Two of Miami University’s entrepreneurial students have immersed themselves into the nightlife scene of Cincinnati by opening two bars in Over-the-Rhine.
Miami students Joe Gilster, 22, and junior Mark Fogarty, 21, have established Cue, which opened Nov. 15, and Speakeasy, to open at the end of month.
Described by Gilster as a table service club, Cue is meant to be a place to relax, rent out a pool table or dance. Cue’s other half, Speakeasy, is expecting its kick off opening party on New Year’s Eve to have appearances by Cincinnati Mayor Mike Mallory, among other city council members.
Cue and Speakeasy are located at the former locations of Rhythm and Blues Cafe and Japp’s Bar on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. Cue and Speakeasy, while branded as separate clubs and each having its own street access, are separated by an exclusive VIP room and the New Stage Collective theater, of which the owners have no affiliation.
The first event that the two partners have promoted for Cue is a model search being done Friday by Brody Jenner from the MTV reality show The Hills.
The search is for people to model for Archangel-his new jewelry and fashion line. The invitation reveals that he is looking for “Cincinnati’s Hottest Females” to be the next Archangel models. National press is expected at this event, primarily sponsored by MySpace, according to Fogarty. Ted Skillet, one of the owners of MySpace, is helping host the party with Jenner.
To establish the bars while still enrolled as a student at Miami, Gilster took from his experience of being social chair of the fraternity Sigma Chi, and his bartending at Oxford’s Pachinkos Bar-which is where he said he learned to like the business.
“We wanted to start an entrepreneurial venture and raise capital through our connections,” Gilster said. “We already own several companies and currently have projects that are going on. This is the leverage we need to get into other industries.”
Although they were not at liberty to disclose financing information for the bars, Fogarty said that the funds came primarily from private investors and friends. Both bars’ combined investments succeeded $350,000.
However, the two entrepreneurs are not entirely new to the business. They started Gateway Entertainment, of which Cue and Speakeasy operate under, as well as the company Symphonic, described by Gilster as an event planning and party filling company.
Fogarty said he and Gilster first decided to pursue the opening of Cue and Speakeasy when Paul Yankie, a mutual mentor and friend, desired to do a project with all of them, having investors interested.
“It just found its own place,” Fogarty said.
Joseph Kayne, director of institutional entrepreneurial leadership, said that Miami has had a number of students start businesses while still enrolled in classes.
“As far as I’m concerned, a person who sees an opportunity for business is never too young to explore it,” he said.
Kayne explained the tools that students learn at Miami.
“In the entrepreneurial program here at Miami, students undergo a course of study in which they develop both the mindset and a tool kit that will aid them in starting and then growing a business,” he said.
The two partners’ marketing plan for their business venture is based on featuring celebrity guests.
“We connected with a lot of other influential business people and club owners in Cincinnati,” Gilster said.
Fogarty explained that personal connections with promoters and other people allowed them to go through with this project.
“Our plan is not in-your-face mass marketing, but rather it’s driven more by word-of-mouth advertising,” Fogarty said.
Fogarty described Cue as upbeat and energy driven, which he attributes to why the bar has been at its capacity every night since opening. Both bars combined can hold approximately 700 people.
“It’s very upscale and fun without being elite,” Gilster said.
Past Cue appearances have been made by city council members, Justin Jeffrey from 98 Degrees and Cincinnati Bengal players.
“For me it’s about the crowd and people who know how to party,” Gilster said. “We are very selective about the crowd because it adds to the club and it adds to the experience.” The experience must be a positive one as guests continue to make return visits and even more new clients appear each night.
“Our nights are segmented based on our crowd,” Fogarty said. “While Thursdays are 18 and up for girls, our Fridays and Saturdays are catered to 21 and older … Friday is our big night where people are dancing on the pool tables, but we also have the versatility on Saturday to just turn it into a bar.”
Other big stars are expected in the future, specifically in the spring, Gilster said.
Although they were unable to provide a date, the well-known singer Chris Brown is expected in the future.
For Gilster and Fogarty, aged 22 and 21 respectively, this is not something that they intend on pursuing much more than their already achieved success. Gilster explained his desire to pursue real estate and Fogarty’s interest in the music industry and attending law school.
“We are entrepreneurs and will be successful because we have already learned a lot from this,” Glister said. “Other opportunities have already been introduced to us.”