At New Nightspot, Ambassadorship Has Its Privileges

Bishops & Barons exteriorDaniel Maurer

A quirky “ambassador” program that failed because its cool members weren’t cool enough for the Chelsea nightclub they were representing will be implemented in a new bar on East 14th Street.

The owner of Bishops & Barons, which is celebrating its opening tonight in the old Hype Lounge space, expects that his roughly 150 ambassadors will invite their friends to the restaurant and cocktail lounge that evokes the days of “showgirls, movie star gangsters and supper clubs,” according to a press release.

“It’s all about creating a foundation for the place,” said owner Danny Kane of his ambassadors. “That way, when people walk in it’s not empty and there’s energy.”

This is Mr. Kane’s second try at implementing the program. It was unveiled to much fanfare — and sarcasm — at his uber-exclusive club The Gates in 2009. Under the caste-like system, ambassadors would get a golden key, membership card and access to a password-protected website. They’d then be able to add five people to a “members” list, a special designation with less privileges than the ambassadors. Ambassadors also received a direct number for the doorman’s “late-night Blackberry” to let him know when they were on the way over.

Bishops & Barons interiorDaniel Maurer The back room.

Unfortunately, the idea flopped because Mr. Kane’s ambassadors had trouble getting their group of friends into the (now-closed) club despite their exalted status.

“We had a hardcore doorman. If one guy in a group was under-dressed or a woman wasn’t the right look for the place he would shoot them down,” said Mr. Kane. “It was tough. I’d have to hear arguments the next day over email. I’d get phone calls, then I’d hear it from the doorman. The damage control on it was so energy consuming.”

But Bishops & Barons, which is named after two Brooklyn street gangs from the 1950s, won’t have this problem (or an aggressive doorman).

“This ambassador program will work 10 times more effectively because people will get in,” Mr. Kane said. “But don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to be a bridge and tunnel crowd. There will still be great ratio of women to men.”

The owner likened the new establishment to “an Employees Only for the East Village,” referencing the West Village bar with a retro aesthetic and high-end cocktails. In fact, Dushan Zaric, a bartender-owner at Employees Only and Macao Trading Co., helped craft the cocktail menu and is consulting for its opening months.

The back of the bar features a small semi-private chamber outfitted like a showgirl’s dressing room. Other touches, like sexy silhouettes on the wall, large feathered fans, and plush zebra-striped chairs are meant to evoke the bygone era of The Stork Club and El Morocco.

Cocktails, like the Odd Job, High Fashion, The Billionaire Cocktail, the Hemingway Daiquiri and Lazy Lover cost $13 (that’s $1 less than the high-end cocktails nearby at Booker and Dax). Two of the dishes also reference the days of the “Gangs of New York” as well as more modern times. The Five-Points Burger costs $17, the Slow Roasted B&T Tomato Salad costs $14.

The preview menu is below.