Air’s Champagne Parlor is changing its business model in a revolutionary way: The hot four-month-old West Village Champagne bar will sell its sparkling wines at prices more typical in stores than in bars.
Owner Ariel Arce has lowered bottles at Air’s to retail prices — a one-time markup rather than the standard two- to three-time markups from wholesale prices at restaurants and bars. It’s a move that is pretty unheard of in the hospitality industry.
For customers, that translates to some incredible deals for a bar. Previously, a bottle of Marc Herbert Cuvee de Reserve sold for $95. On the new menu, which goes into effect Tuesday, November 14 at 7:30 p.m., it will cost $64. Bottles of cult favorite Jacques Selosse now run under $300, whereas before, they sold for up to $370. The full menu is below, with the previous one underneath for price comparisons.
It’s a seemingly crazy move — why sell for cheaper prices than a bar has to? For owner Arce, it’s about exposing as many people as possible to Champagne, a drink she has made her “life’s work,” she says.
She had wanted to do this from the start but wasn’t sure she could, she adds. Since opening, she’s nailed down a model that includes low overhead and a small staff that’s allowing her to give it a go. What also helps is the success of her izakaya in the basement, Tokyo Record Bar.
“Our business at 127 MacDougal is a model that’s built off one another, and the success of Tokyo Record Bar really helps me solidify that you have to really trust your gut in business and not compromise,” Arce says. “This isn’t a business decision per se, this is my life’s work. So if I’m not doing it the way I feel we can do it best, then we’re not doing it best.”
In addition to lower prices, Arce has slimmed down the food menu to just cheese, charcuterie, raw bar, caviar, a grilled cheese sandwich, and fries. “We found that what people were actually purchasing were the trifecta wine bar things that people associate with Champagne, which is cheese, charcuterie, and raw bar,” she says.
Arce is hoping these new changes will pack the people in. “The way this model works is if we do volume,” she says. “And so our goal is to expose as much Champagne as possible to as many people as possible.”