Al Powers/PowersImagery.com/Angel Management Group
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 | 8 a.m.
Thousands of electronic dance music fans swarmed the four days of fun and festivities to mark the preview weekend of the new mega-club Hakkasan Las Vegas at MGM Grand. What a party it was: One high roller even picked up a massive $600,000 check for his champagne partying -- magnums for all! (Yes, that included the tip, and it wasn’t yours truly.)
The $100 million-plus platinum playpen of pleasure is off to a flying start ahead of this weekend’s grand opening, and Hakkasan’s massive 80,000-square-foot venue now doesn’t have to go into head-to-head battle with Light nightclub at Mandalay Bay. Construction delays have forced the new Cirque du Soleil and The Light Group entertainment emporium to move back this weekend’s party plans to Memorial Day Weekend for its grand opening.
The five-story Hakkasan restaurant and nightclub proved the ultimate magnet for the beautiful people: handsome, tattooed hunks and stunning, glamorous girls in the shortest of skirts and tottering on the highest of heels. They waited patiently in snaking lines of more than six abreast to be guided into the three specially built elevators that swept them to the top two club levels.
The main club with its balcony lounges and VIP suites is staggering in size, scope and effects. There’s a raised stage floating like a stretched lip over the largest DJ booth in Las Vegas for dancers, models and production. A team of six European music techies pored over master control decks to handle lighting and other effects. All the DJ has to worry about is playing music!
And if you don’t like EDM, there are other clubs within the superclub for different sounds. There’s the Oriental Pavilion complete with two-story waterfall. There’s a smaller club that’s more intimate. There’s the Ling Ling Club and separate Ling Ling Lounge, plus, the main casino level Hakkasan restaurant with its dining rooms set out as “cages” watched over from the private dining rooms above. The walls and bathrooms are stunning white marble and gray slate. Spectacular doesn’t even begin to do it justice.
I asked MGM President Scott Sibella if this younger-than-40 demographic numbering more than 5,000 a night would add to gaming revenue. He told me: “In today’s world, 70 percent of my revenue is nongaming. It’s been a complete paradigm shift from 15 years ago, and nongaming is a big component for what we do today. Nightlife plays a big part of that. This younger generation of customer who comes here wants to spend money and be entertained.
“It’s not just the DJs. It’s the light show in there, it’s the way the sound goes, it’s the dancers. They are coming here for an evening to entertain themselves, and they bring the money with them. This club will attract the more high-end people throughout the city who want a higher scale of entertainment.
“I don’t know how long this electronic run is going to last. I think it’s going to be another decade. But the good thing about our club is there are three or four different clubs in this club. There are smaller lounges that could have hip-hop; there are cool lounges that have different types of music. It’s designed for all demographics. It’s not just about electronic music. There’s another club tonight that can have a thousand people with hip-hop and current music. But the big room, with these DJs, is mostly electronic.”
I asked him with construction, DJ talent fees, staffing with beautiful model servers and a massive PR campaign if the rumored figures approaching $200 million was the biggest roll of the dice ever for Las Vegas nightlife. His response: “It’s not a risk. They are not worried about the money. They want it to be a successful, and we know it will be. It’s going to take a little while to work everything out because it’s a big building, but I don’t think you’ll see a lot of people copying what we did.
“I think you’ll only have one of these in a city like this. I don’t think there’s going to be anything like this in Las Vegas for a while. We don’t see it as a risk. It may pay itself off in five years instead of three, but we know they’re going to come. We are confident we’ve created something that will work.
“We hope to have the club open four to five days a week, and it could be seven, with the smaller clubs. Tonight, with the big room open and a top DJ like Deadmau5, we could have 6,000 to 7,000 people run through the club. In today’s world, a DJ doesn’t even come on until 1 or 2 in the morning. You come to the club at 1 to 2 in the morning and stay until 6 to 7 in the morning.
“When we went down to announce that we had hired Tiesto and he played at the Staples Center, there were 17,000 people there to watch him spin records. So all you have to do is announce what you’re building, who the DJs are, and they will come. They customers are out there, and the reservation phones are off the hook. Reservations are coming in; people want to see these types of DJs. That’s what the world is after right now.
“It’s uncharted territory. Some thought EDM would last a year or two. But it’s not going away. It’s here for another decade. You’ll start seeing awards shows for electronic music. It’s going to be its whole own industry.”
To prove his point, on the opening night last Thursday, Hakkasan opened at 9 p.m., and Deadmau5 played from 1 to 4 a.m. It was well past 5 a.m. when the club closed.
Here’s the Royal Robin Rundown of the first four nights at Hakkasan:
THURSDAY, APRIL 18: DEADMAU5
Thousands of clubgoers experienced the musical Mecca for the first time, with DJ Fergie to warm up the main stage before Deadmau5 took over later. Atmosphere models were scattered throughout the venue as dancers donned intricate, eye-catching costumes on the platforms above the main DJ booth and performed their choreographed routines throughout the night. Deadmau5 was presented with a framed gold disc by Angel Management Group CEO Neil Moffitt to celebrate the first performance. Girlfriend Kat Von D hung out at the VIP table directly behind the DJ booth.
In the 10,000-square-foot Ling Ling Club, DJ Vice was behind the turntables with atmosphere dancers dressed in stunning samurai-inspired outfits. Actor Colin Farrell sipped cocktails and mingled with the crowd and model cocktail servers now dubbed the Hakkasan Honeys.
Said Neil: “I think it is a perfect storm to create probably one of the best grand openings in Las Vegas for a nightclub. We have a nightclub like no other nightclub that will definitely put us on the map.”
FRIDAY, APRIL 19: HARDWELL
The festivities roared on with Hardwell, as he launched his exclusive “Go Hardwell or Go Home” futuristic-themed party series to more than 3,000. At 2:30 a.m., custom-made visuals popped up on the massive floor-to-ceiling LED screens showing content specifically made for the 25-year-old rising star.
While the Dutch DJ/producer spun his infections music, including fan favorites “Zero 76,” “Spaceman” and “Apollo,” guests were transported into a futuristic space-travel experience as galactic visuals appeared, and dancers dressed in space-age costumes put on dramatic performances.
DJ Bambi opened for Hardwell. Hardwell also was presented with a framed gold disc by Neil to celebrate his debut.
SATURDAY, APRIL 20: THE BINGO PLAYERS
The mayhem continued with 18-year-old Danny Avila from Madrid, Spain, and then Dutch house DJ producers The Bingo Players at the turntables. The EDM duo -- Paul Baumer and Maarten Hoogstraten -- debuted the first of their residency performances, and at 1:30 a.m., Neil presented them with their framed gold disc.
They kept the energy at fever pitch playing until 5 a.m., and Hardwell and Bambi joined them as guests. Questlove, drummer and joint frontman for The Roots, manned the decks in The Ling Ling Club.
SUNDAY, APRIL 21: TOMMY TRASH
It certainly wasn’t a day of rest for Tommy Trash, as he pulled double duty at Wet Republic and then Hakkasan, where he brought the weekend to a close at 5 a.m. Monday. The Australian DJ and producer launched his “Trashed” party series at 1:30 a.m. Thousands roared as he played his anthems “Reload,” “Monkey See, Money Do” and “The End.” Before his set, Neil also presented him with a framed gold disc.
Here’s the Royal Robin Rundown of this grand opening weekend of DJ superstars:
Thursday: Steve Aoki and his Neon Future party.
Friday: The return of Deadmau5.
Saturday: Calvin Harris partners with GQ Magazine.
Sunday: Laidback Luke & his Super You & Me Event.
The Ling Ling Club welcomes Jessica Who on Thursday, DJ Ruckus on Friday and DJ Irie on Saturday.
The first preview of Hakkasan restaurant comes Thursday at a VIP party with our sister Vegas Magazine. The Cantonese menu restaurant under the watchful eye of chef Ho Chee Boon opens to the public May 3.
Now that the soft opening has gone off without a hitch and the line controls have been resolved, it’s a sure bet that with Light not opening this weekend that Hakkasan will have an even bigger blowout.
When Light and Hakkasan finally clash on Memorial Day Weekend, the MGM mega-club unloads with Laidback Luke, Tiesto, Calvin Harris, Steve Aoki, Deadmau5 and Hardwell.
The DJ wars are about to get under way.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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MGM Grand, a AAA Four Diamond resort, offers 5,044 rooms and suites.
MGM Grand features KÀ by Cirque du Soleil; Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club; and world-class entertainment at the Grand Garden Arena and Hollywood Theatre.
The resort offers signature restaurants by celebrity chefs including Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak, Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans Fish House, Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill and Michelin three star and Forbes Five Star restaurant, Joël Robuchon.
As part of its ongoing “Grand Renovation,” MGM Grand has remodeled all rooms and suites in its main tower and is adding several new experiences to its lineup including Hakkasan Las Vegas Restaurant and Nightclub, a new upscale dining/nightlife concept (coming in April 2013).
MGM Grand also features a state-of-the-art, non-smoking conference center, the Grand Spa, Cristophe Salon, "CSI: The Experience" and an inviting pool complex featuring the tantalizing daylife of Wet Republic.
Upscale accommodations include The Mansion, an exclusive hotel within the hotel; the luxurious two-story SKYLOFTS at MGM Grand; and The Signature at MGM Grand, a luxury all-suite, non-gaming hotel located adjacent to the main resort.