Studio Paris at Paris Club
Bottle service: It’s one of those things I keep wishing would disappear forever. Why, oh why, would anyone pay hundreds of dollars for a bottle of vodka that costs $30 at the corner liquor store? I know, I know. The spectacle. The cachet. And for the young hotshot trader types who typically buy into this particular status symbol, there’s the undeniable lady-killing aspect (the bigger your bottle . . .).
While I am mostly resigned to the fact that bottle service is here to stay, economy be damned, I still sighed a harrumph of displeasure when I saw just how well it’s going over at Studio Paris, the new year-round rooftop lounge located above Paris Club in River North. As another young hotshot type—Jerrod Melman, who owns Studio Paris with his brother, R. J.—told me, a reserved table with bottle service is the only guaranteed path to entry. “You can take your chances, come earlier, and see if there’s a seat available, but if you want a drink later at night . . .” He shrugged. Bottle service. Judging by a recent Saturday, there are plenty of night-lifers willing to pay.
My date and I—early birds who, bottleless and tableless, roamed the packed lounge in search of an out-of-the-way place to observe—stopped to talk to the bartender as she filled an order for a magnum of Grey Goose, another of Dom Pérignon, and a bottle of Jameson. For one table. We craned our necks, trying to read the ticket. “It’ll be about $2,000,” she told us.
“Does that include the Red Bull?” I asked, watching her load another tray with silver cans.
“Nope. The Red Bull’s extra,” she said.
We were floored, but the crowd around us, an ever-growing gaggle of sleek-haired women and the slick-looking men competing for their attention, seemed right at home in the space, which reads more Miami than Paris, with its white curtains shifting softly in the night air. We stood next to one pretty blond and eavesdropped while a guy in a fedora tried unsuccessfully to woo her, then we watched as Jerrod cranked the retractable roof shut. “By law, we have to close it at midnight,” he told me later. “But unlike other rooftops and patios without the option to close a roof, we can keep the party going.” And indeed, we barely noticed a difference, what with the skylight view and the breeze flowing through the open windows.
Wondering if the high-rolling crowd was a Saturday-only phenomenon, I returned on a Thursday for afterwork drinks. While the vibe was more relaxed and the attire more business casual, the bottle traffic remained brisk, which led me to survey the system with a new sense of respect. After all, the Melman brothers learned at the knee of a master: Their father, Rich, founded Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and has built a portfolio of more than 80 restaurants. Bottle service keeps things simple, and it keeps the insatiable crowd’s glasses full without backing up the bar.
If the hotshots ordering those bottles can fine-tune their pickup lines with similar efficiency, the entire nightlife machine should keep on humming (insert your own sigh of relief here).
Studio Paris at Paris Club 59 W. Hubbard St.; parisclubchicago.com
Photograph: Chris GuillenBars and Drinking