.
First New York nightclub experience:
Mulqueen: Crobar. I was 17. I remember being so overwhelmed.
Shultz: I’ll never forget the first few times I went to Provocateur in 2012 with my friend Peter. We had never seen a venue with such an elaborate lighting and sound system–they only played deep house music. Most notable memory was my friend Rogelio spraying Peter Vijeh head-to-toe with an entire bottle of champagne because it was his birthday. Peter was not impressed.
What do people look for in nightlife these days?
Mulqueen: Everyone just wants to have a good time. Maybe that means cutting loose with your friends after a long week. Maybe that means getting laid. Looking around the room on a busy Saturday night and seeing all the smiling faces–this is a sensation that never will get old. And if everyone gets laid, too, then you’ve done your civic duties.
Shultz: Giving someone a unique experience that they can’t get anywhere else is worth more than anything.
What’s your idea of a magical evening in New York City, from start to finish?
Mulqueen: It starts with a delicious dinner. (Pro-tip: don’t eat too much if you’re planning a night out.) Then, pop over to Make Believe, drink, revel amongst friends. Stay all night. Get home safe. Come back often. We love having you.
Shultz: My closest friends know I like to strategically “hop around.” My record is 24 venues in one night. With that being said, my ideal weekend night from start to finish would be the following: drinks at The Garret East around 8:30 p.m., dinner at Ludlow House at 10 p.m. followed by Kind Regards at 11 p.m., Acme at 1:30 a.m., The Blond 2:30 a.m.. I like being in bed by 3:30 a.m. on the weekends.
Your drink of choice this summer:
Mulqueen: Daytime, nothing beats a good Bloody Mary. For our Bloody, we copied the recipe from JG Melon. No frills. Get yours with some muddled wasabi if you prefer it with a little kick, though. Night time, catch me sippin’ on a glass of Enter.Sake Black Dot, their session sake. So refreshing, and with a sneaky buzz and no hangover the next day. If I want the hard stuff, I’ll opt for a Hibiki Harmony on the rocks, or a glass of Lagavulin if I need something with a bit of smoke.
Shultz: ESP Smoked Gin rocks if it’s daytime, Casamigos Añejo rocks if it’s nighttime. That being said, I’m not a big drinker.
Where you’ll be getting a morning pick-me-up following a night out at Make Believe:
Mulqueen: JG Melon. Nothing beats a bacon cheeseburger and some fries after a night on the town. Don’t expect to see me at the downtown one though. It’s not the real thing.
Shultz: A breakfast sandwich at il Buco Alimentari e Vineria or The Smile in NoHo.