Food & Drinks

The Surprisingly Brief History of Nightclub Bottle Service

If you’ve ever been to a nightclub, you probably recall seeing servers dancing into a reserved section of the space with sparklers emerging from bottles of premium spirits or Champagne. Bottle service is a nightlife trend that emerged in the U.S. in the ‘90s and has since become a symbol of status separating VIP guests from the remainder of party-goers. As such, the service can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000, with some exclusive clubs in cities like New York and Las Vegas charging as much as $10,000 for just a few hours.

While accompanied by a hefty price tag today, bottle service actually came from much more humble beginnings. As reported by New York Magazine, the first bottle service originated in Tokyo during World War II, when soldiers began ordering sake by the bottle to enjoy while seated — any sake that went unfinished was then stored in lounge lockers.

It wasn’t until 1988 that bottle service would appear in nightclubs for the first time. That year, when world-famous Paris nightclub Les Bains Douches found itself with more customers than space, it began offering table reservations, all of which came with a complimentary bottle. From there, the influence of Les Bains Douches spread throughout Europe and soon enough, table service was common on the continent.

In 1993, the first bottle service experience was introduced to Americans by Jeffery Jah and Mark Baker of the Tunnel, a former New York City nightclub. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Baker had thrown parties at Les Bains Douches in Paris and “saw how convenient and ‘chic’ it was to have a bottle on the table.”

The pair then adapted a bottle service program for $90 a bottle, which, when compared to $6 dollar drinks, made purchasing a bottle more cost effective for patrons. By 1995, bottle service had cemented itself as a ritzy experience in the city, with bars like Sky Bar and Chaos upping their prices while also making bottle service mandatory for VIP room access. By 2001, bottle service had become a New York City nightlife staple and the phenomenon began infiltrating nightlife scenes in various cities across the U.S., such as Miami, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.

Bottle service revolutionized nightclubs and allowed them to be more profitable than ever by transforming the act of drinking in social settings into a chic, exclusive experience. Today, the service remains a crucial element of nightclubs’ repertoires — one that many club-goers around the world continue to seek out.

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