Now that I have the FULL story from a member of our group I feel I can write about what happened at The Village Vanguard BUT before I do I want to clarify a few things so people don’t get their knickers in a twist.
1. MY MOTIVE: I really have no alterior motive here other than to relay a story about a bad experience I had at a New York jazz club. I would do the same if it was Smoke, Smalls, The Blue Note or any other club for that matter. I blog about my New York With Weeds Tour and am not going to lie and wax poetic about something because of the reverence the rest of the world has for the place. Although my past experiences with service with the Vanguard haven’t been stellar, I have just chalked those up to being in New York and the way things are in general. The following however went over the top in so many ways, it had to be written about.
I in NO WAY am insinuating that myself or my club is perfect. We have bad nights in all aspects but this is above and beyond and I can say without question this has NEVER happened at my club.
2. RESPECT: I am fully aware of the history of the Vanguard. I have read both books about the Vanguard with great interest and am still amazed of the magical feeling I get when I walk down those stairs into that club or when I see the red awning from afar. Jed, Jenn or any of the other staff will never be able to take that away from me. They have been in business a long time and it simply IS the most famous jazz club in the world.
3. KURT ROSENWINKEL: Its already happened in private messages where some people think I am using this as an opportunity to slag Kurt. This is ABSOLUTELY not the case. I have made my feelings known about how I feel about his music BUT I have the utmost respect for him and his band as musicians and from what I know of them..as people. If I had an opportunity to book Kurt at The Cellar again I would do it in a second. So this post and my night has nothing to do with Kurt Rosenwinkel so I will reserve any and all comments in regards to what I liked or disliked about the performance.
So here we go:
This is the third trip to The Village Vanguard with New York With Weeds. This year was the biggest group. I have dealt with Lorraine Gordon’s daughter all three years. I have to say that we have never met but she has been AWESOME!!! Patient, understanding, flexible and more than cordial.
I will put MY experience at the end of this post but first here is the whole reason I was waiting to relay what happened to use. This is from a tour participant verbatim:
Hi Cory – well first as you know the guy at the door was insufferable. He told me that he was the manager and I asked him why he was working the door and he said he had to, “Because the animals in the line (aka his customers) couldn’t be trusted.” He went on about if being beneath him to be doing the job but somebody had to. Then he said I had to go inside even though he told me the show wasn’t starting for another 10 – 15 minutes, but if I didn’t go in my seat would be gone. So I said I had paid for the seat so couldn’t I choose to stand outside ‘cause my friends were almost there. Then he said, “What are you in grade three?” and I said, “No but can’t I wait for a bit more or leave my friends’ names with you,” and he said, “NO, tell the guy downstairs” and I said, “What good will that do as they won’t know to go downstairs,” and he got really rude, saying again, “NO, WHAT DID I SAY, ARE YOU IN GRADE THREE?” Anyway I was polite to him throughout as I recognized that my friends were partly in the wrong for being late, saying (tongue firmly in cheek but politely), “Must be frustrating for you doing this job when you are the manager etc.” We got through that and after I’d coddled him a bit more, they arrived and we went downstairs. Then the real fun started.
The space they had for us was enough room for 6 people and they had about 20 of us crammed in, my knees had nowhere to go, we had no table, and we couldn’t see anything (not that I really cared because the band as you mentioned was sort of annoying, the guy beside me asked if the band spoke English to which I said “I didn’t know” and he answered “I guess the music is supposed to speak for itself” then he promptly fell asleep). Anyway that’s a sidebar. At the end of the night the waiter brought us a bill for our drinks, (he’d been pretty surly and rude just getting us the drinks), and I said, “We only had one drink each and that was included in our entrance.” And he very rudely answered, “Well that dude Cory didn’t pay for these and he’s left” and I said, “Well you knew we were part of this group, you should have charged him for them and so it’s your mistake and we are not paying.” I handed him the bill back and he said, “YOU’RE PAYING,” and put it back down. I said, “No we aren’t, it was bad service, no sightlines and your mistake!” He walked away and came back with another bill and put that one down too; then I lost it and said, “WE’RE NOT PAYING.” At which point he shouted back,”YOU CAN’T JUST BRING 43 PEOPLE TO A CLUB LIKE THIS!” At which point, I said, “You don’t want the business?” and Vanessa’s friend Norman was so embarrassed he paid the bill. I told Vanessa and Norman in front of the waiter neverto come back to the club and to tell all their New York friends the same. Even though, I don’t think there is any chance of that ever happening anyway!
Just the same my mom, who was watching all this, will love to tell her friends about her New York moment and Vanessa said she was “impressed” with the way I stood up to the waiter, so it was all good and did not in the least take away from a great trip. As my sister said after talking to our mom, “I think she grew a foot taller after the trip.”
If this isn’t enough, now here is my experience:
We showed up at 10:15 (15 minutes before we were supposed) to with about 30 out of 40 people. Jed was at the door and asked us to line up in the ‘ticketed’ line which we did. I went down and was greeted and was greeted by the hostess who informed me about where we would be sitting which I was fine with. I was dis-appointed we were relegated to the back but there were some prime ‘side’ seats and being a restaurant owner I was sympathetic to the fact that they might have sat us there to help with their service and flow.
I then went back upstairs to greet the rest of my group. there were about 10 of them milling about and there were still people in the line that had reservations or tickets. Jed was once again taking care of the lineup. 2 of my people went to enter the club knowing that my group was already down there. They were told by Jed in very rude terms that they were not allowed to go down and to go to the back of the line. This naturally made this person uncomfortable and when she challenged him as to why, instead of explaining their policy he simply said “get to the back of the line and if you don’t like it don’t come in and don’t bother coming back.” Once everyone was in I went back downstairs only to be told by the hostess that my group was being quite rude. I asked what the problem was. I was told “people were just seating themselves at any table and when they asked them to move they wouldn’t.” I asked to be shown where these people were seated and it was pointed at the exact section that we were told us to all sit at not 5 minutes before. I said that you was are boss of the seating and that you instructed my people where to sit so they did just that. I was looked at with a disgusted look and the hostess walked away. When I asked my group what had happened, one gentleman said that the hostess said “you can’t sit here, we have people who have purchased tickets.” This is an exact quote! The group of five that were being lambasted for following The hostesses instructions on seating simply replied “well we bought tickets to and were sat here and we’re not moving.” Good on them I say!
Then the poor service, rude service and SLOW service was just way to much to deal with. When I asked for a glass of wine that I had paid for the waiter looked at me and said “you’ll get your wine in a while when I deal with all YOUR other people” and walked away. I got my wine at the bar and paid for it twice.
Not to make my group seem like big drinkers but the VV walked away from at least a couple of drinks for about 25 people. At $10 a drink (give or take), that is a lot of money to walk away from.
Anyways, there it is. Out in the open, as it happened.