Drawn by free admission and Connecticut’s only dueling piano bar, more than 150 Yalies crowded into Keys to the City at Caffe Bottega last Thursday night, owner Ari Gorfain said.
Gorfain, who bought into and renamed the club earlier this year, has spent the last six months attempting to make Bottega into a “Yale hotspot.”
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“All the clubs around here play the same music and do the same thing, but nobody does anything for Yale,” Gorfain said. “I wanted to give Yale students a safe, clean, fun place to go.”
Bottega has faced difficulties attracting Yale students in the past. Christopher Pool ’09, who is currently helping to promote Bottega’s Wednesday night karaoke, thinks the biggest obstacle the club faces in drawing Elis is its location on the corner of Church and Chapel streets.
“I think location is the biggest reason more students don’t go,” Pool said. “It’s pretty far.”
Gorfain explained that Bottega gets the majority of its Yale visitors from the colleges located closest to the club.
“I’m getting a lot of the Silliman people, but downtown is growing and getting more business, and I’m going to give students specials good enough where they are going to want to come down here,” he said.
Bottega’s specials currently include free admission for those with Yale IDs on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and a free bottle of champagne on the birthdays of those turning at least 21.
Another potential draw for Yalies tired of being turned away by Toad’s is Bottega’s 18-and-over policy. Students who wish to purchase alcohol are carded at the bar, not at the door.
“We are also a restaurant,” Gorfain explained, “so everything is 18 and up.”
The restaurant recently won the “Best Restaurant in New Haven” award for its large variety of paninis, salads, pizzas and gelati. It serves both lunch and dinner every day except Sundays.
In addition to its meal fare, Gorfain believes Bottega’s hospitality sets it apart from its New Haven club counterparts.
“We have good customer service … I’m one of the owners and I am out here all the time greeting people and making sure they’re having fun,” Gorfain said. “Everyone has a smile on their faces.”
For Pool, Bottega offers an entire package that is impossible to find anywhere else in New Haven.
“There’s a completely new vibe there,” he explained. “First of all it’s a piano bar, which is very different from any other bar in New Haven. [Gorfain] is trying to make it very open to Yalies.”
Josh Davis ’10, a campus liaison for Bottega, agreed, adding that “It’s a different place. It’s really relaxed, with a much more laidback atmosphere than the other clubs in New Haven offer. If you want to talk to your friends, you can. If you want to dance, you can.”
Besides Wednesday night karaoke and the dueling piano bar on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Bottega has begun working with the Yale Tango Club to offer Tuesday night tango lessons and free open dance.
“It was a great place to hold the event,” said Patrick Gray GRD ’10, who helped organize the first tango night last Tuesday. “The place has very big windows, and so a lot of people would stop and watch us, and even come in to find out what’s going on.”
Gorfain has also been trying to bring in Eli acts and events to show his investment in the Yale community. Nathan Harden, who performed a CD release show at the venue in April, applauds the club’s “great stage, great sound system and a management that was really easy to work with.” However, despite his praise, turnout for the release was light, a fact which Harden has difficulty explaining.
“It’s in a great location,” Harden said. “I don’t really know why the turnout was light, except that it was reading week.”
To get the word out about Bottega’s new offerings, Gorfain has made a point to enlist Yale students, such as Pool and Davis.
“I am not just a promoter,” Davis explained, “but more of a liaison between Bottega and the campus.” The junior spends his time coordinating meetings with groups on campus to let them know about the club’s offerings and putting up table tents in the dining halls. According to both Gorfain and Davis, a large part of the marketing strategy is simply word of mouth.
“We have a great staff, great entertainment and great food, so when you build in those three things it’s just fun, and people talk,” Gorfain said.
Those interested in reserving a table or holding an event at Bottega can contact Ari Gorfain at (203) 410-4296.