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Bouncer: How to Sneak into a Wine Bar 

Wednesday, Mar 23 2011

Technically, it is not fair for me to write about a wine bar: I hate wine, don't drink it, don't know jack-dilly about it. It's also unfair for me to write about a wine bar in the Financial District: I don't work there, don't know Bo Diddley about investment banking, and I don't own any shoes that cost more than $100. Yet all these things beckoned me to Blanc et Rouge in the Embarcadero Center. I like being a fish out of water. I get a perverse rush walking into places like these, because I immediately feel underdressed, uncomfortable, homely, poor, and even a little scared.

Initially, I almost walked right past it, but the gentle jostle of tailored suits and women over 35 in short skirts stopped me in my tracks. Hey now, what do we have here? I looked into the window at the scene, then I slowly looked down at my own outfit to see if it would past muster. I had just come from a developmental disabilities conference at UCSF, so I was at least wearing pants. I had on flats, a scoop-neck top, and a jean jacket. The makeup I had applied in the morning had long since been wiped clean by a day's worth of yawning and eye rubbing. All in all, I pretty much looked like someone who had just undergone eight hours of lectures on mental retardation.

I looked back up into the window again, saw a guy put his wineglass down, rock onto his left leg, put his hands in his pockets, and then pull his suit trousers all the way up his ass in some bizarre attempt at sexiness.

Aw, yeah: Nothing, but nothing, was gonna keep me from this place.

I crossed the threshold and took a gander. The space is modern and airy, with tables and short banquette seating that can be mixed and matched depending on the number of people in your party. There was also plenty of floor space to stand and chat, as well as an actual bar for lone wolves such as myself. I began to walk toward it, but then I realized that I should probably see how much money I had before I presented myself. I knew I had only $12 in my bank account, but I had various dollar bills in my bag that I was hoping would add up to about $10. No such luck; I had $4 total. Rats.

All around me, groups of upper-class professionals were buzzing and guzzling away, seemingly oblivious to my presence. The same went for the staff. I really wanted to stick around and listen to what folks were talking about, do some people-watching, and soak up the ambiance. Whoever coined the phrase "You could smell the money" was a genius.

I decided to pull something I like to call a Victor Victoria. In the film, Julie Andrews' character is poor and starving, so she goes to a nice restaurant and orders a small feast for herself. When the last dish is presented to her, she takes out a cockroach she had brought along, places it in the food, and then commences to scream. The manager comes over and is of course so embarrassed that a bug would be in her meal that he offers to give her the dinner for free.

My plans were way less dastardly; I just wanted to hang out a bit without spending any money and not be kicked out. I decided to stake out a seat at the opposite end of an area of tables that was mostly being taken up by a large group. I found one on the right-hand side of the room. The imbibers were having such a good time that they didn't even seem to notice me take a seat. If anyone asked, I was "waiting for some friends." I figured if I said "some" friends, as opposed to one, then the management would feel better about me holding court with several empty seats around me — seats that would soon, no doubt, be filled with people spending money. If I was to say that I was meeting only one person, waiters might ask me to go sit at the bar instead, and then the pressure would be greater to order something. I'm telling you, there is a whole science to this.

Another thing you should do is set the stage properly. It is helpful to poke around the place a bit first, as if you are looking for your phantom party. I did so, peering this way and that, politely pushing past people and gazing around intently. Finally I took a deep breath that said, "Well, I guess they are not here yet; better find a table and start perusing the menu."

At this point you might be thinking, "Wow, this is valuable information!" But then perhaps you realize that being allowed to sit in some lounge and do nothing all by yourself, with no money, is actually about as exciting as hour seven of a lecture titled "Medical Record-Keeping in the Age of Autism." Yes, this unfortunately started to sink in with me, too. The next time I do something like this, I will at least choose a place that gives you free bread or nuts.

It turned out that I never had to use my spiel, because no one ever approached me. Then something really amazing happened: A group of women came in, saw the empty seats around me, and asked if they could share the space. I was now completely sheltered from any staff interference. Victory! My ignoble experiment was a success.

I suppose, next week, I shall come back and actually order something and pay for it. Not that anyone would notice.

Like “Katy St.Clair’s Bouncer column’ on 
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About The Author

Katy St. Clair


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