Two Mogul-Owned Hamptons Hotspots Put Sag Harbor "on Steroids"
Billionaires Ron Perelman and Marc Rowan are drawing Matt Lauer and Howard Stern to their new restaurants, Le Bilboquet and Lulu, while raising the reservation bar: "Everybody is talking about it."
At the door of the hottest new Hamptons restaurant, Le Bilboquet — a Sag Harbor outpost of the NYC flagship owned by Ron Perelman, Eric Clapton, real estate magnate Steve Witkoff and restaurateur Philippe Delgrange — a brunette with a clipboard studiously ignores a Christian Louboutin-shod woman and her date until they skulk away, humiliated. "We asked our waiter why they weren't allowed in, and he told us they wanted more of a Hamptons look," says one female guest, who apparently did pass muster at Le Bilboquet. A striking British couple at the entrance is also dismissed, this time by the maître d', who passes by and simply points to the gentleman's flip-flops. "They play hard to get at the door," observes diner Laurent Tourondel, the star chef who owns LT Burger on Sag Harbor's Main Street. Counters Delgrange, wearing a perfectly pressed white oxford, bright blue pants and suede loafers without socks: "Is there anything wrong with being a little bit elegant? We are on the water but not the beach, so we don't allow men to wear sandals. It's not so nice to be eating and see that."
Those couples were far from the only ones to be rejected. "Everyone in town is talking about it," says Xavier Merat, who owns Sag Harbor's upscale hair salon and caters to ladies not used to being sized up at a door, including Uma Thurman, Julie Andrews and the Olsen sisters. "There has never been a place here before that turned away powerful people, and it's not just how you look, it's who you know," continues Merat. "Now my clients want to get in even more. I have one client who is a TV personality and is stunning but she was rejected. Now she wants to get in at any price."
Sag Harbor has always been the low-key Hamptons town. Unlike East Hampton, which hosts Brunello Cucinelli and Jimmy Choo boutiques, Sag Harbor has shops selling $60 frocks and a thrift store where you can pick up old dishes. Of course, it also has a marina, where yachts have edged out small vessels over the years. This season, two of the billionaires who dock there opened restaurants in the former fishing village: Perelman, who premiered Le Bilboquet in June (and owned the East Hampton Mexican joint Blue Parrot with Renee Zellweger, Jon Bon Jovi and Larry Gagosian), and Apollo Group's Marc Rowan, of Lulu on Main Street, who also launched two hotspots, Arbor and Duryea's Lobster Deck, in Montauk last year.
Millions were spent transforming Le Bilboquet's sprawling dockside into a chic space with teak floors, champagne-hued booths and a deck with Riviera-worthy umbrellas. A back patio has its own entrance, with talk of giving a secret password to VIP guests. Forget reservations: Show up and hope for the best or text the manager on his cell. (One way to score a reservation: Book a $725-per-person seat on Blade, which just launched a weekly seaplane flight from their Aqua Lounge on Manhattan's East River directly to the dock in front of the restaurant, which comes with a table at Bar Bilbo and complimentary bottle of rosé.) "Money is not the driving force for these guys, so everything they have is at a higher level," says Stephen Hanson, who sold his BR Guest restaurants for $150 million in 2007 and is about to open a Manhattan place in September called Life. "Only people with deep pockets can restore and revamp properties in this area because the codes are so strict," adds Steven Jauffrineau, Rowan's managing partner.
Summer isn't half over, and Billy Joel and Rudy Giuliani already have visited Lulu, while Joel, Matt Lauer, Howard Stern, Michael Lynne and Michael Phelps have stopped by Le Bilboquet. "This is the busiest I've seen Sag Harbor," says Tourondel. "Suddenly the town is on steroids."
A version of this story first appeared in the July 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.