Chilling Out

Minus5 is New York’s First Ice Bar

In a sweltering summer, a new ‘ice bar’ in New York offers relief—along with long lines, expensive drinks, used parkas, and deer pelts.

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Talk about good timing. Just as a vicious heat wave hit, New York’s first ice bar, Minus5, opened in midtown—promising cool temperatures, fluffy jackets, and an all-around chilly experience.

Minus5, which opened in Manhattan’s Midtown Hilton in early July, is an extremely expensive cooling station. According to the New York Daily News, it cost more than $5 million to build the bar. A 45-minute wait outside in the sweltering Manhattan heat became excruciating as some peered through the glass into the icy interior—many ran inside the hotel to get a blast of cold air.

The bar becomes 21-and-up after 6 p.m.; before the cutoff, whole families are allowed to come inside. But as anybody who runs air conditioning full blast knows, staying cool can be an expensive proposition. Entrance begins at a steep $20 per person, which covers the cost of gloves and a parka. You can upgrade the coat—for the small price of $40 customers can get a cooler coat and look like Cee Lo Green. A VIP package runs at $95 a person.

Before customers enter the giant freezer, they check their electronics in lockers. This no-electronics policy opens up icy doors for one of the bar’s most significant moneymaking gimmicks: photography. After all, what’s an experience in New York’s coolest bar without a photo to document the visit? The policy is assumed to be for the safety of the electronics. The iPhone, for one, is known for freezing up at low temperatures. According to Apple’s website, iOS devices should only be operated in environments between 32 degrees and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, but they can be stored between -4 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit. The name Minus5 invokes an obvious temperature assumption—negative 5 degrees Celsius—and as the website reports, it has a “constant frosty temperature of minus five degrees. (twenty-three degrees Fahrenheit).” But the policy seems more devised for the safety of the bar’s bottom line. Patrons can purchase as many photos as they like from the photographer inside the bar—at $20 each. A three-photo package runs $40.

And how are the drinks? Armed with an arsenal of vodka flavors such as Coca-Cola and Fruit Loops, the bar tests the limits of taste and offers a different experience. Frozen glasses made completely of ice seem to mold to customer’s mouths after a few sips. The New York location showed photos of Regis Philbin and “shot skis” in its slide show outside, but as it turned out, with the new location these interesting ways to get alcohol fast were yet to be available.

Most customers, an employee said, stay from anywhere from five to 45 minutes, rarely getting past a second drink, because they’ll get too cold. The inside splits into different sections and houses a variety of ice sculptures—from the Statue of Liberty to an ode to Central Park. Couples cuddle on ice benches lined with deer pelts for added comfort and warmth. Music throbs in the background as patrons watch their breath become fog.

It’s all chill until the bill comes. A group of five, on Friday night, spent $360 on 4 photos, entrance fees (1 with a coat upgrade), 4 drinks, and 4 shots—all for 45 minutes of coolness.