McDonald is the owner of a handful of restaurants and bars, including Lure Fishbar and Chinatown Brasserie. He's also the publisher of the style mag City.
A Phoenix native and Columbia grad, John McDonald didn't have any experience in the nightlife biz when he opened his first venue, MercBar, in 1993 with partner Campion Platt. It proved to be a hit nonetheless (and is now a SoHo institution) and McDonald took the plunge into an equally unfamiliar industry four years later when he launched his first magazine, a regional shelter title called Desert Living. Since then he's launched another magazine and branched out with a handful of restaurants. In 1999, he opened Canteen down the street from Merc Bar on the corner of Prince Street; it's since given way to the neighborhood favorite Lure Fishbar. Four years later, he moved to Midtown with Lever House, with a design by Serge Becker and Mark Newson and with financing from Aby Rosen and Michael Fuchs, the owners of the Lever House office building. McDonald expanded in 2006 when he opened Chinatown Brasserie on Lafayette. (Once again, Rosen and Fuchs own the building that houses the restaurant.) More recently, Morgans Hotel Group hired him to undertake a renovation of '80s hotspot 44 at the Royalton Hotel. But he suffered a setback in the spring of 2009 when Lever House, once the crown jewel in McDonald's mini-empire, shuttered amid the economic downturn.
On the side
McDonald continues to oversee a small publishing business. Following the launch of his first title, Desert Living, he founded the style magazine City in 1999. He branched out into the vitamin business in 2007 with Vitalize Labs, which manufactures E-Boost effervescent tablets, an "immune-boosting mix of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients." (It's a competitor to Emergen-C; not surprisingly, Desert Living published a glowing review.) McDonald has also made investments in a number of other venues around town: He holds a minority stake in Steve Hanson's Dos Caminos chain of trendy Mexican restaurants.
McDonald sued restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow and chef Rocco DiSpirito in 2003, claiming the pair's reality show The Restaurant gave the impression that his restaurant Canteen had closed, when in fact it had not. (Of course, it did end up closing a few months later, later reopening as Lure Fishbar.)
The unmarried, model-loving McDonald lives at 22 Mercer. He purchased the pad for $3.15 million in 2008.