Bachelorettes in Boots Take On Nashville


“They can be a bit loud or a bit messy, but we love them,” says Butch Spyridon, the chief of the city’s convention bureau, of the pre-wedding parties.

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A bachelorette party roaming Broadway in Nashville. The city has become a go-to destination for pre-wedding parties.CreditJake Giles Netter for The New York Times

Women in short skirts dance at the bar with their hands in the air. Many don sashes that read “bride squad,” and there is the occasional tiara-wearing bride-to-be on her last fling in a V.I.P. area. Bartenders sling drinks to hooting patrons as musicians bound around the stage. The woman of honor may even join them if the Fireball shot kicks in. Outside, lights illuminate the main strip so it almost feels like daytime, or at least, twilight. Revelers wander the busy sidewalks in search of late night eats or their Uber drivers to take them to their hotels. The neon signs still flicker.

No, this isn’t Vegas. It’s Nashville — and it’s possibly the hottest destination for bachelorette parties in the country.

“The increase in bachelorette parties became evident about four years ago,” said Jeff Eslick, the media manager for Tootsie’s Entertainment, which owns popular spots in Nashville like Honky Tonk Central and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. “The spring and summer weekends have Broadway filled with what seems like hundreds of packs of women wearing shorts, boots and shirts reading ‘someone’s last rodeo.’”

“The spring and summer weekends have Broadway filled with what seems like hundreds of packs of women wearing shorts, boots and shirts reading ‘someone’s last rodeo,’” said Jeff Eslick, the media manager for Tootsie’s Entertainment, which is based in Nashville.CreditJake Giles Netter for The New York Times

Nashville hosted 14.5 million visitors last year, and that number continues to rise exponentially, according to Butch Spyridon, the president and chief executive of the Tennessee capital’s Convention & Visitors Corporation. The airport is now one of the fastest growing airports in North America, bringing in bachelorettes from nearby states and even revelers from international locations. The number of new restaurant openings doubled since 2015, and nearly 15,000 hotel rooms are in the development pipeline. But with all the changes, business owners and residents say, the city continues to feel local, laid-back, and accessible for tourists to dine on Southern fare, peruse shops and art galleries, and experience the epicenter of country music.

For evidence of this growth, look no further than the throngs of young people who pack Broadway, downtown Nashville’s main drag of live music venues, bars, and restaurants. This is the home to the popular honky tonk, a term used to describe both the bar and the style of country music played within. Musicians have long descended upon this strip to show crowds — and hopefully industry scouts — what they’ve got. Nashville, after all, is known as Music City for its role in history of country music, and houses landmarks like the Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame and Ryman Auditorium.

Live music is the top draw, especially for bachelorettes. Talented performers, songwriters and aspiring stars provide endless entertainment at every turn. Most bars don’t charge a cover, and the proximity of attractions means groups can effortlessly wander from place to place. Even if you aren’t a fan of country music, the vibrant energy of the honky tonks exudes merriment. “Our performers are aware of the impact bachelorettes have on the tip jug, so they cater to them,” Mr. Eslick said. “No bachelorette party is complete without getting on stage with the band.”

He also noted that many honky tonks and restaurants have V.I.P. areas that can accommodate large groups, and he fields questions weekly from inquiring bridesmaids organizing trips. Lisa Curry, the event sales manager of the 21c Museum Hotel Nashville, which opened last year, said that restaurants also crafts menus to delight female patrons. The hotel’s Gray and Dudley, for instance, offers cocktails served in vintage beverage decanters or pitchers. Thompson Hotels also opened a property in town, with a trendy rooftop that features views of Nashville’s chic Gulch neighborhood. The hip Pinewood Social functions as a craft cocktail bar, co-working space, and bowling alley that can accommodate groups for anything from casual afternoon coffee to all-night festivities.

A bachelorette party from Montreal taking in a game of bowling at Pinewood Social in Nashville.CreditJake Giles Netter for The New York Times

Bach Weekend, a planning company which has spawned from the rise in pre-wedding celebrations, organizes entire itineraries, including brewery tours, open bars, and pole dancing classes with matching swag. The company estimates a partygoer spends about $850 for the weekend (without travel costs) to a destination bachelorette party.

The part that makes Nashville stand out is the fact that locals partake in many of the same activities as the tourists, said Benjamin Goldberg, a managing partner of Strategic Hospitality, which owns Pinewood Social. Brunch at a neighborhood eatery may include booths of squealing bachelorettes but also young professionals grabbing a bite with friends.

The growth of the city is also drawing in younger residents, thanks to the affordable lifestyle and opportunity to work on creative pursuits in music, art, and fashion. Boutiques like White’s Merchantile, Judith Bright and Peter Nappi honor the city’s artisans, and vibrantly colored murals have sprung up all over the city. The 21c Museum Hotel allows the public and guests to jointly admire their three floors of exhibition space showcasing 21st-century works. “The art scene is absolutely booming,” Ms. Curry said. “With Instagram, photo ops have become a huge draw for bachelorettes.”

There is, of course, the typical debauchery. The Pedal Tavern is a party bike tour where riders knock back beers while cycling down Broadway. At Tootsie’s, vodka drinks and Fireball whiskey top the most requested beverage list. Despite it all, businesses still welcome them.

“They are a fun-loving group,” Mr. Spyridon said. “They can be a bit loud or a bit messy, but we love them.”

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Hot Jazz in a Veterans Club Basement in Harlem


On a Sunday afternoon in February, the staccato chords and rousing bass lines of a Hammond B-3 organ shook the walls of American Legion Post 398 in Harlem.

Ba-ba-doo-dee-dee-deep. Bum-ba-ba-ba-bummm.

Hundreds of people had crammed into the humble basement bar to pay tribute to the organ’s owner, the musician Seleno Clarke, who had died in December at 87.

Some said prayers. Some read poems. But mostly they played jazz.

From 3 in the afternoon until 11 p.m., dozens of organists, saxophonists, guitarists, drummers and singers rotated onto the modest stage. They played with verve and abandon, as the crowd hooted and clapped and cried out, “Seleno!”

It might have been a strange sight for an American Legion post. The veterans service organization has struggled to keep up membership nationwide, but Post 398’s reputation as one of the last authentic jazz venues in Harlem has kept its seats full and the atmosphere popping. Every Sunday night for nearly two decades, an unlikely mix of aging veterans, tourists and musicians from around the world have come to enjoy cheap drinks, Southern-style home cooking and jazz.

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A photograph of Mr. Clarke, left, hangs on the wall of American Legion Post 398 in Harlem, where the band he formed still plays.

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Anthony Geathers for The New York Times

Legion members say Mr. Clarke’s death left an irreplaceable gap in their close-knit community. Today, the organist can still be spotted smiling, always wearing a suit, in many of the photos lining Post 398’s yellow and blue walls. But Mr. Clarke’s former bandmates, on a mission to uphold his legacy, are tightening their sound, broadening their repertory and playing with more enthusiasm than ever.

“Seleno brought people together with his music,” said David Lee Jones, 59, a veteran alto saxophonist who played with Mr. Clarke for 27 years and who now fills his old mentor’s shoes as bandleader. “We want to keep that going. We want to keep jazz going here in Harlem.”

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A Grand Tiki Bar for a Less-Than-Tropical Island, Manhattan


The décor, by Vanessa Guilford, takes deep turquoise as its predominant color note, and includes large murals, teakwood floors, bamboo ceilings, a 30-foot-long lava-rock bar top, and cut-metal screens that evoke Polynesian masks.

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Damned to the Depths — made of two rums, absinthe, lime and orange juices, guava purée, bitters and other ingredients — is a salute to the Pearl Diver, a drink from Don the Beachcomber, the 1930s founding bar of the tiki movement.

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An Rong Xu for The New York Times

It’s an expansive vision of tiki culture the likes of which New York has not seen since the days of Trader Vic’s and the Hawaiian Room of the Hotel Lexington. “New York’s been waiting for it,” Mr. Miller said. “And honestly, I feel like people have been waiting for me to do it.”

Mr. Miller, 47, is one of perhaps a half-dozen figures who spearheaded the recent tiki renaissance in the United States, and the only one without a bar. Instead, he has spread the aesthetic through an itinerant tropical party called “Tiki Mondays.” The event began in 2011 at the SoHo bar Lani Kai (since closed), and later put in time at the Gold Bar, Mother’s Ruin and Pouring Ribbons.

He worked at ZZ’s Clam Bar, Major Food’s pocket-size cocktail and raw bar in Greenwich Village, and in 2014, the partners asked him to pitch his idea for a bar. For the presentation, Mr. Miller had leis mailed from Hawaii, and brought in an act called the Hula Belly Sisters. It worked.

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The Reggae Bus, a tiki take on the Queen’s Park Swizzle, is one of the original drinks to be found at the Polynesian.

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An Rong Xu for The New York Times

“My idea was Trader Vic’s meets ‘Mad Men’ meets ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’” Mr. Miller said. Food will include pu pu platters and what Major Food boasts will be a “best-of-class Crab Rangoon.”

The four-panel folding bar menu, modeled after Trader Vic’s, lists 19 cocktails, four large-format shared drinks (one is served in a fish bowl) and two virgin cocktails. Among them are a few originals Mr. Miller has popularized over the years, like the Double-Barrel Winchester, which employs four different gins to create a panoply of flavors; the Fiddler’s Green, a cross between two classic tiki drinks, the Blue Hawaiian and the Montego Bay, served from a slushie machine; and the Smokin’ Sarong, a mélange of Scotch, coconut, tea and honey.

Speaking of sarongs, Mr. Miller, who promises to be at the Polynesian every day for its first year, will wear one as host, just as he often did at “Tiki Mondays.”

“Everyone knows I will be in a sarong,” he said. “Sarongs will be optional for staff.”

The Polynesian, 400 West 42nd Street, Manhattan.

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Austria’s Far Right Wants the Freedom to Smoke


But it also fits neatly with the Freedom Party’s anti-establishment and quasi-libertarian tilt. “Freedom of choice” is the flip side of a far-right agenda that otherwise seems inclined to dictate to citizens, especially those from minorities, everything from whether they can wear head coverings to whom they should marry.

The push to upend the smoking ban has stirred more than the usual consternation.

Although the European Union does not impose regulations on smoke-free environments, it has made a set of recommendations that has led many members to introduce strict bans on smoking in public places in recent years.

Austria has one of the highest smoking rates among adults in the European Union, and was one of only two member states where the number of adults who smoked regularly did not decrease from 2000 to 2015, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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The owner of Café Fürth, Helmut Haller, said he followed trends in the United States, Australia and Britain and had never allowed smoking.

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Akos Stiller for The New York Times

Thomas Szekeres, the president of the Vienna Medical Association, appeared baffled during an interview in his office. Banning indoor smoking, he said, was not an attempt to single out smokers but a move against “smoking and harming the health of people.”

“People need an example to see what happens when you smoke and that it could happen to them, too,” he said.

Mr. Szekeres has been one of the high-profile backers of the “Don’t Smoke” campaign and has promoted a petition asking the government to think again. It gathered more than 500,000 signatures in the month that followed, in a country of about 8.8 million.

“We want to show the politicians responsible that the people are in favor of a ban on smoking,” Mr. Szekeres said.

The conflicting public currents around the smoking ban have intensified scrutiny of the Freedom Party, which was founded partly by former Nazis after World War II, and what it might do now that it has entered government.

Last December, when Mr. Strache’s party received key portfolios in Austria’s new government, an article in the German weekly “Die Zeit” commented: “They don’t want to bite, just to smoke,” referring to the proverb that barking dogs don’t bite.

The motto Mr. Strache has repeated since he floated the idea of overturning the ban during last year’s election campaign is “freedom of choice instead of forceful state regulation.” Responsible citizens, he has said, must be able to make these choices themselves.

On social media, in between anti-immigrant and nationalistic messages, his party also championed bread-and-butter causes.

Its former presidential candidate, Norbert Hofer, called for “higher tax on motorways for foreigners,” and a regional politician, Gottfried Waldhäusl, promoted “freedom of choice” with a picture of a cup of coffee beside a burning cigarette.

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The owners of Café Hummel, a family business, invested thousands of euros in separating smoking and nonsmoking areas. But last year they made the cafe fully nonsmoking.

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Akos Stiller for The New York Times

“It’s a policy which in a certain way is not suspicious of being traditionally right-wing,” said Anton Pelinka, a professor of political science at the Central European University in Budapest. “It’s a fight against the new enemy, which is called political correctness.”

The bill that is scheduled to go before parliament is based on the “Berlin model,” named after the German capital, which prohibits smoking in most public places but allows it in smaller establishments and in designated areas.

It includes protective steps like increasing the minimum age for smoking from 16 to 18 and is due to go in front of the country’s Parliament this week.

Unlike in other capitals of Western Europe, in Vienna smoking remains widespread. Not only is the sight of smoking rooms in bars and restaurants common, cigarettes are easily purchased from vending machines in the streets.

Last December, Mr. Strache appeared at a gathering of restaurant owners in a smoke-filled wine bar near Austria’s Parliament. The rally, hosted by the bar’s owner, Heinz Pollischansky, carried the message that restaurant and bar owners opposed the ban.

But Vienna’s gastronomy scene is split over the question. The famous coffee houses on the city’s tourist trail have already banned smoking, in anticipation of this year’s deadline.

Others, like Café Hummel, a family business, have invested thousands of euros in separating smoking and nonsmoking areas — and paid fines after complaints from nonsmoking guests for failing to contain the smoke.

Christine Hummel, the manager, is the third generation in her family at the helm of this classic Viennese establishment. “We’ve been here since 1935, and since 1935 it was smoking,” said Ms. Hummel, who is not a regular smoker but enjoys a cigarette with a glass of wine.

Last year, Ms. Hummel had enough of the complaints and fines and declared her cafe fully nonsmoking. She said she immediately lost many regulars, about 5 percent of the annual clientele, and others cut back on orders. But the decision allowed her to turn to a new clientele.

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“It’s like a reward for waking up early”: smokers at Café Europa, in central Vienna.

Credit
Akos Stiller for The New York Times

“Times change,” she said. “We have to look toward the future.”

A sign of those changing times is Café Fürth, a small venue that shares its central space with two offices and its own coffee roasting operation.

The owner, Helmut Haller, 30, was on his day off, trying out a new coffee machine and a concoction of iced espresso with blood-orange lemonade. A far cry from the classical coffeehouse proprietor, Mr. Haller said he followed trends in the United States, Australia and Britain and never allowed smoking.

“Global coffee culture is a nonsmoking culture,” he said.

Still, he said he placed his business in the Viennese cafe tradition, which provided a meeting point for great figures of fine arts, literature and philosophy.

“In Austria we’re slower with change,” he said of his country’s position between Germany and the Balkans.

He said that both some residents and visitors had their minds set on a certain idea of Vienna, described with the German word “Gemütlichkeit,” which translates as a broad feeling of comfort or cosiness.

But even many smokers who enjoy a chance to light up see in the ban an opportunity to set themselves free.

One was Philippe Mayer, a 41-year-old musician with blond dreadlocks who had settled into the dimly lit smoking room of Café Europa, in central Vienna, after dropping off his daughter at kindergarten.

“It’s like a reward for waking up early,” Mr. Mayer said. But even as he enjoyed his cigarette, he, like his country, had mixed feelings about it.

“Smoking gives me a kind of feeling like slavery,” he said. “It would be helpful if it were banned.”

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