Soaking the Oak RoomNovember 11, 2010 By: Sean Evans
The scene seems ripped from any upscale nightclub thriving in New York City: Sparklers hiss and shimmer as ginormous bottles of Champagne are hoisted to tables of rowdy patrons, who climb down from standing atop their tables or chairs for only long enough to refill their glasses before heading back to their perch to fist bump to the pulsating house music booming into the small room. A couple ravenously makes out in the corner while a group of European guys — clad to the nines with pocket squares and sockless loafers — lead the “ole” chant to the delight of a nearby table stacked with models. As an air horn blares from the DJ booth, one frat guy, rocking a JP Morgan Chase hat sideways, grabs his bottle of Rosé, shakes it vigorously before uncorking it in the direction of his tablemates, spraying the whole area in bubbly.
A club indeed, right? It’s actually 4 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, and this is the Day & Night brunch party happening in the Oak Room, tucked in the back of the iconic Plaza Hotel. The weekend festivities here began in early October, but word of the raucous party spread fast, and the packed room is the best example of how well it’s received. Elegantly clad patrons walk around with goggles around their neck, just above their ascots — fully prepared should a nearby table decide to hose down the room with Champagne, as is the norm here. Which raises the obvious question: How did such debauched revelry come to reside in a historical landmark such as the Plaza?
“Ownership is great to work with. We have a lot of people on board there, working behind the scenes to keep it in order. We have guards who stand near the $12 million paintings when the room is bumping,” Derek Koch, co-founder of the Day & Night party says, regarding how destroyed the room could potentially get from the flying Champagne, firing sparklers and smoke. “But the restaurant and its owners understand the concept and know everything is under control, so they support all the elements that come with our party.” Control seems to be subjective, as guests can climb atop a table situated right under the main chandelier, barely missing slamming their head into the bottom of the elegant lighting fixture as they frantically jump to David Guetta remixes. It’s so loud that many of the servers sport wax earplugs to drown out the heavily accented bass lines.
Filling the room each weekend is, obviously, not a problem. Tables in the main dining room and bar are packed, which means a solid revenue stream. “We don’t really do table minimums,” Koch shares. “We have our clientele, and they know that sitting, depending on the party, ends up starting around $1,500, for the food and the bottles of Rosé.” The bottles of bubbly start at $350 and go up from there. “The clients know what they’re getting into, but we like to push the larger bottle of Rosé, which runs around $995 per bottle. It usually handles a party of eight for well over an hour, maybe longer,” Koch says. The bottles are so large that small waitresses have to carefully balance them over a shoulder to pour a glass properly.
The Champagne spraying hasn’t led to a problem, aside from Koch and his brother Daniel needing to decide if they should produce branded wet-weather gear for the less enthusiastic guests. “For a while, we were thinking about getting ponchos or umbrellas produced for the people who say, ‘I don’t want to be sprayed,’” Koch laughs. “Some do get upset, and I’ve had customers walk out. Others love it and show up to be soaked in it.”
As for the clean up, “It’s down to a science,” Koch says. “We shut the music down at 6 p.m., and we have the room spotless and up and running for dinner by 7:30. We fight to close out the checks as fast as we can, which can be tough when everyone’s still in party mode, but we make it happen.”