Milk & Honey Keeps Out Philistines by Converting to Private Club

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Photo: Daniel Maurer

Milk & Honey’s secret number has always been the Holy Grail of cocktail enthusiasts. Apparently the new one has been outed by a blogger, causing neophytes to storm the place and irk the landlord, who lives above the bar. As a result, owner Sasha Petraske says he’ll spend the next year turning it into a private club where members who meet his approval and pay either $325 or $3,250 (depending on the number of minimum weekday visits to which they commit) will be given keys to use anytime they want. His full e-mail is after the jump.

Hello again. Sorry to email again so soon, but it seems the new phone number has already made its way onto the internet.

When I opened Milk and Honey in January of 2000 it was not reservation only, and had no lock on the door. It was open to anyone who knew the address, and attracted a community of people with one thing in common: knowing how to drink and remain polite, to each other and the residents of Eldridge Street.

The barrage of constant write ups forced us to start running reservations, in order to prevent crowds outside from bothering our landlord (who lives directly upstairs.) Changing the number each time it was published worked for several years to keep the chain of word of mouth relatively strong.

Now, however, with the advent of blogging, there is no chance for that to work. Since the number change of a few weeks ago, my staff actually report an increase in first time customers, who have evidently never heard that it was a quiet bar, merely that it was a trendy one. The landlord has given us his first noise complaints in almost 9 years of business, all regarding the conversation of smokers outside or people exiting loudly.

Over the years our "first call, first serve" policy, while being fair on the face of it, I now realize was quite unfair to our regulars. The people were awake at 9 AM to send in the earliest text message and people who quietly exit the bar at 2 AM seem seldom to be the same people. In an effort to get back the small, like-minded community that we had in the beginning (and regain the quiet that we need to get our year-by-year lease renewed,) I am taking steps to convert Milk and Honey into a private social club.

This process will take over a year, involving the granting of a Social Club Charter by New York State.

In the meantime, we will adopt a half measure that allows us to remain within the law. If membership in such a program interests you, read on. If not, for the next year or so, reservations will still be available on [redacted].

M&H; Regular Program

Four of our six tables will be allocated to our regulars, who may make an advance reservation, call twenty minutes prior, or just stop by without calling. Regulars will be given a key to the front door. If there are no seats available, you may lock up the next table, and go to White Star or another nearby bar and we will call you when the table is ready. There will be no standing room, and no more advance wait list.

Cocktails will be priced for regulars and their guests at $9, Regulars may bring up to 3 guests., and the key is non transferable. There are three types of key available. A Standard one, which is $300 a year plus tax ($325). To renew the membership at the same rate, the regular must have attended at least 10 weekdays the previous year, defined as Sunday through Wednesday. Everyone wants to come during prime time, but without consistent weekday business we will fail.

An Unrestricted key can be used as seldom as you like, and is $3,000 a year, with tax $3,250. If you have more money than time, this is for you. The Unrestricted key in no way has any advantage in service over a Regular Key. Tables are allocated first come or call, first serve. It is merely that we need each of the 250 keyholders to contribute their share into the business, one way or the other.

Lastly, an Industry key is available for people in the restaurant business. This key has no minimum visits, costs the same as a Standard key and is only valid after 1 AM. If an Industry key holder wishes to come before 1 AM on they must make a reservation, through the normal channel, for one of the other two tables, and will receive no preference in the reservation book.

The program will go into effect the first of November. Payment is by check to "M&H; Concierge Services, inc". I will be at White Star, 21 Essex Street between Hester and Canal from 7-9pm starting Thursday, signing people up until we have reached 250 Standard key holders. I would like to meet each key holder face to face., and look forward to reconnecting with some old friends.

Sasha Petraske

14 October 2008