Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Denim is a Fake Fendi


Last Friday night, Endorphin Seeker invited me to join a few other friends at a private party being hosted at Denim Nightclub. I slithered into my tightest pair of jeans, lowest cut blouse, softest leather pumps and coolest Italian jacket. I even showered. I messied my hair and haphazardly applied lip gloss while my posse walked through Rittenhouse Square . I looked forward to enjoying a new classy establishment, cute boys and genuine fun. But the journey was much more exciting than the destination. Denim’s turned out to be the same people and the same tired old scene. A club and its patrons, simply trying too hard. A reminder why I rarely leave my apartment after 10:00 PM on a Friday night for anything other than ice cream.

Denim is part of a rash of new nightclubs dangerously spreading like an outbreak of Herpes around Rittenhouse, trying to bring a piece of the Manhattan Meatpacking scene to Philadelphia. As a former Manhattanite, I can attest to the fact that these glitzy clubs in NYC overflow with pretty people, and cater to nerdy stockbrokers, their clients, and eighteen year old models. I’m sure these Philly knock-offs are lured by the high tabs and pay off of bottle service. A $1,000 bottle of Grey Goose gets you a front row seat to the catwalk of Manhattan’s most shallow class. These clubs are pretty loud and lame, even in the New York zip code. But at least in Manhattan, your hefty bottle service gives you something pretty to look at – which was not the case on my most recent visit to Denim.

Like the other Philly fakes, Denim draped red velvet ropes over the entrance to hold back the crowds in the cold night air and give the illusion they were filled to capacity. My friends and I skirted past the line, and headed into the empty club. Upstairs, the air was filled with smoke. I had almost forgotten how much I hated a smoky room that left your hair and your clothes reeking of smoke for days. Breaking the smoking ban must be part of their effort to bring the cool factor. The bar, while elegant, left nowhere to get comfortable without a charge. Every table was reserved for bottle service, sectioned off by more velvet ropes. The few chairs at the bar were taken away around 11:30 PM. The club set the scene for the ridiculous charade that played out over the rest of the evening.

Up the stairs they came, balding men in button down shirts and Kenneth Cole blazers, women wearing red boas and sipping out of penis straws, stiff men in their late 30’s with twenty year old trashtastic women chewing hunks of bubblicious and sucking on Menthol cigarettes. In they flowed, past the empty roped off areas to find the bar. They stood around in their scuffed heels and party attire like teenagers at a high school dance. Until the alcohol began to take hold and the crowd dissolved into make-out session on the dance floor.

The scene made me sad. Why can’t these clubs be posh and cool while encouraging people to relax, let loose and be themselves? Why can’t the staff smile, the clientele sit down with their friends and run a tab up?

I spent ten years as a cocktail waitress in some of the hottest clubs in Seattle, DC and New York. I worked in clubs that attracted A-list crowds without any tricks. VIP service came in the form of top notch cocktail waitresses that remembered your name, never let your drink go empty and were quick to connect you to other people in the club. The clubs I worked out sold a wild night. They were funky and hip, attracted rock stars along with college kids, and the staff seemed to actually like their jobs. These laid back establishments had low overhead and big pay-off. These clubs helped people understand that they didn’t need to pose at the end of the bar to feel attractive or have fun.

One of the reasons that I love Philly is because it is not New York, doesn’t try to be and doesn’t want to be. I love the chill factor, the artist energy and the relaxed pace of life in the city. There is less competition in Philly – and more of a chance to really get to know someone. Philly is the essence of cool, the girl that no matter how many hours she spent getting ready appears effortless. A club like Denim doesn’t just doesn’t seem to fit.

Denim wants to be in New York City, but without the overflow of cash, big spenders, sea of wannabe models and beautiful people, can this new club model actually work in Philadelphia?


  1. I tweeted this and it started a flame on twitter.
    I agree, although it is your fault for going to that dead space..

    twitter.com/ 215tayyib

  2. Wait - Denim's not new. Am I missing something? It's been around for years.

  3. I've been in Philly 3 years and have not once been enticed to set foot in Denim. Maybe it's because the trashy club scene got old immediately following my 21st birthday, when getting sloshed and making out with strangers on dance floors seemed tacky instead of "cool."

    Honestly, I'd rather spend my time (and money) at Alfa across the way - the bartender always hooks my girlfriends and I up with drinks and there's generally some quality eye candy!


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