Gusto Grown: Philipp Dumet

Before he was following the red light as ‘El Presidente’ of the effortlessly cool, The Libertine, Philipp Dumet was serving up Cavolo Nero at Gusto 101! We caught up with the king of the *speakeasy* to discuss his post-Gusto personal and professional growth, the zeitgeist of Toronto’s west end and Libertine’s unique table service, including Flaming Hot Cheetos & Creamsicle Twizzlers (+ more incredible snacks)!

Photography: Cody Turner

What is your current title?

I am the owner of The Libertine, and technically, my legal title is “El Presidente” of The Libertine. It’s a long story.

What is The Libertine?

The Libertine is an in-between zone of the bar and the club. It is not a club because there is no guest list or *dress code*. Alternatively, it’s not a dive bar because it becomes a pretty lively party. I guess you can technically say it’s a speakeasy. There is no sign outside except our iconic neon tarot card reader sign. Eventually as the popularity grew and there was a line outside the door, it is hard to follow the speakeasy model.

Use three words to describe yourself as an employer

Demanding, dedicated and… dancer.

What quality must you possess as an entrepreneur in order to be successful?  

Critical thinking. You have to be able to think outside the box (as cliché as it sounds). Things usually tend to fall into place when you solve problems in an unconventional manner.

What inspired you to open your own business?

I have always had a sense of autonomy. I am one to go by my own vision and always wanted to do things my own way.

What product or service are you known for?

Shots of Jameson 😉

How long have you been open?

The Libertine has existed for a few years. I bought it and took over ownership in June of 2015, just over two years ago. It became The New Libertine. We kept the same name because we didn’t want to be known as The Old Libertine. We re-branded, re-structured, re-tooled and reprogrammed to be a brand new bar.

What was the turning point for your businesses’ growth and stability?

The Libertine actually had a very bad reputation before I took ownership. It was known as a nasty dive bar on the west end. To turn that around was probably the biggest challenge. I think what I was successful in doing was putting the right people in the right places as far as DJs, influencers,  guests, etc. and pleasing the right people. This helped us build the brand to what it is today.

How do you define success?

I like to think that everybody that comes to The Libertine has a good time. There is a very special feeling when someone that you’ve never met in your life, in a completely detached circumstance, tells you they had a great time at a bar that you own at a party that you essentially curated and created. It’s very satisfying. For me, that is success.

What was the greatest obstacle starting your own business and how did you approach it?

Definitely rebranding and cleaning up The Libertine’s existing reputation. I had opened a restaurant before when I lived in Montreal. I think that taking ownership of an existing business and trying to change everyone’s opinion of it, versus creating a completely new concept and brand, are two very different challenges. This is almost as if you are asking people to give you a second chance and having to make good on the second chance.

How do you keep a balanced lifestyle?

From great advice from a former Gusto 101 employee, Amelia, I tend to give myself one entire day, typically a Tuesday. I don’t address anything work related for 24-hours. I take those 24-hours for myself and completely disconnect which means no emails, texts, and social media.

What’s the best part about working for yourself?

The freedom to set my own schedule, work at my pace and do things my own way.

What characteristics do you look for in an employee now that you’re in charge of hiring?

Loyalty. I don’t like to see a person who has worked for several establishments in a short amount of time, it’s usually a red flag for me. This business doesn’t come from a textbook, so someone that is willing to learn and adapt to new systems. A lot of it is first-hand experience, which is something I, fortunately, have a lot of.

I have employees that are older than me and are still learning from me. Much like I can be humble and learn from someone younger. Plus, all my employees are my friends!

What are your company’s family values/mission statement? Where do they stem from?

The way you doing anything is the way you do everything.

What was your role, and how long did you work with Gusto 54 Restaurant Group?

I was a server at Gusto 101 and I was there just under a year.

What was your fondest memory of time spent in the fast-paced environment?

The summer at 101. Gusto 101 is a very unique beast in the summer. It’s the highest volume restaurant at that standard of service that I have ever experienced in my life. It is an excellent training ground for an inexperienced server.

I had a lot of restaurant experience but working at 101 was definitely unique; the volume, the energy, and the staff. It is one of the most eclectic groups of excellent and amazing front and back of house staff I have ever worked with.

Another memory was one night at 101 where I was serving most of 101’s rooftop. Matteo, the General Manager at the time (now the General Manager at Felix), was like “okay I am going to help you out.” He took on an entire party of fifteen people, under my name, from start to finish. I made an insane amount of money that night, thanks to Matteo and he refused to take a penny from me. He was the best, most hands-on manager I have ever had.

Do you stay in touch with your former colleagues? Have you done business with any of them?

Amadeusz (Gusto 101’s General Manager) is my best friend. So obviously it is a very biased question. Amelia was a server at 101 and is a very close friend, she works for me now. I still maintain many relationships that I formed at Gusto 101 and I am very grateful for that.

Did you have any experiences at 54 that influenced your trajectory – either personal or career related.

I moved to Toronto from Montreal in hopes of getting away from the restaurant and bar industry. However, I found myself right back in it. Gusto 101 was supposed to be a temporary gig but it definitely sparked a new found love for the industry in a new city.

Janet can attest to the fact that opening a restaurant in one city from another, are two very different things. It is almost like night and day. The industry has similarities at its base. However, the people, the trends and the general democracy of it, is very different. I had to take time and learn what Toronto was like before taking this risk. And Gusto 101 helped with that.

What inspires you to rise and grind in the service industry?

Toronto is unique in a sense that it is a very young city, both in identity and culture. Toronto is still forming its identity and to be a part of the zeitgeist is amazing. It is like being part of the future of Toronto. We are part of the movement that is shaping the nightlife of Toronto. The Libertine especially has close ties to many artists and musicians in the west end. Whether it be a local photographer, rapper or graphic artist, they all have gravitated towards The Libertine as a hub where they find a place to party, mingle and showcase their talents.

We have a huge rotation of DJs, artists and pop-ups, which is part of the unique brand of The Libertine and the west end of Toronto.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hopefully going to bed by 10 pm every night.

The plan is to open more venues, not necessarily all in Toronto. There is a second venue opening in 2018, which is a restaurant in the same neighbourhood – I am going to leave it at that, no more details. I plan on opening a few more venues as well, whether it be bars, restaurants or even hotels. The goal is to create a group that allows me to work less and less, which means more time for golf and fishing.

What advice do you have for others who are interested in building their own brand and how do you keep up with the trends?

As a server or bartender, you have a very unique chance to make a lot of money in a short period of time. I would advise everyone to be smart with their money and sacrifice some nights out for some savings. And then in a couple years from then, you’ll have the tools to open your own place.

I am fortunate enough to have two girls that run the Instagram because I am 31 and I don’t know what the trends are. The only thing I learned from the internet is that girls love pizza. 

Tell us about The Libertine’s new table service? 

We have started a new concept with our table service. It was Untitled & Co.’s, Cameron Wilson’s idea. We saw an increased demand for bottle service. We adapted it to something called table service, where we pair rare, specific and imported snacks with certain spirits. We have a collaboration with Sweet Addictions on Ossington and Dundas. They import snacks such as extra hot flaming Cheetos, wasabi Pringles, strawberry Kit-Kats, rare flavours of pop tarts, pokeys & more. You can even buy a whole pineapple (for that Instagram photo op, of course)!

24. How can people stay up to date with what you’re up to?

The bar’s Instagram is @thelibertinetoronto & my personal Instagram is @philippdumet.