Sunday, March 16, 2008

Don't picture this

Trend worshippers are hailing a new restaurant feature as the mark that differentiates a merely haute place from one that might actually be a haunt of Mary-Kate Olsen, Lindsay Lohan or other bold-faced tastemakers. To make fashionistas’ must-try list, say the sort who care about such matters, a newcomer has to set a policy—ideally through an exterior sign—that photography is prohibited on the premises. How else can Brittney Spears cross her legs without worry?

Yet some of the places using that sign of distinction don’t seem like worthy shooting ranges for the paparazzi. Take the newest Pinkberry frozen yogurt outlet in New York. Grub Street, New York magazine’s excellent blog site, revealed last week that the store is banning picture-taking. As it pointed out, the treat shop is located in the heart of the East Village, a haven for the ridiculously body-pierced and absurdly tattooed. Are Brad and Angelina really going to stop by for a yogurt with mixed-in Captain Crunch?

Other Pinkberry outlets feature a similar warning, suggesting it’s a corporate policy. You can see for yourself by checking out any number of blog postings—many of which document the feature with photos of the signs.

The trend seems to be more prevalent in Europe and Asia. But the smattering of examples suggests it’s catching hold here in the States as well—on the coasts first, as per the usual process for a trend.

But fashion zealots may be surprised to learn the policy was first adopted more than a decade ago, and not just by private clubs or other hangouts for persons who stood a chance of seeing their names in a gossip column. The most-noted proponent was not some velvet-roped club, but Eatzi’s, the prepared-food cathedral of Chili’s parent Brinker International. So many people from the industry came in with their Nikons snapping during competitive reconnaissance missions that management had to curb the spying with a no-shooting rule. It certainly wasn’t to protect Miley Cyrus or Paris Hilton from appearing in the supermarket tabs. I’m not sure either gal was even walking yet.


  1. Based on recent Eatzi's history, the no pictures policy might be a cautionary tale. It might even become a Wall street indicator to sell,sell,sell. This could become a screen play for one of those japanese horror films like "the ring'. "No photos". The trailer would include the sign going up in the window of a new japanese restaurant and then the scream of a japanese woman as she see the image of a "out of business sign" in her camera phone.

    Sincerely, Steakman

  2. Funny. I was in NYC last week and visited a friend on the Upper West Side for dinner. We went out for sushi and gelato. Surprised that the paparazzi was not hounded me!

    Seriously, when I worked at Starbucks in DC, the company line was "no pictures". Period. Media outlets had to go through a long rigamarole to be able to get that 5 second shot inside the store. Call it being overly protective of the brand or paranoia.