Lead Mixologist, Delmonico Steakhouse
Juyoung Kang came into bartending by accident. Originally from Philadelphia, she was living and working in LA as a banquet server when someone else didn’t show up for her bar gig at a wedding. Ju, as she’s called, stepped in and found a new comfort zone.
“There’s a sort of barrier behind the bar. It’s kind of a stage, in a sense. You’re putting on a show but you have something covering. It’s comforting that no one can look at your feet,” she laughs.
She quickly found a passion for mixology, but also that the craft wasn’t being taken seriously in LA. “Every job interview I went on they asked if I was a model or actress. No, I’m a food and beverage professional.” So, time to go Las Vegas. Ju opened the former Comme Ça at Cosmopolitan—one of the Strip’s all-time great restaurant bars—then made the rounds at some of Downtown’s hippest watering holes before helping open Cosmo’s Rose. Rabbit. Lie. Recently, she took over for industry favorite Max Solano as head barkeep at Venetian’s Delmonico Steakhouse.
“It doesn’t matter where it is, or if it’s locals or tourists or what kind of people come to my bar,” she says. “My whole thing is giving people the best service and giving them what they want. Some people read hospitality incorrectly, that it’s giving you everything you want. It isn’t. It’s giving you the best thing you want at the right time.”
Executive Director of Nightlife, Hakkasan Group
What’s the major difference between the nightclub scenes in NYC and Las Vegas? “In New York it’s very much about personalities. There, even though you love the music and venue and atmosphere, you come to see me,” Pavan Pardasani says. “In Vegas, it’s not about me, it’s about the most beautiful venues you’ll ever see, and world-class service, and the most recognizable talent. You’re coming to be part of a great crowd, and I’m the person who facilitates that.”
Pardasani knows his way around both scenes. After building his name at EMM Group and consulting for top venues in New York City and the Hamptons, he landed in Las Vegas in 2013 ready to help change the game.
While Hakkasan Group has done exactly that—through the acquisition of Light Group venues as well as the stunning debut of Omnia at Caesars Palace—Pardasani’s fire burns brightest when it comes to the experience at the flagship nightclub at MGM Grand.
“I am more passionate about maintaining Hakkasan’s position as the No. 1 club in town than I am about our newer properties,” he says. “Any time there’s something new, it’s only human nature to want to be a part of that. Maybe it’s a bit counter-intuitive, but you have to love and be passionate about today’s project as much as you are about the new ones on the horizon.”
It’s a wise approach, befitting someone whose experience elsewhere shaped his perspective. “In New York, for a club to last for two or three years is a good run. Out here, it takes more than that. You want to build something that stands for some time, and then you can look back on that success with the memories of having built more than a venue, but creating a legacy.”
Nightlife Operations Manager, Foundation Room
You’ve heard it before. You’ve probably lived it, too. “I came to Vegas from New Jersey my sophomore year of high school, and I hated it,” Charo Ronquillo says. “As soon as I was done with school, I was leaving. Now, I would never live anywhere else.”
Just like you, she fell in love with Las Vegas. Ronquillo’s first job was as a hostess at Kona Grill near Summerlin, then she graduated to hostess, server, bartender and other positions at Strip venues, putting in work at Caesars Palace, Encore and Light Group restaurants, clubs and lounges. “I was in school for nursing, but I like being in suits and dresses and heels better than scrubs and clogs, so I made the switch,” she says with a smile. (She says everything with a smile.)
Ronquillo is always ready for a challenge, always looking to learn, and that drive brought her to the Foundation Room, Mandalay Bay’s stalwart nightlife perch.
“This was new to me. It was always drinks then dinner, but this is a lounge on one side and a dining room on the other, and a nightclub next to that,” she says. “This place is a whirlwind, but it operates cohesively, and you are thrown into all of it all at once.”
She wants to be where the action is, but she also loves the intimacy of the Foundation Room. “We can cater to people who want something a little more personal, and our team is so much fun. Nobody does what we do.”
Server, Encore Beach Club and Surrender Nightclub
She’s a Las Vegan born and raised, and she certainly has a very Vegasy job, but Brittney Porter is not necessarily a Vegas girl. How do we know? For starters, there aren’t a lot of figure skaters in the desert.
Porter was a competitive skater for about 10 years, starting from age 8, and when her skating days subsided she took up as a coach. She might coach again in California next year, if she ends up in grad school. With a UNLV degree in marriage and family therapy, she’s looking to continue studying psychology. But right now, she’s closing out the summer at Encore Beach Club, which is apparently as much a fun place to work as it is to party.
“What I like most is the amazing staff,” she says. “It’s like a second family. Of course we have some residencies with some of the top DJs in the world, and it’s great to be able to walk out here to work every day in this beautiful oasis. But it wouldn’t be the same if we weren’t surrounded by such a wonderful staff.”
Though she pulls double-duty as a server at Surrender in the off-season, Porter says she’s definitely a day person. “I’m up at 7 every day, so the nights can be rough. Winter can be hard to deal with.” Maybe she’s a Vegas girl after all.
Yes, he’s the son of Victor Drai, but he’s not the Vegas kid you might be imagining.
He’ll play three times this weekend—at EBC, XS and the Life Is Beautiful festival.
Destructo drops in to Drai’s Beachclub.
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