Gerry Calabrese: Career Profile

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

East End boy Gerry Calabrese, owner of the Hoxton Pony, has just launched INK with Professor Green in Leicester Square
East End boy Gerry Calabrese, owner of the Hoxton Pony, has just launched INK with Professor Green in Leicester Square
Gerry Calabrese may be the son of world-famous bartender Salvatore Calabrese, but he has firmly made his own mark on London's bar and club scene, opening The Hoxton Pony in Shoreditch in 2008, before heading outside of his East End heartland to launch Baroque at the Playboy Club. Earlier his month he collaborated with Brit rapper Professor Green to open INK, a new nightclub in Leicester Square. 

How I got to where I am now:

I wasn't very academic and am also dyslexic so I left school after doing my GCSEs and started working full time in banqueting (where I'd been working part-time at school) at five star hotels and then went on to get some experience in restaurants.

When I turned 18 I remember going to the Fridge nightclub in Brixton and fell in love with the club and bar scene so I set up a promotions company and would put on parties at various clubs. I did that for three and a half years and ended up putting on some really big events, but the lifestyle can be really hectic, so by the time I was 21 I'd had enough and went off to Italy where I got a job in a cocktail bar. 

I worked there for a bit and went on to some other bars, learning the trade and working my way up before getting head hunted by a company that was setting up a bar in Smithfield Market. It was in the days before the licensing laws changed, but because of its location we were able to offer 24 hour drinking. I called it Meet and turned it into an industry hang-out, somewhere for other bar and restaurant staff to go after work. Again, it was a hectic lifestyle I was leading - I was pulling 80 to 90-hour weeks - so after three years I left and decided it was time to do something for myself rather than work for other people. 

That was when I opened The Hoxton Pony. It was 2008 when the bottom had fallen out of the economy, but somehow we attracted a good crowd of people and is still going strong now. While running that I developed Hoxton Gin which is now in about 1,000 outlets in the UK and is about to launch in Germany. It has given me another area to develop. 

Then in 2012 I was asked by the Playboy Club to work with them and open Baroque. The idea was to bring the brand back to where it had been several years ago, so I really looked at what it used to be like and used that as inspiration to really deliver a highly glamorous concept. 

My latest project is INK, which opened on 5 September. It's a club in Leicester Square myself and my brother Jon have opened with Professor Green (aka Stephen Manderson). He's been a great customer and a great friend of ours for about three or four years now and even filmed one of his music videos at the Hoxton Pony, so when the opportunity came up to launch in Leicester Square we thought it would be a fantastic idea to team up.

Stephen's an extraordinarily creative individual, he's not one of those celebrities for celebrity's sake, and his input to INK has been great. Our idea is to celebrate music and cocktails. Myself and Jon will manage the day-to-day operations while Stephen will be involved in the design and in the entertainment. It's his business as much as mine, I think we'll make a great team. 

My greatest achievement: 

Each achievement has its own merits. Launching Baroque at the Playboy Club was a massive achievement. There aren't many people who get to work with the second biggest recognisable brand and are trusted to work with it, but opening my own bar, especially during a tough period economically, is something I'm really proud of and I'm really grateful for that place because it really did change things for me. 

My biggest challenge: 

I think in this line of work you get a new challenge every day. When we opened the Hoxton Pony the bottom had fallen out of the economy, but I was determined to make a success of it. I have been brought up to believe that the devil is in the detail and I wanted to ensure I had happy customers who would return, so it was a challenge, but I have the same strong work ethic as my dad and I wasn't going to let it not be a success. 

My advice to those looking to work in the industry:

My philosophy is to stick to what you're good at and excel in that area, but above all to work in this industry you need to be really serviced-focused and customer orientated. I think it's important to deliver excellence and that involves providing good service. It's a good idea to get advice from those already doing well in the industry too. I speak to my dad every day. He's been my idol and my biggest influence. He has contributed a hell of a lot to the industry and I'm lucky to have his guidance.

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