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Paul Goldstein on Selling the Sizzle to Lavo's Whales

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Lavo New York is the Tao Strategic Group's Midtown restaurant and club known mostly for its wild weekend brunch parties and big nights in the basement club. Both are usually packed with big spenders that have come to expect Lavo to deliver more than just sparklers along with their bottles of Champagne, as Lavo customers have been known to buy a 15 liter bottle of Ace of Spades for $125,000 and where individual bills have gotten as large as $500,000 at a time.

Lavo partner Paul Goldstein tells Eater that Lavo "sells the sizzle" like no one else, saying "not everyone can deliver an experience that is off the wall" like they can. Special presentations at the brunch parties and club usually require a customer spending a minimum of $5,000 and can go all the way up to $200,000, and the club usually tries to tailor a presentation to their customer's interests, which they discover by calling their offices or known acquaintances.

Goldstein recalls one customer being interested in boxing and said he would be ordering bottles of Champagne in five sets of five, so some of the Lavo waitresses donned boxing outfits and signaled each round of bottles with a number, similar to a ring girl at a boxing match.

Goldstein and his partners sit down once a week to review the presentations, and they employ a set designer to execute the concepts. Not that things always go as planned. He recalled one Lavo brunch where a girl who was celebrating her birthday pre-ordered a 15 liter bottle of Moet that they sell for $17,000 (not including tax or gratuity). The Lavo presentation team spent an entire day stripping the label off the bottle and then custom bedazzling it in honor of their customer's birthday. The next day she arrived at the club and told her waitress that she wanted to see a wine list and then changed her mind, saying she didn't want the Moet and wanted a six liter bottle of Cristal that was four times more than the Moet that Lavo had already bedazzled for her. Since the party had yet to kick in to high gear, Paul says, "We bought time by sending out some regular bottles, but in the back we were frantically trying to make the new bottle look like the one she pre-ordered. Then we brought it out to her in our Lavo chariot with a waitress throwing rose petals to the crowd." The birthday girl must have been pleased because 45 minutes later she asked for the original bottle and spent about $85,000 that day, not bad for one customer during a single afternoon brunch.

The club is always prepared with a few presentations that they can quickly pull together if a customer decides to make a big buy, including the chariot mentioned above, a carousel horse (how Studio 54-esque) and even a birthday cake box that can fit four or five girls inside that can deliver bottles to a table. Goldstein says these usually only happen during brunch or in the club, but are willing to do something in the restaurant for a special customer. Just don't expect to see too many big shows every night, because as Goldstein explains, "It wouldn't be special anymore if we did it for everyone."
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39 East 58th Street, New York, New York 10022 Visit Website

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