*This story appears in The Midtown Gazette*
In his first week as a bartender at Playboy Club New York, Dylan Jagiello informs two women that an older gentleman across the bar would like to buy them a drink, leaning over to describe what the man is wearing — a gray suit, white shirt, and black tie — without turning around. The women accept the offer, nod to the man, and Jagiello starts to make their drink orders.
“Working at Playboy is different because it’s a brand new bar,” said Jagiello, who previously worked at Tao Nightclub. “It’s uncharted territory. Your actions on a daily basis set the tone for the culture of Playboy Club. There is unlimited potential.”
The Playboy Club is back in New York City, 32 years after closing down, as part of Cachet Boutique Hotel in Midtown West. Keeping old traditions while catering to a new audience appears to be the mandate. Young, attractive female servers — the Playboy bunnies — walk around the club serving and greeting customers, wearing the classic black corset and bunny ears. But on the club’s public opening night, most of the tables and bar stools were unoccupied, and it’s not clear whether a new generation feels nostalgic or even interested in the iconic brand.
Jagiello, 28, heard about the opening from a friend, and waited in line at the club with his résumé to interview for the position. “There is a lot of hard work that goes into opening a club like this,” said Jagiello, who has his own work uniform — a club-provided white suit and black tie. “Being there to witness the club from its earliest stages of construction to the grand opening has been a very insightful experience.”
Playboy and the Cachet Boutique management group would not provide any comment after repeated requests, but the club’s website lists the various levels of annual memberships, from the ‘Lounge’ at $5,000, to the ‘Mansion’ at $100,000. The Lounge provides complimentary dinners and private parties for friends, while the Mansion offers ten tickets to professional sporting events in New York, access to Playboy’s Super Bowl watch party in the host city, and a $5,000 gaming chip to the Playboy casino in London. Every membership provides VIP access to parties and events at the new club on West 42nd Street, its entrance marked by a black awning decorated with a golden Playboy bunny.
Inside the main restaurant and bar, red velvet couches and chairs surround black tables where guests can sit and order food and drinks. The main bar stretches in a circle throughout the dimly-lit room, under lights shaped like champagne flutes. There is an unspoken dress code — most male guests arrive in blazers and dress shoes, and women wear cocktail attire. Specialty drinks and shared dishes start at $18, and rise from there.
It is not clear yet whether Playboy will be able to usher in a younger crowd who can afford the stiff prices. In two visits to the club during opening week, the guests in the restaurant and bar were mostly older men.
Shelbi Roe, a millennial who frequents clubs in the New York nightlife scene, said she wasn’t aware of the Playboy opening but didn’t think the club is targeting her demographic.
“With so much going on with sex scandals and feminism, Playboy seems outdated and might upset people,” said Roe, who said she looks for fun music, fast service, and diversity of ages when seeking out a new club. “I can see old men loving it because it was their era.”
The Playboy era was infamously marked by an article published in 1963, when Gloria Steinem went undercover as a Playboy bunny and exposed a scathing review of Playboy culture in a two-part series titled ‘A Bunny’s Tale.’ When asked for comment on Playboy’s decision to reopen amid today’s social climate, Ms. Steinem’s press office said she had nothing else to add to the conversation.
Jagiello acknowledged Playboy’s historic image, but thought it added to the club’s allure.
“The Playboy brand is synonymous with big names so that’s exciting,” said Jagiello, who thinks it’s too early to make a prediction of the club’s demographics. “The honest answer is only time will tell.”
Officially one week into its public opening, a couple visited Playboy club for a celebratory night out, their first experience at a Playboy establishment.
“It’s exactly what I expected,” said Charlie Corraro, who visited with his wife to celebrate his birthday. “Great service, the staff is very attentive. It’s upscale.”
Corraro, 42, was sitting at a table near the bar when four Playboy bunnies walked towards him with a candle-lit chocolate raspberry cake from the kitchen.
“I took him here as a surprise,” said Tara Corraro, who snapped pictures of her husband with the bunnies before he blew out the candles on his birthday dessert. “I had never been but this is what he likes. Clubs. Low-key, lounge-style.”
Both of the Corraros said they would both come back to the club. And how would they describe it to friends?
“Gold-plated cigars,” she said, laughing, while he nodded in agreement. “Gold-plated cigars, for sure.”