Nightlife Magnate Jesse Waits Ups the Stakes

The former managing partner of XS and Tryst crosses the Boulevard for total creative freedom at Alon resort

Photo by Tomo Muscionico

Photo by Tomo Muscionico

After nearly a decade at Wynn Resorts, Jesse Waits has firmly established himself as a global nightlife brand. Under Waits’ stewardship as managing partner of XS and Tryst, the nightclubs have remained at the forefront of the hypercompetitive nightlife space. In early July, Waits decamped Wynn Resorts for Andrew Pascal and James Packer’s forthcoming Alon resort across the Boulevard on the former New Frontier site. We recently caught up with the busy entrepreneur in Los Angeles to chat about his reasons for leaving, the future of nightlife and what we can expect from Alon.

What were your reasons for leaving Wynn Resorts?

Growth. I wanted to grow and expand. It’s human nature to move, to advance, to want more. For the last few years, I knew that I wanted to focus my energy on what’s next. So when the opportunity with Alon presented itself earlier this year, I made the decision right then and there. I knew this is what I’ve been wanting and waiting to do.

And what exactly will you be doing?

My precise role is a little difficult to describe. I am essentially an experience maker. I will be creating and shaping the social experiences throughout the resort with [co-owner] Andrew Pascal and [COO] Rob Oseland over the next three years. Specifically, I will be developing and designing bars, nightclubs, theaters and dayclubs, as well as other social areas of the hotel. I will also be contributing ideas and helping evolve the Alon experience more broadly.

Now that you’ve committed, how do you feel about your decision?

I feel like I’m moving forward again.

XS nightclub is presently at its peak. With you gone, do you think it’s going to stay there?

XS is an amazing nightclub, and it has a lot of momentum. We’ve built it up as a huge brand over the last seven years, and that’s going to carry it for a while longer. When you’re at the top, you’re already at the peak. Sustaining it has been challenging, but XS has been “peaked” for seven years.

What’s been the response to the announcement of your departure?

I’ve received tons of messages. I had hundreds of texts, calls and e-mails from people who worked with me. People said they appreciated why I was leaving and wished me luck. Some people were upset, but everybody’s happy for me.

Photo by Shane O'Neal

Photo by Shane O’Neal

What is your vision for Alon?

I see it being the future of Las Vegas. Vegas is evolving, and Alon will be a fresh interpretation of a Las Vegas resort. The culture of Vegas has been shifting, and no one’s captured or capitalized on what’s been happening lately. Alon will reinvent a lot of things and be very forward-thinking.

Back in the day, Vegas was a desert town filled with hotels and colorful characters. It evolved into this show-focused city with Sinatra and then a family kind of place with Circus Circus, Excalibur and New York-New York. Then it became a luxury shopping destination with fine dining restaurants in five-star resorts. Over the last 10 years, it’s been about nightclubs and the party scene, in addition to who has the most luxurious resort.

With Alon, the idea is to recognize the best aspects of the past as we move to the future. This resort is all about the synergy between the elements, and reimagining all of the classic aspects of the Las Vegas experience. Alon will deliver this at a scale that is more human and intimate, rather than produce something overwhelmingly big with mass-market appeal. There is truly a lot of great thinking and creativity among the team that is in place.

How much freedom are you being given?

Complete. The sky is the limit. I will be working with designers, architects, Andrew Pascal, Rob Oseland and Jamie Packer to create a collection of experiences that fit within the overall concept of the resort.

What direction do you see nightlife going?

For the last five years everyone’s focus has been on building megaclubs. I see things going back to where people aren’t so concerned about size anymore, but are more about the party, a sexy vibe, luxury and the overall experience. I see things shifting toward more intimate experiences.

Will we be seeing much of you before Alon’s debut?

I’m a people pleaser, and love making people happy. Everyone, all of my friends still call me. I’m still arranging [VIP bookings] and sorting people out. I am traveling and hanging out with my friends, having dinners and staying in the scene. My job—Alon—is my life. Everything I do is going to be about Alon. My focus, 100 percent, from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, is Alon.

I’ll be traveling to different cities, such as San Francisco, to work with the architects. If I’m in Vegas, I am networking and hanging out with people. I’ll be in L.A. more. I will be sourcing new contacts, looking at what’s happening in other markets and what we can bring to the Vegas market. If I’m not on the ground, on the front lines, I won’t be able to feel the trends and feel the future.

This project is three years away, so I can’t say exactly what I’m going to do yet with the spaces, but I know that in [those] three years, I’ll be able to cultivate and build what people want.