The Bar Tab

“You don’t see a lot of 20-year-olds here
The Majestic Club
222 E. Houston St. Ste. 300
$400 initiation/
$45 per month
“You don’t see a lot of 20-year-olds here. This crowd is different. This club is different. It’s not a bar where kids go to hang out. It’s a place where you can come to eat dinner, dance, drink, and watch a show — all under one roof.” This is how Phil Yamin describes the Majestic Club. Phil, who was born in Brooklyn but raised in San Antonio, has been in the restaurant business for 40 years, and has been singing for as long as he can remember. He was ready to move on when his wife, Virginia, decided that she wanted a place “to decorate with flowers,” a place for Phil to sing, a place for the Yamin family to gather.

The room does feel familial. When I arrive, escorted by a polite young girl, Phil and Virginia sit at a table in the back, and Phil’s cousin croons “I Only Have Eyes For You” onstage, while a table of elderly women who helped raise Phil listen contentedly from a front table. Dark, baroque carpet, crème-colored walls decorated with paintings, and dim chandelier-esque light fixtures impose the antiqued aura of an old hotel. The women at the family table wear black cocktail dresses bedecked with sequins; the men wear suits. Phil ushers me to a table by a window.

I receive my Philini Martini, the house drink named, naturally, after the club’s owner and star. A concoction of mango rum, melon liquor, champagne, and lime and pineapple juice, the drink is crisp, but a bit too sweet for my tequila tastes. Abruptly, I realize that the symphony has let out, not by the quiet murmuring of a crowd entering, but because I hear Phil shout, “Virginia! They’re getting out downstairs!” One of the women in front teases Phil about his age, to which he replies, “You’ll see how old I am in just a minute.”

The lights dim. The drums roll. The cousinly crooner introduces “Jammin’ Yamin — the reason they invented decaf coffee!” And Phil bounds out from the kitchen, mounts the stage, and proceeds to jump for a few seconds before launching into “On Broadway” with his cousin on bongos and back-up vocals, a drummer, an electric piano, and a hornplayer. The energy levels onstage undulate: Sometimes Phil seems to savor the spotlight, other times he seems irritated by the whole affair.

After an intense, minute-long, note-holding close to “Up the Lazy River,” Phil invites his granddaughter on stage — the same young girl who escorted me upstairs. This young lady, only recently turned 11, mounts the stage somewhat hesitantly, and acts exactly as one would expect an 11-year-old to act onstage. But then the music starts, and the voice that melts out of this child’s body — no longer hesitant, but completely involved in her song — brings goosebumps to my skin and moisture to my eyes. Phil had introduced her as a young Streisand, but three notes into the song I am convinced that she is already better than Streisand could dream of being — all the talent without any artificiality.

But soon, Phil is back on stage, high-kicking (surprisingly high for a non-Rockette). He closes the show with impersonations of Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Rod Stewart, Julio Iglesias, Ray Charles, and Elvis, after which, he comes to inquire whether I liked what I saw. As I sit and chat with his granddaughter, Michelle Nicole Yamin, he joins us. He is either completely exhausted from the show or held rapt by his cousin’s singing, however, as he ignores Michelle’s attempts to find out when they are going home. A few moments later, I receive hugs all around and make my exit into the vibrant Houston Street world below.

The Majestic Club is a semi-private club. Membership is $45 per month after the $400 initiation fee and includees free parking, a glass of champagne for you and your guests, and discounted plastic surgery.

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