A Tale of Two Eddies

Caldwell native Eddie Dean always knew how to hustle, but how did a guy who started out with a couple of pubs become a dance club impresario?

Four hours later, the four-and-a-half-story, 30,000-square-foot building a block from the Hudson River is quiet, like a factory between shifts. The open doors admit a breeze and slashes of light, while the cleaning crews attend to every corner, stairwell, and out-of-the-way lounge. But the departed dancers no doubt still feel the vibrations of the 10,000-watt sound system. And the buzz is not just in their ears.  Everyone from Forbes to the club-industry bible, Club World, has declared Pacha NYC the hottest nightclub and 2007 Best Superclub, Best New Club, and Best Sound System, respectively.

Eddie Dean, who co-owns the nearly two-year-old club with world-renowned club DJ Erick Morillo, is behind closed doors, working the phones and his BlackBerry, and checking in with members of his 100-person staff.  There are two pressing matters: Dean has to help Japan’s top DJ get VIP treatment at Pacha’s flagship location in Ibiza, Spain. He also has to break the news gently to a group of investors in Miami that they aren’t quite ready to be granted a Pacha franchise.

Surely, a man who has owned bars and dance clubs all over New York City dresses the part. Eurosleek suits, designer casualwear? Forget it. The barrel-chested Dean, 43, shuffles hurriedly out of the office in a gray T-shirt, worn-to-a-sheen khaki shorts, and flip-flops.

“Actually, I am the kid who’d sell firecrackers to other kids around the corner from school,” says Dean, who grew up in Caldwell. “When I was in college at the University of Delaware, I saw all these fraternity boys who loved going to Atlantic City, so I started working with the bus operator and organized trips to and from campus. We’d stock the buses with drinks; the guys would have a great time. I’d pay the operator for making runs when the buses would have been just sitting in the garage, and I made some money for myself too.”

Now he finds ways for 3,000 people a night to have a great time. Celebrities, VIPs, tourists from Iowa or Moscow—Dean takes care of them all with the same know-how and attention to detail.

“Y’know, these guys in Miami,” he says. “They wanted me to hear their pitch for why they should get the Miami Pacha. They fly me down, gimme a limo, they let me experience their club. First of all, I try to get out of the car, and the driver says, ‘Let me get the door for you, Mr. Dean.’ I don’t know how to handle that. It’s just the Jersey in me. I identify more with the driver than the guys who flew me down there.

“So I go to their place, and it’s not near South Beach. I eat a steak that’s fine, but nothing’s working together. It’s not a club. And they want to know, ‘What’s it gonna take to build?’ And I am trying to be nice, but I am extremely protective of the brand. You know, the translation for Pacha is, ‘Live like a king,’ and there are 25 places around the world that get it. This isn’t like putting in an Applebee’s or something; this is a big deal in the club world. And if you don’t get it right for the club people, they won’t come back.”

The incongruity of a burly, tell-it-like-it-is Jersey guy getting into the esoteric minutiae of the midnight-to-8 am club crowd isn’t lost on Dean.

“My dad died when I was a junior in college,” he says. “He was a big trial attorney and he died suddenly. I get home and find out that I had to make sure my mom was taken care of. So I got to work.”

Dean started selling real estate in Brooklyn. “I was doing well,” he says, “and I got back and finished school.” Then a friend told him about a small pub that was for sale. “I had no idea what I was doing,” he admits. “I mean, I was no stranger to bars, and I had a good sense of how business gets done in them. My buddy was an ex-cop, so we got it up and running. It was a great experience. I could be owner, bartender, fry cook, busboy, bouncer.“

From there, in 1987 we opened a club in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, called Faces. We started booking acts that hadn’t come to Brooklyn, before. We were pissing off wiseguys, Manhattan club owners, you name it. But we had a blast.

”The night Faces opened, he met a woman named Kim. They’ve been married more than twelve years and have three children, Raeanne, Jillian, and Thomas.

“Things were great before I met Kim,” Dean says. “But nothing could compare to what my life has been like since we got together.”

Despite the glamour of owning a club, Dean’s home life is not much different from that of his suburban neighbors. “He has not changed a bit,” Kim says. “He is still incredibly humble.” Dean’s schedule does have an impact on the family, however, Kim says. “His hours are long but not much worse than many other people. This may sound corny, but there really isn’t a whole lot of bad.”

Twelve years after opening Faces (and two other Brooklyn hot spots, Ruby’s and Rock ’n Jocks), Dean hit Manhattan, opening the Flatiron District’s Hush. Two years later he opened Tiki Room, earning top marks from Travel & Leisure and Citysearch, and reinvented Hush as a discotheque featuring hot DJs such as Junior Vasquez and, eventually, Erick Morillo.

Dean didn’t start Pacha, but he has taken it to a new level. The upscale club was founded in 1967 outside Barcelona by Ricardo Urgell, who remains head of the Pacha Group. Urgell opened the Ibiza branch in 1973. Morillo had earned a reputation as Pacha/Ibiza’s most popular DJ, working there for nine years and building great followings. “The relationship Erick has with clubs and dance-music fanatics around the world is amazing, and his work as a producer is impeccable,” Dean says.

In 2001, Dean hired Morillo to DJ at an intimate New York club Dean owned called Discotheque. Later they became partners, Morillo introduced Dean to Ricardo Urgell, and the pair licensed the rights to open Pacha clubs in North America. Pacha NYC opened in 2005.

“What’s funny about our success in New York,” Dean says, “is that people here don’t really know that dance music and clubs are a lifestyle thing. It’s not violent; it’s just people who want to dance and be free. Pacha has its own monthly magazine printed in Spain. They print 350,000 copies! We run 40,000 through here alone.”

“Everything Eddie has done,” says Danny Whittle, brand director for all of Pacha, “has helped the brand, not only in New York and America but internationally, as New York has the eyes of the world on it.”

In the fourth-floor DJ booth, empty bottles of Poland Spring water and SoBe Adrenaline Rush prove that even the men and women who keep the Pacha party going need a little jolt, too. The four-and-a-half-level, 30,000-square-foot dance mecca is built on the site of the old Sound Factory nightclub, which was gutted to accommodate Dean and Morillo’s vision of a maze of cozy rooms for different moods and a massive dance floor for patrons who don’t want to stop from midnight to 8 am.

Dean remains committed to finding new ways to promote the Pacha mission. He’s talking with Las Vegas casinos about opening a Pacha there. He hooked up with fellow Jersey guy Scott Greenstein, CEO of Sirius Radio, and got a Pacha-branded dance music channel launched on the satellite-radio service.

“We just released our first Pacha NYC CD,” says Dean, who was recently named one of the top 30 most influential people in nightlife by Clubsystems International, an industry publication. The club has been nominated for seven Club World Awards, the Oscars of the nightlife industry. As this issue went to press, the winners were yet to be announced at the industry’s Winter Music Conference in Miami.

Dean says he’s finalizing a deal to bring Pacha to Macau, the island off Hong Kong. In his alleged spare time, he has started a consulting business to help clubs worldwide get a little hotter (but not Pacha hot).

“It changes nothing about what our mission here is,” he insists. “It still boils down to Bar 101 mechanics: You give people great service, you make them feel safe and happy, you talk to them and find out what they want. We have weekly staff meetings to find new ideas. For example, we have a full-time IT guy who helps get the message out to our database of patrons. We give them updates, music downloads, and information about what’s going on here and in the industry. People come from all over the world to see our DJs perform. The least we can do is make them feel like we’re paying attention to them.

“I am a real pain in the ass about the front-door people. If we’re too crowded and can’t let anyone in, and people are willing to stand in line to pay money to get into Pacha, that’s the ultimate compliment to me. I mean, really, this is New York. You could go a million other places. They won’t give you what we will, but you could go there just so you won’t have to stand in line. So I want our bouncers, servers, dancers, and of course DJs to give everyone the best experience possible. I want everyone to feel like a big shot.

”Pacha gets its share of big shots, and Dean says the club doesn’t seem to attract celebrities who are famous for being famous. “You know, half the time, I don’t know that the athletes and actors have been here until after they’ve left, but when they’re here, I will always try to make sure I say hello and see that their needs are met. We do make certain concessions, with private access to the club and things like that, but we do that for people who pay for the premiere services we offer, too.

“Tell you the truth,” Dean adds, “I know that my kids think it’s kind of cool to have a dad who owns a club, but that ultimately it’s not a big deal. Now, if we were to have Hannah Montana appearing here, they might actually get excited.”

So Dean does the dad thing, carving out time for vacations and trying to be around when the kids are awake.

“Ask Kim if I can leave the job behind when I cross the GWB, and she’ll probably say, ‘Not well enough,’ but it’s a fast-moving world in this business. It works out. River Vale’s great because we’ve got our old neighbors from Brooklyn right across the street, so it’s a good support system. And Kim and I have said from the start that when these kids are old enough, they’ll be doing some part-time work with us. They have to know what hard work feels like.

”Eddie Dean has run out of time for chit-chat. He has to call China and Ibiza, schedule DJs through the end of the year. A producer is waiting for him, ready to continue a dialogue about a reality show that might give people a VIP-lounge view from their own couches. Dean shakes his head at the humor of it all.

“Yeah, I am a real big timer,” he says. “Maybe one of these days, I will wind up buying myself a big luxury item, like a pair of fancy sunglasses.

“Who am I kidding? No I won’t.”

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