Facing an unsurprising decline in readership of its sultry magazine, Playboy has turned to a decades-old ploy to revive interest in a brand that has notoriously revolved around scantily clad women: a swanky new club in Manhattan.
Playboy Enterprises previously ran a New York club that shuttered more than 30 years ago, along with most of its gentlemen’s clubs around the world. Not satisfied leaving the bunnies behind in the graveyard of anti-feminist ideals, the company has decided that now is an ideal time to reopen the iconic club.
The newest version of the notorious club opens Wednesday next to Midtown’s Cachet Boutique New York hotel at 512 West 42nd St., between 41st and 42nd Streets, bringing with it servers dressed in the famed all-black bunny costume, this time luxuriously accessorized like a belt and nameplate designed by Roberto Cavalli.
Hoping to capture a younger, working crowd interested in “refined culinary experience and highly curated and sophisticated nightlife,” according to a statement, today’s club will focus on over-the-top extravagance and high-end food offerings.
The company partnered with Merchants Hospitality for the club’s revival, maintaining the strict standards for bunnies that the club historically has, according to a spokesperson. Past rules included prohibiting close physical contact if a bunny was a dancing with a patron and for a bunny “to be a beautiful, well-groomed young lady who projects warmth and graciousness at all times.”
Featuring various lounges whose decor mirror the Playboy Mansion’s design (think dimly lit interiors, baroque ceilings, and large leather couches), the club aims to attract an after-work crowd coming in for drinks, dinner, and late-night entertainment like Playboy-esque events. The Playboy Bar, the only portion of the club open to the public, will have a DJ, bar, and food.
Entrance to the rest of the club will require a pricey membership. People will be able to access different portions of the club depending on membership tiers, and only a select few will visit a secret lounge known as the Rabbit Hole. Playboy-themed parties will take place in another room called the Black Box.
The fees start at $5,000 and go up to $100,000 annually, a spokesperson tells Eater, and the group has already reportedly sold $2.2 million worth of memberships, according to the New York Post. Hopeful new members can sign a waitlist on the club’s website.
Nobu veteran Richie Notar, who as “creative director” is charged with being a promoter of sorts to the club, created a menu alongside executive chef Tabitha Yeh that mirrors the club’s fancy nature. Dishes like yellowfin tuna with crispy rice, spicy mayo and roasted sesame; and Wagyu Miyazaki steak with toast, tomato jam and butter will be available throughout the club.
A separate sushi menu created by Yeh, who’s worked at places like Thomas Keller’s Per Se, is also in play. It features options like the Playboy House Roll, filled with toro, salmon, caviar, and crispy shallots wrapped in cucumber.
For drinks, wine and drink consultant Fred Dex will pour aptly named cocktails like the Careless Whisper, his spin on a classic cosmopolitan. Dex has previously served as a consultant to BLT chef Laurent Tourondel and the Tao Group, among others. And a wine and champagne collection will be curated by sommelier Andrew Bell, president of American Sommelier, a wine education company.
The first Playboy Club opened in New York in 1962 as one of Hugh Hefner’s exclusive men’s clubs, where the servers were often the same models displayed in Playboy magazine. Rules for the Playboy Bunnies were notoriously strict, and they’re just as strict today. Servers for the new location are hired and trained by Playboy Enterprises, which retains the same standards of the past, a spokesperson says.
It’s not certain if its resurgence will be as well-received in the #MeToo era, as the original clubs were among the first upscale bars to profit by normalizing the sexualization of women’s bodies. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem famously rose to prominence after going undercover as a bunny and writing a piece about how little the women were paid.
And it’s been a rough period for the Playboy brand. Earlier this year, Playboy Enterprises announced it may be ditching its decades-old magazine, which essentially gave birth to the corporation, and is turning its focus to the “World of Playboy.” The magazine’s circulation has been declining for years, and CEO Ben Kohn told the WSJ that the media business would transition to a brand-management company this year.
The company is banking on the new club’s success, named Playboy’s North American flagship location, as part of that growth.
The new space is adjacent to Merchants’ new Midtown hotel. The hospitality firm, known for upscale ventures for the finance set, also operates Ophelia Lounge NYC at the top of the Beekman Tower and Watermark Bar at the South Street Seaport, among others.
Playboy Club is now open daily from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Correction: The Playboy Club will open next to the Cachet Boutique New York hotel, not inside it.