This party promoter created the popular Sunday night Brooklyn party Otter Box, which is now making it’s way to the Deep End… a new Ridgewood venue that he’s opened. Let’s dive to the deep end of Jorge Mdahuar, aka JEM!
Thotyssey: Hey JEM! How are you today? As a new venue owner, you must have, like, no free time ever.
JEM: Yes, on the constant hustle! It’s true I have zero free time. I feel like I just gave birth and the bar is my newborn, so I am always there.
Not for the faint of part, but you’ve def got the pedigree to do it with your nightlife experience! We’ll talk about all that, but first the basics: where’s your hometown?
I grew up in Mexico City. I came to the USA when I was 11 years-old. Moved around a bit, mostly East Coast, but ended up going to NYU for business.
I always knew I wanted to move to NYC.
How did you become involved in the Brooklyn nightlife scene?
I have always loved bringing people together and hosting events. I actually started while I was at NYU. Freshman year of college, I became a promoter for an event production company that throws parties in several venues in Midtown. It was wild! 18 years-old and hosting at some of the most fabulous clubs in the city!
In 2009, I moved to Brooklyn and started throwing my own events. I have always wanted to create a place where anyone can express themselves and feel comfortable doing so. These Brooklyn events were mostly warehouse/ rooftop parties. They had a different feel to them, more edgy and underground.
They were very successful, so I decided to start JEM Entertainment. Pre-Otter Box, I would say the majority of my events were mixed events.
I spoke to [the party’s former co-host] Shameless last year about Otter Box, and he told me that party has been all over. Where did it begin, and what were your intentions with it?
It began in January of 2015! I can’t believe it, 2+ years! When we started the party it was me, Shameless, and Michael Trotter as a resident DJ. We wanted to create a Sunday hotspot! An underground queer party with the best DJs and a sexy crowd. A fun place where the community could come together and love, play, and socialize with each other. Isn’t that what every human wants in the end, love and affection?
We started at the Flat, which was amazing. It just had the best vibe. The perfect level of naughty. They lost their license randomly, and we moved to The Hope Garage for one hot summer, until we moved to our [most recent] location, Macri Park.
The party always boasts great performing and DJ talent, but is also known for its hot gogo guys. What makes a good gogo boy, you think?
A good gogo boy is confident yet approachable. They have to have that wholesome Boy Next Door personality, but when the lights go off they are total exhibitionists. They have to like the attention and actually enjoy catering to people’s desires.
When did the idea of opening your own venue get on your radar?
I have always wanted to start my own business. When I was at NYU, I met my best friend and co-owner Jon Gneezy, who also shared the same dream of opening up a bar in the city. We worked together and opened up a food truck first, The Munchie Mobile. The truck looked like a purple monster with big green eyes. It was such an unreal experience, driving into midtown every morning and selling burgers for lunch for almost three years!
We sold the truck in order to get the bar/restaurant of the ground. So basically it’s been in the works for 10+ years.
Wow! How does the Deep End meet your vision thus far?
It has superseded my expectations, it continues to amaze and inspire me. It is such a magical place! I love the energy and inclusive vibes it brings the Halsey L area. There’s not a lot of options here, so it has filled a need for people who want a local spot to drink a beer and eat a dank burger…and the carne asada tacos are divine! I love the space, because it really reminds me a lot of Sugarland in terms of the underground vibe and layout.
Owning a queer nightlife venue is scary these days: dealing with competing venues and sex apps, and changing neighborhoods, and astronomical commercial rents and license fees, and folks not wanting to pay covers, and cops assigned to shut everything down.
Lots of Brooklyn nightlifers were dismayed by the sudden closing of TNT in Bushwick, which was such a staple for the scene there, and the shutting down of huge parties by the cops like the ones on New Years Eve. Did any of this deter you from wanting to open your place?
In general, owning any business–especially a bar and nightlife venue–is extremely difficult and risky. Even more so in NYC, where the bureaucracy and the establishment in general are not always on your side. We were aware of all these obstacles, but the difference with us is that we really love what we do. It shows when you walk in the door of the Deep End and are greeted by one of the owners. This is our home, and we are prepared to fight to maintain our integrity and freedom of expression.
I loved TNT! but I can’t speak on why they closed, since I have no idea why they actually closed. I threw many parties there over the years, it was a great place.
Well as far as the Deep End goes. it sounds like you’re off to a great start! For one thing, you’re the only venue in Brooklyn that has a regular home for the Haus of Aja, who perform there monthly every third Thursday! Aja’s about to become world famous (if she isn’t already) when RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 roles around… you must be excited!
I’m super excited for Aja! We have worked together for years now and I’m so proud of her! #teamAja all the way baby!
I’m excited about our lineup of events! We are hosting a variety of mixed and queer weekly and monthly events. Tuesday nights, we are going to do a Latin night with MoMo Shade from the Haus of Aja.
I just produced Bear Milk, which is my new monthly sex positive bear party! Josh Schonewolf from Bearlesque and Chris Reed from the Beefcake Party host with me. We have the perfect bear squad! The next Bear Milk will be Saturday, April 15th!
And now this Sunday… Otter Box comes to the Deep End! Yay! Did you think the party will change at all in its new home?
Yes, it will definitely evolve. We are going to keep parts of the formula that people love: the shows and DJs, the cheap drinks, and the porn. The boys love the porn! We are gonna bring back some old aspects of the party from when we were at the Flat, such as a dark room for playful otters and friends!
We are starting weekend brunch in the spring! Get ready for some divine Bloody Marys!
Yay, Brooklyn needs a brunch! Okay, so in closing: what is your favorite item on your menu?
FRIED GOAT CHEESE BALLS. I’m addicted. You should come taste my balls!
Yum, I will have to take you up on that! Thanks JEM!