Update: This story identified Jake Saady as the vice president of marketing for Light Group. He previously held that position but is no longer with the company.
It takes more than a headlining DJ to make a great night at a Las Vegas club: From dark, velvet-trimmed lounges to mirror-paneled megaclubs, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Plush couches rest weary dancers; sleek bars serve up drinks and conversation in equal measure; and colossal light fixtures set the ambiance for an anything-can-happen experience. When a club closes for good, there’s a lot more left over than the confetti littering the floor: So, where does it all go?
At the Hard Rock, it stays put. The resort closed beloved club Body English on New Year’s Eve 2009 to make way for its larger neighbor Vanity. But rather than renovating or repurposing the subterranean space, the resort kept it as a “back-pocket” venue, used occasionally for concerts or private events. This past New Year’s Eve weekend, Body English reopened as the Hard Rock’s main clubbing venue. It’s almost identical to its original form, save for a light and sound system upgrade and a relocated DJ booth. Even its iconic Baccarat chandelier, rumored to have been given to a patron upon its 2009 closing, remains in place.
Michael Goodwin, Hard Rock vice president of nightlife, says the company initially considered gutting the club and changing it completely. “We could’ve spent tens of millions of dollars making changes to something and not have it be better, because it is very much perfect for the future of entertainment and nightlife business. This is the right party for this hotel. … Why fix it if it’s not broken?”
Vanity, which closed New Year’s Eve weekend, will take Body English’s place as the Hard Rock’s on-call spot for private parties and other events.
Most venues however, don’t get a second chance. When megaclub trailblazer Studio 54 closed its doors after 14 years at the MGM Grand last February, it underwent a $100 million-plus makeover to become new über-venue Hakkasan, set to open this spring. But the casino wasn’t ready to part with the disco-glam decor and merchandise that helped define the space as a Strip destination.
“We very much understand the value of the Studio 54 brand,” says MGM Grand Director of Entertainment Anthony Olheiser. From the mirror balls to the branded souvenirs to the iconic “moon and spoon” sign, anything and everything that bears the Studio 54 name is being stored on MGM property inside a warehouse. “We’ll keep it, because maybe down the road there will be a relaunching of the property. Anything is possible,” Olheiser says.
Unbranded décor including couches and tables is being used elsewhere in the hotel, and Olheiser says what can’t be reused within the hotel is given away to MGM employees.
In the case of Jet at the Mirage, the majority of the décor — like the club’s distinctive light-paneled ceiling — was sold at auction to furniture companies, interior design firms and commercial developers. The club’s sign, however, was left in the hands of the hotel.
“Sometimes we get approached by nightclubs in other markets who are interested in some couches or a particular frame for a DJ booth,” says Jake Saady, former vice president of marketing for Light Group, whose past properties have also included Bellagio clubs Light and Caramel. He says the amount sold varies from club to club, but that Light Group tries to make back “as much as possible.”
As with Studio 54, furnishings that aren’t sold are recirculated in the hotel, given away or donated to charity. Bar glasses from Jet are still in use on Mirage’s casino floor and at 1 Oak. And on occasion, Saady says, a favorite bar stool will go home with a longtime bartender, or a loyal patron will be given their old table.
“People have often asked if they can hang onto a piece of the dance floor or bar when a space is being demolished,” Saady says. “There’s history in them, they hold something organic. Think about all the amazing experiences that have been had on these surfaces. People met their husbands on them. People had their bachelorette parties on them.”
Though he had to decline the requests for chunks of flooring, Saady empathizes with nostalgic clubgoers. For Light’s “Lights Out” closing bash, he had 1,000 photo books distributed to attendees to commemorate the luxurious club’s six-year run.
“It was the end of an era,” Saady says. “And this was a way for people to take a piece of the club with them.”