New York Daily Photo Analytics

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Waiting at Death's Door

Taking photos in public is a tricky matter, particularly in New York City with such an extraordinary number of extraordinary subjects, both human and inanimate. However, many individuals, including photographers, are unclear as to the exact nature of the laws or their rights regarding photography in public. Basically, any person or thing in public view may be photographed and the images published without giving consent, as long as they are for editorial purposes, i.e., they do not appear in an advertisement. There are mitigating circumstances, however, where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as shooting someone in a bathroom in a home who is visible from a public space.

Recently, while exploring the East Village at night, I came across an intriguing attractive storefront clad in wood. It was the classic, deliberately mysterious front with no windows and nothing to indicate what the place was. On closer examination, there was a small sign and matching nameplate set in the sidewalk that quietly proclaimed "Death & Co."

A lone couple waited outside to get in. I spoke to them - they were from out of the country and were told that they absolutely HAD to visit this place. I learned that it was a cocktail lounge - tres chic, trendy, and hard to get into. They were apparently told that they had to wait. I quickly slipped inside to get a look. It was an extremely striking interior but, ironically, had many free tables. I have no idea if the tables were reserved, however, it seemed reminiscent of the type of establishment that manufactures a sense of exclusivity and desirability by forcing prospective patrons to wait in line. This is a ploy long used by New York City nightclubs - places such as Studio 54 and the Mud Club were notorious for their policies of exclusion. Hordes would wait outside, each person hoping to be a lucky one chosen for admission.

Soon, a young reservationist appeared with a clipboard. I was told that I could not take photos of the exterior. A slight altercation ensued. I informed her that I had a right to do so and that if she liked, we could call the police and review my rights to do so.

She went inside and returned with the owner. He was quite polite and asked the reasons for my photography. I explained this website and gave him a card for New York Daily Photo. He apologized for his reservationist and agreed, of course, that I had the right to photograph a door on the streets of New York City. He gave me his card - a mysterious, understated thing with Death & Co on the face and Frankie Rodriguez with contact information on the reverse. He offered me the opportunity for a photo shoot of the interior at a future time before business hours.

I promised to return. I asked the owner the reason for their notoriety. He answered that their drinks were very exotic, with unusual ingredients researched by the bartenders. Many reviewers online found Death & Co well worth the ordeal to get in. A number of others had similar issues as I did with the reservationist. Hey, but what do you expect Waiting at Death's Door? :)

Note about their name. From their website:
In 1919, the Volstead Act brought a swift end to nightlife and the refined craft of the American bartender was outlawed. It was thought that to drink alcohol was to live a life shadowed by death. It was thought by some that these were death and company.

Related Posts: In a Different Light, The Dark Side, The Core Club


Mary P. said...

Great line. It remain to be seen whether or not it's worth all the hoop-la.

Leslie said...

I can't wait to see the interior. If you don't drink you need to bring a pro with you, some one who can not only appreciate, but really examine, the drinks to determine if all that fuss is worth it.
I find this type of exclusivity obnoxious to say the least (especially when the lounge is quite empty). I love your persistence and find this a very fun post, indeed!

MW said...

Hi Brian, I'm a long time reader of this blog and often visit places you have written about when I am lucky enough to spend time in NYC. I am also a big cocktail geek so I visit places like this as well. I loved Death & Co., it might be my favorite in the city. My husband and I came to that door on a rainy, cold night and were quickly given seats at the bar... a rare feat! So I didn't have to jump through hoops to get in but it was so worth going. I drink fairly simple classics (love a good Manhattan) so it's not like I drank the fanciest option on the menu. I think the presentation is just right, the vibe is just right... it's hard to explain. Anyway, can't wait to hear what you think when you go back. Also check out Amor y Amargo just down the street (I think? It's very near.) and talk to Avery there... it's a very interesting small bar related to the Death & Co family. Cheers!

Thérèse said...

Quite interesting!

SeveP said...

I couldn't not think about your post!