How Dream Hospitality CEO George Karavias Bridges the Worlds of Hip-Hop & NYC Nightlife

It’s 9:30 p.m. ET on day two of Rolling Loud NYC, and George Karavias’ night is only beginning as he heads out a private exit toward a Citi Field parking lot to meet his black Sprinter.

George K. estimates he’s spoken to about 400 people already via text trying to coordinate a night where A$AP Rocky and special guest Rihanna will be coming to 42 D’OR, while he juggles Lil Baby performing at nearby Harbor — both of which are Westside Manhattan nightclubs that he’s a part-owner in.

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Before getting to any business, he requests his favorite song at the moment, which his assistant immediately knows to cue up: DJ Khaled’s “KEEP GOING” featuring Lil Durk, 21 Savage, and Roddy Ricch.

Born and raised in a Greek household in Brooklyn, the 33-year-old says he never saw himself getting into the nightclub business. “I didn’t have a dream,” Karavias quips — somewhat ironically, as Dream Hospitality would become the name of his party-promoting empire.

Growing up working for his father’s construction business since he was a teen, it wasn’t until he got a taste of the nightclub world — thanks to his uncle, who owned a club in Queens — that he started to develop his vision. “By the time I was 18, I was pretty much running the club,” he admits.

George K branched out and began hosting teen nights throughout the city, while studying architecture at NYIT,even though he knew that wasn’t going to be his future career. “I learned from a young age that for me to grow and always be relevant, I gotta keep the youth with me,” he proclaims.

Karavias eventually launched his own venture with Dream Hospitality Group in 2014 — alongside Mario Costantini and Mossna Varasteh, which has become a dominant force in New York City nightlife. Under his watch, Dream currently boasts about 400 employees – most commission-based – with hundreds of promoters and a roster of about 50 DJs working under him.

The 33-year-old didn’t have any plans of owning a nightclub or restaurant, but warmed up to the idea during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, which pressed pause on Karavias’ busy lifestyle. With shuttered clubs owing him about $1 million, George admits he fell into a rare state of depression, as he and his wife had a baby girl on the way.

He bought an Xbox and played for two weeks before, realizing other Call of Duty players were just too skilled for him, “I’m like, ‘What the f–k am I gonna do with my life?” he recalls. Karavias even called his father to get back to working construction briefly.

“I don’t have any hobbies,” he adds. “You know what my hobby is? Work. I’ll take that pressure all day, and I’m always up for a challenge.”

That challenge came when Karavias dove head first into the nightclub business, as he reached a handshake agreement with Harbor partners Joseph Licul and Dennis Turcinovic after they made him an “offer he couldn’t refuse.”

Following Harbor’s successful opening in the summer of 2021, they’ve since expanded their nightclub vision with the hip-hop-themed Stafford Room (in the same building as Harbor) and the launch of the upscale 42 D’OR, which held its grand opening during a star-studded Rolling Loud NYC weekend in late September.

While Karavias jests he doesn’t know how to cook toast, the 33-year-old forayed into the unfamiliar waters of the daunting restaurant business with Sei Less. The Asian Fusion restaurant opened in January, with his managing partners Dara Mirjahangiry and Ivi Shano alongside Licul and Turcinovic, who offered the Garment District space to bring the idea to fruition.

“Where you going to eat chicken and fried rice and listen to hip-hop? Nowhere,” George K quips, referring to the trendy spot’s dining music. “You realize that the restaurants drive the nightclubs. When people go out to eat and you have them at your restaurant, you push them to the nightclub.”

Sei Less served as the food distributor at Rolling Loud’s Loud Club, and has become a prime destination for A-list rappers and athletes from Lil Baby to Cardi B and James Harden whenever they’re in town.

“People go spend $7 million on a restaurant, they open the doors and think people are gonna come. You need people who have a book of clients, a marketing machine behind [them], and people pushing the venue,” Karavias explains, while crediting his and Mirjahangiry’s extensive entertainment Rolodex. “We had 300 promoters pushing the restaurant.”

Hip-hop runs deep in the Brooklyn resident’s blood, as he refers to 50 Cent as his idol. He recalls falling in love with the genre, and times he was bumping 50’s acclaimed 2003 debut Get Rich or Die Tryin’ through his now-obsolete CD player while walking to his Brooklyn bus stop.

It’s come full circle for Karavias, who has developed a relationship with the G-Unit honcho and booked 50 on five separate occasions from New York City to Mykonos.

While the Greek party didn’t make his company any money earlier this year, it’s a relationship business — and the relationship paid off with 50 Cent booked to headline a concert this weekend (Oct. 29) orchestrated by G.K. in Athens in front of 50,000 people.

“For me, it’s not always about making money — it’s about building a relationship with the artist, plus keeping momentum of the venue,” he states of his business model. “We don’t always make money. It’s about staying relevant — you have to have content.”

Karavias filled the hip-hop nightlife void post-COVID in the Big Apple, and put together a lineup of rappers for Rolling Loud weekend last month that’s better than most festivals’ headliners. Between 42 D’OR and Harbor, Lil Baby, Moneybagg Yo, Lil Uzi Vert, Future and A$AP Rocky all delivered on their booked appearances.

“You’re never gonna see that lineup again,” he asserts. “People are like, ‘You have a better lineup than Summer Jam.’”

It’s the Friday night calm before the storm inside 42 D’OR, with the anticipation mounting for the club’s grand opening on a brisk September evening, following day one of Rolling Loud. Karavias is in full work mode as he’s signing off on every detail, making sure the night goes according to plan while calling shots like a quarterback in the huddle.

George K briefly manages to put away his phone, as he makes a point to greet all of his workers — from security guards to DJs and bartenders who are wiping down countertops and tidying up the bottles of expensive liquor behind them.

The Dream Hospitality founder seems to subscribe to the same human code Nipsey Hussle treated people with, which focuses on showing the utmost respect to all people, regardless of status or background, until they show you they deserve otherwise.

While some other club owners might seek attention, the 33-year-old would rather hide in plain sight. He keeps his wardrobe choices simple – rocking a black t-shirt, matching jeans and white YEEZY sneakers with his brown hair gelled to the side. Karavias doesn’t display an ounce of ego throughout the weekend.

“I love hip-hop. People spend more money when they listen to hip-hop. It’s more of a bottle-driven crowd,” he explains of the connective tissue between the synonymous worlds of nightclubs and rap. “Hip-hop always brings in the money. You can sell a table [much easier] on a hip-hop night than a house music night.”

With early 20-somethings filling the general admission dancefloor, patiently awaiting the arrival of Lil Uzi Vert, the eccentric Philly native makes a grand entrance around 2:00 a.m. ET. Uzi pulls up in a blacked-out SUV and lowers the backseat window where his grills are shining, as unreleased music of his own blares through the car’s speakers.

The Generation Now rapper steps outside in a Human Made denim outfit with several glossy diamond chains around his neck and a mustard Goyard accessory bag filled with stacks of cash he uses as money phones for much of the night.

While flanked by a phalanx of beautiful women, who probably combine for well over a million Instagram followers, Lil Uzi is most concerned about the whereabouts of A$AP Bari — who joins him seconds later heading inside the venue.

George Karavias Lil Uzi Vert
George Karavias and Lil Uzi Vert

A jubilant Uzi feeds off the raucous crowd’s energy, breezing through his three-track requirement to perform about eight songs, including “Money Longer” and “GLOCK IN MY PURSE.”

The 27-year-old adds his name to the short list of artists to come through the club and sign the side entrance’s white wall. “Shout-out to George K, man. For sure,” he tells the camera filming an upcoming documentary on Karavias.

Uzi proves to be the undoubted MVP of Rolling Loud weekend. After his own performance and guest appearances crashing Nicki Minaj and Chief Keef’s sets, he becomes a mainstay at Harbor the next two nights and then caps off his NYC trip with a sideline view of Monday Night Football across the Hudson River, where the New York Giants face off with the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium.

Karavias jets back to Harbor to check on Moneybagg Yo and make sure his experience is going smooth. (Unfortunately for fans in the building, Bag never graces the mic.) There’s a moment of humility for George to end the night, when a female patron questions if he’s a security guard, which he laughs off and helps direct her to the exit.

Night two (Sept. 24) raises the stakes, with the worst kept secret being Rihanna’s plans to accompany her boo A$AP Rocky — who’s slated to host at 42 D’OR following his headlining set, which was cut short due to curfew.

The energy is palpable when dealing with an A-list couple of Rocky and RiRi’s caliber. There’s just a different feeling in the air, and Karavias and the entire staff know it.

But first, George K handles business at Harbor, where Lil Baby is set to perform hours later, and plenty of star power is expected — with Meek Mill and NBA stars James Harden and Jayson Tatum among the names on the guest list. While the line forms outside, there’s a diverse range of guys pulling up to the Harbor door and paying the hefty $150 day-of ticket price to get to see Baby and co. later on.

A break in the action at 42 D’OR and George K enjoys his first and only alcoholic drink of the weekend, then it’s back to business. A$AP Rocky and Rihanna show up just shy of 3 a.m. ET, and there’s an audible gasp from the crowd when they’re spotted, as phone lights flash and photographers’ cameras shutter.

The new parents make their way to the bottle section with barricades up, so the journey is the least intrusive possible. As the minutes go, the clout-chasing Olympics kick off with Rocky and RiRi serving as a centrifugal force, and everyone trying to get their best look at the couple.

Eventually, Karavias leads Rocky, Rih, and their entourage to the Wish You Were Here room located underground for some privacy. Equipped with a bar, a gaudy oversized chandelier, and a separate entrance, it’s the perfect spot for a crew to get away from the chaos upstairs.

“The minute the customer has a good time, then you should be happy — because you’re gonna get more return business,” Karavias says of one of his secrets to success. “I’ve been using that concept since I was 20 years old.”

Next up will be Halloween weekend – which Karavias says is one of the “Super Bowl weekends” on the calendar — with Busta Rhymes, Kodak Black, and Fabolous booked for hosting gigs.

It’ll look different than most years, as George will attempt to coordinate the 75 parties Dream Hospitality is taking care of from overseas. The 33-year-old is currently in Greece organizing the 50 Cent concert at Athens’ Olympic Stadium, which is set for Saturday (Oct. 29).

Karavias is on a path to becoming the New York version of Miami mogul Dave Grutman, who is one of the two people he’s looked up to in the hospitality industry, alongside Noah Tepperberg. As far as the future goes, selling the Dream business is on Karavias’ mind — but not anytime soon, as he currently hopes to expand his empire to 20 different states (the Dream Hospitality Miami division has already launched) and eventually across the globe.

“I can’t see myself retired,” he forecasts in our final conversation. “What the hell am I gonna do? I’ll be bored. A lot of people want the fast money and leave in this business, but we’re not going anywhere.

“At the end of the day, I don’t feel like I’m working,” he continues. “This is what I love to do and what everyone around me loves to do. Every day is not living your dream, but pretty much working 24/7 like you don’t even have a job.”

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