SOMETIMES, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do: and that includes getting a drink while getting a haircut.
Hidden away in the second floor in one of the buildings in the Fort Strip (it’s the building facing Maybank; its neighbor is a Chinese restaurant) is a heavy black door. Beyond that is The Refined Lounge, a bar, spa, barbershop, and man cave rolled into one chic, sexy, black leather-wrapped package. Deep black couches invite one to sink while members of the staff hover around you, either to hand you a drink or lead you to the spa for a hand massage that once available only in the Mandala Spa in Boracay (with which they partnered).
The delights of this lounge are only offered to a select few: the lounge’s exclusively male members (as of the time of writing, 113 in all) and their guests. The lounge plans to induct 220 members in total, after which, Lord Luckless, you’ll be placed on a waitlist. Members pay a sum of P2,750 a month for unlimited haircuts; a free spa treatment every month; access to a game room and small screening room; 20% off at the bar, other spa treatments, and products on sale in the retail space; and free and unlimited invites to all events organized by lounge.
The stylish co-founder, Noel Naguiat, has a salt-and-pepper fauxhawk and tattoos peeking out of his shirt. He opened the Refined Lounge earlier this year, on the heels of his first project, Mankind. Mankind was a men’s-only salon he built in Toronto, which was, according to him, the first of its kind in that city. Before that, he was an advertising man. The concept of the members-only Refined Lounge takes off from gentlemen’s clubs in England and North America, and serves as a place to discuss events, and of course, to build a network. “Business is booming, especially in the Philippines,” said Mr. Naguiat. “Networking is so important.”
BusinessWorld got a quick trim on Aug. 30 and marched off to the bar for an Old-fashioned. The whiskey cocktail, flavored with bitters, was placed into a glass smoker. This reporter opened the hinged door only for smoke to waft out, creating a bit of spectacle with the glass waiting inside. The smoking process lent the drink an undeniably masculine flavor. As I sipped the drink on one of Mr. Naguiat’s couches, he said, “We want to recharge the business guy.”
If networking while in the cradle of pampering and privilege is your game, isn’t that what Mummy and Daddy’s club memberships are for? BusinessWorld ran down a list of country clubs and members-only clubs. “A lot of those things are not attainable for everyone. You have to be in a certain level,” he said. “Here, it’s all levels of business.” He cites his members as founders of start-ups, entrepreneurs, or executives at the C-level. “I don’t discriminate on anybody, because I was there too.” Provided of course, that you make it to the first 220 on the list.
From a book, he took to heart that to be able to succeed, one must surround themselves with like-minded individuals. “We’re putting together a place where we help each other out.”
The place is great for meetings, especially if you’re looking to impress. You stride in, and an attendant greets you by your first name and gushes about how nice it is to see you again. The person you’re looking to corner into a deal must be sweating bullets by now. The bartender greets you and asks if you want your usual, and may even compliment your guest. Mr. Naguiat talked about meeting a client, say, at a coffee shop: “It’s hard to close a deal.”
“Life is about optics, especially in business. How you look, how you dress; you have to play the part.”
As for the lounge’s name, Refined, he said, “There’s always room for refinement in anyone’s life.” — Joseph L. Garcia
Try applying for a membership by calling the Refined Lounge’s number, 838-2698. Members can visit the lounge Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.