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richard lautens torstar news service
During an interview with Toronto nightlife impresario Charles Khabouth earlier this year, the owner of high-end haunts (such as Ultra Supper Club, This Is London and the Guvernment) shared his future business plans with The Pulse.
As he unveiled the blueprints for Dragonfly, the since-opened nightclub at Niagara’s Fallsview Casino, Khabouth explained each area of the 10,000-sq.-ft. floor plan before pointing to one section.
“This area is reserved for bottle service,” he said. “This is the future.”
His prophecy is proving accurate. Since June 2003, the sale of full bottles of spirits has been legal in the province of Ontario.
Bottle service is often cheaper than ordering rounds — a 750 mL bottle of vodka may cost $200 at a bar, for example, but among a large group of friends, it is still more economical than ordering individual drinks.
But it’s also quickly turning into a way to divide the players from the common party people as owners are increasingly devoting entire sections of their establishments to VIP bottle service.
This is in no way a surprise. Bottle service has long been an indulgence of the privileged at posh New York bars such as Lotus and Pink Elephant, and among the jet-set-preferred venues of Europe.
Mandatory bottle minimums are common overseas, but are a relatively new phenomenon on the Toronto scene. So too is the sense of privilege that comes with having an area cordoned off for you and your friends.
I must admit, the flare of a set-up of a bottle of liquor and a full array of mixers has its appeal. It also saves time and frustration elbowing into a bar for service. Bottle service also opens VIP doors for those willing to spend the money as some clubs are now offering a guest list to only those few who are prepared to shell out for the service.
“Some people really enjoy the sexiness of bottle service,” says Suzanne Mitchell, a veteran bar and club manager.
“Big spending can make one feel very important and generally a reserved area will also come with ordering a bottle, which is also sexy and fun in itself.”
People often stare and wonder who the high-roller is with a reserved couch and bottle of Grey Goose. Is he rich?
Is he a celebrity?
No, he’s just blowing his hard-earned pay cheque on a one-night bender in the hopes that his friends are going to pitch in enough so he doesn’t spend the next month trying to cover the bill.
While it may be the future, ordering a bottle of liquor typically ranging from $175 to $400 in some cases begs the question: Do you really need to look important by ordering booze that you’re probably not going to drink, merely to gain VIP status?
Probably not, but Khabouth and other club owners, with their filled VIP sections, might beg to differ.