If LAVO nightclub on 39 East 58th St in Manhattan were a handbag, it would be a fake Louis Vuitton that some guy on the street was trying to sell me for 8 times the price of an actual Louis Vuitton.
The attire of the people in the line – half were wearing tuxedos, while the other half were wearing jeans – was an immediate red flag that this club is desperately trying, but failing, to define its image.
But what makes attending LAVO downright embarrassing is that to even enter this completely ordinary club, one has to pay the staggering entrance fee of $50 for women and a $150 for men. For reference, an indoor table at the Rainbow Room, one of the most iconic and elite venues in New York City, only requires a minimum of one purchase per person, and drinks start at $10.
It’s painfully obvious that LAVO is trying to market itself as a Veblen good – a term used in economics to describe goods for which the quantity demanded rises in response to an increase in price (think sports cars), contradicting the basic law of supply and demand. As Dale Carnegie reiterated in his famous bible for social climbers, How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Sigmund Freud said that everything you and I do springs from two motives: the sex urge and the desire to be great.” Thus, Veblen goods are inherently more desirable when they cost more, as their sole purpose is to be ostentatious enough to stroke the owner’s ego while signaling to the sex they are attracted to that they are fabulously wealthy.
But what Lavo doesn’t realize is that when you inflate the price of your product, you need to give consumers an excuse to buy it – “I needed to buy this rather ugly $1,000 Canada Goose jacket because it’s really warm,” exclaimed all of New York in September. Nobody wants to admit to that they are desperate to feel important and to convince other people to have sex with them; in fact, admitting this would be counterproductive to the goals of stroking your own ego while making people want to stroke not-your-ego.
Fortunately I can’t speak from personal experience, but based on the Yelp reviews, at Lavo you won’t get to rub elbows with Congressmen and their high-class hookers, or participate in whatever morally-convoluted scene television told you was elite New York. Instead, you will be surrounded by insecure tourists, and unable to afford the alcohol you need to mollify that piece of you that wonders what minor childhood struggle left you so messed up that you just paid roughly $100 in hopes of feeling good about yourself for a few hours.