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The Good Life

Champagne show-offs

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Size zero models flirt with good-looking men. Businessmen - some with a belly large enough to match their bank balance - schmooze over a cigar and a stiff one. Conversation flows as fluidly as alcohol.

It's a regular night at the VIP and VVIP tables. A necessity for most nightlife establishments - you can't make it to the 'It' list if you don't have a VIP section - these tables, which start at Rs 40, 000 at most clubs, come equipped with a chilled bottle of vodka, the ubiquitous Johnny Walker and a velvet rope. A personal bartender, usually a blonde hired by clubs to add to the oomph factor, makes sure that the glass never stays empty.

The real fun, though, begins when someone orders the bubbly. Suddenly there'll a flurry of activity. A retinue of waiters hoisting champagne and sparklers will part the crowd, set perfectly to a fiery beat that the DJ has turned up on cue. It forces everybody from the young couple gyrating on the floor to the bouncer standing on the far edge of the bar to look at the spectacle unfolding in front of their eyes. For 30 seconds, the time a sparkler needs to extinguish, the champagne orderer is the cynosure of all eyes.
Quite like what American rapper Lloyd Banks' talks about in his rather aptly named song Beamer, Benz, or Bentley.

Hit the club, ordered bottles, see them sparks in the sky

Will have this whole b**** looking like the 4th of July

If you've come across such scenes and thought "how tacky", you'll be surprised that making a show of serving champagne is a universally accepted and successful sales strategy that clubs use. Using inexpensive sparklers and parading across a busy dance floor, according to most bar and club owners, increases their revenue. Club managers report a rush of bottle sales for 30-45 minutes after these low-smoke indoor sparklers have first created their impact.

Clubs, whether in New York or New Delhi, regularly serve bottles of Moet & Chandon or Mumm's champagne fitted with bottle sparklers. Additionally, and not surprisingly, it does wonders for a guest's perceived social standing and looks impressive, the one thing that all VIP guests want from the moment they waltz into a club. Sachin Shetty, general manager, operations, for the Hype chain of clubs, vouches for this. "We sell about 15-20 bottles every weekend and from the time the first bottle is sold, orders build up, usually from the VIP tables, " says Shetty. Hype stocks the Moet & Chandon brand.

Champagne, earlier thought of as a drink for special occasions, is today more synonymous with luxury and good times, largely due to the endorsement of the American rap industry which made it more bling. One can announce their arrival on the scene if one can afford to order an expensive bottle of fermented grape juice.

Patrons, today, order magnums like they order cans of Coke. Ordering four bottles of Dom Perignon of the 2000 vintage, available in most hotels and clubs for not less than Rs 20, 000 and often more, is not a rarity anymore. And it doesn't even have to be your birthday. "People don't need a reason to celebrate anymore. They're out, they're having a good time and they drink champagne. Nothing more to that, " adds Shetty.

It might not be suggestive of good taste but it certainly is symptomatic of the need to be noticed. A manager, on condition of anonymity, recalls a story when a champagne-ordering competition between VIP tables erupted at his club in Delhi. "There was one table of five guests who ordered a champagne. Ten minutes later their neighbouring table ordered one. In the next hour, we sold 10 bottles between two tables and even when they were in no shape to drink anymore, the ego battle didn't stop. It was hilarious, " he recalls.

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