A Hospitality Force: How Jojo Lahoud Is Redefining The Nightlife Scene In Miami, Aspen & Beyond

A Hospitality Force: How Jojo Lahoud Is Redefining The Nightlife Scene In Miami, Aspen & BeyondPhoto Credit: Nick Garcia



Jojo Lahoud is a hospitality force to be reckoned with. For the last two decades, Lahoud has made a name for himself in the Miami hospitality and nightlife scene, working alongside some of the most influential names in the industry before finally stepping out on his own to start the hospitality group, Plus Plus Group, and open Miami’s hautest nightclub, Gala Miami, with his partner, Mo Garcia. Haute Living sat down with Lahoud to hear about exactly how he carved his career path in the industry, the intricacies of creating Gala Miami and Gala Aspen, and what is on the horizon for his future.

HAUTE LIVING: Tell us how you started in the industry. How did your career path evolve?
JOJO LAHOUD: I went to boarding school in Connecticut, and in my senior year, I went down to Boca Raton to play baseball. During that time, I applied for a valet job at the world-renowned luxury resort and club, The Boca Raton, and that’s when I first realized that I love being around people and the world of hospitality. So, I started as a valet, then became a bellman and valet manager. Eventually, I moved inside as a front desk agent, then the front desk manager, and finally, the manager on duty at the hotel.

At The Boca Raton, I met many affluent members there, and one suggested that I come down to Miami to interview at Carefree Lifestyle with Anthony and Gary Marotta. I worked there for four years and became very close with David Grutman. Then in 2009, a few months into Grutman opening LIV Nightclub alongside my business partner now, Mo Garcia, they asked me to come in and work with them. I built my tenure with the Groot Hospitality empire, including LIV, Story Miami, Komodo, Swan, and Papi Steak, among others. Coming into LIV, I realized I brought a hospitality background from my past career at the Boca resort that had never touched nightlife before.

My time with Groot Hospitality ended in 2020, and I then got an opportunity from Live Nation with Rolling Loud to create their VIP program, where I built the Loud Club with a dear friend and mentor, Matt Zingler; the revenue significantly went up within the first year with Loud Club, and I am still there today.

A Hospitality Force: How Jojo Lahoud Is Redefining The Nightlife Scene In Miami, Aspen & BeyondPhoto Credit: Nick Garcia

HL: How did you eventually decide it was time to start something of your own?
JL: I definitely found a niche for myself in this industry. I love doing what I do. Nothing makes me happier than watching someone walk out of my venue and hearing them say, ‘That was awesome’ — it still gives me goosebumps. I know the business, and I have had the best mentors, like Grutman, Garcia, Jeff Zalaznick, Chris Paciello, and Jason Strauss, who have taught me the nightclub part of the business.

While the megaclubs are great and people love to go there, sometimes clubs can feel stale and like a concert venue. So the timing was right to create something fresh. None of this would have been possible if we did not have the right investors — our investors really believe in what we are doing and are a huge reason for the growth of Gala Miami, Gala Aspen, and Madame Ushi.

HL: Walk us through the concept of Gala. What has set this nightclub apart?
JL: We wanted to bring the magic back to South Beach and create a real door, a real nightclub that dresses the room correctly. We don’t sell any general admission tickets — it’s only table reservations. We don’t have photographers on-site; we want people to come in and be themselves. We wanted to create a sense of security. Gala is a more sophisticated nightlife experience — we have caviar and Oshibori towels sprayed with jasmine to greet you at the table. All of our glassware is actually glass — no plastic. It’s an upscale place. I am a big believer in that your first and last impressions must be amazing — it doesn’t matter what happens in between as long as the first and the last are incredible. This is something I’ve tried to carry throughout my career, especially in nightlife. At the end of the day, it’s all about how we maintain the core values of Gala.

HL: You also opened Gala Aspen and Madame Ushi, which have been a massive success. How did you decide to open there?
JL: After the success of Gala Miami, Garcia and Cedric Gervais brought the idea of doing a restaurant in Aspen. At first, we were skeptical, but we made it happen. Our partner, Shareef Souki, has been one of the best partners and mentors — he’s our toughest critic and biggest supporter. We actually were just going to do the restaurant, Madame Ushi Aspen; then I thought, Why don’t we just put Gala in Aspen? Since the opening on December 28 of 2022, the one-two punch of Madame Ushi and Gala Aspen has definitely made our mark in Aspen, and we are excited to say we are here to stay.

A Hospitality Force: How Jojo Lahoud Is Redefining The Nightlife Scene In Miami, Aspen & Beyond
Gala Miami

Photo Credit: Nick Garcia

HL: Rumors are you bought the place next door. What is your plan for growing the Gala brand?
JL: Yes, we bought the space next to us at 247 23rd Street. We’re still toying with what to put there, but we know we want to reinvigorate Collins Court in Miami Beach alongside an amazing neighbor like Barry Sternlicht. Having Sternlicht’s state-of-the-art building behind us and having a legend like that on our block really helps the potential of the area. We’re looking at definitely a high-end restaurant that stays true to what we know works best within our concepts — it will be very special. With the Aman coming and major luxury hotels within a half-mile radius, like the Faena and Setai, it only makes sense to reinvent this block.

We have so many deals being thrown at us right now, so it is important for us to really focus on our concepts in Miami and Aspen first and foremost. We are so young, and we don’t want to overextend ourselves too fast. We are looking at properties to entertain the idea of Gala New York, as well as cities like Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Nashville, and [a location in] Thailand. Ultimately, we’re looking to make Gala a global brand. We also want to continue to build the Gala brand by empowering our employees. Our team is family, and they are so crucial to what we are doing.

HL: Looking back, since you have been in the industry for so long, what is one piece of advice you wish you could give your younger self?
JL: Be humble, and be a good person. That’s it.