Table service is the reigning revenue stream champion for nightclubs, typically accounting for at least 75 percent of the income for any given venue operating in New York City, leaving the filler crowd to make up the rest of the night’s revenue by spending at the bar. While bottle service remains the priority for NYC club management, the bar crowd is gaining importance as a submarket for owners to pay attention to, as well.
“You love the bar customer because he or she adds energy and excitement to a room,” explains Eric Marx, director of operations for EMM Group, which operates nightlife hotspots Tenjune and SL. “We analyze our bar sales just as much as we do our table sales. Both are up compared to last year, and both are important to the bottom line.”
As to who comprises the core of the bar-area clientele, Marx says it depends on the night. “If we have a private event, some of the party may stick around and comprise the filler crowd. Or sometimes we work with walk-ups who aren’t regulars and establish a bar minimum for entrance.” The requisite for a group of four could be as high as $300, he says, but whom it’s levied against is at the management’s discretion. “If we have friends we know from the Meatpacking neighborhood, the minimum would be lower.”
So do more consumers who flock to the bar equate to a longer wait for a drink? Not at EMM Group spaces, at least. “We work very hard at not overcrowding our bar areas, and we staff them with more than enough bartenders so you won’t have to wait long for a drink,” Marx explains.
And while NYC bar owners love these new club patrons, they’re not willing to lavish cheap drink deals on them like they might get at a regular bar. “We don’t offer any special drink promotions or things like that,” Marx says. “We don’t need to.” And buybacks are a rarity, although they do happen occasionally. “If you’re a solid table customer who didn’t make a reservation that night and are at the bar, one of the managers may buy you a round of drinks, but we don’t regularly make a habit of that.”
Is this bar-crowd love spreading to nightclubs across the country? Many clubs in other cities rely on bar-area service, not bottle service, to make their money, so perhaps this is a sign of New York playing catch-up.