There wasn’t a lot to celebrate in April 2008. Las Vegas, like the rest of the country, was in the throes of the Great Recession, the cracks in the housing market had widened into Grand Canyon–like chasms, and the city’s unemployment rate had begun its march toward double digits.
But even in the worst of times, the Strip still provides the ultimate distraction for visitors looking to escape their anxieties. And in the midst of economic turmoil, on the southern end of Las Vegas Boulevard, the next evolution in daylife was taking place at MGM Grand’s Wet Republic—a groundbreaking boutique outdoor experience.
Facing dual challenges from the dragging economy and the already established Rehab Beach Club at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Wet Republic executives hatched a plan in the early days to carve out a larger piece of the market for their adults-only dayclub.
As the sun rises on the 2017 pool season, four people who helped turn Wet Republic into the city’s premier day party share the secrets of its success—from Champagne showers to celebrity guests to the club’s game-changing embrace of EDM.
Rich Kenny, Executive Director of VIP Marketing and Customer Development
“I moved [to Las Vegas] from Miami a month prior to the second season. I think the previous year was not very well received, just because the right people were not necessarily in place, and Rehab still had probably 95 percent of the market share. We tried to come out of the gate with our day being Saturday, because Rehab had owned Sundays.”
Suzanne Nakata, Corporate Nightlife Service Manager
“I started in March ’09 [as a] model cocktail server. I remember my first year there. We called them the ‘Ed Hardy Days.’ It was a lot of Miami, Jersey Shore. That was when the show Jersey Shore was popular. That was [when] EDM wasn’t as popular.”
Kenny: “I really knew that we could surpass Rehab on Memorial Day weekend, when we started to go straight electronic music for a four-day party on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, which at the time nobody was doing in the market.”
Sal Wise, Executive Director of Nightlife Marketing
“It used to be only one day that people would party at the pool. The rest of the time they’d go lay out [instead].”
Kenny: “When we did it all four days in a row … you couldn’t get in the venue past two o’clock.”
Wise: “You could not move without bumping into someone who was wet or just got out of the pool. Seeing the smiles of people, you really thought they were in an adult Disneyland water park.”
Gary “Gaz” Brooks, Executive Director of Promotions
“I’d worked for [Angel Management Group founder and current Hakkasan Group CEO] Neil Moffitt in New York, [and] I used to vacation in Vegas when I’d come to visit him. It was just mind-blowing how many people would go out in the day. I’ve seen day parties in Ibiza, but [Wet Republic] was like a [true] European EDM party.”
Nakata: “There have been so many amazing celebrities and DJs who have come in.”
Brooks: “I was once annoyed over a business phone call. I got told to calm down, and when I looked around to see who [was talking], it was Rihanna. That was pretty crazy. She just smiled at me [and] gave me a bottle of water.”
Wise: “I believe it was Labor Day and we were walking in and you couldn’t get in. You’re bumping [into] Lil Jon as he’s walking out. You’re looking at the DJ booth, and you have DJs who now are huge, like Afrojack and Chuckie, who weren’t necessarily even on the radar, with LMFAO standing on both sides of the DJ booth performing for free. It was full chaos.”
Kenny: “One time, we had J.Lo on one side of the bungalows and we had Prince Harry on the other side. You could imagine with the celebrity scale of those two, there was an incredible buzz going around, even though we had DJs at that time. I think the people around them thought, ‘Wow. I’m sitting next to Prince Harry.’ Or, ‘I’m sitting next to J.Lo.’ People were so excited that J.Lo was there, and they were sending Champagne over to her for a picture.”
Nakata: “A lot of the big DJs today have come through Wet Republic at some point, which is amazing to see. It’s fun to see their careers grow. I remember back in the day, when Avicii first came out, when he wasn’t well-known. DJs have such loyal fans.
There’s an older woman, I’m going to say she’s probably into her 60s now—50s or 60s. She comes to every Tiësto performance and stands and waits for him all day. She always has a unique Tiësto jacket, or she has Tiësto’s logo buzz-cut in her hair.”
Brooks: “Ibiza used to be the place that young people would go and party. Vegas [is like Ibiza for] Americans. So when they come to Vegas, they let their hair down. They come here to have a good time.”
Nakata: “There have been a couple of marriage proposals at Wet Republic. A couple met [there], then came back three years later and he proposed. He got on the dance floor and the DJ announced it. He got down on one knee. She was excited. Everybody was cheering.”
Kenny: “We have customers who have come back over the nine years, and [they] tell you that they’ve been to Ibiza or they’ve been to Greece, and by far their favorite pool party is Wet Republic, and their favorite spot is Bungalow 15, or 11, or whatever it is.”
Wise: “When they have the opportunity to come [to Vegas] and go out day and night, they [plan] their trips [around summer].”
Nakata: “I’ve danced on couches with guests, I’ve celebrated birthdays, milestones. I’ve gotten sprayed [with Champagne] on my birthday.
Steve Aoki, he does every antic, he sprays Champagne on people. But his big thing for a while was getting ‘caked.’ So he’d have these giant cakes, and they would pick people out of the crowd, and they get the cake thrown at them, right in their face.”
Brooks: “I just don’t understand it as a European. Why are you going to get covered in cake and then have it sprayed off with Champagne?”
Wise: “Wet Republic really is the place for everybody.”
Kenny: “We’ve figured out new ways to make the experience better. Is it somebody taking a picture with a DJ? Is it somebody who wants to be the next DJ? It’s catering to the customer and making sure the customer experience is the best.”
Wet Republic returns Friday, March 10. Tickets and VIP reservations are available at