Club Kings—Nightlife Impresarios— Scott Sartiano, Richie Akiva, Neil Moffitt, Jesse Waits, Victor Drai, Remi Laba, Aymeric Clemente

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You may not recognize their faces, but when it comes to having an epic evening in Las Vegas, it is Scott Sartiano, Richie Akiva, Neil Moffitt, Jesse Waits, Victor Drai, Remi Laba and Aymeric Clemente who are responsible for your good time. Yes, these seven gentlemen run Sin City’s glittering nightlife scene, and you reap the rewards of their hard work when you set foot of each of their exclusive clubs.  Find out why XS and Tryst Managing Partner Jesse Waits counts Steve Wynn as a mentor, how Drai’s After-Hours owner Victor Drai caters to his VIPs, how Angel Management Group CEO Neil Moffitt plans on making Las Vegas a mecca of electronic music, how Bagatelle Beach co-owner Aymeric Clemente worked his way to the top and how 1 OAK co-owner Richie Akiva’s private school upbringing made him the man he is today. Discover just how these innovators plan on evolving the Vegas nightlife scene…despite a collective inability to give up their old school Blackberrys.

Jesse

JESSE WAITS

How’d you get involved in the business?  I started from the bottom, working at a restaurant to get my start in the hospitality industry; I’ve worked every kind of position including bartender and general manager. I really launched my career at the House of Blues though by creating two signature events – ‘Thursday Night Fever’ and ‘House of Blues Sundays.’ I went on to work on the management teams for the opening of Foundation Room and then Light nightclub before being named a managing partner with Drai’s. In 2006, Steve Wynn asked our team to be part of the recreation of La Bete nightclub at Wynn Las Vegas, which we transformed into Tryst.

What makes Las Vegas so special?  Las Vegas is one of the most dynamic cities in the world. It’s constantly evolving and changing, which forces us who live and work here to grow along with it. I am proud to call this city my home.

Las Vegas is one of the most dynamic cities in the world. It’s constantly evolving and changing, which forces us who live and work here to grow along with it. I am proud to call this city my home.

How did you start your club? Where did the idea come from, what was the process like?  XS was really a result of the work our team put into Tryst. As Steve Wynn saw that venue become more popular, he wanted to build something much bigger, richer and grander for his new hotel, Encore.

What’s the dynamic like between you and your club partners? Steve Wynn is a visionary, a perfectionist. Every time I speak with him it’s refreshing and inspiring.

How do you cater to your VIPs? VIPs are tricky: they all have very unique personalities. I try to create a personal relationship with most so we know how to specifically cater to their wishes before they even arrive.

What do you get with your particular VIP experience?  Luxury. People visit XS expecting the highest-end experience. Our philosophy is to create the ultimate ex-perience through our service, staying on point with the resort’s Five Star, Five Diamond reputation.

XS-Nightclubaft

If you’re not working at your own club, where in Vegas are you hanging out? In Vegas, I can usually be found at home or at the gym if I’m not at work. Any chance I have for free time, I travel to relax.

What are some of your favorite restaurants in Vegas? Botero, of course! I also frequent Andrea’s, a new restaurant at Encore named after Steve Wynn’s wife.

What Vegas hotel do you prefer over the others and why? It’s a challenge to decide between Wynn and Encore; I’d have to flip a coin! I also think Bellagio is comfortable, and I love the seasonal garden they have at the main entrance. The fountains are also pretty impressive.

Have you seen any of the shows/live acts currently on? Which did you enjoy and why?  I just saw Rolling Stones at MGM Grand, and it was probably my favorite concert ever. And that says a lot, since I worked at House of Blues for almost four years and saw a different band every day. On the resort side, I’ve seen Cirque du Soleil’s Ka three different times and really enjoy it.

Blackberry, Android, or iPhone? I actually have all three!

Do you drive? If so, what’s your ride? I drive a Range Rover in Vegas for work and I keep a Ferrari 458 in LA for fun. I also have a couple motorcycles: a Harley-Davidson Bagger and a custom chopper.

Bagatellle

REMI LABA & AYMERIC CLEMENTE

How’d you get your start in the business?
REMI: I started my career working for one of the largest wine and liquor companies in the world. As a brand manager, I quickly saw an opportunity to do something different in the restaurant and nightlife  world, introducing French hospitality culture with a festive twist to the US landscape. The rest is history.
AYMERIC: My dad was in the business, so at age 14 I started to work to help him out. I started off as a dishwasher, working mostly half summers with them and on Saturdays when I wasn’t at boarding school. When I came to New York after attending business school in Marseille, my plan was to leave after no more than a month, but I fell in love with the city and decided to stay. I started waiting tables, first at Le Relais and La Goulue then Bilboquet, all thanks my good friend Alain Ducasse.  Instead of embarking on a career in banking, I then decided to open my own restaurant, then Bagatelle.

Things are great! We’ve been working together for years now, and we love this brand, so it’s a good time for us. We keep things moving forward and balanced and never lose sight of what we set out to do.

How did you start your club? Where did the idea come from, what was the process like?
AYMERIC: Bagatelle’s main differentiating factor is that it isn’t a nightclub, but a restaurant with a festive atmosphere. Patrons come to Bagatelle for dinner or brunch first in order to eat a great meal with friends and as the afternoon or evening grows, their meal turns slowly in a celebration of life, where music, champagne and cocktails take you into an organic party mode. Bagatelle is the perfect pace for all hedonists.

What’s the dynamic like between you and your club partners?
AYMERIC: Things are great! We’ve been working together for years now, and we love this brand, so it’s a good time for us. We keep things moving forward and balanced and never lose sight of what we set out to do.

How do you cater to your VIPs?
AYMERIC: Since I come from a background of working mostly on the Upper East Side of NYC (Bilboquet, Charlot, La Goulue), I’m used to having the VIPs be, well, everyone. I learned from Philippe Delgrange and Francois Latapie that you treat everyone with respect and as though they are a VIP or celebrity. What we really strive to do is develop a close relationship with our clients so that they feel like they’re at home when they join us.

Bagatelle

What do you get with your particular VIP experience?
REMI: You get preferred seating even with no reservations, access to the table of your choice and our VIP booths, access to our global preferred reservation system (all venues and pop-ups), which is quite handy in St. Barth’s during New Years, in St. Tropez during the summer, in Cannes or Monaco during their film festivals or Formula One Grand Prix weekend. More than anything, as a VIP, you are constantly included in the Bagatelle lifestyle opportunities.

If you’re not working at your own club, where in Vegas are you hanging out?
REMI: I like Hyde and The Act, as they are a bit more intimate. That said, there is nothing like a big DJ blowout at Marquee, XS, Hakkasan or Daylight to fully experience Vegas. It is also nice to get out of town, and nothing beats a day hiking at Red Rock or a day of skiing at Mt. Charleston in the winter.

What are some of your favorite restaurants in Vegas?
REMI: Grabbing breakfast at either Jean Philippe at Aria or Payard at Caesars. I enjoy going to dinner a Blue Ribbon Sushi, STK or Bartolotta and Burger Bar has the best burgers in town.

What Vegas hotel do you prefer over the others and why?
REMI: I still have a preference for both the Wynn and Bellagio. They are just mesmerizing properties.
AYMERIC: The Wynn – it’s simply the best.

Have you seen any of the shows/live acts currently on? Which did you enjoy and why?
REMI: I think I have seen them all! My favorites were Le Reve, O, Absinthe and Celine Dion in concert.

Blackberry, Android, or iPhone?
REMI: I am still in love with my Blackberry. It makes my work life so easy. I have also given in to Samsung’s new S4.
AYMERIC: I love my Blackberry, and I always will.

Victor-Drai

VICTOR DRAI

How’d you get involved in the business?
Drai’s was originally a restaurant and then evolved into what it is today, the After-Hours nightclub.

What makes Las Vegas so special?
The amount of people that visit the city and how the city caters to the nightlife industry.

How did you start your club? Where did the idea come from, what was the process like?
It was an afterthought; the restaurant was my primary focus. I had wanted to open a club for quite some time but never really thought it would evolve into the extent of what I have done.

What’s the dynamic like between you and your club partners?
We have a great relationship in which we orchestrate some of the most beautiful venues in the world.

How do you cater to your VIPs?
We offer our VIPs the full experience: bottle service in an atmosphere like no other.

Drais_afterhours_1000 2-5-13

Drai’s VIP host will personally greet and escort guests to a reserved area with a personal cocktail waitress dedicated to serving them.

What do you get with your particular VIP experience?
Drai’s VIP host will personally greet and escort guests to a reserved area with a personal cocktail waitress dedicated to serving them. To accommodate the taste of guests, an extensive bottle service menu provides a full selection of liquors and champagnes, which includes classics along with rarities.

Nightclubs are making Vegas now. How do you think the nightclub industry has been instrumental in shaping Vegas’ growth?
Nightlife has greatly impacted the Vegas market and is going to be an instrumental economic moneymaker for this city for many years to come.

What are some of your favorite restaurants in Vegas?
Botero and Bartolotta, just to name a few.

Blackberry, Android, or iPhone?
iPhone

What’s the craziest Vegas experience you’ve had?
There are so many. Whenever I spend time in Vegas, there is always a new memory to be shared.

1-Oak

SCOTT SARTIANO & RICHIE AKIVA

How’d you get involved in the business?
RICHIE: I grew up in TriBeCa, and when you live in New York City, you start going out at a young age. I was very ambitious and very social; I was all about the energy of NYC. A friend of mine had a place called Life and asked me to take over the place. I went to private schools my whole life, so I knew a lot of celebrity kids. Liv Tyler, Robert De Niro’s son, socialites. I was able to draw in a lot of people. That’s where I met Scott: he was working at Life. From there we decided to open a club together.
SCOTT: I went to school in New York City, and wasn’t sure I wanted to go back to college. I started hanging out in nightclubs and promoting, and from there I progressed to running and owning my own nightclubs.

We treat all our VIPs the same. The thing about us is that we have very close relationships with our people. We have people who have supported us since day one, and those are the people we look after as much as we can, because they’re family to us.

What sets 1 OAK apart from its peers?
SCOTT: It’s a 1500-person venue, so it’s really small and intimate.  We’re the antithesis to mega clubs out there that just keep getting bigger. Nightlife is not just DJs and lights—you have to really have a special ambiance and be different from what else is out there. We have a private space, customized furniture and original artwork.

What’s the working dynamic like between you and your club partner?
SCOTT: We work well together because we’re very different people in what we like. We have a similar appreciation for the way we treat people though, and what we’re trying to accomplish. We lived in NYC for a long time and we have similar friends and go to similar places. That has really enabled us to work well together.

What do your VIPs receive?
RICHIE: We treat all our VIPs the same. The thing about us is that we have very close relationships with our people. We have people who have supported us since day one, and those are the people we look after as much as we can, because they’re family to us.
SCOTT: The term VIP gets thrown around loosely. We try to treat everyone like a VIP.

1-Oak_04

If you’re not working at your own club, where in Vegas are you hanging out?
RICHIE: I go to light sometimes and I like The Bank as well.

What are some of your favorite restaurants in Vegas?
RICHIE: Ling Lee, a Chinese restaurant in the Wynn and Yellowtail in the Bellagio.
SCOTT: Besides my hotel room? I like going to dinners. There are so many amazing restaurants. Yellowtail is my favorite place, and Atelier at the MGM Grand is also amazing.

What Vegas hotel do you prefer over the others and why?
RICHIE: I’m a creature of habit, so I like to stay at the Bellagio because that’s where I’ve been staying for a long time, or the Mirage, where my nightclub is. The Mirage has the most amazing windows in all of Vegas. if I want to stay in the Mirage, I stay in a villa.

Have you seen any of the shows/live acts currently on? Which did you enjoy and why?
RICHIE: I’ve gone to Cirque du Soleil shows which I love. I’m a very big fan.

Blackberry, Android, or iPhone?
RICHIE: I have a Blackberry and an iPhone.

What is your craziest Las Vegas experience?
RICHIE: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. I follow that rule religiously.
SCOTT: I don’t remember.

Neil

NEIL MOFFITT

How’d you get involved in the business?
I started off my career as a food and beverage owner and operator in the United Kingdom and worked on a variety of properties there in the early 1990s. By 1999, I wanted to branch out, and began Godskitchen, which brought electronic music and total sensory guest experiences to nightclubs. Eventually, I took the Godskitchen concept to Ibiza, and as it continued to grow in size and strength, I decided to launch its own venue. In 2000, I then opened the most technologically advanced nightclub in the world at the time, CODE. I created Angel Management Group in 2001 in order to further the Godskitchen brand and support DJs. In 2004, I moved my ventures to Las Vegas, where I helped to re-launch ICE. I also continued to work with top DJs and create national arena tours with Tiësto.

How did you start your club? Where did the idea come from, what was the process like?
Hakkasan has long taken pride in its great success as a global restaurant brand. As customers’ palates expanded and expectations grew, it was our feeling that guests were growing tired of the status quo and were ready for more. Our goal with Hakkasan Las Vegas is to take nightlife to a new level and immerse guests in a thoughtful and curated experience.

How do you cater to your VIPs?  What do you get with your particular VIP experience?
Hakkasan offers a complete VIP experience for our guests, including private seating areas, dedicated VIP valet and entrances from both outside and within the restaurant. VIP guests are treated to world-class, 5-star service and have the option to reserve private rooms with a private entrance and video screens for parties, or even the entire 3rd floor of the nightclub for larger private events.

Hakkasan

The continuous evolution and innovation in the city’s nightclubs has played a pivotal role in helping to drive the local Vegas economy and travel industry, attracting music fans and dance aficionados to travel to our city from across the globe.

Nightclubs are making Vegas now. How do you think the nightclub industry has been instrumental in shaping Vegas’ growth?
The continuous evolution and innovation in the city’s nightclubs has played a pivotal role in helping to drive the local Vegas economy and travel industry, attracting music fans and dance aficionados to travel to our city from across the globe. While nightclubs were at one point seen as supplements to Las Vegas casinos, over the years all the city’s top hospitality CEOs and executives have come to realize their importance at maintaining relevance and helping to boost their existing revenue streams.

What are some of your favorite restaurants in Vegas?
My number one restaurant in Vegas would have to be Hakkasan Restaurant, which has always been a favorite of my family’s back in London. Chef Ho Chee Boon has created some of the most incredible dim sum I have ever tasted. Another of my favorite restaurants is Jaleo by José Andrés. I love their tapas and the paella is incredibly tasty. I also enjoy a good steak from Mario Batali’s Carnevino, or stopping by DW Bistro for some spicy Jamaican dishes.

What Vegas hotel do you prefer over the others and why?
Given my past experience in electronic dance music, I have a passion for big arenas, so I would have to pick the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino because it houses one of my favorite venues, the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

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