Why the World Needs the Playboy Club
We reflect on the Club’s legacy following its NYC opening
Is it possible a metropolitan city could have too many nightlife options? According to the New York State Liquor Authority, there are currently just under 50,000 licensed venues serving alcohol products in the East Coast state—the majority unsurprisingly being in the city. While the option of a plethora of places to turn up on the weekends (and turn down after work) might sound like a good thing, very few of these locations actually do a great job of keeping guests coming back. In fact, in a city with an estimated population of 8.54 million people, too many New York establishments are focused on offering the same experience for everyone, failing to provide a memorable experience for anyone.
But it’s unlikely that the few who’ve yet visited the newly opened Playboy Club New York will forget their first steps inside. Credit the levels of luxury and attention to detail, both of which will strike patrons upon entry: Beyond the imposing double doors is mysterious entry way, dramatic ebony wood with gold accents and plush velvet banquets, lit up by classic black and white portraits of Playmates. At the oversized oval-shaped main bar, members and guests are welcome to sit across from one another and stay awhile, while the hidden-away Rabbit Hole (the Club’s take on a VIP section) lends the promise of secret late-night escapades. It’s decadent, it’s old-school, it’s transportive and it harks back Manhattan’s golden age of “going out.”
A bartender decked out in formal attire might convince you tequila and mezcal don’t have to be mutually exclusive when the cocktail’s balance is just right (that riff on the margarita is called the Club Diablo for now). Mid-century modern dim lighting hangs above. The iconic rabbit head hops from wall to wall in between large TVs, featuring a highlight real of the brand’s 65 years. Inspired by the legendary Playboy Mansion, each of the four rooms within the Playboy Lounge portion of the Playboy Club has its own identity, but all carry with them the theme of luxury. “No offense, but I don’t want to sit on a reclaimed barn door, you know, in a no-reservation restaurant,” Richie Notar, the former Club’s Creative Director, laughed.
…It’s a break from the hyperactive world—a place where, for even just one hour, people can forget their woes and marinate in magnificence.
Though the acknowledgment of the brand’s vast history essential to the Club’s identity, guests are here now to make new memories. With textured walls evoking a sense of warmth and comfort, it’s hard not to toast with a glass of Louis XIII in honor of Hef. You might be tempted to take a selfie sprawled across a rich leather couch, but you could just as easily wind up playing a game of backgammon with a newly found friend. Did we mention someone dropped a hand-sculpted bunny in the 600-gallon aquarium? While the fish may be exotic, the carefully selected Bunnies are jubilant, their personalities shining colorfully despite their coordinated and corseted uniforms.
Still, the Playboy has its critics, mistaking the getaway in the middle of bustling Manhattan as a tone-deaf skeleton of Playboy’s past. What critics fail to realize about the draw of the Playboy Club is that the allure for members and guests is not about Bunny ears or the occasional Martha Stewart sighting. It represents a fantastical break from the hyperactive world—a place where, even just for an hour, people can forget their woes and marinate in magnificence. The beauty of the club is not relegated to one person, outfit or picture. The beauty of the club is all around.
It’s in globally renowned designer Cenk Fikri’s interpretation of taking the Playboy Mansion and interpreting it in a way that feels accessible and unpretentious to everyone. It’s in the playful cocktails and curated wine selection composed by Master Sommelier Fred Dex. It’s in the menu overseen by Richie Notar and Executive Chef Tabitha Yeh and the thrill of letting Mizayaki melt in your mouth. It’s in the beauty of having a respectful time as an adult human being, in a space that allows you to dance in one room and then relax by yourself in a comfy plush armchair with a crystal double old-fashioned glass in hand, all under one roof.
While some have cited it as “out of touch” with the times, the reality is that there is no better time than now for the Playboy Club. The hospitality and nightlife industries are currently under the microscope to show the world that they CAN offer a safe and respectful work environment after years of industry wide neglect. Perhaps we could live in a world without bars, restaurants and clubs. But part of the reason we as humans decide to “go out” is that we’re looking for a break from the daily routine. When the world around us appears like it’s falling apart and turning on the news is an invitation for an evening of doom and gloom, it’s refreshing to see one place on Earth where security prevents your worries from getting past the velvet rope.
Though critics argue that the Playboy Club opened without anyone asking for it, in nightlife, people don’t ask for anything; they experience it themselves. Once they do, they usually can’t get enough. If there’s any brand that we should trust to open a modern club and lead the way for a safe and entertaining nightlife experience, it’s one with a decades-long history proving to be thoughtfully rebellious time and time again—a brand that’s known for hosting lavish parties while fighting for equality at the same time.
Today, people have the right to choose where they can enjoy a drink or night out without fear of ridicule. Whether it’s a sports bar, dive bar or tiki bar hideaway, most venues are selling guests on a fantasy, though delivering that dream is another matter. The Playboy Club has made, and once again, makes fantasy an actual reality. Let’s not punish a place for giving society a place to escape to when it’s needed most.