The Return of the Nightlife King: Seth Greenberg
Looking back, Greenberg defends his record, noting that he sank close to $800,000 into the club, trying to improve things like traffic flow and crowd control. And he acknowledges that while he’s a big-picture guy, focused on setting the tone for a place, he’s less oriented toward managing day-to-day operations. "I manage my managers," he says.
Greenberg will tell you all those struggles merely opened him up to new opportunities. He’d gotten a taste for the restaurant world in 1997, when he partnered with developer Paul Roiff in a South End fine-dining concept. Mistral debuted that year to packed crowds and high praise, and it remains a top dining destination to this day. "Seth has a great sense of style and of what’s ahead of the curve," Roiff says. "He’s just a very unique individual. They say God gives, God takes. He’s got the pied piper gene. He’s got the style gene. But not the normal businessman genes."
In 2002, looking for a little distance from Boston, Greenberg opened a restaurant-turned-private-event-space in Manhattan called Capitale, which Esquire named one of the top new restaurants of the year, and where he’s hosted parties for the likes of Elton John, Angelina Jolie, Hillary Clinton, Marc Jacobs, and a long list of other boldface names. (A second property, called Espace, opened last year.)
All the while, the Euro scene in Boston was fading. After 9/11, many Arab students had difficulty staying in town. "I had friends who went to MIT who couldn’t come back to [graduate] with their classes just because they were Saudi," says George Aboujaoude, one of Greenberg’s protégés, who now owns Cafeteria on Newbury Street. While Boston is still the temporary home for thousands of students from around the world, many of them wealthy, some combination of wartime caution and recessionary modesty has seemed to muffle their presence. "Even now, the international scene is still there," Aboujaoude says. "But no one is catering to them the same way."
Even 10 years after its closing, M-80’s network of fans is still strong enough to support a Facebook group with more than 2,200 members, some of whom organized a reunion last summer. The Web page serves as a kind of surreal memorial, where devotees wax nostalgic with an intensity normally reserved for beloved summer camps. "Still to this day," one wrote, "[I] have not been to a single club in Washington, Boston, L.A., London, or Dubai like M-80." Another mused, "M-80 [was] a shelter…a safe house where we all hung out till late hours…. We’re still here trying to relive those memories and chant those fantastic songs…. It should be resurrected! World Peace!"