Hakkasan at One

The hospitality group’s Las Vegas outpost celebrates its first year on the Strip—and my, hasn’t she grown?

Photo by Al Powers

Photo by Al Powers

Hakkasan Las Vegas turns one this weekend, and as first birthdays go, this one’s a doozy. The resto-club’s anniversary spans April 24-27, with acts including Calvin Harris, Tiësto, Questlove and Above & Beyond guiding revelers through the party weekend. But this milestone isn’t the only reason Hakkasan Group is celebrating.

What began as a chic Chinese restaurant in London in 2001 burst onto the Las Vegas stage last April with the international restaurant group’s first foray into nightlife. “Hakkasan Las Vegas is an enormous success for our company,” says Omar Gutierrez, vice president of U.S. restaurants for Hakkasan Group. “This venue is not only one of our largest, but also the first of our restaurants to venture into the nightlife sector. Based on customer feedback, I believe we’ve managed to effectively extend the ‘Hakkasan experience’ into other forms of entertainment.”

Nervo. Photo by Al Powers

Nervo. Photo by Al Powers

These other forms of entertainment—a jam-packed roster of internationally renowned DJs, including this weekend’s talent: Hardwell, Afrojack and Martin Garrix—have been a driving force in the venue’s momentum. “What we did from the beginning is try to create an experience to wow people from the moment they come in,” says Keith White, director of marketing. “We try to surprise the guest with something that hasn’t been done before and push that envelope.” A tall order in a city that’s pretty much seen it all.

So while Hakkasan’s wow factor has always been its insane sound system and visuals throughout the nightclub designed by 212 Design, the beauty is in the details that separate Hakkasan from other venues. There are myriad spaces, from the Chinese fine-dining restaurant on the ground floor (designed by Gilles & Boissier) to the intimate Ling Ling Lounge and Club on the third, each with its own distinct vibe and experience. The entire venue pops with the striking, modern Asian aesthetic in everything from the black lacquer, blue-lit décor of the restaurant to the ornate headdresses and fascinators worn by the go-go dancers.

“And as the night goes on, we try to increase that experience to build up to the headliner,” White says. “As the year progressed, we came back to think, what can we do to create better experiences?” Hakkasan stunned bottlerats and bosses alike when it unveiled the Dynastie Collection by Armand de Brignac Champagne, purportedly the most expensive bottle-service package in the world, featuring nine handcrafted bottles in sizes ranging from the standard 750-mililiter bottle to a 30-liter Midas—in total the equivalent to 109 bottles of bubbly.

R3hab. Photo by Brenton Ho

R3hab. Photo by Brenton Ho

Touches like these have been alluring to the many celebrities who have passed through the restaurant and club doors, including Jay-Z, Ke$ha, Pharrell Williams and Kate Upton. Will Smith brought his family to celebrate his son Trey’s 21st birthday, and Grammy Award winners such as Miguel have performed in the Ling Ling Club, while hip-hop acts such as Ice Cube and Nas have taken the stage in the main room.

Another reason the hospitality group may be popping a few more bottles on this first anniversary: Hakkasan last week announced its joint venture with MGM Resorts International. The relationship began more than two years ago when Hakkasan first entered into the nightlife sector with the hotel titan, says Neil Moffitt, Hakkasan Group CEO who will lead the newly formed MGM Hakkasan Hospitality. Hotel and resort projects are already in various stages of development in locales such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates; Mumbai, India; and Doha, Qatar. The group’s first project is scheduled for late 2016 or early 2017.

Photo by Al Powers

Photo by Al Powers

Both companies are contributing brand licenses to the new corporation, creating a combined portfolio to include such major hospitality names as Bellagio, Hakkasan, MGM Grand and Skylofts. And yes, that means that eventually we’ll even see a Hakkasan-branded hotel sometime in the future. “Hotels and resort projects have been part of Hakkasan Group’s expansion plan for some time,” Moffitt says. “And it was important for us to find the best possible partner that could bring a wealth of experience and skill to the development and operations.”

Global domination very well might be on the horizon for Hakkasan and its new venture. But in this moment, you can still feel that urgency and commitment to service and the guest experience at the nightclub level. To wit, White recently set up a meet-and-greet for two diehard Tiësto fans who were coming from the Netherlands. “To have two guests fly in from that far, I wanted to create a real experience for them that’s more than just meeting Tiësto, because that’s the best way to represent us. To have fans that dedicated, they’re better than a billboard.”

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