Robert Eugene has been making moves his entire life. With the opening of his trendy Back Bay lounge, HUE, and the smashing success of his R&B show, Silk, the rest of the city is finding out what many have known for years: Boston Rob Know the Vibe.
EVERYWHERE Dorchester native Rob Eugene has gone, he’s been a trailblazer. A fixture in the Boston nightlife scene for years, it didn’t take long after arriving on the Boston University campus to find his calling.
“There was a group of five students that started this organization that was throwing parties on and off campus.” Rob quickly found his footing with them, and immersed himself in the events, wanting to be involved any way he could.
He’d never put together an event before. “Maybe a couple of house parties in high school,” he said. But Rob quickly fell in love with the whole scene. “Once I saw the impact it had,” he said. “The group I was involved in was from all different cultures. That was what was so amazing about it.” It was that energy that stuck with Rob and became what eventually guided his vision as he continued to work in the industry.
“I was the only one from Boston,” he said. “So that was my reach. I could bring people who lived locally to these events rather than just relying on students.” It was just the connections the organization needed, and it brought their parties to the next level they were hoping to reach. He became a partner in the organization, and continued on throughout college.
“I just really enjoyed bringing people together,” said Rob. After graduating from BU in 2001, he continued working in the nightlife and hospitality industry, joining an establishment called Blue Wave in the then-quiet, almost desolate Fort Point district. For eight years, Rob was there hosting some sort of Saturday night event.
“There weren’t a lot of places doing what I was doing in terms of playing hip hop and R&B,” said Rob of the Seaport at that time. “People made their way there. It was literally a destination, it wasn’t a place you’d pass by accident. It was us and Lucky’s at the corner. The Seaport hadn’t been developed yet.”
It was at Blue Wave that Rob learned the ins and outs of the hospitality industry, bartending, serving and trying his hand at just about every position there as well as continuing to promote events. Eventually, he worked his way up to bar manager and began to establish relationships with spirits distributors.
“I really got to know the business on the other side versus just bringing people in,” said Rob. “The only thing I didn’t learn how to do was DJ.”
Blue Wave was ultimately sold, and it was at around that time that someone Rob knew through his liquor distribution connections got him in touch with the right person at Hennessy.
They were looking to break into the Boston market more and needed an ambassador. Knowing Rob, this person thought he’d be perfect for the role. He got the job, and quickly helped them establish a foothold in the Boston nightlife industry through his relationships and talent for bringing people of all walks of life together.
Another venture Rob took on that would come to be another hallmark of his career was his involvement with the Silk R&B parties in Boston. Rob didn’t start them – they were being hosted in the art gallery at the W Hotel when the monthly event got on his radar. He knew it had potential to be even bigger, and he was just the person to take it to where he thought it deserved to go.
During the shelter-in-place days of 2020, the ideas Rob had for the Silk R&B events really took flight. “I thought about what I wanted to do when we came out of it, I knew it was only a matter of time,” he said. Rob reached out to DJ Real P -the organizer of the event and now partner- and offered his industry contacts and expertise. They jumped at the opportunity and got to work planning their next party, at a bigger venue in Cambridge, as soon as event spaces returned to mostly full capacity.
“Even with the masks, we sold it out,” said Rob. The event more than tripled in size of its previous attendance, and the next several Silk R&B events had a similar turnout. Rob still wanted to go bigger, seeing an opportunity based on the interest. Through his relationships at Hennessy, he had the right contacts at Big Night Entertainment Group, the owners of Big Night Live, The Grand, Memoire, and Scorpion Bar. Rob had his sights set on Big Night Live.
“It’s a hybrid of a concert space and a nightclub.” He knew it was the perfect place for Silk R&B. In March of 2022, the event moved to Big Night Live and it sold out. “I think we had close to 1,700 people,” said Rob. The event has taken place at a Big Night Entertainment Group venue ever since.
“It’s become more than just a party,” said Rob. “It’s really a community at this point. The city of Boston has been totally engaged. We have city officials that come out, DJs that aren’t working come to take part, we’ve had local sponsors, sneaker brands, liquor brands. We’ve had a lot of organizations that want to be a part of Silk.”
It’s a community that has opened doors to others too. The Silk R&B party was the first at Big Night Live put on by a promoter of color, not unlike Rob’s days at Blue Wave before the transformation of the Seaport and South Boston. Since then, others have followed.
“There’s a lot of local curators who are now doing a lot of events with Big Night Entertainment Group now,” said Rob. “We just happened to be the first.”
Though the Silk R&B community was booming, there was a post-Covid lull in Back Bay nightlife. “I’d love to see the Back Bay – Newbury, Boylston – get back to what it was, when there was a bar on every corner. It’s just not like that anymore.” Rob saw an opportunity to bring to life a vision he’d long had for a restaurant and nightclub, filling a void he’d always seen in the market.
“There’s not a lot of places where you can have dinner, have cocktails, have bottle service, enjoy the music – a one-stop shop,” said Rob. He set out to make Hue just that – high energy, or “vibe dining,” as he calls it. He was inspired by his travels in Vegas, where he saw the concept of dining with a DJ.
“I’ve been on the other side for most of my career,” said Rob. When the space for Hue became available, it had exactly what Rob was looking for and more – the ability to have a different vibe in each room of the space, but keep it all cohesive. He and his partners, George Aboujaoude and Steve & Nick Saber opened Hue in March.
“Hue is a double entendre. The address is Huntington and Exeter. And then Hue also meaning color, which is why the aspect of the different nationalities and races, that was what was important to me,” said Rob. Our staff, our menu, it’s very globally inspired. People from different walks of life. Whatever aspect of what a color is, that’s what you see at Hue.”
Although he never learned how to DJ, Rob always could curate the sound he wanted and puts a lot of thought and care into hiring the DJs that appear at Hue four nights a week. It’s always a new person.
“I don’t want it to be repetitive,” said Rob. “I want to bring new blood in. Different DJs have different followings and a different vibe. Even though it’s the same space, each night has a completely different feel based on who the DJ is.”
With two floors and three different rooms, each space within Hue brings with it a unique experience. “We can do a party of 400 or we can do a party of 20,” said Rob. “There’s not many places in the city that can do that. I always say that you can come to Hue three nights in a row and have a different experience if you go into a different room.”
The first floor has a lighter feel, with TVs and games on all the time. “Upstairs is a little more laid back,” said Rob. “You go downstairs and people are enjoying dinner, there’s bottle service, there’s a lot of activity happening, it’s a faster pace.”
Rob and Hue have plans to re-introduce the speakeasy in early 2024, which had started out as overflow from the main room but is being rebranded with a new menu, cocktails only available in that section of Hue, and a new entrance, hidden by a bookshelf, that gives it a darker, more intimate feel.
On different nights of the week, Hue hosts different kinds of events in different rooms from local DJs to slam poetry – they want the diversity to reflect that of the clientele. The history of Rob’s career is repeating itself there, too.
“I don’t believe there are any other even partially Black owned establishments in Back Bay,” said Rob. “I’m happy to be the first, but I don’t want to be the last.”
With many companies having their employees return to work in the office and the new development happening in the Back Bay, Rob is optimistic about the neighborhood’s future and potential to return to what it was like when the restaurant industry was at its pre-Covid vibrance.
“We just need to see more bars and restaurants come back. What people see as competition, I just see as more opportunity to bring people into the area.”
Rob sees Hue as a part of it, planning to host more events that are unique to a supper club – like an art gallery, or possibly a collaboration with Berklee College of Music. “I’m just trying to make it as creative as possible. It’s really about community. And I want everyone to feel like they are a part of it.”