I hit up some of Wall Street's favorite spending haunts and here's what I found.
Sunday Fun Day is a favorite Wall Street event. Popular NYC Sports Bars like Bounce and Ainsworth turn into Sports nightclubs on Sunday afternoons. It combines bottle service, sparklers and attractive waitresses wearing referee outfits while the DJ is spinning Calvin Harris. Football also happens to be on in the background.
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Sunday Fun Day has taken a dip in the last few years but I went out last Sunday and it felt like 2007 again. I frequent one place but still had to grease the bouncer to get in. The table minimum they were asking for was twice last year's asking price. The next table had members of my beloved New York Giants celebrating their successful 6-10 season. (Thank god I hit my three-team parlay. The meaningless touchdown in the Seahawks game gave me just enough money to afford the inflated price of that third bottle of Moet Chandon!)
First, let's get one thing straight: Entertaining at strip clubs is now strictly prohibited on Wall Street. If you try and expense a lap dance at Roberts Steakhouse, you will be fired! However, even FINRA can't tell you not to spend time at a gentleman's club on your own dime.
The 2008 recession hit strip clubs hard initially, but the industry made adjustments to survive and to capitalize when the economy picked up. For example, Sapphire Gentlemen's Club runs a party called SINS every Sunday night.
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According to SINS promoter Ruben Aranata, "Initially we started SINS as a collaborative experiment of NY nightlife/club meet gentleman's club. It was meant to cater to the nightlife industry as Sunday is their night to party. However, we have expanded our clientele to models, fashionistas, and celebs. At first our Wall Street clientele was very little. As we have become mainstream, we have noticed more consistent business and reservations from the finance set."
According to Michael Wright COO of Sapphire, "Prior to 2008, Dodd Frank and increased SEC scrutiny, Wall Streeters spent more freely and had bigger expense budgets. We have changed our model and we focused on the guest experience and different business segments. In 2014, our table service business is up 44 percent year over year. The SINS party has increased our Sunday business by 153 percent. New York City caught on and Wall Streeters have joined the fun. Our steakhouse, Prime 333, is up 38 percent year over year. We can't compete with the standard steakhouses but our steak can be top of the line and add a sexy Sapphire flare. Our expectations are 2015 will continue the positive trend."
If Sapphire is an indicator, spending in 2015 is looking firm to quite firm.
Auto makers in 2014 are on pace to sell more than one million vehicles with prices of over $50,000. Now that is impressive, but what about the really high end of the market?
A salesman at a high-end car dealership in Manhattan that specializes in selling Bentleys, Rolls Royce and Lamborghinis (that range from $100,000 to $500,000) said that the fourth quarter was his "best quarter ever."
"I am very optimistic for the first quarter of 2015. I have had many customers tell me they are going to pull the trigger once they get their bonus," he said. "I even had a guy that told me he was looking to pick up two cars."
Wall Street guys waiting for bonuses to buy two Bentleys? Sounds like the "Wolf of Wall Street" is back in full force!
So what does all this mean? I think it means that 2015 is the year that the rich are ready to spend again. Back to the days of not apologizing for being rich. So position yourself accordingly! Get bullish on steak, Bentleys and Sapphire.
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Commentary by Raj Malhotra (Raj Mahal is his stage name), a former Wall Street trader-turned-stand-up-comedian. He has worked at Wall Street firms covering three continents, including at Bank of America , BNP Paribas and Nomura. He draws from his unique ethnic background and Wall Street career to entertain audiences nightly, highlighting the struggles of the 1 percent. He can be seen at Gotham Comedy Club, Broadway Comedy Club, NY Comedy Club, Greenwich Village Comedy Club, and the Tribeca Comedy Lounge. Follow him on Twitter @RajMahalTweets.