Lights Out at Privé

The beleaguered Planet Hollywood nightclub closes for good

After a year of scandals, investigations, shutdowns, court hearings and headline-worthy shenanigans, the party is finally over for Privé. The embattled nightclub at Planet Hollywood officially closed on April 9—this time for good.

The news came as somewhat of a surprise, despite ongoing legal and financial issues. Upcoming events were posted on the nightclub’s website even after it had ceased operations and its phones were disconnected. (The party ads were eventually taken down, a few days later.)

Things moved so fast that some personnel didn’t get so much as a phone call—including the club’s Monday night resident headliner, DJ Five.

“I found out on Twitter,” he says. “I saw someone Tweeted about it. I asked one of my friends who worked there and he said, ‘Yeah, they’re closing the doors.’”

The S.K.A.M. Artist DJ, whose real name is Jerid Choen, hadn’t been staying on top of the club’s rising and falling fortunes, so he didn’t expect the club to suddenly shut down without so much as a “don’t come in tonight” phone call.

“My checks were always on time,” he says. “I didn’t think they were going to get shut down.”

Although his workweek just got one night shorter, he doesn’t think the closing is a big deal. “I would just go there on Mondays, DJ for a few hours and leave,” says Choen, who had been playing weekly gigs at Privé for less than a year, but maintains residencies at Tao and Lavo and frequently plays at the Palms and Hard Rock Hotel. “I didn’t really get involved with what their business was. For me, it was just a night of work. I’m over it.” Privé opened New Year’s Eve 2007 as a four-wall venture owned by a group of investors and overseen by Miami-based nightlife powerhouse Opium Group. Last year the Nevada Gaming Commission slapped the club with a nine-count citation after it was found to have served underage patrons, allowed lewd activity and permitted drug use onsite, among other infractions. The citation led to $500,000 in fines and made it difficult for the club to restore and maintain its liquor license.

Planet Hollywood footed the bill and agreed to take on additional, unprecedented responsibility over the club’s operations, but demanded Privé reimburse a portion of the fines, to the tune of $375,000. (Privé has since repaid $175,000 for the fines.) After a tumultuous series of hearings and reforms (and the dumping of partners Frank Tucker and Greg Jarmolowich, at the county’s behest), the club seemed to turn things around last fall. Ownership was reorganized under a new corporation, Vegas Nightlife Partners, and the county agreed to allow the club to re-open in October, issuing 90-day temporary licenses as investigations continued. The backroom VIP, Table 69, was shuttered, but other business resumed, and producer Jermaine Dupri signed on as Friday night resident for the club’s We Rock Hip Hop party.

Yet trouble persisted, and Privé was forced to file for bankruptcy protection in November. In January, the venue reported a net monthly loss of about $153,000, despite $752,700 in sales.

Time finally ran out in February, after Harrah’s purchased Planet Hollywood and, along with it, the debt Privé owed to the casino. Under the bankruptcy proceedings, Privé owed Planet Hollywood more than $300,0000 in overdue rent and another $200,000 for reimbursement for prior gaming-related fines. Privé, in turn, unilaterally decided to reject its lease, then filed court documents asking for its bankruptcy case to be dismissed since, without a lease, the business could not continue operations.

“I guess after all the stuff that happened, it was more of a headache for them to keep Privé open,” Choen figures.

On a side note, another group of Opium Group-affiliated investors had been making efforts to open a nightclub, The Rose, at Mandalay Bay late last year, but that project failed to get off the ground. (That ill-fated project involved an altogether different group of investors and was not affiliated in any way with Privé.)

Meanwhile, Planet Hollywood hasn’t said what it will do with the space that Privé once occupied.

Vegas Seven contacted the Opium Group and Harrah’s for comment, but both requests were declined.

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