While many nightlife spaces might consider themselves a “one stop shop” of sorts, it is safe to say that New York City has not seem anything like Red Eye in recent memory. Direct from the crafty and creative minds that have brought Club Cumming and countless (and debauchery-filled) parties on Fire Island, the new owners of Hell’s Kitchen’s newest addition to the New York City landscape are going to redefine what “going out” truly means in a post-apocalyptic world. I sat down with two of the new owners of RedEye, Taylor Shubert and Sam Benedict and we chatted about what patrons can expect from RedEye, how this space is going to be a space for performances and artists of all kinds, and how the lessons of the past year proved to be a launching pad for what would become RedEye.
Michael Cook: Word broke recently that Red Eye would be officially opening in Hell’s Kitchen; how did it feel to finally let the cat out of the bag?
Taylor Shubert : As all the boys in HK know, it’s hard for me to keep my mouth closed! The response has been electric, and we’re excited to bring the RENY red light district here to Port Authority. We think we’ll be a great addition to the neighborhood.
MC: The venue is going to be a hybrid of sorts; coffee by day, nightlife at night. It almost harkens back to the 90’s Chelsea vibe; tell me about the artistic vision…
Sam Benedict: It’s all in the name. Red Eye is a cruisy terminal by day, where creatives can come socialize, flirt and work over a coffee or a cocktail. After dark, it’s like you’re getting on a red eye flight, and you don’t know where you’re going, but you’re going all night!
MC: The venue will also include a television studio. Is this going to be a brand new iteration of a sort of Channel 1 in NYC where so much LGBT content like Robyn Byrd was born?
SB: Our plans with the studio are to capture the magic of NYC nightlife and share it with as wide an audience as possible. During the pandemic, Daniel and I had to pivot our live show skillset into a digital realm. The result was magic. From cabaret legend Ute Lemper, to RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4 winner Sharon Needles, to icon Liza Minnelli- we nailed it. Now we’re excited to marry this ingenuity with a live audience. Whether you’re in Cleveland, Ohio or in person in NYC, you’ll be able to see all the RENY programming we have to offer.
MC: From podcasts to DJ’s the studio is going to be truly multimedia; any exclusive scoop you can give me on content we can expect?
TS: I’m a political junkie, so I’ll be hosting my weekly podcast Political Party at RENY, Ty Sunderland will host his pod about the latest juicy NYC Nightlife gossip, Nicky Doll will be holding court every month with her Rouge party, and nightlife legends Johnny Dynell and Corey Craig will spin weekly on the dance floor. We’ll host our hit parties like “The Devil Wears Nada” and The Hot Sardines, our favorite jazz band, will frequent the club. We’ve even got a late night episodic soap opera series (set on a deserted island) in the works. All of this will be curated for digital AND live audiences!
MC: The Hell’s Kitchen area has changed so much recently with several spaces shuttering entirely; what do you want to bring to HK that currently is not there?
SB: We’re all HUGE fans of drag…like HUGE, but we’re not here to put on the same shows you can see at other bars. We want to give all of our favorite queens an opportunity to do something they can’t do (for whatever reason) up the block. We want to spotlight our favorite queens you know and the ones you don’t, like Blackie O, who you may not know is a sickening actress. Think proDUCTION, henny!
MC: When did you know that nightlife and entertainment planning was your passion and would be your career?
SB: I’ve worked for and with Daniel Nardicio for going on 7 years now, so it’s safe to say I caught the bug pretty early on. After hitting my stride as general manager at Club Cumming and evaluating how much energy I was putting into someone else’s business, I knew it was only a matter of time before I took the plunge and put that effort into a space I had real stake in.
TS: I’ve directed and choreographed theater across the country, spent the past 7 years working at Flaming Saddles (one of the best bars in New York), and helped run Dworld events like the Underwear Party and Bette Bathhouse and Beyond out on Fire Island and in New Orleans. There’s nothing more exciting than showing people a good time and making them come back for more.
MC: COVID impacted nightlife more than almost any other industry; what changes do you see coming to nightlife in a post-COVID world?
T: COVID taught us that many people see the arts and entertainment as expendable, but it isn’t. It was good music, and television, and movies, and some late night facetime binge drinking that got us out of the worst of the pandemic with our souls intact. They say that through darkness comes light, and our sign is glowing girl! Some people are ready to hit the dance floor, and we’ve got you. Others will tread more carefully and wanna stream a DJ set from their living room. We’ve got you too.
SB: I’m genuinely curious to see how we get back to partying until 4a.m. lol, but hey, that’s what the coffee’s for!
MC: What was your first New York City nightlife experience?
SB: I moved to NYC in 2013 and the first gay bar I went to was Splash for their Musical Mondays. Let this be my official request for a napkin toss at my funeral!
TS: I went to school in Boston, but spent almost every weekend taking the bus down to NYC. New York energy was the fix I craved. Coming back to Port Authority feels like coming home.
MC: Five years from now where do you see nightlife in New York City and what impact do you want Red Eye to have?
T: Where do I see nightlife in five years? At 41st and 9th!
S: Part of what I’ve strived for in my previous endeavors was to really support the artists creating content in my space. Business is business, but the dollars dry up quick if your talent doesn’t feel valued. I see Red Eye as the space performers are most excited to work at, and if that ethos holds I see Red Eye as a NYC staple for a long time to come.
Follow Taylor Shubert on Instagram
Follow Sam Benedict on Instagram