Sense, the groundbreaking private nightclub for well-heeled quasi-middle-agers, is no more, though it will live on to host private parties until the end of the year when its lease expires. Tristan Simon, creator of Sense and its sibling Candle Room, geared to aspirational 20- and early 30-somethings, blames Sense's demise on faulty positioning. "I've shed some tears over this deal," he admits. Sense and Candle Room were both well-designed, private, upscale nightclubs on the same street. Yet Candle Room is a golden goose while Sense showered the bottom line with pennies. Not only that, but because of city parking regulations, Consilient Restaurants, Sense's parent company, was barred from collateralizing a valuable land parcel devoted to Sense parking, crimping future Consilient growth. In the end, the parking lot was more valuable than an underperforming Sense.
But why did Sense falter? Simon maintains there are simply too few 35- to 40-plus nightclubbers in Dallas to sustain an upscale club, especially when compared with the sizable younger demographic driving Candle Room. Maybe, but the more likely explanation is that Simon and company never really understood Sense's target market--a far larger and wealthier demo than that floating Candle Room.
In truth, Sense differed little from the rest in its segment. Boil away the permeable exclusivity and the ersatz sophistication, and it was simply another after-hours venue infatuated with its own perceived hipness.
Most quasi-middle-agers care little for hipness, recognizing it for what it is: a fetish of post-adolescence and an age bracket or so beyond. At its crudest, Sense was designed to exploit the yearnings of middle-aged men for women roughly half their age. But while most middle-aged men might entertain such fantasies, few actually invest in actualizing them.
Most men straddling 40 seek the company of women in roughly the same age bracket, give or take seven years. Sense seemed discomfiting to these women, as one once commented to me: "Ever notice you almost never see established professional women in this place?" Such women don't want to feel like they're on display with a brood of 25-year-olds.
Loud and aggressive, Sense tended to be--as most nightclubs tend to be for most people--an uncomfortable place. It's just that for the younger set (30-40 percent of Sense's market, Simon says) the potential social rewards far outweigh those discomforts. To quasi-middle-agers, who prize stimulating relaxation--i.e., piano plus torch singer, perhaps--the cost-benefit analysis simply doesn't pencil out. That's where Simon stumbled when he assembled Sense. He based a venue for an unconventional nightclub crowd largely on conventional nightclub wisdom.
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