LGBT nightclub Liaison closes

Liaison at Bally’s
Photo: Bill Hughes

Last Saturday, Liaison Nightclub had a line extending to Bally’s slot machines, with generally packed dance floors, several occupied VIP tables and busy bars between midnight and 2 a.m.—typically signs of a healthy, successful night. Several attendees sported Britney Spears shirts, having just walked over from Planet Hollywood where she had just performed. A few straight couples were spotted within the overwhelmingly gay male crowd. One queer dude even brought his dad.

However, I’ve heard repeatedly that busy nights were not the norm at the LGBT-marketed danceteria—the first of its kind inside a Vegas casino—which opened its doors last June after Victor Drai and this team moved their afterhours party back to its basement location at the Cromwell but kept the space they renovated at great expense.

Even as January reportedly saw an uptick in attendance, the Drai team has decided to end the operation. Employees were informed last night at a meeting.

A rep for the club issued a statement to the Weekly: “After a great run, which saw major LGBTQ icons like Laverne Cox and Lance Bass celebrate at Liaison Nightclub, the lights have turned off as of Wednesday, February 4. While the Drai's family looks forward to supporting and staying very active in the LGBTQ community, the Liaison Nightclub space will soon be transitioning into an exciting new nightlife concept."

While the prospect of a new concept sounds exciting—last year, Victor Drai told the Weekly that he had no desire to open yet another mainstream club or ultralounge—Liaison’s demise is an unfortunate one, especially given its landmark status and how it raised the elegance bar for Vegas gay spots.

It also wasn’t entirely surprising. Problems abounded early on. Plans for nightly operation scaled down to just Thursday through Sunday. It went through management and themed-night changes within its first two months of operation. Announced performers ended up at competing clubs. It didn’t book enough LGBT superstars with drawing power, even after Cox (Orange is the New Black) drew a packed house.

Its emphasis on being more respectable and upscale—a likely mandate from Drai, and perhaps Bally’s and Caesars Entertainment, too—may not have appealed to gay clubbers who prefer raunchier and more casual discotheques. As such, it struggled to compete with other established LGBT dance clubs that offer free admission, cheaper drinks, relaxed dress codes and grope-for-gratuity go-go dancers (though Liaison seemed to give in to that latter amenity during its final night).

Ultimately, even as it hired management whose experience indicated they knew the gay market well enough, Liaison just didn’t appeal to it well enough—an all too common outcome of LGBT nightlife experiments on the Strip. If talk of another casino trying its hand at an exclusively gay nightclub turns into reality, it ought to heed the lessons Liaison learned the hard way.

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