So many venues involved in Hakkasan Group’s $36 million buyout of nightclub/dining consortium Light Group, so many questions to ask. The former’s announcement was transparent but predictably lean on details—or at least the most interesting ones—leaving us pondering how the big move might (or might not) affect local nightlife. Here are some initial thoughts:
• It’s hardly a surprise. When rumors of the transaction trickled out on December 12, eyes widened at the boldness of such a young nightlife company taking over and establishing a Strip dominance akin to fellow MGM Resorts entertainment partner Cirque du Soleil. But at Hakkasan’s April 2013 opening, CEO Neil Moffitt promised quick expansion, and as his mammoth new venture outgrossed all but two competitors in town, Hakkasan Group soon gobbled up collaborator Angel Management Group, followed by the official grab of Light Group’s 19 entities on December 16 (though LG will continue to operate its three Mandalay Bay restaurants).
• Consider the elephant in the room: two sexual harassment lawsuits against the Light Group (since settled) that could have caused its exclusive casino partner, MGM Resorts, to reconsider the partnership. MGM may have publicly tipped its hat to its former partner on Tuesday, but it also may have dodged a bullet by having Hakkasan take over its nightlife and dining offerings.
• Among the restaurants Hakkasan now controls are highly profitable standard-bearers Yellowtail and Fix at Bellagio. Considering the proven global success of Hakkasan’s restaurant operations, things could get very interesting should the new operators decide to reconcept any of these dining destinations.
• Hakkasan’s bulging roster boasts some venues similar to one another, but overall it’s dynamic enough to accommodate all sorts of demographics, tastes and economic backgrounds. Just looking at its four dayclubs, the EDM overlap between Daylight and Wet Republic shrank with the former’s embrace of trap; Liquid’s modest entertainment budget allows for cheaper covers and more casual partiers; and Bare’s adult hideaway attracts a specific, more musically indifferent clientele. And Pure replacement club Omnia will undoubtedly counterprogram against high-energy Hakkasan and the more fantastical Light.
• It’s too soon to tell if Hakkasan’s new portfolio of hot spots will cause a nightlife tsunami. Will there be the usual post-merger layoffs? With smaller hangs like Revolution and Gold Lounge now in its repertoire, might Hakkasan escape potential homogenization by experimenting with non-big-room programming such as deep house? Will it be hired to dream up a new concept for the now-shuttered Haze—and give Aria a proper nightclub—or MGM’s Park development, for that matter? Will it leverage its influence with MGM to take over SBE’s Hyde at Bellagio, or the electronic stage at Rock in Rio in May? Questions abound with a move as big as this one.
Brock Radke contributed to this story.