Volume 81, Number 12 | August 18 - 24, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photos by Bob Krasner

Matt DeMatt on his Harley outside the new sidewalk cafe at his Gaslight bar and restaurant at Ninth Ave. and 14th St.

Gaslight is known for its friendly service — and its beautiful bartenders, including Valeria, left, and Katrina.

Once a pioneer, Gaslight is still leader of the pack

By Bob Krasner

The Gaslight has been around for a while now, but Matt DeMatt has been around even longer. After stints at some of the most famous (and infamous) clubs in New York, he partnered with Davey Curran, Peter Collins and Billy Reddy to create the Gaslight, which, by his reckoning, was the first bar and restaurant in the Meatpacking District.

DeMatt took his experiences at Limelight, Studio 54 and Le Bar Bat, among others, to a part of the city that seemed to be the last place in Manhattan that one would want to open a business. The tourists who now pass by Gaslight, at the corner of Ninth Ave. and 14th St., on the way to the High Line park would be surprised to find out that the area was once inhabited nightly be drug dealers and transgender hookers.

“When we opened,” recalled DeMatt, “the girls who worked here were afraid to walk over from the subway. I had to go pick them up.”

So why did he choose the Meatpacking District?

“We wanted a place that was affordable. We looked at the location as a ‘destination,’ like a destination wedding spot,” he explained. “Big clubs were on their way out and we liked the idea of a classic lounge where people could hang out.”

It took sometime, but perseverance paid off. DeMatt believes in opening slowly and hanging in for the long run. It was three years before they made any money, but they have since expanded to a second club, G2, and a pizzeria, as well as their latest venture, an outdoor cafe. All of these adjacent establishments are run with a “mom and pop attitude,” rather than a “corporate, Starbucks mentality,” as he put it.

He firmly believes that the customer is always right, and there is usually at least one owner on premises.

“Every day is important in a customer’s life,” he said, “and we want to take care of them.”

DeMatt and his partners take care of celebrities, as well, including the likes of actors James Gandolfini, Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke, who are friends and regulars. Fashion designer Stella McCartney has thrown private parties there.

One memorable evening saw the Yankees (who celebrated their World Series victories there three years in a row) lining up at the place to meet Britney Spears. Bono and Gwyneth Paltrow got in line as well to meet the pop starlet.

But while the celebs add shine to the name, DeMatt wants the Gaslight to be part of the community. He gives reduced rates to charities who want to host fundraisers, and keeps in touch with the local police. He has helped other new businesses, such as the Hotel Gansevoort, establish themselves. He said he’s a “big fan of the High Line,” which he feels, “completes the neighborhood.”

Before he got on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle to head home, he was asked if he could relate a few anecdotes about the wilder things that have gone on in the club.

“So much has happened here,” he said. “I don’t want to get in trouble for telling you.” 

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