Al Powers/PowersImagery.com/Angel Management Group
Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:58 p.m.
It’s been one year since Hakkasan Restaurant and Nightclub opened in the former space of Studio 54 at MGM Grand, forever changing the nightlife scene in Las Vegas in combining one of the world’s top luxe Chinese restaurants with a five-level mega-nightclub.
Starting today and continuing through Sunday, Hakkasan marks the first anniversary with an unparalleled lineup of some of the world’s highest-paid, top and most popular DJs, all of them residences at the hotspot: Steve Aoki (tonight, a last-minute replacement for Bingo Players, one of whom’s members is about to become a father); Calvin Harris, Rev Run and Ruckus (Friday); Tiesto and Questlove (Saturday); and Above and Beyond (Sunday).
I chatted with Alex Cordova, vice president of marketing for Hakkasan Group, and Omar Gutierrez, vice president of U.S. restaurants for Hakkasan Group, about the past year, present and future of Hakkasan — the only Hakkasan in the world that is a restaurant and a nightclub — on the Strip:
What has been the biggest success of Hakkasan in its first year?
Alex Cordova: Our first year has been so successful, it’s difficult to pinpoint just one accomplishment. Our biggest success in the first year has not only been for Hakkasan Las Vegas Restaurant and Nightclub, but in building a global lifestyle brand.
We achieved evolving a fine-dining restaurant concept into one of the world’s most premier nightlife destinations and simultaneously added two new Hakkasan restaurants, in Beverly Hills and Shanghai, to our portfolio. With the great success of Hakkasan Nightclub, we further cemented the expansion of Hakkasan Group with our joint venture with MGM Resorts International to create a global hotel division — MGM Hakkasan Hospitality.
Omar Gutierrez: Our biggest achievement this year was successfully combining our established fine-dining restaurant with a world-class nightlife venue, all while upholding the standards that have made Hakkasan a successful global brand. It was a challenge that we were aware of before opening our doors, and today we are happy with the outcome.
Becoming a part of the Las Vegas community also was very important to us, and we wanted to find a way to give back. Our partnership with Three Square food bank has been a tremendous win for Hakkasan and the community. Together with the Hakkasan staff, we have raised nearly $51,000 to date.
We have continued this partnership and are participating in Three Square’s Spring Las Vegas Restaurant Week. Hakkasan’s International Development Chef Ho Chee Boon and I are currently members of its culinary council. We are proud to be a part of such a great local organization.
What do you hope to accomplish in the next year?
A.C.: It is no secret that Hakkasan Group has big plans for the future, but for the nightclub specifically we hope to surpass the success of year one by maintaining our position at the forefront of Las Vegas nightlife. The industry is ever changing, and we will continue to set trends and exceed guest’s expectations.
O.G.: I think our plan for our second year is to top our first. With each year comes new trends in the industry, and our goal is to continue to evolve just as quickly. We are always incorporating new and exciting ideas, menus, handcrafted cocktails and more to enhance the overall dining experience for our guests. We pay close attention to their demands, continue to provide outstanding service and encourage those who have yet to visit us to do so.
Most memorable moment in the first year?
A.C.: Our first year has been extremely rewarding with amazing highlights from Pharrell’s birthday party in our Ling Ling Club to Jay Z celebrating his after-concert party in the main room to the surprise fireworks display that took over the Strip in honor of resident DJ Tiesto’s birthday celebration.
O.G.: This year was Hakkasan Restaurant’s first year to participate in Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. The closing-event ceremony was held inside the venue where famed chefs walked the red carpet to attend the restaurant party. Later on, guests were invited to attend the nightclub to celebrate the festival’s final event. It was an honor to host such a captivating audience and welcome them to our Hakkasan experience.
Biggest obstacle/hardship in the first year?
A.C.: We are constantly trying to develop new and exciting concepts that have never been seen in a nightlife venue. Our team continues to work with our artists to creatively produce exclusive party experiences that push the boundaries of traditional nightlife expectations through innovative production elements and state-of-the-art technology.
Customer satisfaction is at the core of Hakkasan Nightclub, and we continually strive to offer some of the world’s most elite VIP services that keep our guests returning night-after-night.
O.G.: Hakkasan is a widely respected international luxury brand. With the venue having just opened this past year, we are as a whole still trying to build our awareness within the U.S. and our more concentrated Las Vegas market. Many of our guests still consider us solely a nightclub (which is fantastic), but we want people to understand that behind our walls, we offer award-winning modern Cantonese cuisine and feature an extensive wine and cocktail selection.
Why does Hakkasan stand out amid so many top-notch restaurants and nightclubs in Las Vegas?
A.C.: We have created one of the strongest teams I have ever worked with, and it is through our passion, drive and experience that we can truly say we have been so successful in our first year. Hakkasan Nightclub holds true to the elegant standard of the international brand but with a modern-nightlife component. From the moment you enter until the moment you leave, Hakkasan leaves its mark on you.
O.G.: We have produced an 80,000-square-foot dining and nightlife epicenter within the Entertainment Capital of the World, making it the largest complex in the U.S. that has combined these two elements into one comprehensive experience.
We have received an overwhelming response from visitors who come to our venue to taste our cuisine and sample some of our beverage selections. We really have it all. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this and share this concept with not only Las Vegas, but also our global customer base.
Don Chareunsy is senior editor for arts and entertainment of the Las Vegas Sun.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
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MGM Grand, a AAA Four Diamond resort, offers 5,044 rooms and suites.
MGM Grand features KÀ by Cirque du Soleil; Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club; and world-class entertainment at the Grand Garden Arena and Hollywood Theatre.
The resort offers signature restaurants by celebrity chefs including Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak, Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans Fish House, Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill and Michelin three star and Forbes Five Star restaurant, Joël Robuchon.
As part of its ongoing “Grand Renovation,” MGM Grand has remodeled all rooms and suites in its main tower and is adding several new experiences to its lineup including Hakkasan Las Vegas Restaurant and Nightclub, a new upscale dining/nightlife concept (coming in April 2013).
MGM Grand also features a state-of-the-art, non-smoking conference center, the Grand Spa, Cristophe Salon, "CSI: The Experience" and an inviting pool complex featuring the tantalizing daylife of Wet Republic.
Upscale accommodations include The Mansion, an exclusive hotel within the hotel; the luxurious two-story SKYLOFTS at MGM Grand; and The Signature at MGM Grand, a luxury all-suite, non-gaming hotel located adjacent to the main resort.