Property Grunt

Friday, December 10, 2010

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

When it comes to Williamsburg, there is no love lost for the Grunt as this past entry will show.

I would never live there, but I would definitely invest there and take advantage the of the hipster population. They are more focused in appearance rather than common sense which makes them ideal consumers but not savers. But I always thought that are would peak in some way and the hipster would be swept by the wayside. Of course the New York Times proves me wrong.

Mixing Drinks, Adding Class

The following are the nuggets of this goldmine.

HER studio apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is just shy of 400 square feet, barely enough room for an Ikea open-shelf bookcase, a chocolate-brown tufted couch, a full-size bed and her brindle-coated Shih Tzu, Charlie.

So when Claudia Argiro, 33, gave a holiday party last Saturday night, she pared down her guest list to about two dozen of her closest friends, hid the TV behind an industrial column wrapped with holiday lights and turned the media console into a bar.

But one thing she had to have was a bartender. “I’m an adult now, living by myself, and this is my sh-bam, my moment,” said Ms. Argiro, who runs a clothing boutique nearby called Charlie and Sam.

So basically this is her Bat Mitzvah?

She called up Tealicious, a catering company in Queens, which sent over Eric Villani, a 33-year-old bartender, who was stationed in a two-foot-wide triangle in the middle of the room. For the next four hours, Mr. Villani stood there, not to make special cocktails, but to pour a vodka punch or a rum eggnog into clear plastic cups, trimmed with sugar-coated cherries and cinnamon sticks.

This is not a bartender, this is a server. A bartender does more than pour drinks, they also mix them.

His presence did not go unheralded in the apartment, in a new warehouse conversion along the Brooklyn waterfront, although the intimate cluster of guests could have easily served themselves. “In my opinion, if you don’t have a bartender at your party, you’re a loser,” said Dustin Terry, who lives a floor below Ms. Argiro and said his job was to get models and Saudi royalty into hot clubs. “The bartender brings class and sophistication.”

“If you can’t afford to hire a bartender,” he added, “you shouldn’t be having a party.”

Well, if it means that people like Dustin Terry will never step foot in your home, then by all means never hire a bartender.

That seems to be the consensus of a growing crowd of 30-something New Yorkers who wish to signal they’ve graduated from post-collegiate squalor to young professional coming of age. No matter how small their abodes, they won’t invite friends over for cocktails without the assistance of a bartender — even if there’s barely room for the bartender to stand.

Hired help telegraphs a new maturity and polish, said Marc Levine, who runs Premier Party Servers and Model Bartenders, which cater parties in New York and other cities. “You’re bringing your party to the next level, stepping away from the college kegger,” he said, “and actually entertaining in your New York City apartment.”

Hiring a bartender for a party of this size and space only telegraphs how stupid you are. Of course Marc Levine is going to differ on this because he is in the business of supplying bartenders.

Next level? Yeah the next level of delusion. I have been to a couple of these parties in the past and if people actually consider this a step up from the college kegger, well then we all should stay in school. As far as I am concerned it is the same thing as a kegger except there is no key. A cramped studio apartment is no different than a dorm room.

And there’s a practical consideration. “Hosts don’t want to have to look after their guests’ needs,” said Matt Solan, a bartender who works many such small locations. “But they also want a level of prestige.”

Prestige? Prestige is when you are able to hire a high end catering company to supply you with a bartender, at least 3 stions for food and waiters with champagne and hors d'oeuvres. That's prestige.

Mr. Levine estimates that the number of people calling him to book bartenders for extremely small apartments has gone up 20 percent in the last three years. “With the recession, they don’t want to rent an expensive loft space,” he said. Instead, they are having house parties, he said, and hiring bartenders as a way to splurge within their means.

Mr. Levine is completely correct. This is clearly an indication of the economy. People want to have a lavish party but do not want to pay for it. However, his customers are fooling themselves.

For four to five hours of work, as well as perhaps an hour of prep and cleanup, bartenders charge about $100 to $200. Bartenders can also expect a tip — anywhere from 20 to 100 percent — from the host, not the guests. (Putting out a tip jar, said Lyndsey Hamilton, a New York events planner, is a definite “faux pas.”)

For $200 You could have two parties. Of course it would consist of pizza, beer, soda and snacks. It would not be high end, but it would be fun.

The job may also include helping the host clear tabletops throughout the night, answering the door and hanging up coats. Despite that, Mr. Solan said, “People’s expectations can be somewhat low,” especially when the hosts are young and self-conscious about hiring help. “They’re happy when you just circulate, grabbing garbage,” like dirty cups and cocktail napkins.

Such gigs can also carry minor humiliations that may not be so common at larger, more formal affairs. Mr. Solan once dressed up as a Roman king at a Halloween haunted-house party, where he periodically had to dodge a mechanized ax-murderer mannequin. David Shiovitz, who runs Columbia Bartenders, which sends out Columbia University undergraduates and graduate students, said that, were his bartenders asked, say, to strip or dance, “They have the right to say, ‘That’s not in my contract,’ ” he said.

If I am paying $200 bucks plus covering their tips, I am going to want my ROI. The bartender is going to be doing more than serving drinks but will not be outside of the scope of their work.

There’s also the challenge of making cocktails in a small, crowded space. Mr. Solan recalled a Halloween party with about 25 people in an 18-by-18-foot room. “I was expected to work the room, based out of a little kitchen with a sink I filled with ice,” he said.

Martin Mrowka, who owns Blue Bowtie, a small bartending company, had to work outside once. The West Village one-bedroom was so small that he had to serve drinks from a tiny balcony, under a tent, just in case it rained. (It didn’t.)

In some ways, that claustrophobic feeling is inevitable for bartenders. “Everyone is going to stand within a 10-foot-square radius of the liquor whether it’s a 10,000-square-foot or 200-square-foot apartment,” Mr. Levine said.

Luckily, things never became quite that crowded at Ms. Argiro’s party. Her guests were an arty-chic crowd of D.J.s, stylists and publicists, as well as her brother, Marco, a Bushwick musician, and sister, Daniela. They munched on Ms. Argiro’s homemade panko-crusted chicken bites and jalapeño poppers while dancing to tracks by the Cure, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Gorillaz.

At one point, Mr. Terry raided Ms. Argiro’s private stash of tequila and entreated Mr. Villani to mix shots with fresh lime juice for him. Mr. Villani obliged. “I’m a chameleon,” said Mr. Villani, who has been bartending for 15 years. “I can cater to Donald Trump or somebody in a rock band.”

The person who benefits from this arrangement is the bartender. If they are able to establish a large and loyal clientele, they will always have a job. But it is not easy money but they will be working.

The party cost Ms. Argiro about $600, of which $195 was for Mr. Villani’s services. (Tealicious also supplied bar trimmings and an Italian holiday sponge cake filled with Nutella.) Mr. Villani was also given $80 in tips.

$680? For cake, decorations, bar stuff and the bartender? she would have been better off putting that into a money market account. Or putting it away for an event that truly announces one's place in adulthood. A wedding.

For Ms. Argiro, it was worth every penny. The bartender added what she called a chic, “Mad Men” vibe to the party. In fact, she said she’d just seen the movie, “A Single Man,” set in the mid-1960s, and had chosen her party dress — a floaty, sleeveless black silk and chiffon minidress — to channel Julianne Moore in that film.

Another guest, Eric Carson, 32, a stock trader who lives in nearby Greenpoint, agreed that the bartender added class. “I feel very sophisticated at this party,” he said. “And I usually feel like a complete dirt bag.”

Of course you don't feel like a dirt bag. You did not pay for this.

I have been to a variety of social occasions ranging from hole in the wall bars to high end hotels. What I have learned is that when you go big, go big. Don't bother creating the illusion of luxury because it is not going to work and you will be wasting your money. the besy way to sum up this article is putting lipstick on a pig.

Reading about these "trends" drives me up the wall. First of all it is an attempt to instill this mentality into the social consciousness of New Yorkers which is already messed up enough as it is. It also creates insecurity and hostility amongst those who do not have the means to have such luxury. Correction, illusions of luxury.

That's what New York City is all about. Whether it is true or false, creating the appearance of being a metropolitan. The only people who benefit from this arrangement are those who supply the accouterments for creating the illusion.

The fact that Claudia is part of the Williamsburg herd shows how viable that area is. A residential base that is more focused on consumption rather than saving or investing is highly attractive to real estate investor because businesses will fight tooth and to tap in this market. And if there is a constant stream of these individuals, it makes the property all the more valuable.

It has been awhile since my first Williamsburg party and I always though this demographic would fade away. Apparently a fresh crop as taken their place who share the same values.