As you may recall, a couple months back, a managing director at UBS was pulled over in Connecticut and charged with a DUI (he also had an unlicensed firearm on him, for good measure). At the time, the man for some reason felt compelled to tell the cops that a) he worked in the financial services industry and b) he was coming from Beamers Cafe, Stamford's premier strip club. As I read the story, a coupla things became clear to me: 1) that guy likes to party and 2) that the cultural relevance of this institution to Wall Street North could no longer be ignored. You may also recall that I proceeded to announce a DealBreaker Field Trip to said establishment, and invited some peoplefrom CNBC to come with. The field trip is still on. However, I decided I couldn't just take you a strip club without scouting the location first and having an idea as to what we could expect, you know? Rather, performing some on-site due diligence ahead of time was necessary. Last night, I did just that.
To perform the DD, I enlisted the help of my special assignments colleague, K, along with a couple of bankers/lap dance enthusiasts. As their employers do not pay them to review strip clubs, the boys were not able to leave the office on time to make a 6:20 train, so we planned to meet them out there. As we approached Stamford, I shared with K that I had that scared/excited feeling (the kind where you're not sure if it's 98% scared/2% excited or the other way around, which is what makes it so intense). We arrived in Stamford at 7:05 and as I wanted to be very scientific about this whole thing, figured we'd spend a couple hours at a bar beforehand, because I reasoned that most people probably don't get off work and head directly to Beamers but rather make the executive decision to go once they've been drinking and someone comes up with the bright idea (I had no idea if this was actually true, but it seemed like it could be true, which is all that matters). [Editor's note: This turned out not to be true; our contact there later informed us that it was “packed” at 6pm because this was Go-Go Thursdays, the third Thursday of every month, and ALL the dancers are required to make an appearance at that time. She assured us it would get busy again around midnight, which it did.] So we needed to kill some time in that regard and also because I needed to be bombed in order to work up the courage to do this.
We got off the train and not having a particular destination in mind, and as any place would do, just decided to walk until we ran into a bar. We passed UBS and while I felt like the "UBS sucks!" guy would've approved of us brown-bagging it in front of the building, decided to keep going. The first place we came across was called Tiernan's but there was a long line out the door and needing liquor stat, couldn't be bothered. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw it. Hula Hanks. A marginally Hawaiian themed bar where there's one of those wheels you spin that has the options to land on a variety of shots, Swedish Fish or "take off your panties"? Obviously there was no better place to pre-game for the exotic dancers, so in we went. Long Island Iced Teas seemed like the way to go and after I had three (maybe four?) of those felt sufficiently ready to meet the girls.
We hopped in a cab and before I could finish saying "We're going to Beamers Cafe, but I need to check what the address is" the driver was turning the corner. "Oh I don't need it. I know exactly where that is," he told us. I had been previously informed that the Cafe was not the safest place, not in a good section of town, that it gave off a menacing vibe and that drug deals in the parking lot are standard. I don't consider myself a puss but I was legitimately scared. "It's definitely fine," the cabbie said. "You girls have nothing to worry about." A minute later we pulled up to a very non-intimidating-looking place, and as we got out of the car, a couple walked by pushing a stroller. Lady and baby pretty much allayed all my fears of getting killed then and there. [Editor's Note: We were told later that the other end of the block, on the opposite side from our approach, is a menacing empty lot/vacant building type thing harboring certain amounts of questionable activity, which is probably what the people were talking about.]
Having read the Yelp reviews online (more on those later) before embarking on our trip, I knew that there was a front room and a "VIP Room" in the back (in addition to back-back room) and that we wanted to go to the latter. It was $30 each for cover and needing more cash was preemptively annoyed at what I assumed would be some sort of ridiculous fee at an in-house ATM but surprise! You can get cash-back on your credit card at the bar, which I think is nice, considering at Scores/Sapphire there's apparently a $18.50 surcharge. (Just something to think about when you're considering which Breast-Fest you want to attend.) ALSO: I noticed this morning that they bill your card to something called "WE, INC." Just putting it out there in the event some of you could run in trouble for spending time at one of these places.
We didn't know how to get to the back room (you had to weave your way around what at the time seemed like a Labyrinth to get there but what I'm sort of thinking now was just a matter of walking from the front to the back. I don't know if you've picked up on it, but we were prettay prettay prettay drunk). A very nice lady employee named Gianna offered to show us the way and proceeded to literally lead us by the hand. (More on G-- who you should ask for should you go and tell her B and K sent you!-- in a bit.)
If the front room-- where the actual dancing takes place, on long tables around which ballet lovers congregate-- looked like some sort of seedy Atlantic City casino, the back room we agreed seemed like a sports bar (there were a bunch of games on)/vaguely reminiscent of hanging out in someone's parents' basement in high school. Lots of people sitting around on pretty comfortable leather couches on which people are dry-humping. So, nostalgia! Like handjobs or something (except I don't actually think that's allowed and you'd probably get in trouble for that).
One of the other Yelp reviews I read stated the following:
Full name of "Beamer's Cafe" really captures the essence of this soon-to-be staple on the Stamford culinary scene. The allure of this restaurant lies in it's simple formula for success...talented staff that are eager to make your experience as pleasurable as possible, coupled with some of the freshest ingredients this side of Manhattan. A full bar seemingly belies the laid back nature of the main room but the overall atmosphere makes it work. Romantic enough for a first date but flexible enough for a great start to the evening with friends.
Now, as I just previously stated, the atmosphere in the back wasn't half bad. Having said that! I'm not exactly sure I would sign off on this being the *best* place to take a first date. Although if you are going to pull that move, please let me know ahead of time so I come and live-blog it.
Another (amazing) review said this:
The guy that wrote the previous review on this place should probably go see an eye doctor, i visited this place last week, and it turns out, they dont sell food, it is actually a gay club, guys running around naked, in chaps, and leather hats, don't recomend it, stay away.
While he's right about the lack of food, I don't know if maybe we were there on the wrong night, but FYI, we did not see a single "guy running around naked, in chaps, and leather hats." On the contrary, we did see a lot of ladies running around almost naked, and actually do think one of them was wearing a chaps-like costume. The three of us sat down on one of the couches and with some pretty skillful-looking lap dances happening within inches of us, asked G a little bit about her time there.
Re: the recession affecting her income, she told us her take-home hasn't changed much, and that apparently the guys aren't tipping any less than they used to. The room was pretty crowded (and proceeded to get even more filled as time went on) but G did say that three years ago they were turning people away at the door (she added that their Friday and Saturday night levels are pretty much the same, on account of assloads of bachelor parties). She told us a lot of hedge fund employees and bankers come, but she doesn't quiz them on what they do exactly during the day, as they come to Beamers "to get away from all that."
"Have you heard of this place SAC Capital" she asked us. We nodded cautiously (was a certain someone about to pop out in a bikini bottom and show us his moves I wondered, not wanting to get my hopes up!!!!). "A LOT of them would come here, now not as many," she said. G also told us that while she's never dated a customer, she has work friends who have, in case you're looking for a place to meet women. Additionally, she said that while the vast majority of the patrons live and/or work in CT, they do regularly see guys coming in from New York, so I guess it's something of a destination!
G had to talk to her boss or something then and as if on cue, a dude plopped himself down in her vacated space and told us he had made the trip from NYC with some clients who wanted to come. "I didn't really want to come, they made me," he offered. He then told us he works for JPM and in the next breath "actually now I'm at this new hedge fund. It's a legit shop, I wouldn't have gone if it wasn't." My eyes started to wander during the conversation and while I can't say that I've compared their work to their peers at other outfits, the lap dances (which are $25/each) looked pretty quality. The girls seemed to be into it, good flexibility, lots of positions (not all of which I understood-- such as the girl with her head pushed into the arm of the couch-- but figured it was something to be appreciated nonetheless). Also, we agreed that all of the racks looked real, if that's something you care about.
And then! To test the veracity of my claim that the LD's were worth it, our boys finally made it. They confirmed our suspicions although in one round one of the girls "kept trying to have a conversations" throughout the thing which he wasn't so amped about but wasn't going to make a stink about either.
We headed home a couple hours later (this time being driven- thanks L!) but not before sticking some bills in the back of a brightly colored g-string, slapping an ass and telling them we'd be back with reinforcements.
Further Reading: Beamers Cafe Named Best Strip Club In Fairfield County 2010