On a typical Sunday afternoon in the Hub, some Bostonians can be found wrapping up a quiet brunch of eggs Benedict, coffee and perhaps a spicy Bloody Mary or two. However, there was nothing quiet about a brunch taking place at a Downtown Crossing hotspot a few weeks ago.
Two Sundays ago marked the launch of GEM’s new dining series called The Brunch Club. At The Brunch Club, patrons are treated to a full service menu that includes typical brunch items like eggs benedict and breakfast sandwiches with sides of tater tots and bacon, served alongside a ramped up drink menu and a live DJ.
“Brunches are hot,” said Greenstein, adding, “Day parties in Vegas have been hot for a couple years now.”
Guests of GEM’s first Brunch Club came out at 1 p.m., in groups of six or more, noshing on eggs and slowly sipping mimosas to DJed beats. By 3 p.m., Greenstein said the meal portion of the afternoon had begun wrapping up. The lights were dimmed, the music was turned up, and patrons rose from their tables, dancing and drinking well into 7 p.m. that evening.
In New York City, the combination of the brunching and day partying has been a dynamic recipe for success in recent years. Manhattan nightclubs and lounges like Bagatelle and Lavo have perfected the brunch party, pumping up the music and pouring cocktail after cocktail, turning a Sunday afternoon into something that resembles a Saturday night out.
In Boston, several venues have attempted to replicate New York’s liquid brunches, but with little success.
“We tried doing them for close to three months, and they really never took off,” said Edward Brooks, whose Back Bay lounge, The Brahmin, ended their “Social Sundays” series this past June.
“There really has yet to be a successful one,” said Greenstein, noting that Massachusetts’ stringent liquor laws may be a contributing factor to the failure of some party brunches.
Because bars are required to shut down at 2 a.m., patrons are home in bed relatively early – at least compared to cities like New York. Therefore, brunch here occurs earlier, often before noon, making the concept of partying all day harder to get started.
Greenstein also called Boston a “destination city,” meaning that customers go out knowing exactly what they want and where they want to get it from. No one is wandering around, popping into and discovering new places, he said.
“When you go to brunch, it’s a relaxing experience… a nice way to start your morning,” said Renee Hirschberg, who heads up Boston Brunchers, a group of 1,500 local bloggers and social media influencers that review brunches in the Boston area.
She added that Boston is a “foodie city,” and said Bostonians go to brunch primarily for culinary experiences – not loud music with a side of eggs.
“I really don’t think Boston is the market that goes [to brunch] to dance on tables,” she said.
Massachusetts happy hour laws preventing drink specials, like bottomless mimosas, may also contribute to the failure of party brunches in Boston, said Hirschberg, echoing Greenstein’s sentiment.
Still, as the GEM crowd proved last week, party brunches are not something all Bostonians are opposed to.
A few months ago, Rich McGlynn and his friends were sitting down to traditional Boston brunch, recapping their previous night out, when it dawned on them.
“Why can’t this be an extension of the party?”McGlynn asked.
His solution was the Liquid Lunch Club, an event company that coordinates invite-only lunches or brunches, with drink sponsors, live entertainment and giveaways, set to launch in the next month.
“I think Boston is a party town – in a good way,” added McGlynn, citing our willingness to come out in full forces for local sports teams on Sundays.
“[But] there wasn’t really anything that you could describe as a ‘party brunch.’”
McGlynn explained that the Liquid Lunch Club’s element of exclusivity will help local businesses know how many guests to expect. He hopes it removes the uncertainty from planning an event like a party brunch and simply crossing your fingers that people show up.
“We’ve gotten a great response so far,” said McGlynn, who is currently collecting email addresses for the 40 to 50 person, monthly Liquid Lunch Club events.
The Brunch Club at GEM is taking a similar approach to timing, running the second Sunday of every month.
For Greenstein, though, a successful party brunch rests in the unique experience being offered to Boston.
“It’s one of those adult opportunities,” he said, referring to the fact that party brunches allow guests to come or go throughout the day as they please, without the set time limits of a traditionally orchestrated restaurant experience or a 2 a.m. curfew of a night at the bar.
“I think fun is the key,” he added.