Word comes from one of those talkative birdie types that Peter Gatien has been ousted from his throne at his Circa nightclub in Toronto. My source was vague on details except for a “he’s definitely out,” and that the “two lawyer/investor partners” had acted because Peter was “up to his same old shit.” At this time I’m not sure what “shit” he is specifically accused of being up to, but there was just so much of it in the old days. I’m promised details sometime today, but although it’s no secret that Peter and I have had a “confused” past, I honestly don’t enjoy hearing this news. As I’ve said before, though it seems that he deviated far from any reasonable set of management practices in his reign as club king in New York, there is little doubt of his brilliance, daring, and vision. Things didn’t exactly work out as he planned here, and again I’m sad that this may be true for him in his native land. I never went to Circa, but I heard wonderful things about it and was impressed by the Kid Robot decor images that I’ve seen online.
Onto another fairly controversial topic: A recent article in the New York Times has pointed out the consumption of thousands of dollars worth of bottles at the Merkato 55 and Bagatelle weekend brunches, which has raised a few questions. Is the Obama bailout going to bring back bottle service? The flailing economy had just about forced clubs to rethink their reliance on the Grey Goose crowd, but it seems like the bailout may be providing these patrons with some extra spending money again.
I spoke to a few owner types to get their feel, and most said that they were still struggling, but that business was also up recently. Greenhouse owner Jon B. pointed out that January and February have always been slow months. “Hopefully with the bailout and the change of weather people will feel more confident about spending,” he said. Eddie Dean over at Pacha said that his club was “still making deals, and early-bird specials with no sign of improvement yet.” Owners at all the places I spoke to said that revenues are down between 15 and 25 percent from last year.
Last year, as I remember it, was a monster year, but to expect that kind of action in an unusually long and cold winter — and in a down economy — would be a bit short-sighted. Management got used to bottle service padding their bottom lines, and those who have not adjusted by cutting staff or finding other revenue streams (like door fees or specialty drinks) are suffering. But while most owners have mourned the loss of bottle-service, many have seen it as a blessing since creative types have returned to the business with new energies and great parties. It is my observation that there are many great nights/parties, but there is no truly great club. The country has been in an uproar about the bonuses paid to A.I.G. executives. with an angry president ordering his minions to make it stop. I can’t imagine the reaction when it’s taken to the next level — when people realize that the loot is trickling down to the frat boys once again and is being used to buy tables at the city’s trendiest nightclubs. Can the goose be put back in the bottle? Merkato 55’s doorman, Matt Oliver, had this to say: “I generally ask bottle service customers for their credit card and ID. I’ve never asked them how they got the money in the first place. But maybe I should start.”