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April 22, 2008

My take on bottle service

Baltimore's not big on bottle service.

Go out to one of the city's high-end clubs and you're not going to see tons of patrons sitting at tables drinking $200 bottles of Skyy vodka.

Baltimore is not Washington or New York or Philly or Miami, and a lot of club owners just don't get that. ...

This doesn't mean Baltimore couldn't be a bottle service town.

But the concept of bottle service has to be gradually introduced here, and prices need to be kept lower than in larger cities.

MS reader Mark Twain made some great points in his comments under my most recent Mosaic post:

"Baltimore is a C-market ... and prices for bottles, when they reach their max should not near the price that is sought in A and B markets. ... You don't sell high when demand is low; it's not a winning formula."

He's dead-on.

When I first talked to Mosaic's new manager Vincent Martinez, he said he planned to cut back on the number of the club's bottle service-only tables.

Of course, I haven't been inside since it opened because of this and this. But I'd like to see if he went through with his plans.

(Photo by Bloomberg News)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:33 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


I just don't get why people would spend $200 bucks for a bottle worth $30. The markup is so much. Are you paying to look cool? To be able to have a table for a night? Come on.

If you get bottle service at the Hustler, you also have the strippers stopping by your table, bending over in front of you to mix strong drinks for you... so I hear.

"Baltimore is not Washington or New York or Philly or Miami, and a lot of club owners just don't get that. "

Nor do bloggers.

/does not want Federal Hill to become MORE like Adams Morgan

One Eyed Mike's in Fells has wonderful Gran Marnier bottle service.

Bottle service is the purview of those places that encourage expensive drinks--high-end clubs and strip clubs being two of them. There are not a lot of those kinds of places in Baltimore.

Now, on an unrelated note, Sam, please stop using the tag in your posts. It's getting to be as annoying as your colleage, Ms. Large.

Hey JJT, I'm going to use the extended entry posts more than I used to, but I'm not going to get obsessed with them. I like the way they let you see two or three entries on the main page instead of just one big one.

Extended entry is good for posts with small pictures or no pictures at all, too.

Also, does Midnight Sun qualify as a "playground for the old codgers"? Or just Dresser's column?

It's funny how Philly is in your list, "...Baltimore is not Washington or New York or Philly or Miami, and a lot of club owners just don't get that..."

Five years ago, even less than five years ago, Philly would be as far away from that list of cities as Baltimore is today.

Primary derail: JJT I saw your feedback on the b site and was pretty satisfied by the immediate response. I agree with most of your review except the forum is incredibly cramped by the amount of ad space on one side (i should probably be saying this over there)

And in order to simultaneously sound like an old codger and provide something to this entry, I'll say that as a towny born and bred in the Baltimore area, one of the last things this city needs is pretense. Bottle service to me, at that level, is screamingly pretentious and does not fit the image or 'air of Baltimore' AT ALL. Not in five years, not in twenty years (to me). Regardless Sam and Mark are both very correct with the assessment that it needs to be a gradual thing.

But of course as more people move here from all points elsewhere and see the introduction of such clubs and services, the image changes. The air changes. Then I'm officially an old fart sitting in South Side Saloon complaining about 'the good old days' that never really existed.

As far as business opportunities are concerned, seems to me that it's ground level and everyone knows it. I guess that's why so many owners are trying to go for ludicrous amounts of money for places that barely draw 200 people on a Saturday. I hate to admit it but a decent, well run, high end club would make a killing in the right place in the city. I mean, people gotta go somewhere nice for First Friday!

Bottle service is a good deal when shared with a large group. Either all friends pitch in ten bucks and get 2 drinks or each gets their two drinks at the bar and pays 7-8 dollars each. Do the math...

It has it's place and a few bars/clubs in B-Town might be able to pull it off if priced right (including hustler) but I don't think it will ever find it's way into the Hill or Fells.

'not Washington, New York, Philly or Miami'

Damn straight we're not! We are Baltimore and proud of it!

And btw...what the hell is DC doing in that line-up? Nothing but suits, wonks, interns and overpriced drinks.

Sam: The use of the more tag is just an annoying convention. While I appreciate more content, please, for the love of all things nerdy and efficient, do what your sister publication b did: allow full-text feeds for those of us who read via aggregators.

Now, as for you being an old codger, at least you go out for drinks. I fully expect Dresser's next column to be titled "Now, Get Off My Lawn." At least you are not complaining about speeding ALL THE TIME.

I still expect to run into you at some point in my ramblings around South Baltimore.

Evan: I think part of the problem with b's forum is that the size of browser windows they designed their site for. Looks to me like 800x600, which in this day and age is laughable at best. I digress.

To me, while it might make sense to do bottle service with a large group of people, I don't think Baltimore is that kind of town. Being a native, Baltimore is a city with little pretense. Sure, we have our places where you can truly "do it up," but the essence of the city is in the places that are neighborhood bars. Unfortunately, some of the latter are going away.

Second the notion of Dresser being the most useless aspect of the paper and website. He has a full range, with the next few focusing on people who speed on I-95, people who don't use turn signals, people who only speed when they are late for stuff, kids playing their hippity hoppity too loud, people who still don't stop at the fake cross walks in the middle of some city streets, and people who pick their nose while being stuck in traffic on I-83.

Sam... Thanks for posting Vincent's name. I was able to track him down and send him an email about my experience at Mosaic.

Here is part of his perfectly worded response....

"I appreciate your continued patronage, and will definitely look into your concerns. Bottle service is more than just delivering a bottle to the table and letting the customer do the rest. It is a SERVICE, and it should be a full service at that.

I apologize for any inconvenience, and I am most grateful for your continued support, understanding, but most importantly, your feedback."

I dont have anything to say directly to any of the people who posted here because i wont debate the past. But we do have a very nice new nightclub in Baltimore's Harbor and it is called The China Room. This past saturday was the prelude party and saturday October 9, 2010 is the grand opening. It was an amazing time for a barely promoted prelude and the very well promoted Grand Opening is going to be nothing short of epic.I am the promoter and I would love to speak with you directly about coming to check us out so to try and sway your view on Baltimore's bottle service. We sold out of tables for the prelude, which was promoted as a soft opening and not a huge event. The bottles are reasonably priced including admission, a very nice section and beautiful waitress at your service all night and of course all the mixers including red bull wich most places charge extra for. Please email me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss this further and check out my facebook for pictures and more info.

The China Room is new? I've seen that crappy neon sign on the side of the building for years.

Always thought it sounded like a cheap rub 'n tug.

@Chris Cassanove Dunpy- from my marketing 101 book- if you are trying to promote a place, make sure to include the address.

The China Room has been there for many a years, it used to be run by Johnny G about 15 years ago.

wasn't it Uncle Chen's? Before the bmorons robbed and killed Uncle Chen of course

@ Tif - I believe it was an Uncle Lee's Szechuan. I remember eating a nice dinner there as a kid with my parents back in the day.

@ Chris - I can't see your FB at work, but have there been any revamps to the interior? Is it still operating as a restaurant during the day? Also, as Tif alluded, security was a big problem for that spot and if I recall correctly there were several incidents there in the past few years...any progress on that front? Best of luck.

Yep, Uncle Lee's still operates as a restaurant. I stepped in last week for a small hot and sour soup and was turned away because they would not swipe my card for less than $5.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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