Billy Gilroy

billy gilroy employees only

Bill Gilroy is something of an industry legend. Owner of offbeat New York favorites such as Employees Only and Macao Trading Co., his venues are more like time capsules rather than restaurants. We sat down with Gilroy for a peek into his usually private life – what better way to kick off the weekend?

On The New Potato, we cover the back to the front of the industry, from the chefs in the back, to the maître d’s at the front, to “the man upstairs” or restaurateur, to the customer who always comes in.  As someone who started by working your way up the ladder, do you have a certain reverence for every aspect of this industry? 

Absolutely. Like a great Broadway show, it takes everyone, every night to make it all happen.

How important is it to have done everything, before overseeing it all?

For someone like myself, it’s crucial. I can’t speak for how others do what they do. I usually have to learn the hard way.

How did your experiences and training with Keith Mcnally affect your later projects? Could you take us through that training process a bit? 

I believe Keith’s biggest strength is his how he hires and regards his team. He knows the success of his establishments is a direct reflection of his team. I believe working with Keith taught me that, among many other things.

Keith and Lynn would visit me at La Gamelle where I worked with Florent Morellet.  I worked at La Gamelle from ’80 – ’83 before heading over to work at the Water Club.  When Cafe Luxembourg opened, I headed over there to join the team. I managed Nell’s from ’86 – ’87 and partnered with Keith at Lucky Strike.

His spots have a timelessness, as do yours. What’s the trick to creating that?

When developing a space, you need to have a good understanding of what you are looking to achieve. It should feel inspired and tell a story. It’s not just a design job or business concept. Playing with lighting also helps.

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