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Give 'Em Enough Velvet Rope . . .

On a recent night, the city's most exclusive club is nearly empty -- but just try to get in.

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"I can't believe you haven't been to Halo yet," says Kariem Amatullah, the hospitable owner of the clubby boîte on Grove Street where Jennifer Lopez held her birthday party back in July. "When are you coming to Halo?" Jake Spitz, the nightspot's publicist, repeatedly asks.

Finally, one Thursday night, a journalistic expedition is organized. Spitz enthusiastically arranges a table for four at the dinner hour, leaving a message with the names of various managers and co-owners to ask for in the event of a problem: "Kariem is in Costa Rica. I don't think there will be any problem, but just in case, here's my cell-phone number." Spitz is justifiably jittery: The club has just been banned from "Page Six" coverage after Amatullah exploded over an item.

The group decides to skip dinner and go for just drinks, and calls the club to cancel the reservation. "You've got to come by -- it's fabulous," insists Jackie, the hostess who takes the call. The crew, including a good sport on crutches, ventures over at about 10:30 p.m. From a distance, a bouncer and a blonde with a clipboard are visible, secured from the eager mob by a heavy velvet rope. But wait -- there is no mob. In fact, they're all alone on this quiet street. The group makes its explanations, but Zoya, the astrally named Halo doorwoman, has an aura more satanic than celestial. "Reservations are automatically canceled after twenty minutes," she decrees, adding that even if only two people sallied forth, "It's a $250 minimum for table service." The party is reduced to stammering. "But we'd just like to stop in for a quick drink. We spoke with Jackie. She said to come by!" "I decide who gets in," says the gatekeeper, crossing her arms. A cell phone is brandished, and Jackie appears. "It's her job to be rude," she explains to the surprised guests. "I've seen her turn pregnant women away."

Inside, there are only a few more revelers than were waiting to get in. After the group settles into a corner, the waitress suggests they move to another area to see the "action." Soon enough, she requests a second move. Seems the new table is reserved -- for, it turns out, a woman who works for Spitz (she invites the group to join her). The next day, there's a call from Spitz. "These door people have a glorified image of themselves," he ventures. "They're on a power trip, and it makes our job difficult." It doesn't do much for business, either.


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