By Larsa Pippen
I first met David Grutman years ago on a summer yacht trip when celebrating a mutual friend’s birthday. In addition to having many friends in common, we both shared an affinity for exotic cars, luxury boats, fine dining, and Miami’s nightlife. He’s a nightlife wunderkind and founded two of Miami Beach’s hottest clubs — LIV and Story.
David has a style that makes everyone feel at ease, and he’s one of the hardest-working guys I know. He’s also truly an amazing person. In the middle of a busy workday, David invited Trillionaire magazine’s team — of which I am now a part as columnist — into his new restaurant Komodo, a three-level, indoor-outdoor restaurant in Brickell.
So of course, the first question I had to ask was: “David, what made you want to open a restaurant?”
His response? “Being who I am in the nightlife industry, it’s the next gradual step. I have a nightclub in Sun Life Stadium — LIV Sun Life — where the Dolphins play. And this uses the same kind of energy and fundamentals. For me, it’s all about hospitality; so this is just an extension of my brand.”
LP: Why open Komodo in Brickell and not Miami Beach?
DG: “A lot of the crowd for LIV and Story come from the Brickell and Coral Gables area. And, I feel for the first time in Miami’s history, there’s an urban part to Miami and Brickell is it. I don’t want to follow what everyone else is doing. I set my own trends; so I wanted to be on the forefront of this scene, and I wanted to be one of the pioneers in Brickell.”
LP: The restaurant is huge! Two levels of indoor dining, plus outdoor space.
DG: “I couldn’t do a small, tiny restaurant in a shopping plaza. People are used to ‘over the top’ when they hear my name. It has to be big and glamorous with high energy and a large volume — a kind of space like Komodo.”
LP: People think they know you, but they don’t really know who you are. Is there something you could tell me that people might not know?
DG: “Well, I’m getting married at the end of April.”
LP: Right, you proposed to Isabela (Rangel) in front of a wall you had painted by a team of artists in Wynwood. So, what else don’t people know about you?
DG: “In the restaurant business, people start working at 1 in the afternoon, but I’m at work at 9 or 10 because I get a whole other half day in by doing that. I feel like I want to lead by example. I want my team to see that I work as hard as they do.”
LP: Are you from Miami?
DG: “Nope. I’m from Naples, Fla., where it’s all retirees… the other coast of Florida. I’m really good at shuffleboard.”
LP: So what’s made your brands like LIV and Story so successful?
DG: “It’s all about the content. People get sick of being in the same space over and over. So you need to change the production so that people feel like they are coming to a new event every night. Some places are either deejay-focused or celebrity-focused or production-focused, but we mix it all together, and we give people an experience they aren’t going to get up the block or down the street. We’re all selling the same vodka and the same champagne, but it’s the experiences that we’re giving people that sets us apart.”
LP: What’s the average amount someone spends in your clubs?
DG: “Hard to say. We have guys spending $125,000 to $350,000 on a per-night basis. But then we have guys who spend 100 plus, 100 plus, 100 plus. It just depends on how strong the dollar is, to tell you the truth.”
LP: I feel like every celebrity who comes to Miami has to come to LIV and Story. I don’t think they go anywhere else.
DG: “We hope it’s on every to-do list. Every bucket list. When you come to Miami, you look for iconic brands like Joe’s Stone Crab and Fontainebleau. And hopefully, LIV is becoming that brand.”
LP: When you are someone who has done such amazing things and has such a reputation, I’m sure you’re always setting the bar higher for yourself. So what is next?
DG: “Hotels will be the next lifestyle brand, and I think we’ll open a few more Komodos before that happens.”
LP: In New York?
DG: “Actually, people are calling from Qatar, Paris, Los Angeles; so we’ll see. But for me to get on a plane to go to another city, I need to have multiple stuff there because I don’t want to fly there for just one thing. Like in Paris, they wanted me to take over the Buddha-Bar space to do a Komodo restaurant, but I want to do Komodo and LIV and a hotel — have a number of different brands; that would be great.”