The 80,000-square-foot mega-club bets on EDM, but with a hedge.
Hakkasan Las Vegas celebrated its official opening at the MGM Grand Las Vegas April 26-28 with a star-studded weekend, both on the guest list and behind the decks. The 80,000-square-foot nightclub/restaurant has been under development for over two years, and is the most-anticipated new opening of the EDM era.
Crowds dotted with models and celebrities filled the massive venue’s many environments for sets from Hakkasan’s hard-won roster of exclusive resident DJs, many of who were playing at other Vegas clubs last year at this time.
“DJs are not DJs anymore,” Angel Management Group CEO Neil Moffitt, who developed and is now running the space for MGM, told a group of journalists during a pre-opening tour. “Calvin Harris is the most successful songwriter in the world right now.”
But he also asserted that Hakkasan was safe from the EDM bubble-burst many have called inevitable, saying that the venue is “positioned to be successful no matter where music goes. In the lifespan of this property, it will change.” He spoke to the club’s structural mutability – like movable walls that can shrink the main room to accommodate smaller crowds – as a means of responding to changes in the market, and keeping the venue from becoming a purely Friday-Saturday affair.
Deadmau5 opened the proceedings with an “Unhooked” set (as in, without his helmet) on Friday, visibly working hard and mixing spontaneous beats into his own classics like “Some Chords.” The main room’s high-res LED cobweb, which traces the full length of the ceiling, pulsed and glowed, just as the mau5’s cube might at one of his concert dates. Rev Run played hip-hop in the more intimate Ling Ling Lounge – a wide rectangle rimmed with tables and a thin strip of LED panels – ceding the booth to surprise guest Miguel, who performed two songs. (Moffitt intimated that Hakkasan resident Tiësto, who has a history of sneaking in small gigs at Vegas lounges, had expressed interest in playing the room.)
Calvin Harris, who just this week broke one of Michael Jackson’s chart records in the U.K. (spawning eight Top 10 hits from his album “18 Months”), rocked the club’s massive main room on Saturday night, while Jennifer Lopez, Vanessa Hudgens, and Pharrell (celebrating his 40th birthday) lounged in cloistered private lounges above the dance floor, lined in laser-cut marble lattice (one of many premium finishes throughout the venue). Harris got a peak-hour visit from Tiësto, who entered the booth just as he dropped his hit “Feel So Close.” The crowd sang along as the nitrogen jets spewed chilly white smoke from the ceiling, creating a big-room moment by any definition.
While Moffitt said that Hakkasan was created in part to “appeal to a kid who saved up” to make the trip to Vegas, he also acknowledged that its financial model was not based on general admission. “The economics for venues like this, they don't work [if everyone is] paying $30,” Moffitt explains. “Bottle poppers subsidize the GA.” Indeed, the amount of real estate committed to tables far outweighed that for democratic dance space.
While he declined to share the cost of the venue – which has been placed anywhere from $60 to $80 million - Moffitt claimed it was “worth the investment.” He also revealed that he planned to roll out more Hakkasans worldwide, “probably not with 80,000-square-foot facilities; not many markets can support that,” but some “continuation of the brand, maybe with food.”