Watch out! There’s a new bottle in Prospect Heights, and this one doesn’t involve a rubber nipple.
On April 10, the Well Lounge, a new nightclub on Flatbush Avenue, will debut its private VIP area, complete with posh couches, custom lighting and a plasma television.
Oh, and one more thing that Well’s got — $200 bottles of vodka.
Bottle service, unheard of outside Brighton Beach’s Russian enclave until a few years ago, is now a nightlife staple. A patron at a club can purchase — for several times the retail value — a bottle of liquor at a bar, which is then brought, along with mixers, to his table. Besides attracting legions of new friends, paying for a bottle is also known for getting people inside of velvet ropes they otherwise wouldn’t pass.
Well’s owner, Ntozake Lundy, doesn’t think combining bottle service and Brooklyn should be that surprising. As a Brooklyn native and small business owner — she has owned and operated the Prospect Heights coffee shop Muddy Waters for over 15 years — Lundy is addressing a void she sees in the neighborhood’s nightlife. Additionally, bringing in this glitzy service translates into big business.
“It was a natural progression of things,” said Lundy. “I want Well to seem like an extension of a client’s living room, and now that the Manhattan client lives in Brooklyn, it’s the natural next step. You’re paying Manhattan prices for everything else [in the neighborhood], why not this?”
Not that the neighborhood surrounding Well is hurting for bars, but the local watering holes that dot it and are, to many, part of its charm, aren’t exactly what Lundy had in mind.
“It annoys me that in the past to get quality anything you had to go into the city,” she said, adding that she hopes to attract a crowd like the one at the Soho boite Balthazar or in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. “I created this space with my own friends in mind. The Well is a place my girlfriends, who spend all week grinding in the city to make six figures, can come to get their heads together.”
The Well provides the luxury of bottle service where, according to manager Everton Hird, “everything is done for the customer. People come to a space to be seen and have easy accessibility. A cooler, trendier scene is moving into Brooklyn.”
Despite the “cooler scene,” both Hird and Lundy told GO Brooklyn that Well does not exude the pretentiousness often associated with bottle service. “This is more about the customer being happy,” said Hird. And Lundy is not trying to emulate the “super intense” Manhattan scene. “After you take a train to get there, you have to look a certain way, act a certain way,” she said. “That’s not relaxing.”
Well offers a lower price on bottles than bars and clubs in Manhattan, where prices can run beyond $500 a pop. Well typically charges $200-325 per 750ml bottle (otherwise known as a fifth) — affordable, comparatively, but still a 1,000-percent markup. Along with the actual bottle, patrons receive a personal server on hand to pour drinks, restock mixers and dish out reasonably priced a la carte nibbles like organic tiger shrimp salad and escargot drenched in garlic and butter.
It isn’t all sunshine and vodka shots, though. A new bill in the State Legislature would curb bottle service, which is currently unregulated. According to the State Liquor Authority, purchasing an entire bottle carries the inherent risk of serving minors and overly intoxicated individuals.
The bill, which does not specify how the SLA intends to monitor the service, is asking for “a blank check to come up with every possible regulation and instill pure fear,” said Robert Bookman, a lawyer for the powerful New York Nightlife Association. “Give me a single example of a problem developed from an incident of a bottle service — you can’t. This is a new rallying cry from those who are anti-alcohol.”
Lundy scoffs at the idea that reining in bottle service will make an impact. “There were some high profile incidents,” she said, referring to the murders of 18-year-old Jennifer Moore and 24-year-old Imette St. Guillen in Manhattan last summer. “But no one sits down alone and buys a bottle. It’s six friends, coming together and sharing in a safe, private space,” she said. “When the city is broke, they turn and fine the small businesses.”
Ben Levisohn, 34, is one local who will not be indulging in the newfound convenience of bottle service. “We moved to Park Slope eight years ago to escape the mad-rush of Manhattan for something a little quieter,” he said. “I wish things like this would stay on the other side of the river.”
Levisohn also believes Well’s location may hurt its business. “Seventh and Flatbush seems like an odd place for a chic hangout,” he said. “It’s isolated and far from the trendier Fifth Avenue. And who’s going to want to trek out to Brooklyn to pay $200 for a bottle?” Not that only bottle service is available — cocktails, beer and wine are served in the front room of the bar at average prices for the neighborhood.
Despite these obstacles, Well aims to become a local hangout. “We want to be welcoming to the neighborhood,” said Hird. “Maybe some of the aspects of bottle service seem pretentious, but above all we are a friendly place. There will never be a cover, never be someone telling you where to sit. The greatest part about our location is that Clinton Hill, Park Slope and Prospect Heights all consider us their neighborhood.”
One way Well hopes to establish a local identity is by hosting a DJ lounge series. The weekly Friday night event will showcase different Brooklyn DJs including DJ 11, Beverly Bond, Belinda Becker, DJ Cosmo and DJ Taboo.
“I’m just trying to do the obvious,” said Lundy. “And bring to the borough I grew up in what everyone expects. Why should you be six miles from the closest place like this? It’s the natural progression of things.”
In a burgeoning local nightlife, Lundy sees bottle service as way to distinguish Well from the pack. “There are 40 dozen bars around here to compete with,” she said. “Brooklyn has arrived, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Well Lounge (329 Flatbush Ave. at Seventh Avenue in Prospect Heights) is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 pm–1 am. For information, call (718) 789-7896 or visit www.wellloungebrookl....
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