Nightly at Nipper's, the Cup of Good Cheer Bubbleth Over
On first quaffing champagne, the new drink he had perfected, the 18th-century Benedictine monk Dom Perignon was supposed to have exclaimed, "I am drinking the stars!" Now a couple of bachelor bons vivants in California named Arthur von Wiesenberger and Horatio Lonsdale-Hands have discovered something else about champagne—that almost nothing beats it for bringing out Hollywood's luminaries.
Von Wiesenberger and Lonsdale-Hands own a pair of champagne-only bars called Nipper's, one in Montecito and a second that opened this year in Beverly Hills. Each establishment stocks 133 varieties of bubbly, ranging from a nonvintaged brut ($18 a bottle) to a haughty Moët et Chandon Brut Imperial 1914 ($3,300). Instead of mere food they serve "indulgences" such as beluga caviar (50 grams at $1 per gram) and Brie ($5).
At either location Nipper's provides civilized respite for the likes of John Travolta, Meryl Streep, Michael Douglas and Joan Collins. But the clientele is by no means limited to celestials. Says Lonsdale-Hands, "Ours are the only really elegant clubs that have no dress code. Very often we have a movie star dressed in jeans sitting next to a man in black tie." Anyone is welcome to drop in for a glass of house champagne ($6.50) and dance the night away.
Longtime friends von Wiesenberger, 31, the son of a Manhattan financier, and Lonsdale-Hands, 28, the son of a British industrial designer, opened their Montecito spot in 1978 as a hobby. Almost immediately the place "became a demanding, spoiled brat," says Horatio. He abandoned his job as an investment banker and Arthur left his as a consultant to the bottled water industry, both to devote full time to dispensing good cheer. "If you're in a good mood," says von Wiesenberger, "champagne makes you happy. If you're in a bad mood, it still makes you smile."
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