This year we recognise the coincidence of Coco Tang’s first anniversary with that of Impact’s 200th issue. To the select few, it has been a staple night ever since it opened, and yet it is only recently that it has progressed onto the radar of the greater student body. This is by no means due to poor PR, in fact quite the opposite. Coco Tang’s style and growing success lies within its elusive marketing strategy, priding itself on being a hidden gem. No sign hangs outside the door, only an alluring lantern to entice you in. The entrance way is nestled between two shop fronts; if you didn’t know it was there, you would walk straight past. But what is the philosophy of such an enigmatic bar?
A press release from its opening states: “The venue will have an ambience of a late night drinking den. Inspirations for the venture are derived from the American prohibition’s secret underground clubs, and the style will be in keeping with the retro – industrial era.” Coco Tang has the vibe of a party that’s not supposed to be happening and indeed the marketing and individual atmosphere complement one another. This is not a bar that advertises its offers or plasters its logo everywhere; the naked website only adds to the intrigue.
Coco Tang’s appeal is that it’s an easy place to be; the point is that you can walk in off the street, without paying an entrance fee, and have a relaxed, fun evening. It styles itself as a “boutique club.” There are two bar areas with a central sunken dance floor that forms the heart of this eclectic venue. It operates like a bar yet with the facilities of a club and, as such, caters for the demands of our diversified student body.
The ostensible target market is female, the bar is two inches shorter than your average to enable comfortable conversation, and many of the drinks have an effeminate character. The ladies’ represents the attention to detail that can be seen throughout the venue. There is a sofa, straighteners, and a double cubicle not to mention a handbag shelf. It is not of course only frequented by those of a female persuasion, and from some has come under fire for being “pretentious.” ‘NS: the sofa is mine’ commented in 2008, prior to its opening, “Well I’m glad something is being done with what is a fantastic venue layout, just hoping it doesn’t become a pretentious ponce-hole.” This accusation, it is felt, has discouraged certain students from going. The management, however, maintains that it does everything within its power to avoid Coco Tang appearing selective. It doesn’t allow queue-jumping, doesn’t hold private events, it doesn’t charge on the door and it attempts to steer clear of ostentatious displays of wealth by refusing to display bottles of champagne.
However, some students still find themselves feeling out of place. A select few of Coco Tang’s student customers clearly go because it’s deemed a place to be seen; the BNOCs seem to flourish there, particularly on a Monday night, and for the rest of us mere mortals this conspicuous display of ill deserved repute can be somewhat off-putting. There is a dress code, the prices are slightly higher than other student nights, but the drinks are better, and even Ocean has a dress code. Coco Tang, I am informed, has a policy of equality. If you arrive with the right expectations then there is no reason that you should find yourself embroiled in an argument with the bouncers, or leave disappointed. Whenever I go out to Coco Tang, I always have a fantastic night, and I think that this rests upon the sheer amount of thought and planning that has gone into the bar, making it not just a night out but an experience that can be found nowhere else in Nottingham.
So where is the future heading for Coco Tang? Well, let me say, it sounds like it’s going to be fabulous. I personally cannot wait for the absinthe room, which will be a fume chamber in which you can literally inhale the very best absinthe on the market. The girls will be treated to a ‘Thumbelina Palace’ room, currently intended to be a secret (female-only) area just off the ladies’ loos, and there will be plenty of other treats and surprises emerging as well, alcoholic toadstools for one.
At the start of this piece I questioned what philosophies lay behind Coco Tang. Some have called it pretentious, a bar where you have to be a certain type of person to fit in. In some ways this can be true, but the argument is that if you can go with the aim of having a good night, you will, no matter who you are of who you know. Coco Tang brings something entirely unique to Nottingham by investing entirely in the product it provides and the customer that it’s providing for.
By Sophia Levine