New downtown club Trocadéro offers exclusive weekend revelry—for a price

Trocadéro Social Club founder and owner J.R. Gentle said the new, exclusive spot will offer a nightclub experience like nowhere else in Charlottesville. Photo: Martyn Kyle Trocadéro Social Club founder and owner J.R. Gentle said the new, exclusive spot will offer a nightclub experience like nowhere else in Charlottesville. Photo: Martyn Kyle

Guys, it’s time to put away the shorts and flip-flops, and not just because Labor Day has come and gone. This fall, a new club downtown will give you a reason to dress to the nines on a Friday or Saturday night. Trocadéro Social Club, a European-inspired, member-preferred weekend nightclub housed in the Glass Haus Kitchen on Second Street, will make its debut in October as the place to go if you’re tired of all the Charlottesville nightlife standbys.

“There’s a vast number of people here who feel like there’s nowhere for them to go out,” Trocadéro founder J.R. Gentle said. “There’s the rustic place for plaid shirts, and other extremes like Goth, hard rock, hip-hop. But there’s nowhere to go if you just want to get dressed up and go out.”

Trocadéro, named after the Palais du Trocadéro, built in the 1870s for the World’s Fair in Paris, was inspired by the years Gentle spent owning and running nightclubs in Brussels and Ireland. It will feature “surprise specialty cocktails” (that was as specific as he’d get), bottle service, reservable tables, a dance floor, bachelorette party packages, and themed nights like the Halloween monster ball, “a night of elegance and horror.” Non-members are more than welcome for a $15 cover, but as Gentle said, “it pays to be a member.”

The $200 annual fee ($300 for couples, $140 for ages 23-27, and $1,000 for corporate groups of six) gives members front-of-the-line access to the club every weekend with no cover charge, free entry for one friend each visit, a complimentary birthday bottle of champagne, and first dibs at reserving tables upstairs. Members can also add names to the list, which gets those lucky friends through the door at a $5 discount. 

Once you’re in the door, Gentle said, it’s all about the experience. Clawing your way to the bar, standing on your toes, and hoping the bartender can hear your shouted order over the music may be part of the quintessential going-out experience, but not at Trocadéro. Servers will be on hand to take and deliver orders for guests seated at the tables, whether it be individual cocktails, a bottle of wine for the table, or an assortment of small plates. Unfortunately Virginia’s ABC laws prohibit liquor bottle service, so you won’t be able to order a fifth of vodka for the table like you would at one of Gentle’s clubs in Europe.

“In Charlottesville when people go out after 10pm, they can only get a drink at the bar,” Glass Haus co-owner Francois Bladt said. “But here, you can make a reservation, get a table upstairs, and have a server, even if you only have drinks, so you don’t have to come down to the bar. It’s part of the experience.”

As for the food, it will be along the lines of what Glass Haus regulars have come to expect since its inception as a full-service restaurant and transition into special event space. Bladt said the menu will mostly consist of tapas-style small plates, with a few full-plate entrées.

Since launching the club’s Facebook page and announcing the membership details, Gentle said he’s gotten mixed responses. For the most part, he said, people seem excited at the prospect of a more exclusive and indulgent night out, but not everybody is buying into the idea.

“Some people are skeptical and want to see what it is before becoming a member,” Gentle said. “And some people are just completely against the membership.”

Having seen the success of his own clubs in Europe, which are still in operation, Gentle isn’t worried about getting people in the doors. What he is worried about, though, is getting the men in this town to dress up for the occasion.

“Women in Charlottesville, they go out, and they look beautiful,” he said. “Men, if you look like you were playing X-Box on your couch 20 minutes ago, you’re not getting in.”

He doesn’t expect every male over the age of 23 to go out and buy a tux tomorrow, but shorts, open-toed shoes, and raggedy old t-shirts will be deal-breakers.

“At least make an effort,” Gentle said, noting that it’ll be up to the discretion of whoever’s working the door on a particular night. “No effort, no entry.”

Anyone can throw on a t-shirt and jeans and park themselves at a bar, but Gentle has found that when it comes to going out, classing it up is part of the experience.

And the experience, it seems, is what Gentle’s selling. He noted that the $200 annual fee is less than half what you’d pay for a private social club in New York City, and he promises Trocadéro will be full of surprises. When asked what guests could expect from a night at the club, he grinned and looked up.

“Magic,” he said.

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