Rolling up to the club at 1 a.m., walking past the entire line straight to the V.I.P. liaison, are groups of big spenders in custom fit suits followed by dolled up, tightly dressed girls. They go into the club heads held high like they own the place, following their host to their designated table. As the night unfolds, the empty glasses pile up on their tables. Liquor comes and goes, flowing like an endless river. They cheer, laugh and dance against the edges of their booth. Anyone who walks past can see they're having a good time, will presume they have money, and even if they don't, it doesn't matter. In today's mega-club culture, acting rich seems to be more important than acting cool.
Bottle service has come to define the modern club era as a play-land for the rich. That's particularly true in cities like Los Angeles, New York, Miami or Las Vegas, where clubs offering world-class DJs can charge upwards of $1,000 to $5,000 or more for 1.75 liter bottles of Grey Goose and Belvedere. Never mind that you can get that same bottle at BevMo for about $50. It's time to ball out and live a little, right?
That's not even nearly as expensive as it could possibly be. At Drais in Las Vegas, there's a $737,000 option for the night/day. Although, this does include a jet coming to fly you and your friends in, it goes to show just how much money can be thrown at one day of clubbing.
It wasn't always like this. Years ago, when nightclubs were still considered "sketchy", they catered more to style and culture rather than money. Night clubs have dramatically changed in the last 20 years. Venues seem to no longer be about the music, dancing or even the environment. In the 1990s and early 2000s bottle service existed almost exclusively in VIP rooms that the peasants never saw, and didn't care to see. Scene stars in over-the-top outfits would command their own sections on the dance floor with outrageous yet contagious moves. Money didn't make you cool, talent and style did.
So what changed things? Why did we move from a culture of acceptance to a scene shrouded in exclusivity?
Paparazzi culture and the eventual rise of social media gave way to the explosion of FOMO. Everyone was so exposed to celebrities having a great time at bottle service clubs, the rest of society wanted to have just as much fun and started shelling out money to live it up as well. The exclusivity of being closed off from the rest of the club, with the power to say who and who can't come to your table, yet to be seen by everyone in the venue, is what many began to crave. If you weren't rich and famous, so what, act like you are and you might feel important for the night.
I will admit that having your own table can be nice, it serves as a base-camp for you and your friends to always come back to, and it's nice to sometimes have a seat to take a break from all the dancing. You feel cool to have the table, but that's exactly the problem. Shouldn't we all just be focused on the music and the dance, rather than feeling comfortable away from everyone? Why did we even go to the club if we weren't going to dance the night away? If we wanted to talk with our friends we would have gone to some local bar or lounge.
Inside the clubs, the gentrification happened long ago. Bottle service is a constant reminder that, even in the party scene, the rich get special treatment in this world. Plus, even if you aren't rich, you can fake it for a night.
Advice: To avoid the bottle service and VIP scene, find local DIY venues and parties that continue to focus on what truly matters, the music and atmosphere. This is where you will find the raw culture you're searching for. It's all out there, you just need to dig a little deeper.
[Op-Ed: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and may not imply endorsement by Magnetic Magazine]