Back in the Day …

The Pioneer

Gino LoPinto

Utopia co-creator and owner Gino LoPinto has made a mark on Las Vegas nightlife since the early 1990s. Today he works with Butterfly at Chateau, but you may also know him from Empire Ballroom. Even before that, he was a partner at Metropolis, what could be called Vegas’ first “ultra-lounge.” The space on East Flamingo Avenue, which later became SRO, was a celebrity magnet in the days before paid appearances and hosting obligations, and themed nights were insane—literally.

“Metropolis was—although it wasn’t called an ultra-lounge—it was kind of what you’d call today an ultra-lounge. It was 10,000 square feet, had a sunken dance floor, cool wraparound bar, there were couches, a VIP room with a pool table in it. We opened, I believe it was June of ’93. So prime time, around 1994, it hit and actually ran strong for two years, and then Club Rio, the first club in a hotel, kind of emptied us.

Back then, before the freaky craze of the paparazzi and the way celebrities are nowadays, they used to hang out, and we weren’t paying them. They were comfortable going out and not being mobbed. Obviously people would ask for autographs and they’d have little entourages, but it was much more casual and I’d say safer environment back then. We had some of the top people there. Off hand, Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone, Pauly Shore, people like that would come in all the time. I think I had a list of about 48 or 58 celebrities over the two-year span that were pretty much A-list. Even rock stars, like Anthony Kiedis and the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers, I remember him being there a few times. Just a really cool vibe back then. Very locals-driven. Everybody kind of knew each other and it was the spot.

We got kind of crazy with our theme nights. Back then we all did it in-house. If you were going to do décor, you wouldn’t hire a company, you’d roll up your sleeves and the budget was a few hundred bucks. We did this Tuesday night called Asylum. We did this big chicken wire around the dance floor and we dressed all our cocktail girls in nurse’s outfits, and it was this whole psychotic thing. The bartenders were doctors, and they would squirt fake blood. We had asylum/psycho-named drinks. We had glow-in-the-dark paint and had it all over this chicken wire and lit it up with black light. So Asylum Tuesdays were kind of my favorite. Again, that was alternative, and it was fun.

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