2015 Tastemaker Awards

We asked, they answered. For a second year, Vegas Seven invited more than 100 Las Vegas Tastemakers—well-known personalities from the nightlife scene, spirits industry and the worlds of cuisine, fashion and general socialite-ism—to weigh in on what they’re into and what they’re over.

Contributors: Kat Boehrer, Camille Cannon, Ian Caramanzana, David Morris, Melinda Sheckells and Xania Woodman

BEST BIG ROOM NIGHTCLUB

Omnia is quite literally a big room, weighing in at 75,000 square feet, and our Tastemakers agree that there’s no better place to enjoy some of the world’s biggest EDM bangers played by the big names who crafted them. At Hakkasan Group’s largest venture, you can witness Calvin Harris work “How Deep Is Your Love” into his mix, or catch Tiësto pump the crowd up to “Wasted.” Simply put, it’s the best place to experience a wild, Vegas-style party that’ll be talked about for months. OmniaNightclub.com.

BEST BOUTIQUE NIGHTCLUB

Travis Barker kicks off his residency at Hyde Bellagio. | Photo by Tony Tran.

Travis Barker kicks off his residency at Hyde Bellagio. | Photo by Tony Tran.

Like Bellagio, Hyde is luxury exemplified. Maybe it’s Philippe Starck’s Italian design using reclaimed wood, views of the iconic fountains, lavish chandeliers or marble (lots and lots of it!), or maybe it’s the fact that you can pass seamlessly from deep within the club onto the patio with ease. Either way, it’s easy to see why choosy Tastemakers choose Hyde. Whatever the occasion—be it impressing a client or getting away from the big room nightclubs—lakeside Hyde is a breath of fresh air in Las Vegas’ tantalizing nightclub landscape. SBE.com/Nightlife/Locations/Hyde-Bellagio.

BEST VISUAL EXPERIENCE

Omnia wins for best visuals by a landslide. It seems our Tastemakers are as much in awe as thousands of happy patrons have been by the lighted marquees that glide along the walls, framing the grand centerpiece. The famed Omnia chandelier is a 13,000-pound mechanical masterpiece adorned with lights and strobes that moves and gyrates. Photos don’t even do it justice; this one really needs to be seen to be believed. OmniaNightclub.com.

BEST CLUB FOR LOCALS

Call them crazy, but sometimes our Tastemakers actually want to talk business over cocktails or just wind down, yes, at a club. Hyde’s cozy interior and comfy couches make it the perfect venue for any of those activities. Those are ever-present at the club, but if you want to turn up, Hyde’s got you covered as well. Big names such as Omarion, Jamie Foxx and Travis Barker have all blessed the club with their talents. SBE.com/Nightlife/Locations/Hyde-Bellagio.

BEST DJ ROSTER

Hakkasan Group wasn’t kidding around when it came to town and quickly dominated the nightlife game by scoring a DJ roster that is quite accurately the best in the West. Having secured DJ Mag’s No. 1 DJs of 2015, Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, as well as industry toppers Calvin Harris, Hardwell and Tiësto, the city’s 800-pound gorilla allows its headliners to handpick their opening acts. So pay attention to the support, because today’s openers are bound to be tomorrow’s superstars. HakkasanGroup.com.

Photo by Drew Ressler

Photo by Drew Ressler

BEST HEADLINING RESIDENT DJ

Diplo beats out Tiësto, Baauer and Alesso for best headliner, and rightfully so. No matter how frequently the beatmaster comes through to his Wynn Resorts residencies, his parties are always raging and, dare we say, Mad Decent. One can expect a night out with Diplo to quickly get out of control with girls twerking on stage, on the DJ table and in the booth. Partygoers can’t help but appreciate his eclectic song selection, which usually includes popular radio tracks in addition to EDM favorites.

BEST NON-DJ RESIDENT & BEST CELEBRITY CLUB HOST

Not only did he win the Internet with his surprise mix tapes and endless “Hotline Bling” memes (have you seen the Frasier one?), Canadian rapper/sweater sensation Drake dances out of our Tastemaker Awards with not one, but two trophies. There’s no doubt that Champagne Papi knows how to throw a party—he celebrated New Year’s Eve, Labor Day and a private birthday party on the Strip this past year, and has memorialized unforgettable Las Vegas nights in many a lyric. Who better for you than the boy, huh?

BEST LOCAL RESIDENT DJ

When he’s not behind the turntables, this SKAM Artist is behind the poker tables. DJ Five has manned the decks at Tao since it opened in 2005, playing everything from industry nights to star-studded parties, so he knows how to get any crowd going. Beyond the nightclubs and casinos, Five has also ventured into the restaurant industry as a co-owner of Downtown hot spot, Itsy Bitsy Ramen & Whisky. We can’t think of anyone better to fly the Vegas flag. Facebook.com/DJFive.

OPEN FORMAT CHAMPION

Variety is the spice of life, and DJ Vice has an incredibly seasoned palate. He also loves to share it with others; the Tao Group resident DJ has treated thousands to his eclectic taste since Tao opened in 2005. Don’t be surprised to hear the hottest rap songs such as Drake and Future’s “Jumpman” juxtaposed with Avicii’s “Levels” or Vice’s own single with Caitlyn Scarlett, “Bad Love (Hold On).” Our Tastemakers want to expose you to new things, or learn a thing or two, and we can’t think of a better teacher. DJVice.com.

BEST POOL PARTY

Encore Beach Club boasts VIP enclaves, cabanas and bungalows.

Encore Beach Club boasts VIP enclaves, cabanas and bungalows.

Two-story Encore Beach Club bests its biggest competition, Wet Republic, but only by the slimmest of margins. The summer hot spot consistently welcomes amazing talent such as Kaskade, Zedd and Tommy Trash. Cabanas and bungalows line the perimeter with windows that overlook the Strip if you need a break from the action, or if you want to wave to passersby to brag that you are so lucky to have a VIP area at the Best Pool Party in Las Vegas. EncoreBeachClub.com.

BEST WINTER PARTY

Imported from New York City in 2011, Lavo’s Saturday Party Brunch is the stuff of legend for weekend revelers and club-loving locals. Kicking off its fifth season in October, the party brunch’s 2-6 p.m. timeslot fills your need for indoor daydrinking when temperatures cool off, raging from fall to spring seasons with costumed performers, bottle service and black-out curtains to keep the big bad sunlight out. Like its cousin Proper Brunch (LavoLV.com/Brunch), food is also a major player at Party Brunch, proving that lemon ricotta waffles and white polenta pancakes pair nicely with Champagne and vodka with Red Bull. LavoLV.com/Lavo-Brunch.

BEST LGBT PARTY

Lisa Pittman’s women’s weekend, Shedonism, came incredibly close to taking this one, but perhaps our Tastemakers chose Share Nightclub & Ultra Lounge’s Share Thursdays simply because it happens year-round. The recurring party features male and female go-go dancers, two-for-one drinks until midnight and sounds by DJ Nick Ayler, making it the best excuse for anybody to start the weekend early. Since admission is free and there’s no dress code, it’s an experience that should be shared with everyone. (Sorry, had to.) 4636 Wynn Rd., ShareNightclub.com.

BEST INDUSTRY NIGHT

What makes our Tastemakers the Tastemakers? They know what’s hot—now and in the future. So it’s no wonder they chose XS’ Movement Mondays as the city’s best industry night. Occasionally alternating with Diplo’s Mad Decent Mondays, the Movement series brings clubgoers sets by progressive, cutting-edge talent. Past bookings include Kanye West collaborator Hudson Mohawke, trap/hip-hop/electronic producer RL Grime and “heaven trap” proprietors Slander. Best of all? It’s free for locals. XSLasVegas.com.

BEST BOTTLE SERVICE PRESENTATIONS

When you want to really pop off—and have the ducats to do it right—no place helps you make a statement quite like Omnia. Forget having a herd of waitresses simply spell out your name in cardboard letters—how 2012! Here, ethereal aerialists descend from high above to deliver vintage rosé while an entire marching band parades out the large-format spirits. But what is perhaps the craziest thing we’ve seen in any club is Omnia’s life-size faux horse that was wheeled out for a truly special delivery. OmniaNightclub.com.

BEST BOTTLE LIST

In some clubs, a bottle list is just a menu of marked-up widgets you order to legitimize the rental of your party real estate. Nothing sexy about that. But there’s no reason why, when you’re paying $750 for a $39 bottle of vodka, there shouldn’t be a little wiggle room for quality and to express your personality. XS embraces the opportunity to set before you not only the standard bearers of Grey Goose, Patrón and Dom Pérignon, but also the new entrants such as Elyx, 50 Bleu, Roca Patrón and Beau Joie, not to mention Stolichnaya ginger beer for Moscow Mules. And it never hurts to have a few large-format bottles on hand, just in case. How about 30 liters of Armand de Brignac “Ace of Spades” brut for $200,000?

BEST COCKTAIL SERVERS

Best Cocktail Servers Abbi Cooperman (left) and Karla Luna. | Photo by Jim K. Decker

Best Cocktail Servers Abbi Cooperman (left) and Karla Luna. | Photo by Jim K. Decker

In a city that prides itself on service, it stands to reason that this would be one of our most competitive categories. So it should come as no surprise that we have a tie! Omnia’s Karla Luna and Hakkasan’s Abbi Cooperman have smiles that can light up a room and energize your night. But that’s not all. Our 2013 pick for Best-Looking Cocktail server, Luna says that what sets her apart is her passion. “Some people fall into the restaurant and nightlife business out of necessity, while others have a real passion for hospitality. I am enthusiastic about being in the service industry as a career and am not just doing it to get by.” For Cooperman, it’s all about the guest interaction. “It’s so amazing meeting people from all over the world and hearing about their lives. I truly love and appreciate my repeat guests who come back just for the ‘Hakkasan experience.’”

VIP HOST WITH THE MOST

Only narrowly beating out XS’ Natalia Badzjo, Tao Group vet Larson Legris takes his place as Las Vegas’ go-to rainmaker. He is the one host who can make the impossible possible, be it populating your last-minute dance-floor table with a full complement of models on Memorial Day weekend; scoring you an invite to some of the city’s most exclusive parties; landing seemingly impossible fight tickets; or absolutely anything else you may desire. And as one of this year’s Featured Tastemakers, Legris hands out some hardware of his own.

BEST BRAND AMBASSADOR

Kristen Schaefer actually does do it all. When the former Absolut Vodka brand rep was promoted to brand “agent” for Absolut Elyx, she went copper crazy for the single-estate product and its exclusive copper pineapple chalices, and she took the whole town with her. From the city’s intimate dens of mixology to orchestrating EDM-fueled bottle parades in nightclubs, no glass has been left unfilled. Now a triple-agent, Schaefer is also the first female president of the United States Bartenders’ Guild’s Las Vegas chapter and a proud new mother.

Kim Schaefer

Kristen Schaefer

BEST OFF-STRIP PARTY

When it’s time to move the party away from the Strip, our Tastemakers hit up Downtown—natch—and Commonwealth is their venue of choice. The pre-Prohibition-style digs boast a killer craft cocktail menu, an eclectic lineup of local resident DJs (including Impakt, PDOT and Cyberkid) and a balcony with a stunning view of Fremont (which happens to be the best place for drunk-people-watching). Beyond that, we’ve also heard rumors of a super-secret speakeasy within the footprint, which makes this the perfect place to turn up or simmer down with a drink. (Full disclosure: Commonwealth is owned by the owners of Vegas Seven parent company WENDOH Media. But our Tastemakers didn’t hold that fact against it, so neither will we.) 525 Fremont St., CommonwealthLV.com.

BEST PRE-PARTY DINING WITH A SCENE

STK attracts the bold and the beautiful before club nights at Marquee and serves dinner with a twist. Between its center-room DJ booth, pulsating musical selections and appealing crowd, a visit can also serve as the main attraction. Find scenesters dressed in their best party attire, munching on high-class delectables and sipping attractive cocktails. The party is especially bumpin’ on Monday nights before Marquee’s industry soiree. TOGrp.com/Restaurant/STK-Las-Vegas.

BEST UNDERGROUND LEADER

By now, you should be aware of After, either because it took home this same award last year, or because of the after-hours outfit’s infamous strict “DJ Rules,” which went viral on the web around the same time. In 2015, the group promoting #proper #afterhours continues to bring fresh, underground acts such as Spektre, Coyu and D-Unity to a city saturated with big-name DJs and megaclubs. And with events being held at places such as Foxtail and Backstage Bar & Billiards, the after-party never seemed so inviting. AfterLasVegas.com.

BEST EDM BLOG

If it’s got bumpin’ bass, takes place in a nightclub or is about the hottest DJs in the game, it’s on DancingAstronaut.com. Our Tastemakers refer to this site to stay up-to-date on everything EDM, trap, techno, deep house and dubstep—most of it true. Beyond its easily navigable, beautifully designed website, Dancing Astronaut has broken stories about Elijah Woods’ DJ tour, gotten interviews with Oliver Heldens and uploaded exclusive HARD Summer sets. The reach is out of this world.

BEST PLACE TO PARTY SANS EDM

Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name. And sometimes you want to actually be able to hear them say it. When the thought of pounding oontz gives you the icks, follow your nose for tiki cocktails, Disney décor and Dole Whip right over to Chinatown, where the bartenders and servers at Golden Tiki are having as much fun as you’re about to. Oh, and save us a seat for when the spot’s audio-animatronic mascot, William Tobias Faulkner (WTF to his friends), fires up for his bone-chilling tale of “Whoa!” 3939 Spring Mountain Rd., TheGoldenTiki.com.

NIGHTCLUB RIPEST FOR RENOVATION

Time takes its toll on all things—especially party time. Which explains why The Bank in Bellagio is our voters’ choice for the venue most in need of a facelift. The walls of The Bank have seen a lot of love over the years since it was created from a rib of the original Light and deserves a shout-out for longevity. Top celebrities including Chris Brown, Trey Songz and Tinashe have all visited The Bank, but maybe it’s time for a little nip and tuck? TheBankLV.com.

TREND THAT HAS OVERSTAYED ITS WELCOME

Vape pens had some tough competition, being pitted against other such eye-roll-inducing notions as high-waist denim cutoffs (sorry, ladies), Macklemore haircuts (sorry, guys) and IO Hawks (the Segway-ish boards; sorry, nerds), but according to our esteemed Tastemakers, nothing is more undesirable than an ominous vape cloud looming over your view of the DJ booth. To make matters worse, the majority of the “juices” give off the scent of rotten fruit or bad chocolate. BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick said it best: “Vape pens are mouth fedoras.” Leave ’em at home, folks.

BEST HANGOVER BRUNCH

DW Bistro has been a brunch institution since 2010, with lines circling the block to prove its popularity. Forget nursing a carton of coconut water while hooked up to an I.V. bag, this is the city’s preferred hangover helper. Trust us: Nothing knocks the sense back into you after a long night of partying like DW’s signature jerk-spiced Bloody Mary mix with heirloom tomatoes and jalapeño bacon, and a bowl of New Mexican-style slow-cooked pork simmered in red chili sauce. DWBistro.com.

Jesse waits | Photo by Jon Estrada

Jesse waits | Photo by Jon Estrada

BIGGEST NIGHTLIFE STORY OF THE YEAR

Jesse Waits has been an integral part of Wynn Nightlife’s success for about a decade. So when Andrew Pascal and James Packer managed to woo the XS and Tryst Nightclub boss across the street to their forthcoming, multibillion-dollar Alon Resort, the entire city took notice. While details on Waits’ new projects remain scarce, we fully expect him to have a heavy hand in shaping Alon’s culinary, entertainment and day and nightlife offerings. As evidenced by Waits culture of “stage life” at XS, we also anticipate the Tastemakers will follow.

 

The Lightning Round

Best Party Starter: Tequila
Best DJ Duo or Trio: Nervo
Best Boutique Crash Pad: The Cosmopolitan
Best Dance Floor (For Actual Dancing): XS
Best Valet-to-Club-to-Valet Arrangement: 1 OAK
Best Post-Club Grub: The Peppermill
Best Party Holiday: Halloween
Best Decision Ever (If You’ve Been Drinking): Uber
The Bottom Line—Dayclub or Nightclub: Nightclub

2014 Nightlife Awards