Industry Insiders: Reka Nyari, Genie with a Bottle
Foreign-born bottle-service diva Reka Nyari on why men with ties buy $5,000 bottles at clubs, inventing a nightlife resume to avoid the pole, and parlaying industry connects into a career in photography.
Where do you go out? I go to Beatrice or Rose Bar. I also will still go to the bottle service places to see my friends. A lot of my friends still work in the business. They work at Cielo, Bijoux, and Marquee, so I will go to see them. I also will go with friends to Schiller’s and chill and have wine. A friend has a table at Bungalow 8 every Thursday, so I’ll go sometimes.
Where did you get started in the industry? I started in the business about six or seven years ago. I needed a job that would only be a few days a week and make a lot of money because I was doing art, painting, and photography. I wanted to support myself by working weekends and doing my art during the week. I thought about what could I do and decided bottle service was it. It was either bottle service or stripping, and stripping is definitely not for me. PM was the place that was making a lot of money. I called and went in and met with [owners] KiKi and Unik. I had modeled and went in with my modeling portfolio. At this point, I didn’t even know what a dirty martini was. I didn’t drink. They asked where I worked, and I made up places in London because I had just gotten back from living there. I just picked it up really fast.
At first they had me seating people, which is no money really. So I said I would leave, and they put me on the floor after that. I did really well and had fun [partying] with the customers. They had teams at PM, a busboy and a waitress. They put all our sales each night on the screen. It was really competitive. It would say: Reka $3,000, Nicole $5,000 — and I wanted to make as much as Nicole. Certain nights, the girl who sold the most got a bottle of Dom or Cristal champagne. The customers would ask me want I wanted to drink. We drank so much champagne it was coming out of our ears. When people were waiting outside, we would raise the table minimums [to $5,000]. It was a really good time for bottle service. After about a year, sales went down. I think Cain opened and took a lot of the bigger spenders. So some of the better waitresses left too. Marquee was also doing really well.
You have always done bottle service? Yes, as a waitress, host, and door person. I was at PM and Cielo the longest. But it was Movida that made me want to quit the nightlife business. I liked working at the door much more than working inside, where you have to deal with the drunk people more. I made most of my connections at the door. I even promoted a Sunday night party at Home. At that point I was going out seven days a week. I was just out. At one point, I felt that nightlife was my industry, and thought I would open my own club. I was 25 or 26 and thought, “This has to be my career, I am too old to start to do anything else.” I had only modeled and done nightlife and didn’t have a resume for anything else. It’s hard being a woman in nightlife. Most of the men are sexist. They don’t treat you with the same respect they do the men. I always got in trouble because I was very loud and telling them off. I wasn’t afraid to say you’re wrong, and I’m right, and fuck you. Some of them loved that about me, and some really didn’t.
But when you go out, do you go to bottle service places? Not really, not anymore. I like places without bottle service better. If you are going to a club that is packed and you can’t get in, and you want to get in, it is a great way to buy real estate. You get a table, you get to sit down, you don’t have to wait in line. If you have the money. It is nicer than going to the crowded bar. Yet it has killed a lot of the spirit of nightlife. The artists and funkier people don’t go cause they don’t want to spend $2,000. It has mostly been investment bankers spending that kind of money.
So where do the artists go out? I think in Brooklyn now. There are great art parties there. They have $2 beers, and its about meeting interesting people. It’s a cooler crowd. They have potluck parties where everyone brings food and booze. It’s a good time. It’s not about spending lots of money. People will even lose money to throw a party. Places now are not built to have a good party, they are built to have as many tables as possible for bottle service. They hire promoters to bring in models and cool kids who would never go to these places unless they where getting free bottles.
Someone said to me they can look around the room and see which table is free and which is paying. Of course, of course. The four guys with ties are paying. They are paying to sit next to the table of six models who are getting it all for free, and as soon as their bottle is empty, they leave to go somewhere cooler. Think about it. My friends on any given night have a choice of five places to walk into and have a table and free drinks in the main area, and other people wait on line to pay to do it. It’s hard to get my friends to go even when it’s all free. You’ll get a phone call, “I have a table and bottles at Bungalow, come over and it will be next to such and such celebrity,” and you’ll think, “I don’t feel like it tonight.” Yet there are people dying to go. The promoters now invite you to free dinner first, too. It’s fun to go once in a while, but it’s just not as fresh as it used to be. I think to myself how much money could a place make when I look around the room and see promoter after promoter.
How do you think they stay in business? I think they have a lot of investors and good corporate events, holiday parties. They rent the space for a few hours, spend lots to be there, and then have to leave tables when they are turned over for bottle service later. They get furious, but if the place is cool enough, they will come back anyway.
What else are you doing now? I am a photographer. I do editorial, catalogue, CD covers. Kiki De Montparnasse is one of my clients. Without nightlife, it would have been much harder for me to get my photography going. I met so many people in fashion that liked me as a person that once I reached out to them for business, they gave me a chance. I don’t regret working in nightlife at all
You are not from here right? I am half Finnish and half Hungarian and have lived in Helsinki and Budapest and lived for a while in London.
Is there a place you feel that the nightlife is better? Uruguay is the new cool European Riviera. Miami still has its wild moments during Winter Music Conference. Manhattan nightlife is just different now. Brooklyn has funkier parties. You could almost say that nightlife in the city is for tourists, bankers, and real estate guys. It has less soul. Also the regulations and enforcers are hurting the scene. They tried to ban bottle service at one point because they said it contributes to people drinking too much, ‘cause they want to finish their bottle.
Photo: Reka Nyari