Tony Abrams, who co-owns a New York—based personal-concierge company called Four Hundred, says the notion that people have crawled into a bunker stocked with canned beans is a bit of a myth. Pleasure-seeking has stubbornly continued. "Unless you unfortunately lost your job, nobody stopped," Abrams says. "People just aren't as in your face about it. They've been accustomed to living their lives at a certain level, and the truth is, they're entitled to enjoy the finer things of life. They worked for it."
Pitchfork-toting populists might scoff at the notion of underground Beltway bacchanals featuring ice-packed Jacuzzis filled with craft beer, but Tesauro, for one, sees his enterprise in defiantly high-minded terms. He buys many of his delights from organic farmers and mom-and-pop merchants in Virginia—including super-artisanal bread from Sub Rosa, a bakery that's so indie its two young owners bake only 96 loaves a week, which they have sold, proletarian-style, out of a 2001 Honda Civic at farmers' markets in Richmond, Charlottesville, and D.C. "I remove the guilt from the equation," Tesauro says in defense of his patrons. "So anyone who wants to say, 'Hey, these people shouldn't be spending this kind of money!—are you kidding me? These are the people who are galvanizing the local economy!"
Besides, it's not just an economic boost he's after—it's a spiritual jolt. Tesauro speaks with florid, Oscar Wildean zeal about using leisure and luxury to uplift people's lives. "Going farm-to-table is not just a buzz phrase," he says. "I've got a relationship with Rappahannock River Oysters, for instance. I know how to shuck. So I can show up at a party and bring oysters that have a backstory." Sometimes, in fact, he serves as something of a motivational speaker. For a recent event involving a high-profile investment firm, Tesauro selected wines that provided an "allegory" for the recession itself. "We were at a private supper club," he recalls. "I brought in some wines from off vintages. I said, 'All right, in a great vintage any winemaker can make great wine. He just has to get out of the way. In a challenging vintage a winemaker earns his stripes. Is he doing a lot of green harvest? Is he cropping the fruit? How is he handling the wine in the cellar? The same is true in this financial market. In boom times any idiot can make you money! But in a challenging financial cycle you need a real professional.' We tasted the wines and I said, 'Now we're going to introduce you to professionals who know how to get you through the stormy climes.' Bang! It tied it all together." The only hitch: If all of Tesauro's underground parties start going as well as that one did, he might put himself out of business.