Nightlife tours are the latest sightseeing offerings for travelers and locals alike. They’re a safe, fun way to go out to bars you’ve never been to before either with a group of your closest friends or a posse of total strangers. They’ve just started appearing on the nightlife scene, but don’t be surprised if they come to a city near you soon.
Ori Mor is the founder and president of Take Me Out NYC. He came up with the idea for nightlife tours after a few months of hosting couch surfers back in 2012. He says all his international guests had one thing in common - they didn’t have a clue where to go out at night. Ori was inspired to write a post on Couch Surfing inviting anyone to join him and his couch surfer on a tour of a few different Manhattan bars. A group of travelers met him at Beauty Bar that night for what basically became the first Take Me Out Tour.
We caught up with Ori to see what he’s been up to since.
Take me back to those early days of Take Me Out NYC and tell me how it got started.
I was in college when I started organizing the company in June of 2012. I was originally focused on speakeasies and cocktail bars because that was what I wanted to showcase in New York. In October 2012, we did a promotion on Living Social for a speakeasy tour. We had 200 people buy it. Around November, I met a bartender who brought in the concept of bringing a bartender into the limo for the Mixology tour. I sold the tour to 2,000 people on Groupon in December 2012. I dropped out of school right around then. We bought our own limo and hired a tour guide. At that point, we were revolving around three or four venues. My goal is and always was to give my clients quality. All the venues are places you’d find in the NY Times or on Urban Daddy, where they’ll get really good drinks, good service and a night to remember.
How do the tours get around? What’s the mode of transportation?
Originally we would walk or transfer between venues with a limo or SUV. We didn’t use the same one limo throughout the night like we do now. Switching to a limo - that really changed a lot. Now we see camaraderie during the transit, plus it fits in better well with the high-end experience we’re offering throughout the night.
How long are the tours and how many people per tour?
On average, it’s a 3 hour tour. They’re primarily limos tours that accommodate up to eight guests at a time. We also do private tours, which can hold up to 16 people in a huge, 3-axle limo. You can book extended tours privately, and they can be as long as five hours. We’ve even done up to 20 people on a party bus so we’ll work with you.
How much do they cost?
The tours are $150 each. That includes transportation, tour guide, entry and drinks in the limo (we make cocktails between stops). Everyone is required to buy one drink at each of the three venues we stop at and to tip the bartenders at least 20%. We have a couple of tours that cost a little more. The Girls Night Out and Nightclub tours are $180.
How often are the tours?
It all depends on demand, but we’re running roughly 15 tours a month now. We’re seasonal so we see influxes at different times of year. Late Spring through Fall is busy season when the weather is nice.
Who comes on your tours?
We really see a wide range - we get groups and individuals. We get locals looking to try something different in the city they live in and tourists looking to meet people and explore. We ask ahead of time age and where people are from and what they’re looking for on the tour, so we can try to appropriately match people up.
We’ve had people from over 20 countries, from Saudi Arabia to South Africa. Our youngest guest was 21. Our oldest, 75! But most of our clientele is in their thirties. We see a younger crowd on The Bar Crawl, which goes around the East Village and is a less expensive night. We mostly get females on the tour. I think a lot of women are afraid or uncomfortable going out by themselves at night. They like having a tour guide who is like a chaperone to take them out. They’re also more comfortable traveling out at night in groups even if they’ve traveled to the US alone. This is especially true if you’re drinking - you’ll feel secure on our tour throughout the night and then can take a cab home from the last venue.
Do you get locals coming out on your tours?
Yes, we had a lot of locals buy the Groupon and Living Social Deals in the beginning. We still get locals who are interested in the accessibility. They want to go to an exclusive nightclub or take advantage of a really good deal. They might sign up because we’re going to LAVO or one of the cool places they’ve heard of, or JIMMY because it’s hard to get in there.
How do people hear about it?
Most people find us through recommendations. I’ll have people come from Australia or Brazil who heard about it through friends. For the second year in a row we’re the number one rated Activity for Nightlife in New York City on TripAdvisor, which is a great platform for us. We don’t pay for it, it’s all based on people’s reviews and it’s really helped us develop as a company.
Are you still a tour guide?
Yes, I’m still a tour guide. It’s really important for me to be on my tours, seeing the people, interacting with them. We become Facebook friends and keep in touch. They always want me to come to their cities and say, “You should develop a Take Me Out in my city!”
Do you see international tourists becoming friends on your tours? Have you heard any stories about any falling in love?
[laughs] I haven’t followed up on any marriages yet, but I think a lot of people become friends or at least Facebook friends. They’ll share photos and tag each other, become Instagram friends. I hope they do visit each other so they have friends internationally.
How have Take Me Out Tours evolved over the past 3 years?
We started with 3-4 venues. Now we have 20-some venues. We’ve really diversified since the beginning. While we’re primarily still just in New York, I have a partner in Miami. He took the first Miami tour out in March. We did a Girls Night Out Sample tour there with a client that had been on a Take Me Out NYC tour. Miami is definitely on our map; it’s a great city to be in. You want to find the right venues. For me, it’s very important to have the right venues. We had a few venues approach us in Miami that were the right fit.
We stopped buying vehicles. We now work with a company that supplies our vehicles so that allows us to focus on the tech side now. We’re starting to offer our services to the corporate world – we’re partnering with conferences, work outings and people who need to entertain their clients. We break down nightlife from something that is scary to a very smooth, enjoyable, hassle-free process. You don’t want to be refused at the door. Bouncers and waiting in line are just uncomfortable for a lot of people. We eliminate all of that.
How do you choose the featured venues from the thousands in New York City? Why would bar owners want to be a part of this?
I choose the bars by going to them myself and seeing how they are. I’m looking for the whole package, plus something especially appealing: interesting views, special entrance, really good cocktail menu... If you’re from somewhere else, you’re interested in something different or memorable like that. If you’re a local, you’re interested in access to a hard-to-get-into hotspot.
For example, 230 Fifth has a good view but doesn’t fit in with what we’re looking for. We’re looking for a little more upscale: better music, better service. A lot of our venues, what the owners see in us is that we’re pretty consistent. We’ll only be there for an hour. All of our guests have at least one drink. They always tip - we have that added to the tab. Our customers will write reviews and come back to the same venue if they’re back in the city again. The locals can go back to these spots regularly.
What are the different tours you now offer?
We now offer 7 different packages: Speakeasy, Mixology, Nightclub, Rooftop, Party Bus (which is private), ar Crawl (a walking tour for the summer months only) and Girls Night Out (female only for bachelorette parties and special events) tours.
Is Take Me Out NYC one of a kind or have you seen anything similar? Is there competition in NYC now?
I traveled thru South America and Central America with my friends, but I never saw anything like this. I don’t think anyone has the same tour in a limo. In Vegas there’s a pub tour that takes you from pubs to clubs but it’s not the same format we have. I’ve seen bar crawls but no upscale nightlife tours like ours. We’re pretty unique. There’s a new company that does a tour with taxis and vans. I guess that’s what happens: you get copycats. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and doing it well and people will keep coming back. We have a client coming back for the third time. I’d say that’s what differentiates us.
What’s on the horizon for Take Me Out Tours?
Vegas is one of our next projects after Miami. It might be hard to find what we have here in New York in other cities, but we are looking to expand. NY is still our hub, and there’s a lot more to do here. We’re looking to diversify even more. We’re also looking at a way to introduce people, to creating something that puts people together in a group date kind of setting. There have been other companies that have tried this. We’re thinking it’s an interesting way to meet people; you’ll still have a good time even if the date is not that good.
What is the future of nightlife tours in general? Is this the next big thing in every city with a tourism industry?
I think this will grow. A lot of people work really hard these days. People are always looking for different things than they’re used to. There are double decker bus tours, Sex and The City tours, but ours are more personal. Even if you’re local, you can meet new people. It appeals to a lot of different people. We just try to make people happy. We sell people a dream night and hope they have a good time. We really want to make sure everyone’s happy with the experience.
What would you like to say to bar owners who want to sign on?
They should reach out to me. I’m always looking for new places that are good. We’d always be happy to consider them and see how we can integrate them. We don’t want a commission from any bar; we want to have a good symbiotic relationship. We’re a marketing tool for bars. These clients are an added value to them that they don’t have to market to themselves.