10 Surprising Things About Las Vegas Nightclubs We Learned Cramming for a Radio Interview

We love being a guest on KNPR, the Las Vegas public radio station. We love it because
it makes us feel important, because it’s always great conversation and because we
always learn something.

Our most recent KNPR invitation was for a segment about Las Vegas nightclubs. While
we are not an avid club-goer, we are most definitely an avid club-observer, and not
knowing a lot about a subject has never impeded our ability to form opinions about
it.

Tao nightclub

Tao Nightclub’s name was inspired by a Chinese concept meaning “path,” “route” or “means to making a metric ass-ton of money.”

In the days leading up to our interview, we prepped intensively by doing our own
interviews with Las Vegas nightlife insiders. Many of the things we learned didn’t
make it on-air, but we figure you’ve got some time to kill, so here are some tidbits we found intriguing.

1. Clubs Sometimes Bus in Pretty People from L.A.

Las Vegas nightlife is a mysterious creature. For example, when a club isn’t filling
up with enough pretty people, it may actually bus in attractive people from Los
Angeles. Which is in an entirely different state than Las Vegas. More pretty people
creates more buzz, more buzz creates more business and more business creates more
revenue. Crazy, but true.

Tryst nightclub

Related: Suck it, diversity. See also #9 on our list.

2. Street Promoters Who Ask for Money Are Scam Artists

Club promoters on the Las Vegas Strip fall into two neat categories. There are those
working with clubs whose job it is to fill up the club with attractive people,
typically women. Others are scam artists, plain and simple. They create fake IDs and
often sell fake nightclub passes. How do you tell them apart? If they ask for money,
or a tip, they’re a scammer. Legitimate promoters aren’t selling anything. If you
encounter the other kind, flee.

3. “Bottle Rats” Are a Thing

There’s an entire subculture inside Las Vegas nightclubs industry insiders refer to
as “bottle rats.” These are women who roam the club looking for men with tables and
bottle service. They flirt until they’re invited into one of these exclusive,
expensive areas, and they mooch drinks. They’re not technically prostitutes, but the
practice is sort of the same business model, except without the sex. Usually.

4. Hosts Sometimes Ask for Photos Before Giving Comps

One of the realities of Las Vegas nightclubs is attractive, young women rule. Hosts
are highly-motivated to bring in that demographic, and will often give groups of
attractive women comps of bottle service. In one case, a Hakkasan host was outed as
calling guests “whales” and “hippos,” and all hell broke loose. The latest practice
is for some nightclub hosts to request photos of guests before approving their comp.
Wrong, sexist and superficial, yes, but also reality.

SLS Life Nightclub

Not every nightclub is a sure-fire money-maker. Life at SLS had high hopes but closed quickly and will soon be replaced with a live music venue.

5. It’s Not the Club, It’s the Management

Club-goers unfamiliar with Las Vegas often assume hotels own and operate their
nightclubs. Not the case. Hotels hire management companies to run their clubs, so
your experience is more a reflection of the management company than the resort
itself. There are just a few of these companies in Las Vegas, with the most popular
clubs being managed by just a couple of big players. Some companies get a reputation
for having less-desirable clubs. Before Light Group was bought by Hakkasan Group, its
clubs (1 OAK at Mirage, Light at Mandalay Bay, Bank at Bellagio) were considered to
be less cool, have shadier practices and less overall cache. The cult of management
companies is real.

Light Nightclub

Behind-the-scenes drama means Light Nightclub at Mandalay Bay won’t be Light might longer.

6. Hosts Are a Nightclub’s Sales Force

Nightclub hosts are what make Sin City’s nightclub business one of the most
remarkable success stories in the history of the city. Hosts, usually men, are the
hustlers who network and schmooze and pull in customers who are going to spend.
Nightclub hosts make a commission on what they sell, and they make tips on top of
that lucrative source of income. (It’s not uncommon for clubbers to spend $5,000-
$10,000 on bottle service during the course of an evening.) Interestingly, hosts pool
their tips.

7. Seventy Percent of a Club’s Revenue is Bottle Service

Bottle service is the engine that drives the massive profits of Las Vegas nightclubs.
A host’s job is to try and get customer’s to commit to a minimum they’re going to
spend before they ever step foot into the club, and to get them to spend more once
they’re inside. We’re of the opinion they shouldn’t call it “bottle service,” but
rather “celebrity service.” Because when you get bottle service, you’re a really big
deal, even if only for a night.

Lavo casino Las Vegas

Nightclubs make big bucks from cover charges and liquor sales. Lavo at Venetian recently added a new revenue stream, table games.

8. Nightclubs Have a Zero Tolerance Policy About Illegal Activity

Back in the day, hosts and other nightclub staffers would regularly supply customers
with drugs and prostitutes. The prime directive was to keep the customer happy, no
matter how outlandish the request. Now, however, the prime directive is, “WTF were we
thinking?” Clubs had their cages rattled by law enforcement to the point where now,
if you ask someone on staff at a nightclub for something illegal, you’ll be reported
to security and removed from the club. Staying open and making money are paramount,
and clubs no longer tolerate illegal activity of any kind. Sure, it happens, but the
nodding and winking by club staff and management is a thing of the past.

Update (11/20/15): Despite efforts to self-regulate, the Nevada Gaming Commission has made it clear nightclubs need to do a better job of monitoring potentially illegal activity. Read more.

Foundation Room

In 2014, the Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay was fined $500,000 for narcotics and prostitution violations. Pocket change for a nightclub, but the venue’s legal and PR nightmare reverberates even today.

9. The Customer Mix at a Club is a Thing

The make-up of a club’s clientele is of critical importance to the success of a Las Vegas nightclub. Nightclub managers explicitly tell their hosts who they want, and hosts deliver. This includes not only the gender mix but also the racial mix. Having too much of an “urban” clientele is nearly as dangerous as being considered a “sausage factory” (a club with too many men). Clubs generally claim to prefer a 2-to-1 ratio of women to men, but the truth is the ultimate mix for a nightclub would be 99% young attractive women and 1% wealthy guys who like to spend money to meet and impress them.

10. Nearly All the World’s Most Successful Clubs Are in Las Vegas

According to the experts, a full seven of the top 10 most financially successful nightclubs in
the entire world are in Las Vegas: XS (#1), Hakkasan (#2), Marquee (#3), Tao (#4),
Surrender (#6), Hyde (#9) and Lavo (#10). Both XS and Hakkasan each rake in more than
$100 million a year. Las Vegas has got this down cold.

Nightclubs in Las Vegas continue to thrive, and lots of nightlife newness is in the
works.

The new Omnia at Caesars Palace, formerly Pure, is crushing it in a world-class way.

Pure nightclub

Even when you’re big in Vegas, you can always be bigger. Pure is now Omnia.

Tryst at Wynn recently closed after a decade, with a new concept, Intrigue, in the works.

Intrigue Nightclub Las Vegas

Intrigue promises to move away from what it calls the “DJ phenomenon.” The rest of us refer to is as “You paid them WHAT?!”

Nightlife impresario Jesse Waits, formerly of XS and Tryst, has moved over
to the $4 billion Alon resort project.

There’s never a dull moment in the world of Las Vegas nightclubs, and only the strong survive.

If you’re hungry for more about Las Vegas nightclubs, you can check out our appearance on KNPR radio, along with Greg Costello, director of customer development for Hyde at Bellagio.

We’d love to hear your Las Vegas nightclub insights and experiences. We hate learning new things, but in this case, we’ll make an exception.

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  • Interesting stuff! There are also “bottle rats” at some of the pools as well. When I had a cabana at MGM, our host made sure anytime a woman came by to hang out, she itemized any purchase they had and made sure either they paid for it, or got our approval to add it to our bill. Women, am I right?

    • Truth. Lots of this applies to day clubs and pool culture, too. Good point.

    • Kerr

      Good to know hosts watch this carefully.

      • Scott Roeben

        They’d prefer to help their guests in any way possible, but reality has seeped in. “)

      • Scott Roeben

        They seem to. No club is perfect, but there’s a lot on the line, so the old shadiness is fading away.

  • Wally Marshall

    1. clubs are super expensive. 2. clubs are full of hookers. 3. clubs are full of pimps. 4. clubs are full of drug use, full of it. 5. drug dealers are all over in the clubs. 6. clubs say they don’t tolerate illegal activities. LMAO 7. clubs are host to thugs 8. clubs are a great place to pic up chics, NOT 9. clubs are fun….. 10. clubs are a great place to people watch.

    • Hope I’ve been able to put some of those myths to rest.

  • Alex

    I’m a bit perplexed as to why this radio station would want to interview someone who 1) doesn’t go to clubs, and 2) admits that they don’t know a lot about them.

    • I know next to nothing about almost everything! I make up for it by being super interesting. Did you find anything erroneous in the post or interview? Happy to hear your thoughts.

      • Alex

        That wasn’t mean as criticism of you. Sorry if that’s how it came off. That said, I think that a journalist should want to interview people with first hand knowledge of a subject.

        • Scott Roeben

          No offense taken! There are a lot of factors involved in choosing guests. In this case, they wanted to make sure the segment wasn’t just a promotion of Hyde (since the other guest was a Hyde guy). I also tend to say more provocative things, and I do extensively research subjects I’m invited to speak about. Point taken, though. I raised the issue when I was asked, but they find me as interesting as I do, so I hope to be on again. “)

  • boulder steve

    Not being a clubber I found this story informative..I guess i am too cheap or too old. Probably both. The only thing I would take issue with is #1. Pretty people dont do buses. They fly preferably first class. Take a bus from LA to Vegas sometime..its not pretty.

    • AccessVegas

      I wouldn’t be surprised if there were overnight invitation-only luxury coach junkets from LA that left at 6 PM on a weekend night and got back to LA at 7 AM where attractive people (and mostly women) were given a free ride and free liquor and bar tab or whatever.

      Having said that, Las Vegas is full of enough attractive women that they should be able to pad the room without importing too much.

      • Bouldersteve

        Good point. I doubt they travel on the Greyhound.

        • Scott Roeben

          Truth! Maybe party busses!

    • Scott Roeben

      It’s definitely ground transportation, but possibly party busses. “)

  • NHBill603

    All the major agencies in town routinely place ‘atmosphere models.’
    It’s a small world in those circles so the women usually know each other well and get paid to hang out with their friends and party.

    They can be found at clubs, pools and even restaurants.

    • Scott Roeben

      Yeah. Must find of these folks willing to talk. Fascinating world!

  • Brandon Carter

    Some truths, some half truths. You should explore more clubs more frequently.

    Biggest error about busing people in. There are plenty locals who use guestlists on weekends. Free entry as long as you have the ratio of girls to guys and arrive at the appropriate time. This alone assures the biggest clubs stay full. Also comping tables to local friends and groups of ladies also help during slow periods.

    • Scott Roeben

      Thanks for your thoughts and would like to hear more. I have direct knowledge of the business of bringing people in, but usually it happens when a club is new. Thanks for commenting, and if you can think of other interesting stuff, please share!

  • I think that #4 is part of the problem with society today. “will often give groups of

    attractive women comps of bottle service.” I get the fact yo do what you have to to bring in business but I don’t think it’s right to single out certain types of women.

    • Young attractive women run the world. Las Vegas isn’t special in that regard.

  • Misslaydj

    LOVEEEE The clubs in vegas. living in ny its just something about VEGAS!!!! hubs and i have been using chris at free las vegas clubs passes for 6 year and get in free at all clubs and day parties. men sometimes are 10-20 bucks for like rehab. he and his team are amazing and i look forward to using him ev year. in july my entire party of 8 got in for free at Light @ Mandalay

  • This is an incredibly accurate list about what is going on with the Las Vegas Nightclubs these days. I have a host that will comp me free bottles when I go but on one factor. I have to bring in a smoking group of fine 9’s and 10;s with me I usually have to send him a round of pictures of what they look like before hand before I get the green light, The clubs also have zero tolerance for illegal activity and will now may you empty you pockets inside out at some of the big club right at the door so think twice before you roll in the club dirty.

  • Vivian

    LOL, “don’t have too much of an urban clientele”… My roommate was a promoter at Tao and told me that he wouldn’t get paid if he recruited black chicks. So, that’s true. However, going back 8 years or so (I don’t go clubbing anymore) drugs were all over every club.