Wednesday, December 5, 2007

NYTimes Article on 1 Oak; Inventor of Bottle Service Tries to Make Amends

If you're a regular visitor you've probably read some of my rants about how I think bottle service is responsible for the overall decline of the club scene, because it's essentially made the whole point of the scene to be about who has the most money. Fork over $300 for a bottle of Stoli and you get to sit down and are treated like royalty; for the rest of us, tough luck. I don't think much of clubs that are about the cash shake-down, nor do I have any desire to rub elbows with people who think they're better than me because they make more money.

In today's NYTimes there's an article about a new lounge called 1 Oak that I know I'd never be able to get into, and the team behind it, which includes Jeffrey Jah, one of the guys responsible for instituting bottle service. Here is an interesting excerpt regarding what they think of this service now:

What they all agree on is a policy of velvet egalitarianism at the door. People will have to earn their way past the ropes with an appealing personal style or disposition, Mr. Jah said, not a promise to pay for bottle service, as is the norm in many places.

“A class system is being instituted, and I don’t like it,” he said one autumn afternoon wearing a yellow T-shirt with the slogan “I’ve Got a Black Belt ... in Keepin’ it Real” and sipping ice tea in his meatpacking district restaurant, the Inn LW12.

Mr. Jah helped popularize bottle service in the early 1990s, but he said the practice began as a way to keep people at tables from having to cross a packed dance floor on the way to the bar. It was not intended, he said, to be a golden ticket into a tony lounge.

Mr. Sartiano lamented that in the days of Spy Bar, for instance, if someone approached you, “you knew they were cool because they got in.” No more.

So while 1 Oak will offer bottle service, “first you need to get in,” Mr. Sartiano said. “Then you need to be cool enough to get a table. Then you can get bottles. Somewhere it got switched.”

Now, of course, this is their way of separating the "real" celebs from the new money hedge-fund managers, so it's just as elitist as bottle service in its own way. But it caught my eye because it seems that, in some small way, these guys are acknowledging how this practice has become detrimental to creating a good vibe in the club. I doubt that bottle service will go away, it makes way too much money for the clubs for that, but it would be nice to see some of our local dumps, like Le Duplex, realize that bottle service doesn't make for a better club experience, it just makes for a dumpy club full of louts with too much money.

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