The Secret life of a NYC Chinese Restaurant
The Financial District has built up the reputation of being desolate after work hours. As the night closes in and other restaurants lock up, the China Chalet transforms into the life of the party.
Known for its overpriced fried rice and fancy decor, China Chalet, the dim-sum restaurant directly across from The King’s College, is waking up downtown Manhattan.
The China Chalet has been serving the Wall St. community since 1975. However, while their website says that they are open seven days a week, the Chalet often closes in order to set up for big events, when the restaurant’s owner, Keith Ng, rents out his restaurant to famous DJ’s, magazines, clubs, and black-tie events.
The current manager of the Chalet, who asked to remain unnamed, said that these parties are a lot of work to put on due to the transformation that takes place for each event.
“It turns into a completely different place,” he said, “They rent out the whole restaurant for the whole day; laying down dance floor, hanging disco balls, and completely redecorating.”
With two bars, three divided sections of the restaurant, and a seating capacity of over 800, the chalet can accommodate large groups for parties. The bar in the back of the restaurant is surrounded by high ceilings and a dance floor, making it the perfect place for a DJ to loudly play their music.
Eleni Glader, the Director of Admissions for NYCJ at The King’s College, said that the last party she attended there was in 2010. The Chalet was known for its large art and fashion scene.
“From what I can remember the vibe was synth-pop and glam rock, my brother and a close musician friend Jon Ramos threw parties there,” Glader said.
According to the manager, most people use the Chalet for the liquor license. The restaurant provides the license, and the groups that rent it out bring their own booze. But, given that the China Chalet is a Chinese restaurant in the Financial District, people would not normally assume it would transform into a club when the lights dim.
The reason for people’s interest in the Chalet is exclusivity.
The Chalet offers a private, large space, in an area of the city where celebrities can walk freely in and out of the restaurant without being noticed.
“It is better for them because they can hide here. People don’t follow them here like they do in midtown,” the manager said.
On a party weekend, the manager says that the line outside of the Chalet begins hours before its opening. The parties that take place in the restaurant have become very famous and exclusive.
Two weeks ago, Def Jam (the recording studio of famous artists such as Kanye West, Rihanna, Jay-Z, and Justin Bieber), threw a party at the chalet with DJ Cassidy. The manager said that when he went to the back of the room to turn down the heat, he was picked up by two bodyguards and removed from the room for “getting too close to the DJ.”
Last month the Olsen twins used the Chalet for the release party of their new collection clothing line, The Row. This week, the manager says that they are booked every day for NYFW.
“It is crazy,” said the manager, “...Calvin Klein, Vogue, Prada- big names will rent it out.”
According to China Chalet’s manager, Vogue regularly rent out their space for photoshoots for the whole day. The bar is covered with a piece of fabric and making it the dressing room. Vogue brings in dressing room chairs for hair and makeup, and uses the corners of the restaurant for shooting with different backdrops at each corner.
“The models walk around half naked drinking alcohol and eating Shake Shack,” the manager said.
Before the Chalet gained its reputation for hosting parties, it would often rent itself out to, what the workers at the restaurant like to call, “skateboard parties,” or parties for the younger, more rebellious crowd.
However, they had been ruining the restaurant.“
Do you see these black spots on the carpeting? Do you know what they’re from? They’re from marijuana. Kids would smoke and drink and put out their blunts on the carpeting. And the holes in the booths? From the heels of young girls dancing on them!” the manager said.
“People smoked cigarettes there but it wasn't too smokey because people were somewhat discreet about it. This is pre-Juul era!” said Glader.
The manager says that his boss and owner of the restaurant, Keith Ng, who is in his seventies, “doesn’t care about the money so he is able to be selective with who he rents out the restaurant to.”
However, it seems like the parties at the Chalet continue to get pretty rowdy, regardless of what management desires.
Wes Parnell, a current student at The King’s College, said that he was there two weeks ago on a club night, calling it, “a super cool spot.”
“They are pretty strict bc of their lax policies,” said Parnell through email. “You can smoke cigarettes and other things inside and it gets pretty wild.”
Each night’s event requires the restaurant to provide six security/bouncers, six bartenders, three coatroom men, four busboys, and two managers. However, this cost is easily outweighed by the profits of the night, as the manager says that an average small party makes a starting profit of $12 thousand.
There are so many other places in New York City for these famous groups to party, but for some reason they chose the China Chalet, with a daytime rating of 2.5 stars.
But perhaps the grunginess of the restaurant is what makes it so desirable to people.
When asked why he thinks the restaurant attracts these kinds of groups, the manager answered, “We are in the financial district, which is just a weird place to party, and I think being off the grid is half the fun!”