Recently I was discussing the atrocious state of my cuticles when the words “nail bar” came into conversation. Honestly, the gentle whisper of the word “bar” is enough to interest me, but when combined with the promise of smooth palms and feet I was instantly intrigued.
“So wait,” I said, looking at my coworker skeptically, “it’s a nail salon that has a full bar in it?” She nodded conspiratorially and added in a hushed, pointed tone, “Multiple drinks. No charge.”
At previous salon appointments, being offered a complimentary glass of red or white wine seemed like the ultimate treat. But I’m a millennial; I want the next, newest thing, which in this case means getting tipsy while getting a manicure. The sweet promise of endless libations (so long as one is spending money on the nail salon’s services) was enticing.
Are there any rules when it comes to drinking and primping? The mixing of alcohol and skilled services caused me to wonder if one would suffer due to the presence of the other. I had to find out for myself — purely for scientific purposes, of course. My plan: to waltz in the establishment, get a pedicure, perhaps following with a manicure once I felt tipsy, and see if at any point the nail technician would kindly tell me I’ve had a few too many drinks.
I decided on Marquee Nailbar in Pearland for my experiment, which describes itself as “not your ordinary nail salon,” boasting a DJ in residence Wednesday through Saturday and a full bar. I commissioned my boyfriend to enjoy this experience with me—and to serve as a designated driver if needed. We arrived approximately an hour before close on a Wednesday and were immediately seated in salon chairs. The overall look of the salon is sleek and classy, with white floors and at least 10 televisions playing Top 40 music videos.
For our first drink, we ordered margaritas on the rocks. The result wasn’t too strong, but I didn’t expect much more from a free drink. Ten minutes in, as my nail technician rubbed exfoliating goop onto my calf, I asked for a second drink. Much to my dismay, I was told the salon allowed “only one drink per customer.” When I offered to pay for my next drink, I was once again denied.
The nail technician working on my boyfriend’s feet apologized, sharing that the one-drink policy was a recent change. So I decided to find out what the heck happened to happy hour, reaching out to 22-year-old owner and manager of Marquee Kevin Dang, who told me about this dream of a high-class nail salon, the necessary alcohol procedures and how he plans to keep moving forward.
Dang admitted there’s been some issues in the launch of his business—which is currently in soft opening phase, with the grand opening scheduled for Aug. 3. His initial plan for the salon was to offer the average, hard-working Houstonian a place to relax, drink and hang out after a long day at work. He dreamed of customers getting to know the person in the salon chair next to them, providing a welcome social experience outside of a typical bar.
But Dang’s high-class vision for his salon was forced to be adjusted, as he made two shocking discoveries upon its opening. The first: customers abuse the complementary drinks. While Dang’s business began with unlimited drinks, he said customers just couldn’t handle their alcohol. I feigned surprise—who on earth would try to abuse the complementary drinks? Those hooligans!
The second and arguably the most important revelation: Pearland is in Brazoria county, which forbids any business that doesn't earn more than 50 percent of its revenue from food from selling alcohol. As a result, Dang aims to build his full-fledged dream elsewhere, with plans for a second Marquee Nailbar to be located near Vintage Park and Willowbrook Mall.
“I want the new location to be even bigger and better than the Pearland location,” Dang said. “It’s going to be something that no one has ever seen in Houston, and I’m modeling it to resemble the style of nail salons in Japan.” For the new salons, he is shooting for bigger venues, salon chairs resembling “thrones” and rooftop patios.
But until then, the Pearland location will still offer customers a complementary drink — perhaps two at the bartender’s discretion. While I can’t say I’m not disappointed, my toenails don’t look half bad.