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November 21, 2017

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At Hakkasan, it’s time to rock — er, EDM — around the clock


Christopher DeVargas

Neil Moffitt, CEO of Angel Management Group, and Scott Sibella, president and COO of MGM Grand, make a few remarks during a ceremonial ribbon cutting for Hakkasan Las Vegas on Thursday, April 18, 2013.

Hakkasan Ribbon Cutting

Hakkasan at MGM Grand officially celebrates the opening of its nightlife venue during a ceremonial ribbon cutting Thursday, April 18, 2013. Launch slideshow »
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Hakkasan Las Vegas at MGM Grand on Friday, April 19, 2013.

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Hakkasan at MGM Grand officially celebrates the opening of its nightlife venue during a ceremonial ribbon cutting Thursday, April 18, 2013.

Generations ago, there was rampant skepticism about a new style of music dubbed rock ’n’ roll.

How long would this fusion of country, gospel, jazz and rhythm and blues last exactly? Five months? Five years? A decade? Forever?

As we have learned, rock ’n’ roll will never die. But to cover their bets, record industry executives squeezed as much creativity and productivity as possible out of the original stars of rock ’n’ roll. Who knew if this new form of music would prove faddish?

Electronic dance music is the rock ’n’ roll of now. Those who hope to capitalize financially on EDM are trying to guess when that form of audio-visual entertainment will fizzle and when Deadmau5 will pull off his headpiece and go home.

At MGM Grand, they are betting on EDM to be around long enough, possibly, for fans to enjoy a set by Son of Deadmau5.

Opening this weekend was the Strip’s new haven of EDM, Hakkasan. The EnormoDome of nightclubs takes up 80,000 square feet, entirely overtaking the space once occupied by Studio 54. We thought Tao was a massive operation when it opened nearly a decade ago at The Venetian, and we were right about that. Tao is a big dang attraction.

Hakkasan is the size of two Taos. This is the city’s most spacious club, taking up five levels.

To fill this $100 million space, execs from club operators Hakkasan Limited and Angel Management Group have recruited some of the world’s top EDM artists (though I feel some of my musician friends are crying “oxymoron!” at that description). Such EDM superstars as Tiesto, Calvin Harris, Steve Aoki and the mythic, aforementioned Deadmau5 populate the club’s lineup of DJs.

That crew, among many other rising and established spinners, is being charged with drawing 5,000 to 7,000 clubgoers to Hakkasan four or five nights a week.

But what if EDM and these superstars fade away in, say, six months? Or a year? MGM Grand President Scott Sibella doesn’t foresee that happening, though he does offer that his company is in an unfamiliar environment when it so aggressively embraces the still-burgeoning EDM culture.

“It’s uncharted. Totally. We thought maybe it was going to be a run through Las Vegas for a year or two, but it’s not going away,” Sibella said after a ribbon-cutting Thursday afternoon, speaking about EDM in the same way someone would describe a birthmark. “We thought it was going to be a run through Las Vegas of maybe a year or two, but it’s here for another decade.”

Sibella expands on the expectations for business at the club, where several thousand clubgoers will stream through MGM Grand and remain in the hotel until past sunup.

“With the big room (the main club on the fourth level) open and a top DJ like Deadmau5, we could have 6,000 to 7,000 people run through the club, and at one time we could have 4,800 to 5,000 in the club,” Sibella said. “They come early. In today’s world, a DJ doesn’t even come on until 1 or 2 in the morning. So you’ll have people come, leave, and the late crowd will come in.

“It’s completely created itself to where it’s really late-late. You come to the club at 1-2 in the morning and stay until 6-7 in the morning.”

The club is primarily, but not entirely, reliant upon EDM to draw a crowd and turn a profit. The first two levels are home to Hakkasan restaurant, and the third level is the 10,000-square-foot Ling Ling Club and adjoining Ling Ling Lounge.

“The good thing about our club is there are three or four different clubs in this club. There are smaller lounges that could have hip-hop, there are cool lounges that have different types of music,” Sibella said. “... But the big room, with these DJs, is mostly electronic.”

Sibella says the question of profitability at Hakkasan is not one of “if” but “when.”

“Our partners are not taking this as a risk. They are not worried about the money. They want it to be a successful, and we know it will be,” Sibella said. “It’s going to take a little while to work everything out because it’s a big building, but I don’t think you’ll see a lot of people copying what we did here. … It may pay itself off in five years instead of three, or seven instead of three, but we know they’re going to come. We are confident we’ve created something that will work. We’re confident of that.”

Confident, especially if the thundering beats and requisite flashing of strobes never ceases.

“My little 15-year-old, I think, will be listening to this for a long time,” Sibella said. “People will start seeing award shows for electronic music. It’s going to be its whole industry.”

And, apparently, it’s going to be the heartbeat of the Strip. We can only say rock on.

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