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Talking five years at the Cromwell with Drai’s Dustin Drai

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French Montana, performing at Drai’s
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When Drai’s opened on the Cromwell’s Strip-side rooftop five years ago, it already had 17 years of history under its belt. Named after the film producer-turned-nightlife impresario Victor Drai, the club originally launched in the basement of the Barbary Coast in 1997 and became the place for local revelers and tourists to party after-hours. Since 2014, Drai’s Nightclub and Beachclub has drawn parties to the top of the same property—now known as the Cromwell—while Drai’s Afterhours continues to thrive in its downstairs location.

Recently, Victor Drai brought on his son Dustin to keep things moving. Formerly the director of marketing and advertising, Dustin became Drai’s vice president of entertainment two months ago and now splits his time booking talent and leading the club’s marketing and advertising team. The Weekly spoke with Dustin about Drai’s successful foray into hip-hop, its Cromwell anniversary and more.

How has Drai’s changed since it first opened in May 2014? The Beachclub was doing great, but the nightclub not so much. People were still going to see the Steve Angellos and Afrojacks of the time, and they weren’t coming to Drai’s. Toward the end of that first year, [Drai’s] decided to start doing hip-hop and was like, “OK, let’s try to put a show on.” No one had really done it yet. My dad was like, “If this is the direction we’re going to go, it needs to be full-on performances.” It went from once a week, to twice a month, to twice a weekend. We very quickly realized we needed to do live talent every single night.

We can’t compete with the EDM artists; they’re contract. So we started with pop—The Weeknd, Chris Brown, Iggy Azalea—to a hip-hop guy here, a hip-hop guy there. It was this synergy of hip-hop at the time becoming the No. 1 genre in the world and us doing live talent. We didn’t expect it to blow up like it did. It just kind of transformed.

Do you feel like Drai’s spearheaded the idea of nightclubs doing full concerts in Vegas? One hundred percent. My dad and the Drai’s team, from the very beginning when they made that decision to go all out, they were like, “If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do 45-minute shows. We’re not going to do a couple of songs or this that and the other.” It’s funny, today clubs do it, but they don’t do it the way we do it, which is shocking, because we’ve been doing it now for five years and they’re not copying us. We kind of found that sweet spot, and definitely we’ve spearheaded the live talent, live artist type of thing.

What does the future of Drai’s look like to you? Because I’m related to Victor and it’s my name and my brand, I’m able to make decisions for the brand on the marketing side that in another company would have to go through 20 layers of approval. I have a small team, and we work really well together and we do things really quickly. Me and my marketing team are constantly finding new and creative ways to market in an ever-changing social media [landscape]. We have to constantly stay up to date. We’re music-focused.

I see the brand continuing to grow— potentially [to] other markets out of Vegas, potentially other concepts in Vegas. We are a small company that’s able to diversify and quickly change. Growth doesn’t scare us; it actually excites us. We went from a small restaurant and after-hours club to this mega beach club-nightclub, so you never know what could happen.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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