Drai’s After Hours might have moved, but it hasn’t lost its mojo

Drai’s After Hours won’t be at Bally’s for long—the longtime nightspot moves back to its original home after the Gansevoort renovation of Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall is completed.
Photo: Carlos Larios

It still looks like a living room. That’s the initial thought upon entering Drai’s After Hours’ new location at Bally’s, formerly Diamond Lounge and, before that, Seasons restaurant.

It’s a different, smaller space than Drai’s last home. The more-visible DJ now lords over the dancefloor from the center as opposed to the corner; the crimson library wall motif of the old Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall restaurant is replaced by darker colors and sparer decor; and two short rows of plush booths sit on the left side of the room, customers watching their more footloose peers like they might television. Nonetheless, it feels familiar.

So does the routine upon entrance: A quick once-over of the vibe, a trip to the bar, an eye-roll-worthy comment from an impatient tourist, the drink handoff from a beautiful bartender and the lap around the club (which includes a larger, rear room for hip-hop) to look for recognizable faces.

While the new Drai's space at Bally's looks different, it still feels familiar.

While the new Drai's space at Bally's looks different, it still feels familiar.

Which is a tough prospect on this particular night/morning, as some revelers are still wearing their masks from Palms’ earlier masquerade party and others are clearly tourists who either did their homework or took notice of the signs scattered all over Bally’s. The casino now has a viable nightlife entity—and will for the foreseeable future.

Victor Drai—the film producer-turned-nightlife impresario who opened his namesake restaurant when Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall was Barbary Coast—says he invested $2.5 million into the spot where his 16-year-old, Thursday-through-Sunday afterhours party now rages. Sure, he had to rip out the kitchen and put his own stamp on the place, but he’ll also develop another concept there after he moves Drai’s back across Flamingo Road and into his new 70,000-square-foot penthouse nightclub and daylife complex at Bill’s replacement resort, the upscale Gansevoort.

And when that happens in May, he’s not worried about losing customers on a second Drai’s transition, because he says he didn’t lose them after the move to the Bally’s facility, which opened to packed crowds during Memorial Day Weekend.

“People were very sad when we closed Drai’s,” Drai says. “We’re very oriented to a local crowd; we have a faithful customer. We have been open more than 15 years. We knew they’d come and check it out, especially because we’re in the center of town, [in] a location close to my old one. … Everyone [is] so happy now, and we haven’t lost any business.”

An imagining of the new Gansevoort Las Vegas. The new boutique resort replacing Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon is slated to open in early 2014.

An imagining of the new Gansevoort Las Vegas. The new boutique resort replacing Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon is slated to open in early 2014.

And the party certainly hasn’t lost its sexy verve or its musical character. Credit that to longtime music director and DJ Chris Garcia. At one point, conversations take place below him until he unleashes Avicii’s current foray into Mumford house, “Wake Me Up,” and grabs the socialites’ attention. The bodies double by the time he gets to the obligatory “Get Lucky” remix, which compels two young ladies to dance barefoot on the ledge above the lower booths. A few seasoned clubbers perk up during Mappa’s “A Deeper Love”—a reworking of the 1992 Clivillés + Cole standard—and it feels just like the 4:45 a.m. sweatfests we’ve previously enjoyed across the street.

This, to say nothing of the hip-hop room, which remained sardine-packed and lively during that first (and each subsequent) lap. Where does one find such energy? At Drai’s, it’s in the air.

“We are a very special place,” Drai says. “When [the patrons finish] work, they come. Half or a third of the room, they know each other. It’s a whole different atmosphere, and it was there the first day we [reopened]. That hasn’t changed at all.”

Drai's After Hours Thursday-Sunday, doors at 1 a.m., $30+. Bally's, 737-0555.

Tags: Nightlife
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