In the coming weeks the next evolution of nightlife at the Palms will arrive. It will come from Clique Hospitality, a company led by a hospitality legend and energized by a pair of youthful-yet-established nightlife experts.
It will materialize in the form of Camden Cocktail Lounge, a casino level bar and lounge with a stellar mixology program and a lot of attitude, and Apex Social Club, a next-generation nightspot taking the space of the beloved Ghostbar. These are important developments in the Vegas nightlife scene, because of the buzz generated by Station Casinos’ $620 million renovation of the Palms resort—but also because these venues’ plans are being created and carried out by people who are passionate about the property and its legacy.
“The Palms first opened as this cool, hip hotel, it had the first cool steakhouse in a casino, it had this over-the-top nightclub Rain when there weren’t many of those, and it was always a place for me to go and have fun and get some really good inspiration,” says Clique founder Andy Masi, who founded the Light Group the same year the Palms opened in 2001. “I never viewed it as competition but really as this cool product and place to have fun outside my venues.”
After selling his club and restaurant empire in 2014, Masi moved on to create Clique, which operates Vegas venues at the Cosmopolitan, the Mirage, Red Rock Resort and Green Valley Ranch Resort. Clique’s nightlife partners Jason “JRoc” Craig and Ryan Labbe (also known as the 81/82 Group) collaborated on Clique Lounge at Cosmo and Oxford Social House in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, and they’re teaming up again to work on the Palms.
“I couldn’t ask for better partners,” Masi says. “I needed the right guys, super young and energetic, and they just get it. They understand the business and work twice as hard as anybody. This is the first time I’m working to keep up with other guys—they’re that dialed in and passionate about what we’re doing.”
Craig considers himself and Labbe to be Masi’s boots on the ground. “Ryan is very organized, he’s got that East Coast, get-sh*t-done attitude and he’s very versed in the operational side of things,” he says. “We have strengths that complement each other. Our personalities are different, but we have the same interests.”
Craig and Labbe have both paid their dues while coming up in the Vegas hospitality world at the same time as many of the key players involved with the new-look Palms, including the property’s general manager Jon Gray, creative director Tal Cooperman, Stations’ chief experience officers Cy and Jesse Waits and the Tao Group execs that are working on other restaurant and nightlife experiences at the Palms.
“I like to compare it to the Avengers,” Craig says. “We were all very successful and came up in our own way at different venues and properties, but these guys are all close friends. We’re like blood brothers.”
Labbe agrees, noting that while there’s strong camaraderie, each individual brings unique experience to the overall project. “You have Jon, who is still a young buck but has tons of experience in Las Vegas, and also guys like Jason Strauss and Noah Tepperberg [at Tao Group] that have this huge footprint across the country with the properties. To have all these players under one roof makes it interesting to us and will make it interesting to others.”
Labbe also sounds excited about launching Clique’s new venues in this early stage of the Palms’ development. “Coming in early really helps us make our mark but also lets us find ourselves at the property and see all the angles,” he says. “Being involved from day one has its advantages and hardships, but it’s a great learning experience.”
For Craig, working at the Palms is a full-circle dream come true. He worked as a bartender there in its early days and spent a lot of time working at Ghostbar. “To go back there and open new venues where I worked for years is a surreal thing, but a really cool feeling,” he says. “There’s a huge sense of pride going in but there’s a little stress, too, because we want it to be the best project we’ve done to date, and really hit a home run. I think we’re going to do that.”