Place, Show, Win

Bartenders will tell you that floor space in any of the city's up-market lounges is tantamount to real estate.

Well, they might not say "tantamount" and "real estate," but they recognize the value of a prime bar spot, high-visibility table, dark corner or bit of ground in between--value that wavers according to market vagaries. A patron reclining in a leather booth is more likely to attract positive attention than, say, some chump buffeted in the middle of a crowded room.

This equation helped create such abominations as bottle service, the McMansions of the alcohol trade, where monied sorts purchase a premier seat in exchange for a wad of cash...usually something in the nature of $300 for a $20 bottle of booze.

Human nature created the bottle service beast. Certainly you've noticed that no one--or, rather, very few stalwart types--wants to be the first person charging into a bar. So people will poke their heads through the door, see empty space, and turn tail vowing to come back when the destination has more of a scene. Yet they know from experience it will pick up in an hour, maybe two.

Now, the lounge equivalent of cheap land is amongst the anonymous masses trapped between bar and those high-rent tables. Like a house in Lewisville, it provides access to important things such as drinks and the restroom, but generates hardly a blip on the wow factor scale. Standing room space is, however, what's left after the crowd finally arrives. The only option for those returning to find a packed and rollicking scene is to elbow their way into the melee, shell out what's left of their credit for the one remaining bottle service area...or just quit and head over to The Old Monk.

While the latter may be the most sensible thing to do, there's another trick available to those hell-bent on the lounge experience: settle in early, stake out a prime space at the bar and chat up staff members to get on their good side. Then when the crowd shuffles in, you hold deed to envied see-and-be-seen real estate.

Oh, I know. This involves a commitment...not just of an hour or two before things pick up, but in the art of purposeful small talk. One must be able to show something more than designer duds and the right attitude. For a grueling sixty minutes (at least until the DJ begins to drown out conversation), one must handle self-assurance and character. Or at least fake it. But the reward is similar to buying a plot in Uptown thirty years ago.

And cashing in about three years ago.

So why don't more people do this? I mean, barhoppers know in general which venues click on what nights, right?

Perhaps we're not that sure of ourselves. Maybe some folks crave validation through others...masses of others. I don't know--but if this kind of behavior represents the highest evolution of human nature, how did we survive prehistoric wilds?

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