Customers at Steak & Whisky can order off the menu of more than 98 whiskies — or they can enjoy their own spirits, stored onsite.
The new, 50-seat steakhouse in Hermosa Beach, CA, leases out “whiskey lockers.” This service has recently caught on at high-end restaurants nationwide, including at The Flatiron Room, NYC; Nihon Whisky Lounge, SF; and Mortons Burbank, LA. To store bottles from their personal collections, patrons can lease one of 10 lockers in Steak & Whisky.
“The idea is not just to offer a service to guests, but also to get them into our restaurant more often,” explains Scott Young, director of operations, Steak & Whisky. The business provides similar accommodations for wine.
To lease a whiskey locker costs $500 per year. The contract includes stipulation that purchasers will also buy $500 worth of whiskey bottles from the restaurant.
Naturally, Steak and Whisky saves the best stuff for such customers. And these rare, vintage finds — like Pappy Van Winkle’s 10-Year and 23-Year, or selections from the Orphan Barrel Project Company — are available to locker-leasers at a 40% discount.
“Once these special spirits are out, they’re gone forever,” says Young. “And that makes this kind of fun, and kind of special.”
Customers who purchase lockers also receive preferential treatment when scheduling reservations.
“We’re a small restaurant, so the biggest part with the lockers is the exclusivity,” Young explains. “You can entertain clientele while enjoying your whiskies with them here. If you have colleagues in your business, then they can come in and use the locker, too. It’s very convenient.”
Although Steak & Whisky just opened one month ago, it has already sold three lockers. This auspicious beginning is in line with the continued rise in popularity of brown spirits among American drinkers.
“I’ve been on this side of the business for over 20 years, and I’ve seen how trends come and go,” Young says. “In the last seven years, I’ve seen whiskey gradually rising. Whiskey having an overall a wider selection from all over the world gives it such a large breadth and scope.”
What’s more, he says that all the different styles available “make whiskey a long-term category, unlike something more limited like tequila. I think whiskey can have its footprint in any spirits program for the next 25-50 years, easily.”
Steak & Whisky purposely omits the “e” from its name to reflect its selection of spirits from across the globe. “We’re harnessing Japanese whiskies right now, because they’re so hot, and they’re so flavorful,” Young says. And being on the West Coast, he adds, means that many customers come in from Asia.
The restaurant will begin offering a whiskey flight next month, Young says. “We’re going to start with three whiskies, across the board — one Japanese, one Scotch, and one bourbon — to show the diametric differences in those different spirits. From there, we may move into other, more-specific categories, like showing the differences in Scotches from the Highlands versus Speyside.”
Guests can also compare and contrast whiskey flavors with the restaurant’s dry-aged steaks.
“It’s funny how similar aging characteristics take place on a molecular and chemical level,” Young says. “The concentration of flavors, the oxidization, the complexity and umami factors in both aged steak and whiskey really go hand-in-hand in adding depth of flavor, body and weight.”