Apotheke Door Guy: The Most Powerful Man in Chinatown

by Jason Roth on March 31, 2010

Classiness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, forgive me if my perception sounds skewed. It’s just that I couldn’t really behold much of anything about Apothoke from outside in the alleyway. The stars didn’t align: Apotheke Bouncer and Apotheke Door Guy never met in that sacred union that would allow for entrance into the Mecca of cocktail artistry deep in the heart of Chinatown.

Their website made their unbridled pretentiousness loud and clear, and yet here I am bitching about it.

“At Apothéke, the presentation of a cocktail is just as dramatic as the cocktail itself. The bar is no longer a bar. It’s a stage. A chemistry lab. A theater. A place where if you own a penis, you better know the Door Guy.”

Alright, I made up that last part.

Some friends and I were in the area one Saturday night for an annual dinner, to be held this year at Danny Ng’s, what turned out to possess the exact opposite attributes of Apotheke: casual appearance, and classy service. Oh, and crispy-skinned chicken stuffed with sticky rice that’ll leave you with a smile on your face as your heart stops. (Like the booze at Apotheke, this dish requires an advanced reservation.)

I picked Apotheke for our after-dinner spot. We arrived around 11:00, and were promptly asked by a bouncer whether we had… reservations? Ah, one of those places. I should’ve known. But wait. I had suspected it, which is why I checked their website first. Nope, nothing there that said anything about it being amongst the .01% of bars in the city where reservations were accepted and recommended.

Maybe I’m too business minded for the bastion of free-spirited artistic purity that is Apothoke. But I’d do things differently. If I ran a cocktail bar that takes reservations, where I instructed my bouncer to ask guests upon their arrival whether they have them, I would say something about it on my website. In other words, I’d follow the well-respected model of other, more familiar establishments possessing stages and theaters. I’d also respond to customer emails that politely address the issue. And if I didn’t do these things, I’d be thinking about them as my business tanks and wishing I hadn’t taken the existence of customers for granted.

At first, I was annoyed at myself for not calling anyway for reservations. But here we were: six well-dressed guys in sports jackets ready to spend the 15 bucks plus for a drink, politely awaiting permission to do so. All we needed was to witness Apotheke Bouncer receiving word from Apotheke Door Guy. Note, incidentally, that Apotheke Bouncer and Apotheke Door Guy hold distinct responsibilities. Also note that Apotheke Door Guy needn’t be consulted for the young ladies who arrived after us. (Again, one of those places.)

The real problem with Apotheke is not that it’s a bar that requires reservations and doesn’t tell you that in advance. Well, ok, that’s a real problem, but not the main one. The main problem is that Apotheke management are not capable of identifying that the random people loitering in the alleyway outside their business have the potential to become customers of their business.

After asking Apotheke Bouncer twice after our arrival whether he thought we might be permitted entrance, he said that that would be a decision for Apotheke Door Guy, a man of mystery with whom Apotheke Bouncer had not once made an effort to communicate. (At this point, I’m wondering if Apotheke Door Guy is a green midget or commutes from Loch Ness.) But no hard feelings against Apotheke Bouncer. This was all explained to Apotheke Management afterwards. Apotheke Email and Apotheke Website are both modeled on the same set of principles that guide Apotheke Bouncer, Apotheke Door Guy, and the self-professed means of service of Apotheke Cocktails. It’s all really just for show.

Fortunately, there are cocktail bars, albeit outside of Chinatown, where a concern for appearance is only one of many concerns. Allen & Delancey, Employees Only, and Milk & Honey are a few such examples that I can personally recommend. Just be advised that if you should visit the latter of these respectable cocktail joints, you should do as you would for Danny Ng’s chicken with sticky rice and make reservations. But, hey, what do you know: they actually tell you that.

Not.

Their website made their pretentiousness loud and clear, and yet I ignored it:

“At Apothéke, the presentation of a cocktail is just as dramatic as the cocktail itself. The bar is no longer a bar. It’s a stage. A chemistry lab. A theater. A place where if you own a penis, you better know the door guy.”

Alright, I made up that last part.

Some friends and I were in the area one Saturday night for an annual dinner, to be held this year at Danny Ng’s, what turned out to have the exact opposite attributes of Apotheke: casual appearance, and classy service.

I picked Apotheke for the after-dinner spot. We arrived around 11:00, and we’re promptly asked by a bouncer whether we had reservations. Ah, one of those cocktail bars. I should’ve known. But wait. I actually suspected it. Which is why I had checked their website. Nope, nothing about “reservations recommended”. Here’s a hint: Apotheke management: if you choose to run a cocktail bar that not only takes reservations, where you instruct your bouncer to ask guests upon their arrival whether they have them, you might want to mention that.

to wait while he checks with his “door guy”. The door guy needn’t be consulted for the ladies, incidentally.

Yes, one

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason Roth March 31, 2010 at 1:05 pm

If I believed in omens, or karma, or some kind of mystical nonsense, I’d probably say that my recommendation today of Allen & Delancey had something to do with Tasting Table announcing later the same morning that it has gone out of business. It’s too bad they couldn’t have kept open the cocktail bar. Looks like the best alternative is Employees Only for the time being.

Ally Cat October 11, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Door policy is to balance attendance too many guys= frat house, more hot women than men and we will all come back. Its not about your potential income its about creating an atmosphere which if your not particular can become more or less very unappealing. Sorry for the frankness but get a hot chick to walk in with you and your good to go, six guys, well dressed or not better head to times square.

See you in the ally…

Cat

Jason Roth October 11, 2010 at 5:23 pm

I understand, and when you’re one of the lucky few to be allowed into the bar, clearly the presence of women is preferable. Nevertheless, I could argue that lots of guys in a classic cocktail bar would not equal frat house, but rather classic cocktail bar (i.e., pre-prohibition).

Maybe now that I’ve cooled down about it, I’d consider trying again. But I can’t say I totally buy your argument about more hot women leading to men coming back. Most of the six of us will not come back because we never got in to begin with.

Let me update my above comment and say that even better than Employees Only is Milk & Honey, though only the former serves food. Another awesome find of late is Dutch Kills. This is one of the best cocktail bars in NYC, period, though it also does not serve food and is located smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood that the owner must have been praying would develop quickly and is taking longer than expected. I.e., find yourself a designated driver who can cart your butt there.

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