Dirty Blonde: An Anatomy of the Nightlife Media’s Obsession with Chloe 81


When Lower East Side hideaway Chloe 81 opened last fall, it quickly won a coterie of fashionable fans via its Wednesday-night party, the Ivy. The press followed suit, admiring the vintage tiling, the low ceiling, the candlelight—the intimacy in general. But then a funny thing happened. In a quest to say anything interesting about an apparently likable bar with apparently likable owners, members of the media began tripping all over themselves to issue grander superlatives than the last, resulting in a hot-spot dogpile of cringe-worthy proportions—and an incredibly tight door. Follow along!

Sept. 16, 2008: Urban Daddy officially cranks up the hype machine: “Your latest underground drinking den isn’t visible from street level. Just find your way down some ratty steps and into a shiny, white-tiled cocktail station with red booths, downtown hipsters, and stiff drinks.” Let the games begin.

Oct. 3: New York‘s nightlife expert, Daniel Maurer, deciding it high time to anoint a new Beatrice Inn, declares Chloe 81 the successor (we nightlife writers sure love the “This is the new that” construction): “She might be a little smaller than the Beatrice (we didn’t bust out the measuring tape), but that hasn’t prevented dancing,” he writes. “The drinks are made using fresh juices and such—from what we tasted, they could use a little tweaking, but then you’re not coming here for the perfect Manhattan. It’s more about the thrill of the unmarked door.” Discovering there’s a chance they can’t make it past the door, everyone suddenly decides they must make it past the door.

Oct. 22: BlackBook repeats the comparison, thereby cementing its reality. “Next contender for the title of the new Beatrice is blissfully not in the West Village,” writes Bryce Longton, informing followers that Wednesdays at Chloe are “shutting it down.”

Nov. 14: Paper chimes in: “The Lower East Side isn’t wanting for unmarked bars, and the neighborhood’s recent addition, Chloe 81, joins a growing collection of sleek hideaways best spotted by doormen giving cryptic sidewalk interrogations to those hoping to get in. It’s the utter opposite of fun to some, and worth every potentially ego-bruising second to others.” So, terrifying for all! Healthy.

Nov. 17: Chloe scores its first long-ish feature from Anthem magazine, one that echoes the dichotomy suggested by Maurer six weeks earlier. “To the smug pleasure of her patrons and to the dismay of those who meet Todd or Angelo with a ‘Sorry, private party,’ Beatrice has continued to reign somewhat effortlessly since her inception,” writes Christina Mannatt. “Most would agree that the time has come for Miss Beatrice to face a worthy opponent, and, dear readers, that moment may be upon us.” The post goes on to describe the door policies as “more taut than Janice Dickinson’s visage,” calling Chloe 81 “the Eastside’s Biggie to the Westside’s Tupac in an epic battle of the hips.”

Dec. 2: New York mag uses the Anthem story as an opportunity to remind everyone that, Hel-lo, we said it first-ahhhh. (“In October we predicted Chloe would be the new Beatrice—and we weren’t just saying that because they kind of look the same and have girl names. Per a feature in Anthem, it looks like she’s all grown up now.”) Other members of the press are invited to take their toys and go home.

Dec. 5: Hoo-doggie, here comes the fun. Emboldened by the snowballing press, lovers of the after-dark start getting possessive, as we’re wont to do. “Having a barber shop opening in a bar with A-list attendees boggles the mind. But this is New York, and I was playing favorites last night,” writes BlackBook blogger Holly GoNightly. “The venue in question, Chloe 81, happens to be my beloved watering hole, and one of the DJs, Steven Rojas, is also choice. So we decided to drink to better hair.” See what she did there? Admitted that the premise of the party was a little bit silly, but who cares, because she loves it that much? That’s something else we do. In another six months, everyone will start lovingly talking about the bar in the past tense. As in, “Oh, God, remember how fun Chloe was?”

Dec. 26: The New York Times ambles aboard, which inevitably triggers backlash from everyone else. “Lit by the soft glow of flickering tea lights, the lounge was filled with Manhattan’s more high-end hipsters—the kind who go for an American-Apparel-by-way-of-Bergdorf look,” writes Liza Ghorbani. What, no Allen Salkin?

Jan. 4, 2009: Aha! Backlash! By a Yelp commenter, obviously. “I am not afraid to say this place doesn’t even deserve a 1 star from me if i have that option. I understand the whole thing of being discrete and exclusive. I would not put up with the attitude of this place. especially there are millions of other MUCH COOLER place you can go in the city.” [Multiple sic’s, of course.] She is not even afraid to say it, guys.

Jan. 7: Per the New York Press: “After two failed visits to this quiet Lower East Side block—the bar is closed on Mondays and I ran into a private party on my second try—I finally finagled my way past the doorman and through the velvet drapes to make my underground escape into Chloe 81’s classy, tiled interior,” writes Jake Englander. Aw. Clearly, he didn’t read the Anthem feature.

Jan. 9: Curiously absent Guest of a Guest weighs in, employing the blog’s endearingly casual fashion: “Hipsters in tight jeans? Check. Plaid shirts and neck chains? Check. Sweater vests and Cartigans (sic)? Check, Check, Check.”

Jan. 22: BlackBook offers up a post titled “The Chloe Code: Cracking the Door at LES Hotspot Chloe 81.” It contains no real information regarding how to actually get past the door, but does manage to interview many beautiful people who go there, explicitly advising that you sleep with the DJ and implicitly suggesting that if you aren’t already getting in, you ain’t never gonna. Writer Foster Kamer admits that hype has reached fever pitch. Let’s hope he’s right?