WHY WOULD you call a brothel Dirty Dick? I mean, if you’re going to go to a brothel, you wouldn’t go to one called Dirty Dick. It’d be like going to the Syphilis Bar,” says Scotty Schuder, smiling. He has a point. Yet, when Schuder took on the site of an ex-Corsican mafia-owned brothel in the once red-lit, now dimming, Pigalle district of Paris, for his long-awaited tiki bar, he kept the name. Even if it has lewd connotations, with all that history the name is imbued with a certain something – a je ne sais quoi, you might say. Since Dirty Dick opened in 2013, Paris and the industry intelligentsia have fallen for it. But that’s the now, let’s rewind the tape.
You’ll notice from the photo that Schuder is not your average Frenchman. That’s because he’s not a Frenchman. He’s an American, whose upbringing (his father was in the Air Force) saw him born in England and spend his early years in Germany, before ending up in the Mojave Desert, California.
At 18 Schuder moved to San Francisco, “met a French girl, fell in love and got her pregnant”. He had no money, so did what any sensible young man would do – he moved to France for free maternity care and grandparental support. The relationship ended before he could say fini and Schuder found himself in a foreign land with a son, without a job or language skills. As a teenager he faced a tough decision: stay in France with his son, or return to family in the US. This year, Schuder has been in France 18 years.
The bar industry didn’t embrace him with love at first sight, but glass collecting (he wasn’t deemed qualified to be a barback) offered some salvation in the way of a pay cheque. “I worked really hard but they weren’t going to give me a bartender job – that’s what I wanted. Not because I was inspired to be a bartender but because they were having all the fun.”
Soon enough, Schuder found his way into pubs. This was at the heart of the Anglophone action in Paris and Schuder thrived. He pulled pints until he ended up managing the place and could put his own stamp on things. Cocktail menus were about as sophisticated as sex on the beach in those days, and even featured the drink at times. But by 2005 Schuder had entered a cocktail competition. He won the 42 Below national heat and travelled to New Zealand for the final. Here he met industry figures such as Jacob Briars and John Lermayer. The experience opened his eyes to the industry.
BUILDING A NAME
“There were no cocktail bars in Paris. So I put my programme in the bars I worked at. I worked at a rock ’n’ roll dive bar called UFO, and my cocktails did well. I built up a bit of a name for myself.” Soon Schuder was a tiki convert. He’d been taken by a place in Las Vegas and got the bug. When he had the money he would create a tiki bar.
Dirty Dick came about by chance. Candelaria owner and friend Carina Soto Velasquez had taken a site nearby for Glass and told Schuder he should check out the place across the street. He visited the next day. In any property viewing, emotion is best left out. “I was like: ‘Holy fuck! This is it’.” They ended up raising the price by €15K.
Still, three and a half years in, Dirty Dick with its reputation for craft tiki drinks has been a big success. Perhaps it’s that evolution from the erotic to the exotic they like – either way, it’s escapism. Schuder is now playing at the top table of tiki – and fills the shirt better than most. He’s thinking big too. He wants to see Dirty Dicks in Bordeaux, Miami and Las Vegas. Let’s hope the joke travels.