Yes, I Am On The List: NYC Exclusive Nightlife


The neighborhood bar doesn’t always suffice for a memorable night. While the comfort of familiar faces always seems appealing, sometimes it feels good to dive into excess and venture to a place with a strict face-control reputation. A place that’s highly selective. A place that isn’t for everyone.

First things first, it’s highly unlikely there is an actual strict list. If there is a list, I have never been on it, and there is not one elitist nightowl business in NYC I haven’t found myself in past 4am. Yes, the title was a lie, but I promise I can negotiate my way in, despite the fact I am not willing to spend $400 for a night of fun, and have never been featured in any tabloids.

1. Manners: Be Nice, But Not Too Nice

I understand and accept that it’s perfectly legitimate for the gatekeeper to deny me entrance. If it is an exclusive nightclub, it’s garnered its reputation for a reason. I’m never quick to be venomous to the doorperson; I always view her as my entry to a private party that includes me. The foremost diplomatic way I would deal with my–hypothetical of course–‘private-partyfication’ is to respond with benevolence. I would say: “Thanks a lot!” and genuinely mean it, maybe adding a minimal element of guilt with my sad-but-simultaneously-confident eyes. Such behavior would help set me apart from the whimsical divas and woeful queens who surprisingly need to deal with the rejection in a public manner. If I get “Not tonight,” I smile away, come back and smile again as if the process involves no drudgery. I wouldn’t quickly turn around to my companion and loudly announce we are heading to another equally-or-more exclusive nightclub, understanding that such bratty behavior won’t get me on her good side for next time. In most cases, the decisions of the guards are irrevocable: the more you try to cajole the less likely you are to find yourself inside.

2. Logistics: Five Boys Won’t Fly

The numbers and the gender of your party do, indeed, matter. In the crème de la crème places a ratio disproportionate on the boy side shall not pass. When I go out to such a place, I don’t bring a group of ten, unless I am hanging out with the wet-dream of gatekeepers: either affluent trustafarians with an eclectic fashion sense or the genuine creative elite. The problem with the latter category is that they will rarely wait for someone to decide they are worthy of entrance.

3. Time Matters

Yes, we all desire to leave our comfortable home after midnight, but prior to building an ‘acquaintance’ circle with the people or the place I’d like to frequent, I personally try to not show up way after 12:30 or 1 AM. Maybe when I have built a stronger rapport I can commence acting a little more diva-esque in regards to my arrival time, but it’d be naive to start off by showing up late. The gatekeeper would have no choice but to use one of the lines she uses with the vast majority of others trying to enter. Delivered in a beautifully cold tone, she would say, “Not tonight” or “Tonight is a private event only” or the ultimate cliché “You have to be on the list.”

4. Look Fun, Not (Just) Good

I try to look sophisticated and interesting, but not expensive. If I can afford expensive at the time, I try to do all three and smile as I descend to the cave or ascend up with a big boom. Naturally, I’m dressing to cater to the needs of the place I’m attempting to access. As a guy, I cannot look ‘Mister H’ or ‘Boom Boom’ when at ‘Kenmare’ and definitely not the other way around. I have noticed that there are some looks that are met with a despicable lowbrow at the doorperson’s approval matrix: flip-flops, comfortable wear–though I’d never dare look uncomfortable in my uncomfortable shoes and clothes–and anything associated with bros or Greek life. If someone passes with such attire, that is proof the list exists. Additionally, I try to look “cool,” but not too cool; I succumb to some social norms that fashion has dictated to me over the years: I don’t eat if I feel I shouldn’t, I sleep more if I must. In the end, when it comes to my appearance to prevent the door politics of exclusion, a succinct summary can be provided: not bro-y, not trashy, clean (but not-too-clean) and intriguing (but not insane).

5. Not For Everyone

A significant detail that I would be negligent to omit discussing is that the culture of such places is often peculiar. I would never take my mom to the Box nor would I suggest she accompanies me to a Tuesday party at Le Bain. Unless your mom’s name is Dina and you sometimes share underwear, I would suggest you do the same.

Last, not to be a fatalist, but if someone continuously gets ‘private-partied,’ I would assume it is because the guardians of the exclusive nightclubs assume they wouldn’t appropriately fit in the scene. Accounting for the decadence that occurs in some of these businesses, it may be appropriate to concede ‘private-partification.’ Consider yourself lucky for being able to return to your neighborhood bar without encountering true hedonism. In many ways you are luckier than you will ever know.

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image – Luca Volpi