Las Vegas Nightlife Timeline

The Early History (1978-2001)

1978: Jubilation, a restaurant and club owned by Paul Anka, opens; County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani is its first female bartender.

1988: Jubilation is renamed the Shark Club after basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian’s nickname and becomes a hangout for mobster Tony “The Ant” Spilotro (he also enjoyed Botany’s at Flamingo and Maryland). Cover charge is $5 to $10, a first for Las Vegas.

Nov. 18, 1989: Tommy Rocker’s opens, featuring sing-a-longs, conga lines, live music—often performed by Tommy himself (whose real last name is Greenough)—and audience participation that sometimes includes throwing non-hazardous materials at the stage.

1993: Metz Nightclub opens, and after several name and ownership changes, becomes the fabled Club Utopia.

May 1995: Scott DeGraff and Michael Morton’s N9NE Group opens Drink and Eat Too! Named after their Chicago spot, Drink and Eat, the club features rooms with different themes and an open-air area for live music, leading to hundreds of noise complaints from the neighboring Marie Antoinette high-end condominium tower.

June 1995: Club Rio opens as first large nightclub in a hotel and introduces bottle service to Vegas, according to the Rio’s then-owner, Anthony Marnell II (a claim disputed to this day by nearly every other club operator in town).

August 1995: The Beach opens with a frat-party atmosphere courtesy of bikini-clad girls manning beer tubs, a balcony overlooking the large dance floor and a dress code that allows halter tops and jeans.

Feb. 3, 1996: Gino LoPinto and Aaron Britt open Club Utopia, replacing Metz, and attracting the Shark Club’s old dance crowd. The spot soon becomes famous for its rave-like parties.

April 1996: After fines and county hearings, a solid roof is installed at Drink and Eat Too! The club will eventually become Ice in 2003, and it and general manager Ed Williams will become nationally infamous on the reality show, The Club. Neil Moffitt’s Godskitchen is brought in to try to clean up the mess. Moffitt goes on to open Angel Management Group, a current nightlife powerhouse.

September 1996: A victim of the increased competition in town, the Shark Club closes.

1997: Chad Craig opens the Cande Factore rave club in a warehouse on Industrial Road and W. Utah Ave.

1997: Movie producer Victor Drai opens Drai’s at the Barbary Coast, operating as the city’s first public after-hours club when the restaurant closes.

1997: Cy Waits is hired as a House of Blues security guard where his twin brother Jesse works as a bartender. The pair will later co-found Tryst (nee La Bete) and XS with Drai.

March 30, 1997: Aaron Britt dies in a car accident at Miami’s Winter Music Conference and David Cohen buys his stake in Club Utopia.

Nov. 1997: Frankie Anobile opens the outdoor nightclub Fahrenheit ’98 at the MGM Grand.

Dec. 31, 1997: Ra, a nightclub with a “Stargate” theme, opens at Luxor. Ra closes in 2006 to make way for LAX, a PMG-managed nightclub.

1998: Baby’s, co-owned by Peter Morton and L.A. club businessman Sean MacPherson, opens at the Hard Rock Hotel.

Feb. 15, 1998: Studio 54 grand-opens at the MGM Grand with a fundraiser for Elton John’s AIDS Foundation, with Elton making an appearance after a $1 million donation from the casino.

March 2, 1999: Rumjungle and the House of Blues’ Foundation Room open with the rest of Mandalay Bay.

October 1999: Billing itself as the world’s first “mega-club”, C2K at the new Venetian opens.

Nov. 2, 1999: Club Utopia is placed on a licensing probation after claims of nudity and live sex from county inspectors follow January’s second annual Nymphomaniacs Ball in conjunction with the AVN Awards.

May 2000: Sean MacPherson and Baby’s management are fired after Metro runs a month-long investigation into alleged drug deals, overcharging and other problems.

June 12, 2000: A fire in the air-conditioning system guts Club Utopia.

July 2000: 21-year-old Danielle Heird of Henderson ODs on Ecstasy at C2K, launching an investigation into club operations.

Aug. 18, 2000: The new Aladdin opens with an offshoot of NYC’s Blue Note Jazz Club. The venue will struggle, based in large part on it not having direct access to the resort. It will eventually close and become Krave, the largest gay nightclub in Las Vegas.

Aug. 30, 2000: The Venetian closes C2K, citing drug use, overdoses, fights and other violence.

July 15-22, 2001: Surveillance tapes at Baby’s show inappropriate sexual conduct by patrons.

Aug. 19, 2001: Club Seven opens as a stand-alone restaurant/nightlife venue on the Strip. Carey Hart and John Huntington will eventually become involved, and from here, go on to open competing tattoo parlors at the Hard Rock Hotel and Palms after their business partnership implodes.

Oct. 5, 2001: Hush Lounge opens at the Polo Towers. Ryan Doherty is hired as the general manager. Doherty and business partner Justin Weniger will one day form WENDOH Media and launch Vegas Seven.

November 2001: Coyote Ugly opens at New York-New York as part of the New York-based bar’s nationwide expansion. The claim that the New York venue was inspiration for the movie of the same name is hotly disputed by Hogs & Heifers, which also will eventually open in Vegas. But the rowdy Village Idiot was the first to feature loud-mouthed girls dancing on the bar and pouring shots.

Nov. 15, 2001: The Palms Casino Resort opens with Rain in the Desert Nightclub and Ghostbar, both operated by the N9NE Group.

Dec. 18, 2001: Rande Gerber’s Whiskey Bar opens at the grand opening of the Green Valley Ranch Resort Casino, an offshoot of his Chicago operation.

Dec. 20, 2001: Andrew Sasson and Andy Masi open Light Nightclub (now The Bank) at Bellagio, based on their successful NYC lounge of the same name. The Light Group will eventually become one of the dominant players in Vegas’ new club scene, along with having an impressive number of restaurants in their portfolio.

Dec. 30, 2001: Club Utopia reopens, but never regains its popularity. It will eventually close, only to reopen as Empire Ballroom, which will peak when it’s the location for a Club Utopia reunion party weekend, overseen by LoPinto.

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The Downtown Cocktail Room’s doors are impossibly un-door-ish. You walk up from the intersection of Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard, happy to join the buzzing downtown camaraderie—the urban revolution taking hold of Las Vegas—and you’re faced with walls of one-way glass and no apparent door handle. For the uninitiated, it makes for an awkward moment. Had this happened to me, and I’m not confirming that it did, the larger metaphor wouldn’t have been lost: Maybe everyone doesn’t fit in here.