The annual Nightclub & Bar Show—returning to the Las Vegas Convention Center March 25-27 and expected to bring nearly 40,000 attendees to town—is one of the biggest events of the year for bar, restaurant and club operators when it comes to learning about the latest industry trends and creative concepts, and Vegas is always the star of the show.
There will be keynote addresses from Bar Rescue star Jon Taffer and James Beard Award-winning author and bartender Jim Meehan, plus tons of workshops, training sessions, boot camps and behind-the-scenes tours. But N&B also ends up being a showcase for Vegas venues and local industry professionals. Opening day will feature a back-of-house tour at Topgolf Las Vegas and a party at Hakkasan Nightclub, and the mixology training sessions at the Academy Room at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits are one of the hottest tickets this week.
“It’s really important, and I’m often telling people across the country about it, because I think they underestimate the importance of Las Vegas in my world, the craft cocktail scene,” says Charlotte Voisey, company mixologist and brand ambassador with William Grant & Sons USA. “We all know it’s a big drinking destination, but when I moved to the U.S. in 2006, there were two cities leading the way—New York and Las Vegas.
“Nightclub & Bar is definitely one of the biggest annual gatherings, and I always look forward to not only the content but the fact that it draws industry leaders across the country and internationally, and the conversations and networking on the side that come with that.”
Based in New York City, Voisey is one of those leaders getting ready for the big Vegas checkup. But there are plenty of local players leaving their mark on the convention this year. Clique Hospitality nightlife partners Jason “JROC” Craig and Ryan Labbe are part of a speakers’ session themed around “Grand Concept & Design Creation.”
“This is my first rodeo, as we’ve been staying busy opening new venues, but it’s super-exciting for us, because the Barbershop is the first time [at Clique] that it’s our concept and we’re able to put our mark on something a little more than we usually do,” Labbe says of the new barbershop and bar opened at the Cosmopolitan. “The topic is design and functionality of creative new concepts and how we make it all flow into the space. What we wanted to do with the Barbershop is bring that old-school bar feeling back to the casino. Casinos got away from that a bit, going more toward lounges and center bar spaces where there’s a bit of a vibe.”
Labbe and Voisey both sound excited about going to other speakers’ seminars and walking the show floor, where more than 600 exhibitors will show off new products and programs. “It’s still Vegas, and you have to try to keep a couple nights open and see what’s new and visit old friends,” Voisey says. “Barmania is happening at Herbs & Rye [on March 24], and I definitely want to go check out Mr. Coco at the Palms and see Andrew [Pollard’s] new gin bar at the Wynn. There are so many great distractions.”