Exclusivity is an interesting adjective to describe a portion of the New York night life. Some definitions range from “admitting only members of a socially restricted or very carefully selected group” to “fashionable; stylish” to “catering to a wealthy clientÃ¨le”.
Exclusive clubs are not a new thing but they tend to thrive in certain areas, New York, LA, Miami and Las Vegas for the most part. Being from the norther California area and a former promoter, exclusivity was never part of the region or my personal business model as the crowd usually dictated the market for clubs with a priority on 1) hearing/dancing to great music 2) and enjoying like minded crowds. Money, scene and even hotness didn’t factor into it as much.
This last Saturday I had an evening of passing through some exclusive venues and wondered how the economy is effecting the exclusivity in this city. I’m not a regular, trust fund baby or a VIP for that matter and so I usually have to work at access via gaming the bouncers, bsing the list I’m on, who I know or chat up a few hot girls to walk me in to these high end spots (1Oak, Rose, The Eldridge, Beatrice are some of the more exclusive spots in NYC). All this translates to too much work for pretense, lame DJs/music, exorbitant prices on cocktails (made poorly many times), and people that are more happy they are in than really contributing to a good scene once they have made it past the rope.
I started my “exclusive” evening with a private dinner party at a friends house. It was very exclusive, limited to 7 close friends where we all contributed top notch cuisine to the evenings feast. The focus is that our host figured out how to turn on the oven, and with some direction from sis, tossed in a roast. There were wines of the world, side dishes recipes from various top chefs, decadent deserts and a few store bought sausage rolls to round out the dishes.
Dinner was excellent and thanks to all who came out and contributed. In todays economics a private party dinner with close friends saves cash and creates a more relaxed atmosphere as we can all be more or less obnoxious and vibrant than those public eateries. After a few games of chance with people’s fortunes the party split and we moved on out for the evening.
Our next stop was Soho House NYC in the MPD. Our host was just accepted as a member of this “exclusive” international club. Soho House is an international brand pioneered by Nick Jones, that offers membership by application, and yearly fee to participate in using its facilities of the lounge, hotel, restaurant, pool and private party space for events, film screenings and mingling with other like minded “exclusive” patrons. Once accepted you have access to all the NY facilities and to invite your guests to join other members in the pay to play scene.
Our host had been accepted into the fold via a local “neighborhood” membership which allows local residents access to the club. This is a new membership which I believe is at a discount to the full house membership, and eliminates some of the criteria for access as the priority for access is being a good neighbor. This is a change in the club’s policy to expand it’s membership to locals that would utilize the club more for their “regular” spot than as a status destination, thus increasing the number of patrons and potential revenue for the club.
Access on Saturday was actually very lax as we showed our IDs and entered into the reception area of the club floor. Like most lounges of this nature, a newly group, is instantly sized up upon entrance. We were a pack of 4 guys, dressed in varying degrees of flare from a more causal dinner party, and too scanning the couches for the glitterati that care. You enter the club via the registration desk after the elevator. Coat and bathroom check and then have the option to join the game room for a smoke with a foose or round of pool to the left, the restaurant area centered or bar lounge to the right. The decor is dark with low set brown chaise lounge couches, high back bar chairs, and small tables dotted with champagne bottles and the fat cats that are puring them. The room is brightened by the custom blown glass lighting chandeliers reflected off hardwood floors and silver metal horseshoe bar.
The crowd this evening is stylishly dressed for the most part. Most of the men in European suits, with a few exceptions being the boisterous bathrobe or guayabera wearing barons you’d see in Miami rather than NY. The ladies range from sophisticated youthful dresses to jeans and a blouse with excessive jewelry. The snobbery was thick from many responding with an air of indifference and arrogance that seems to be traditional for member only locals. Several more casual guests were probably just that, guests and ones we approached to get to know.
The wait staff seemed slow, casual, and unrefined in the apprenticeship of bartending for such a place. Drinks were poured with a slight impudence attitude and when I asked for an Oban scotch, I was delivered a full glass of ice with the pour. Champagne, wine and house cocktails seemed to be the libations of choice.
Our host had spied a casually dressed man chatting up a woman and sized him up to be gay. Being the only straight guy in the group, I was asked for the first time I can remember to play the wingman for a gay to distract the other woman. With a receptive opener, I sat down across from the couple and quickly learned she was from CA and in fact I had commuted from Santa Monica to her home town for work some time ago. The boy turned out to be South African, not gay and I needed to wrap up my survey so as to not cockblock his set any longer.
The most annoying aspect of the club became apparent with this encounter and others, that typical introduction includes the inquiring of membership, and term there of. It seems that your categorized as guests or members from the onset and there’s a certain level of presumption to you if you’re a member as I heard “oh that membership is quite exclusive and hard to grant access” when in reality the I found it quite easy as long as there’s money to pay it. I have a feeling as members become more aware of the relaxed policies, weaker door access and more guests of guests in the mix, the draw of the jet set crowd to hang at the Soho club will dwindle.
I left my digs late, and $60 short from the purchase of a round of 4 drinks at the club and headed over to Pop burger for some onion rings and a Tecate. There I had no issues getting in to their lounge stuffing fried food into my face swilling a cheap Mexican import beer. So much for the door policy at Pop late night. The place was trashed worse than a McDonalds on half price dollar days.
I opted to walk off my buzz through the village but as I found quickly I needed a piss break. Being the village, I prefer to actually urinate in a facility than on someone’s million dollar brownstone, so I followed two ladies down into a club on W 12th. The spot was fairly packed but there were groups of people waiting to get into the bathroom as if the social scene was better in the toilets. I quickly left, not wanting to wait cross-legged for however long it takes the party to finish, and realized I had just ducked into Beatrice Inn, Paul Sevigny’s (ChloÃ«’s brother; member of A.R.E. Weapons) speakeasy exclusive hotspot in the village for models, actors and the hipsters that follow them. I certainly wasn’t scrutinized getting in, however, I admit I might have ducked past the bouncer to expedite my trip to the bathroom. I guess it takes more than glamor to get into a hotspot, it takes a drive more core to human nature, the call of the wild to relieve bladder pains!
I hopped across the street into the next spot and waited in line with three ladies, all who were using either the womens or men’s bathroom. No mind, I’m used to that action in SF until it dawned on me like Jason Lee in Chasing Amy realizing he’s in a lesbian bar (I was in the Cubbyhole to do my business). Obviously there’s no hesitation to let the straights in, and I’m not saying Cubby is as exclusive as Soho House or Beatrice but it was with the same singular focus as I entered Beatrice that I missed the whole scene here and walked right through the crowd to get my business done.
So the description of my night brings me to my point, of why were I and friends, non-VIP zillionaires able to so easily crack the exclusive club lounges of NYC? Were they sleeping at the door when we walked up, were we really worthy of the crowd status at first look, or are the door policies in NY sliding? Milk and Honey
the ultra exclusive cocktail lounge with a private number has just opened up their offering by revealing publicly their reservation line. Are they hurting for clients willing to pay 16 for some fresh juice and gin mixed expertly?
There’s no denying that the conspicuous consumption economy is floundering in these times as bankers are not getting their bonuses, and more people are cautious of frivolous spending. Clubs themselves have fewer queues but it may have more to do with the musical talent than the host or the economy, but certainly bottle service is hurting at many establishments. These exclusive clubs are already starting to fade or owe huge sums of money to people (The Box, Merkato 55, Bijoux, Cain Luxe, Tenjune) as nightlife goers really start to consider not so much how much they are spending, but what they are getting for their money and time at these places. This I hope only revitalizes the nightlife scene as promoters realize nightlife needs more from what they are paying and they try to get more creative with the venue, take risks and take a hard look at the crap music being played so as to bring back some substance and soul to a club or lounge.