"This is not a brothel. There are no prostitutes at this address."
This was printed in gold foil on the window of the bar where my friend was throwing a going-away party. I didn't get the joke until I went inside.
The bar had a French bordello aesthetic. Fringed, velvet drapes; seductive, red lamplight; and the coup de grâce in the back room — a giant four-poster bed.
"This place used to be a famous brothel back in the day," a server told me.
I tried to verify that for this column, and a quick internet search confirmed the bar's location was indeed once a house of ill repute, but not a turn-of-the-century, petit Moulin Rouge.
It was a massage parlor busted for extra services in ye olden days of 2016.
I gave them points for positive spin.
Bar gimmicks are nothing new. New York is a city glutted with watering holes, and every new place has to differentiate itself to survive. I've been to a dive bar that offered free popcorn from a machine, a speakeasy-style bar with a hidden entrance and drinks served in teacups, and a vodka bar with a room made of ice where you could borrow Russian military coats and fur hats to keep warm.
I think I saw Julian Assange there.
This bordello bar had thought of every detail, right down to the cash-only policy. The cocktail menu played off the theme with cheeky drink names, like "Lady of the Evening" and "The Harlot's Progress."
I was disappointed when I saw the name of the drink I wanted, but nothing comes between me and a spicy tequila cocktail, so I placed my order.
"Can I please have a 'Dirty Old Man?' "
I know I was supposed to be thinking sexy thoughts as I lounged, or continually readjusted, on the bed, but my main thought was that they needed a better mattress.
Maybe a Tempur-Pedic; I've heard good things about Casper. But something with a little more support. Because this one was dipping and springing with everyone's shifting weight, like a waterbed.
This may have been the one instance of a realistic need for a mattress that could support people moving without spilling a wineglass.
Ironically, the bed was a man-repeller. I've never talked so exclusively to women at a party. I think because it's awkward to climb into a bed with a stranger of the opposite sex, and, despite recent news reports, most men are not creeps.
It's a bar, not an office.
Also, straight guys are loath to pile into a bed together, but women don't mind. So for the majority of the night, it was like a girls' slumber party with booze.
I'm not complaining.
I like this bed thing, but the fancy-prostitute shtick feels tired. Television has exhausted the topic, where there's a show about prostitutes from every era:
I should really stop paying for premium cable.
If I opened a bar, I would lean in to the bed gimmick even more.
At the coat check, they would take your jacket and give you a blanket to wrap around your shoulders.
With every glass of wine, you get a Netflix password to use at one of the bedside TVs lining the room.
Maybe as a drink special, if you order chardonnay, you get instant access to episodes of the Real Housewives, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, or The Bachelor.
In other words, a sports bar for women.
The cocktails would have names like "I Deserve This," "Diet Starts Tomorrow," and, for my favorite tequila cocktail, "A Good Cry."
All the comforts of drinking at home — without the stigma.
I'd name the bar No Judgment.
This started as a joke, but am I on to something?
But I don't want to get into the bar business. I'll stick to the writing-better-female-characters business.
As the party wound down to the final few of us and it was time to pay the bill, we were dismayed to see that out of 20-some guests who had come and gone, they'd left only about 100 bucks toward the tab.
Apparently, people don't like leaving cash on the nightstand when they get out of bed.
This is not a brothel.
But we should've had them pay up front.