The comparison of bygone eras of nightclubs to the modern scene is a game for children and men who have never grown up. It is as pointless and time wasting as fantasy football. It can be as frustrating as being dead broke in a strip club. There is no going back to the good old days and I tell you flat out it wouldn’t work even if you could. If you were to reopen the last uber club, Life, and market it and operate it the same way as back in the day, you would be out of business faster than you can say bottle service. Times have changed. The cost of doing business has increased exponentially. Rents, insurance, liquor costs, DJ fees and so on have all skyrocketed, while payola from booze companies has virtually vanished. Drink prices have risen a modest 25-30 percent over the last 20 years, but nobody pays to get in anymore. At life, close to 70 percent of the patrons paid something to get in on a weekend. Most clubs don’t even build cashier booths anymore.
(‘’)Bottle service provided a liquor delivery system that both saved the day, and destroyed a lot of the fun. Instead of four to eight bartenders banging out cocktails, patrons were given a table and the responsibility to empty their own bottles. The party table reinvigorated the night. Party girls and frat boys were the new landscape. As much as it became as formulated and predictable as the orange juice carafe with the grey goose bottle, it inspired some moments of lavish, napkin tossing mayhem, which some interpreted as fun. Then came the smoking ban
I don’t smoke. I will not date a smoker. Yet the idea of a cigarette and a cocktail for weekend warriors seemed natural. Like American Spirit natural. Like freedom and Bill of Rights natural. The ban was the final straw. It destroyed the “anything goes” illusion that nightclub operators sell. After all, they are mostly flim-flam men or saloon keepers propped up as idols. The places that they transform into palaces are usually old warehouse or garages. The loss of the freedom to smoke sanitizes the scene as well as the air.
Mayor Bloomberg’s pet peeve, smoking, has been banned in nightclubs for over six years. Despite constant harassment in some venues from security and staff, smoking continues, sometimes hidden, sometimes openly. On January 3 of this new decade, the New York Times blew the whistle and the dogs were unleashed. Nightclubs are being inspected by teams of cops and health department mercenaries constantly and it’s beginning to get ugly. An operator has told me that you can expect a visit at least every other day. Another told me it’s not the visits that are bad, but the attitude. They are carrying cameras and are being very rude to both staff and patrons. The time may be upon us to stop smoking, but they don’t have to be so belligerent. Cameras in your face and cops with flashlights sort of dampen the spirit. One report I read said that the ban was responsible for 3400+ fewer visits to hospitals in one year alone. There is merit to the madness—but fun and freedom have sort of been banned as a result. Thank god we still have debauchery.