I Come From a Club Down Under

Vegas Seven dispatches one of its own to get the scoop on Marquee Nightclub in Sydney’s Star Casino

On the Sydney scene with Bob Shindelar

Is bottle service as popular in Sydney as it is in Las Vegas?

A few places offer bottle service. There are definitely some challenges in regards to the cultural aspect and rules with bottle sales [i.e., patrons are not allowed to pour their own drinks, and the bottle must be kept in a locked box on the table]. It’s not a brand-new concept to Sydneysiders, though not too many people in town do it the way we do it.

How does your marketing strategy differ from Las Vegas to Sydney?

When we first opened Tao Vegas we weren’t from Vegas. So I think we have done a lot of the same practices: going out, learning the market, not assuming what worked in New York would work in Vegas. One of the biggest differences is that the market here is more of a cocktail culture. They really like to have drinks and buy multiple drinks. Different types. So we built huge bars with tons of bartenders; made it real accessible for people to be able to buy drinks.

Regarding Las Vegas’ DJ craze, you have some of the same names appearing in your lineups, Redfoo and Afrojack, among others. Is there a strong interest in electronic-dance music?

What works in the U.S. is very popular here. Electronic music is very popular here, and so are R&B and mashups. We are using almost all the same DJs we use in Vegas. We are even using some here that we can’t get in Vegas.

For the last 20 years, Las Vegas-style hospitality has been skillful at transcending its borders. First, it popped up in Macau, with gaming palaces made in the image of Wynn and the Venetian; then in Singapore at mega resort Marina Bay Sands. But now it’s taken a truly lengthy trip and seeped down under—7,700 miles to Sydney.

So what happens when you take a few executives who were instrumental in launching Atlantic City’s Borgata (Larry Mullin and Victor Tiffany) and partner them with some of the nightclub industry’s most savvy movers and shakers (the Tao Group)? You get to write the ultimate chapter in the $870 million renovation of the Star, the only legal casino in New South Wales.

Over Thanksgiving vacation 2009, Andrew Goldberg from Marquee New York, Brandon Roque from Tao Las Vegas and Marquee co-founder Noah Tepperberg ventured to Sydney to check out the property advice of Mullin and Tiffany who had recently joined Echo Entertainment Group, the company charged with re-envisioning the Star.

“[Larry and Victor said] we’re taking over this amazing property and developing it into a Vegas-style casino-resort. Great location, great city,” Tepperberg says.

They boarded a plane with the expectation of the unexpected and were happily surprised when they arrived at the Star Sydney. “We fell in love with the place, and saw the potential,” Tepperberg says. “We went back to the States and started telling my partners we have to go to Sydney and do this. We spent about two years working on the project, working on the deal. Hopefully everyone will see that our instincts are right. This place has definitely been built on instinct.”

Marquee Nightclub at the Star Sydney opened in late March with a purple-carpet flurry that could have only been influenced by its older sister, Marquee in the Cosmopolitan. Among the familiar faces in attendance was Tao Group’s Bob Shindelar.

“I feel like I am living in the Venetian, and it’s New Year’s Eve every day,” says Shindelar, who is Marquee Sydney’s marketing director. He opened Tao Asian Bistro and Nightclub in 2005 in Las Vegas, and served as its VIP services and marketing manager until moving to Sydney seven weeks before Marquee’s opening, where he assumed the role of director of marketing. “I went from being director of VIP services to a creative artist and architect to DJ and everything that could possibly be rolled into a nightclub operator,” he says.

Designed by New York-based firm iCrave, Marquee Sydney measures just shy of 20,000 square feet, one-third the size of its counterpart. Like Marquee Las Vegas, it has three rooms: the main room, the Boom Box room and the Library. Special details include rainbow-colored hologram wallpaper and a 30-foot LED wall in the DJ booth that parts to showcase a hidden VIP room, which can accommodate a headliner and all of his or her friends. Scattered throughout are lighting fixtures made from skateboards and stadium-style banquettes with purse drawers. The communal powder room boasts a champagne bar and spectacular view of Sydney Harbor. State-of-the-art in every respect; the lighting and video are controlled by iPad.

Using technology to its fullest was a theme that continued during the opening events, where Tepperberg witnessed a sight he won’t soon forget: “My favorite moment from the opening was watching [LMFAO’s] Redfoo show Will.i.am how to DJ from his iPhone.”

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