Life after nightlife: What happens when a club closes its doors?
Mon, Mar 12, 2012 (12:10 p.m.)
Photo: Bryan Steffy/Getty Images
The high rate of turnover for nightclubs in Las Vegas is par for the course in a city perennially hungry for new looks and fresh experiences. But when a club closes, there’s a lot more leftover than the confetti littering the floor: There are couches that have rested thousands of weary dancers, bars that have served countless drinks and massive light fixtures that have set the ambiance for myriad memorable nights. So, where does it all go?
A club’s life after nightlife varies from venue to venue, and can depend on whether that space will be reopened as a new one or shut down permanently.
MGM Grand’s Studio 54, which closed its doors after 14 years on February 4, is saving its decor and merchandise for a rainy day.
“We very much understand the value of the Studio 54 brand,” says MGM Grand Director of Entertainment Anthony Olheiser. From the club’s mirror balls to its branded souvenirs to its iconic “moon and spoon” sign, anything and everything that bears the club’s name is being stored on MGM property in crates inside a warehouse.
“We’ll keep it, because maybe down the road there will be a relaunching of the property. Anything is possible,” Olheiser says.
Unbranded decor, like the club’s couches and tables, are being utilized elsewhere in the hotel; Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club, for example, has inherited some of Studio 54’s light fixtures. Olheiser says that what can’t be reused within the hotel is given to other MGM Resorts properties, like the Mirage events department. “If we can’t use it on property, we still like to keep it within the company,” he says.
The space is set to reopen in December as a lavish yet-to-be-named new nightclub and restaurant. The venue is undergoing a gutting in a top-down renovation to prepare for the new club. Olheiser says that Studio 54, for the most part, will have to be demolished to transition from a two-story to a five-story space. The demolition is expected to continue for another week, he says, “and then the cranes come in and we start from scratch.”
Most nightclubs, however, don’t shoulder such a lucrative brand, and so their decor faces a more practical fate. In the case of Jet at the Mirage, the majority of its decor—like its distinctive light-paneled ceiling—was sold at auction to furniture companies, interior design firms and commercial developers. The club’s sign, however, was left in the hands of the hotel.
“Sometimes we get approached by nightclubs in other markets who are interested in some couches or a particular frame for a DJ booth,” says Jake Saady, vice president of marketing for nightclub operator the Light Group, whose past properties have included hot spots like Jet, Light and Caramel. He says that the amount brought in from each auction varies from club to club, but that they try to make back “as much as possible.”
As with Studio 54, furnishings that aren’t sold are either recirculated in the hotel, given away or donated to charity. On occasion, however, Saady says a favorite bar stool will go home with a club’s longtime bartender, or a loyal patron will be given their old table. While the closure-renovation cycle is just a fact of life in the Las Vegas entertainment industry, it doesn't lack for soul or sentiment.
“People have often asked if they can hang onto a piece of the dance floor or bar when a space is being demolished,” Saady says, referring to the closures and subsequent renovations of popular, long-running clubs like Jet and Light at the Bellagio. “There’s history in them, they hold something organic—think about all the amazing experiences that have been had on these surfaces. People met their husbands on them. People had their bachelorette parties on them.”
While such pieces of the venue’s structure can’t actually be given away, Saady empathizes with the desire. For Light’s final “Lights Out” closing bash, he had 1,000 photo books—including a personalized photo of each guest walking in—distributed to attendees to commemorate the luxurious club’s six-year run.
“It was the end of an era,” Saady says. “And this was a way for people to take a piece of the club with them.”