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I Paid For That Bottle, Motherfucker!!

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 15, 2006 3:20PM

2006_08_bottleservice.jpgIn a developing story that brings out our inner Nelson Muntz, the Illinois Liquor Commission has sent out violation notices to 13 clubs regarding their practice of bottle service, among them "Susanna's Night Out" staples Le Passage, Jet Vodka Lounge, Stone Lotus, Enclave, and Four.

Everybody ready? Now.

"Ha HA!!"

For those of you who aren't familiar with the practice, bottle service is a VIP treatment in which customers buy a bottle of liquor, then have a designated server pour the drinks for them at their table. The commission's rationale is that they're worried about customers being overserved. Club owners claim the opposite, stating that since the bottle service comes with a designated server who pours the drinks, customers who utilize bottle service are being expertly monitored for signs of being overserved.

But Harlan Powell, an attorney representing several of the clubs, cut through the bullshit in a story that ran in yesterday's Tribune on the matter, stating matter-of-fact that bottle service is a pretension that should be afforded to those blessed with the good looks, stellar credit rating, right wardrobe, and social standing to be in the VIP section of a club. "What customers are buying is not the actual drink, they're buying real estate", Powell said. To paraphrase the late Mayor Harold Washington, "Wow! He really said that? Wow!!"

Chicagoist never thought we'd see the day where buying a bottle of Absolut at a six hundred percent markup would be equated with a mortgage. But then, the only bar we pass is the one on our way home, and it sure as shit doesn't have a VIP section. So maybe Powell and the clubs have formulated a game plan that's beyond Chicagoist's comprehension. The primary issue for the clubowners is revenue, not overconsumption. If you think a bottle of wine you could buy for eight bucks at a grocery store is overpriced at a restaurant for thirty, imagine the sticker shock you'd feel buying a four hundred dollar bottle of Grey Goose. Folks who lounge in the VIP section of Le Passage don't have to wait twenty minutes for their drinks. They already have a designated server who's waiting on them hand-and-foot, and probably getting tipped well enough that they could be ignoring the warning signs of overconsumption in order to make the rent. Bottle service is nothing but pure profit for these clubs, short of actually shaking down VIPs for their money the moment they walk in.

The liquor commission is holding hearings on the matter beginning next Wednesday; for the sake of the clubs cited, they should hope Powell doesn't overdose on truth pills when he makes their case. Otherwise, the commission might just channel their inner Nelson Muntz and say, "ha HA!!"