Confusion over bottle service at Boston club ends in punches, dueling allegations

The Boston Licensing Board today continued a hearing on a violent incident at Candibar in the Theater District after an out-of-town patron and the club's owner, sitting next to each other, took turns calling each other a liar.

The board agreed to extend its hearing to let police, the man and the club round up more witnesses to try to shed more light on just what happened shortly after midnight on Oct. 9.

All sides agreed that the incident involved a man seated at a bottle-service table who was asked to leave, and that the bouncer punched him in the forehead. Other details, however, presented a Rashomonish display of alleged facts for board members and observers to select from.

A police detective said the man claimed he was sucker punched for no reason after being kicked out, again for no reason.

Club staffers told police that the man was argumentative, wanted to walk around the club with the bottle from his table and began calling club workers "niggers" and "spics" as he was being escorted out - and that the bouncer punched him in self defense after he appeared to be winding up to take a swing at him.

But the man, a Norton resident, called that account absurd. When he came up to testify, he sat with his wife, a dark-skinned woman from the Dominican Republic, and said "those disgusting words would never could out of my mouth." He added that most of his clients at his Brockton business are Haitian and Cape Verdean.

The man said he and his wife came up to Boston for a day in town. They spent the day shopping, then after Googling Boston clubs, picked Candibar and Ubered over. He said that after spending some time there, on a slow night, they wandered into the room with bottle service and decided to get a table - paying $350 for the table and a bottle of Johnny Walker Black.

But then the server walked away - and took the bottle with her - he said. The man said he and his wife were confused by that. "We thought that was a little odd," he said. Board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini said that's just state law - patrons in Massachusetts bars are not allowed to be left alone with a bottle of liquor.

The man said he questioned the server when she returned - she told him she needed to use the restroom - and that the woman motioned over a security guard. The man said he got up just to hear what the guy was saying in the noisy room, but before he knew it, the guard motioned over a couple more and they began escorting him up and out.

Once outside, he said, he turned to "address the issue," only to find a doorman sucker-punching him in the left forehead.

Owner Charles Delpidio angrily disputed the man's story.

"We're not in business to throw people out for no reason whatsoever," he told the board. Delpidio, sitting next to the man at the hearing, continued, "He was so far out of control, we asked him to leave."

Delpidio insisted the man had, in fact, been throwing racial slurs at club members and that the guy "hit and punched" the doorman, who is 66, first. Delpidio charged that when EMTs, called by Candibar, arrived, the man told them to tell Depidio "to go fuck myself."

The board did not set a specific date for the hearing to continue.

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Comments

The only thing I can add

By on

So this guy and his wife come in and "spend some time" in the bar (i.e. they had a few drinks) and then go and get a whole bottle (which they seemingly only started.) They were not fully sober and probably loaded.

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Dicier part of the restaurant

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Dicier part of the restaurant's position is that they're saying the guy was a royal pain etc but they still sold him a whole bottle. Given how quickly things seem to have went from 'here's a private room' to 'get the hell out of here' I wonder what they were thinking even selling it to him.

Again, that gets back to the confusion over Massachusetts laws

By on

When you "buy" table service in Boston (and probably Massachusetts, but I tend not to care how other cities do things, but I think this is statewide), you're not actually buying a bottle of booze that you can just walk out with or spray other people in the club with or whatever. You're really paying (through the nose, perhaps) for your own dedicated server. The server is supposed to maintain full control of the bottle (or bottles) at all times (hey, just like a bartender) and carefully mete out just one drink at a time to somebody at the table - and to cut off service to anybody who appears to be drunk.

What's truly amazing

Is how easy it is to suss out the markup on such a thing. It's a (expletive) bottle. Price it out at the liquor store. You don't even have to estimate how many shots are in a bottle for that calculation.

Trump voter-level spending decision there, unless they gave you free food and the waitress gave you a lap dance. Sitting in some room in a place a block away from a CVS and/or a TJ Maxx and/or a junkie defecating in a vestibule was worth $350 for a bottle of Johnnie Black?

See above answer

By on

Here in the Commonwealth, you're not paying $350 for a bottle of mid-level scotch. You're paying for your own server for the night.

Well have you asked someone

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Well have you asked someone who owns or works in a bar or restaurant? Or worked in one? Because otherwise how would you know how the markup is supposed to work?

The supermarket price is the wrong place to look. If I want to figure out how good/bad $350 is, I would look at the avg. price of a single johnny walker black in a restaurant and multiply that by the amt of shots in the bottle.

I would need more information to work that out but it definitely needs to be in the hundreds.

Did the math.

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Johnnie Walker Black 750ml is typically around $30 in a liquor store, and there are about 20 "shots" in a 750ml bottle. ie, at home, your shot of Black is about a buck fifty. In a restaurant, that would probably be closer to $10.

"Bottle Service" is nearly a 12x markup, probably twice as much as a restaurant.

Ehhh, not really. Restaurants enjoy wholesale

discounts that are not available to consumers at retail, but they vary by the restaurant's buying power (national chains may have an advantage over local chains and indies there), purchasing volume, willingness to do package deals (e.g., carry a shitty new cordial to get a good discount on a popular whiskey from the same distributor), prestige within a particular market / neighborhood, etc.

Regardless, retail prices still provide a useful yardstick. What should be meaningful to the consumer is not how much the restaurant is marking it up over its own cost, but how much it is marking it up compared to its retail price to drink at home. Markup over typical retail lets you get a sense of likely average markups over restaurant cost, which allows you to evaluate everything else that goes along with drinking it in a restaurant, bar or club (service, ambiance, expert advice, good food to go with it, someone else cleaning up for you, better glassware garnishes and ice, etc.) versus at home. Knowing that difference over average retail can help you decide whether that markup is worth it to you. A $20 glass of champagne at The Bristol might or might not justify its markup over the same glass at a more modest establishment or at home: that's a personal assessment that knowing average retail cost helps.

It's also a good marker of how much a restaurant marks up its spirits, wine and beer on average, and the differences can be stark. Wine markups at an average Boston restaurant are 300-333% over retail. Gougers are in the 400-450% range. Certain wine-centric places can go as low as 200-250%. (Most places mark up their trophy bottles more attractively than the rest of their list.) Ten years ago, I did a back-of-the-napkin analysis on wine markups in Boston restaurants, a peak behind the curtain that people like Barbara Lynch (whose places routinely charge way-above-average markups on wine) clearly did not welcome.

Not really...

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Just want to say, restaurants, and anyone with a liquor license, have to buy their booze from a distributor. The distributors prices are regulated by the state. And they're not significantly lower than what you'd get at a liquor store. In fact, many times they're higher than what you'd get at a liquor store. Just my experience in the business. It would frequently be more expensive for me to buy cases of beer from my distributor than if I just went to the liquor store up the street. But that would be illegal.

Fair point, by my basic argument about

understanding the differences in markups by different restaurants, bars and clubs over retail still stands. Absent transparency outside the industry on wholesale prices, typical retail prices, which are easy for consumers to research, remain the best yardstick for judging those markups.

I haven't worked in the industry in MA in a long time, but I'm curious: are wholesale prices controlled by the Commonwealth for wine as well as malt beverages and spirits? I know that many beer distributors can somehow incent bars to carry brands they wouldn't otherwise, like Irish bars having to carry Harp and Smithwick's in order to get Guinness. Is that illegal?

I know the reverse is illegal: the owner of Bukowski's and other bars got slammed a few years ago for soliciting bribes from local breweries to get taps at their establishments.

EDIT: I am polling my industry friends about this. One restaurant owner reports that volume buying in wine does yield some discounting, which tells me that bigger players have an advantage over smaller ones -- more space and better ability to carry those inventory costs -- even if the Commonwealth sets those discounting levels.

More info: with wines, larger places have the wherewithall to buy out the entire regional allocation of certain wines, another advantage over the little guy.

And more: restaurants used to (extra-legally) be able to negotiate discounts much more easily a few years ago, but the Bukowski / Pretty Things blow-up has resulted in much tighter scrutiny and enforcement of late.

I got a lot of feedback from my industry sources,

much of it off the record, but there's broad consensus that a *ton* of illegal discounting occurs through a whole host of tricks to keep it out of sight of regulators. (Simple example: an extra few cases of booze "accidentally" gets left on the loading dock. Most of the chicanery is more complicated.)

As a rule, this plays mostly to the favor of larger restaurants at the expense of smaller ones, as your typical distributor rep gets greater value for his time in landing big fish by any means necessary than landing smaller ones with the same illicit tactics.

Bottom line: wholesale prices may be fixed by law in the Commonwealth, but regardless, some restaurants enjoy bigger discounts than others.

Remember, folks

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The velvet rope outside a club isn't to keep the riffraff out, it's to keep the assholes in.

As Jamie Chisolm said in the old print Barstool

"There are no exclusive nightclubs in Boston. You may think you're hot (expletive) because you're at District, but the girl next to you is a single mom from Revere, and the guy next to you is a house painter from Dorchester. Get over yourself."

Thank god for Government

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"patrons in Massachusetts bars are not allowed to be left alone with a bottle of liquor. "

yes, because other cities have such a problem with patrons left alone with bottles of liquor. Chaos ensues every time a server turns their head!

Ban Bottle Service All Together

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Bartenders serving individual drinks are trained [through experience and actual training] to know when to cut off problematic drunks. A responsible bartender would not give a single drinker 20 drinks at once. And you can't trust people to know their own limit, especially the kind of douchebags who would go to clubs to get bottle service.

Bottle service doesn't mean what you think it means.

Bottle service, here in Boston, does not mean they plunk a bottle down on the table for you to drink from as you wish. Pouring from the bottle is still under the control of the server. They still serve it by the drink, and all the same rules about how many drinks at a time they can pour, not serving obviously intoxicated people, etc. still apply.

Minutes

Does the board publish meeting minutes online anywhere?