Every new Vegas nightlife venue that has arrived in the past few years has demonstrated the same trend, gradually sliding away from the stereotypical Strip megaclub experience characterized by vast spaces and big-name DJs and toward more intimate and layered environments with varied programming.
When On the Record opens at Park MGM on December 28, the trend is no longer gradual. Something truly different has arrived, and it’s all the way different.
“I was kind of surprised after we went to Vegas a few times and there wasn’t anyone approaching nightlife the way we’re doing it,” says Mark Houston of Houston Hospitality, the LA outfit teaming with MGM Resorts to fashion this fresh experience at Park MGM. “Obviously we’ve been spending a lot of time there and really enjoying taking in the show. I think we’ve touched on a lot of different experiences you can have in Las Vegas, and they’re all incorporated in this space.”
Twin brothers Mark and Jonnie Houston are known for crafting incredible levels of detail in their distinct LA venues, which include ’80s-styled spot Break Room 86, their first restaurant Butchers and Barbers and speakeasy Dirty Laundry. In Las Vegas, they’re holding tight to their style and point of view and creating a club on a different scale.
“It’s been both challenging and exciting,” Jonnie says. “We’re grateful to have MGM as partners and for them to give us this opportunity, and I don’t think Mark and I could have done it without that support. Vegas operates on a different scale. My brother and I design and build and conceptualize all our own venues in LA, and in Vegas we’re not allowed to touch anything. Everything has to be pre-planned. And what comes out of your brain doesn’t always translate correctly, so we have to be on-site to catch things and walk people through our process.”
On the Record begins when you enter a two-story record store off the main casino, across from Park Theater. After the Lady Gaga afterparty on the 28th, expect to see many more collaborations between the theater and music shop, which will operate four days a week.
Once upstairs, a speakeasy-style door provides your first interaction with an 11,000-square-foot space (club capacity is around 1,000 people) that feels like a collection of different, tiny, thematically related venues. An illuminated walkway reminiscent of the iconic “Billie Jean” video guides your entry. Walls are decorated with retro-collages of speakers, TV screens and cassette tapes. Three cozy karaoke rooms beckon, as does an enclosed brick-lined patio equipped with a vintage British double-decker bus that had to be lifted by crane into the new space; it has a bar and DJ booth built inside. The main room features three flexible stage-like spaces to accommodate varied entertainment, including a DJ booth built out of a chunk of an old Rolls-Royce. The fireplace-equipped living room will play a different music mix spanning genres and eras, and the hidden vinyl parlour will host guest bartenders who will create a cocktail based on guests’ musical selections.
“One thing Mark and I wanted to accomplish was to create multiple layers and experiences within the venue,” Jonnie says. “It seems like [in Vegas] you have to choose to either go Downtown for a nice, cool swanky bar or go to [the Strip] and a mega-nightclub, but there’s no place to find layers in one venue. It’s like the perfect movie. If you can laugh, cry and be scared and go through all these emotions, that’s something we’re striving for.”
“We’re just excited to be able to create something that complements Vegas,” Mark adds. “It’s not like competing. I think we’re all elevating these different experiences for people to enjoy and we’re hoping to do something that fills a void people are looking for.”
ON THE RECORD Park MGM, 702-730-7777. Wednesday, Friday & Saturday; 10:30 p.m.-4 a.m.