If a serious nightlife fanatic in the Washington, DC area, over the past three decades you’ve more than likely spent a night (or ten) in at least four (or more) restaurants or nightclubs which the Capital-based nightlife impresario David Karim has managed, curated or owned. With such a long and proud history, one may find that the George Mason University graduate with an Economics degree would be content with wanting to rest on his laurels. However, that’s far from the case.
“I was out every weekend anyway,” Karim says regarding his early days in DC nightlife in the late 80s and early 90s. “I was bartending to get through college, and somebody offered me a job at club called OPERA in Adams Morgan.” The hiring proved to be the catalyst for his future aspirations, as he continues, “[working in nightlife] was the same environment that I was in every weekend – but I was making money, which is better than spending money (laughs).”
As a fresh college graduate, the current nightlife standard bearer saw his friends making “good money for being just out of college” with their business and economics degrees, but he wanted more. “I loved music and meeting people. I got into promoting (at Zei Club in downtown DC), as I felt like I knew as many people as guys like Masoud [Aboughaddareh, current owner of Lima Nightclub] and Antonis [Karagounis, current owner of Echostage] and thought I would be successful.” Karim’s roots with Karagounis are strong. “Antonis was doing Spy Club across the street. When it closed, he moved the party to ZEI Club. A year later, the weekly event happening at ZEI, changed with the Grand opening of GLOW with Pete Kalamoutsos as the resident DJ. The promotion changed to cater to an EDM sound and crowd, mostly with Trance music.”
Karim’s tastes extend far past just music these days, as his pairing of quality dining options and premium nightclub experiences across the city has become a staple of his brand. Regarding his twin interests, he offers a unique and honest opinion. “[Nightlife and food] are apples and oranges. The restaurant business is so much more detail-oriented than the nightclub industry. Nightlife is more trend-based and all about having your finger on the pulse of the trends. If you make a great steak, a steakhouse can be around for 50 or 60 years. [Comparatively] music changes. In the food business, if you have the best quality and the best service, the people will come, no matter what. [Insofar] as nightlife, it’s all about what’s “in,” and that’s what people go after.”
Staying competitive in a revitalizing Washington, DC is clearly of importance to Karim, too. In regards to how he has remained vital, he offers this summation: “DC’s a little concerning. I’m 44 years old now and have been doing this for 26 years. The population is booming. You have areas like 14th Street and U Street. I have two locations there [14th Street’s Policy and U Street’s Lost Society] that are thriving, but downtown is not about bottle service anymore – it’s all about business lunches and happy hours.” With respect to serving this new demographic, he has a plan. “The late night is disappearing. People want to go to bars. The economy has boomed here, though, with defense contractors and IT companies locating here, and they want that hybrid experience of a restaurant and bar with a late-night aspect to it.”
David Karim’s plan has seen him open a series of nightclub/restaurants which he sees providing a sustainable solution for the evolving state of the DC party scene. “Lost Society and Gryphon [blend] a cool steakhouse with a DJ. I believe that’s a concept that was needed in DC. I love food – especially steaks – and enjoy having a party scene in the same venue, too. We do the same concept with a different menu at a second location with Gryphon. I want to grow the brand, do something on H Street in DC, or maybe something in Arlington. I thought of it, I executed it, and it’s doing well.”
With a seemingly ever-growing plethora of nightlife locales under his control and vision, David Karim blends a sharp awareness of history with an eye on his customer’s happiness and a curiosity about the future to create a blueprint for success. Regarding said success, Karim – as always it seems – keeps his ultimate motivations simple, possibly only to hide the complexities in execution. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do what we do in the nightlife business. There’s a balance between business savvy and partying. However (clearly in more ways than one), I’m always hungry.”Tweet