A former employee of 1 OAK (pitcured) in the Meatpacking District has filed a lawsuit against the nightclub, alleging that the 20% gratuity that is automatically charged for bottle service is being distributed to staff that are not hourly service workers, a violation of state labor laws. More specifically, the suit claims that 1OAK's head doorman Binn Jakupi and other managers shared in the tips. The Great Recession was supposed to destroy the bottle service business model, but could this lawsuit be what really changes bottle service for good?
Let's start from the beginning. If for some bizarre reason you want to make a table reservation at a nightclub, you would contact a promoter or show up and talk to the doorman, who would then quote you a minimum price. For example, a promoter told us that for a table at Cain's going out of business party tonight, six people would have a two bottle minimum and would cost $750 "before tax and gratuity", which would add approximately 25% to the bill. Let's round the cost up to a clean $1,000. The promoter has thus sold us a table, and would be compensated by the club from the gratuity pool for doing so.
Just as restaurants have been sued over tip pool shenanigans, this suit alleges that the practice is just as illegal in nightclubs. But the nightclubs will argue that the gratuity includes a commission of sorts for the person who actually generated the sale, an argument that seems plausible considering the waitress really only carries the bottle from to the table and had nothing to do with the sale of the first two bottles.
So how does this impact the nightclub industry? Steve Lewis thinks this lawsuit has clubs all over New York anxious, and thinks that "this case will determine whether or not the bottle service industry will look like a very different playing field than the one we see with the current active policies." If it goes to court, a judge will have to determine if one law can be applied to two very different businesses in the same way. But be certain that if you are crazy enough to drop $1000 for a table, your receipt will now make clear that there is a 15% gratuity, a 5% service charge so they clubs can feel more comfortable as they take your money.
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