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Nights on the Circuit

Second chances

This club was made for rawking

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Rok nightclub
Denise Truscello

Friday, October 3, 12:40 a.m.

We give bad milk a second chance. Though our eyes might be swimming in our heads, we go back in for a second whiff, just to be sure. We say, “I’ll try anything once,” only half-jokingly, gazing across our wine glass, giving our dates our most alluring look (c’mon ladies, I can’t be the only one). We channel Alicia Silverstone and coo, “Oops! My bad!” when we’ve done wrong. And then we ask for a second chance.

I give infinite chances, a habit which, like biting my nails, I am anxious to kick. I return to clubs that have rubbed me the wrong way again and again and again … but I do it because I fully believe that, unlike milk, a club can actually go from off to going off. I see it happen all the time.

I visited Rok Vegas on Labor Day weekend, which right there should tell you that I caught it with its pants down. One might think that on opening weekend a club would be at its best, a well-oiled night-riding machine just rearing to be driven right off the lot. Not remotely. Opening weekends are ruled by Murphy’s Law—look it up. And that goes double for venues that have opened within the last few financially turbulent months.

When Lavo opened it was still awaiting some important finishing touches; when Sugarcane opened, the fire marshal mysteriously materialized on opening day to mandate that the 9,743 mixed-material “sugarcanes” that dangled from the ceiling be taken down, and its Isometrix London lighting system has yet to be even programmed to its full capabilities, effectively rendering it the most expensive light switch ever installed. Bottom line is, you can throw the biggest grand opening in creation, with Paris Hilton doing splits on your bar, but it takes months—even up to a year—for a club to make or break itself and to work out the kinks.

Which is precisely why I left the comfort and culinary stylings of my friend Jessica’s apartment to venture out at midnight on Thursday. Rok Vegas’ ElectroRok Thursday was launching, and if the wild reports of its successful, no-dress-code, all-hipster Rok Bar Industry Wednesday launch were any indication, it was a party I simply couldn’t miss. But the turnout fell far below the triumph of the night before.

I knew right away something was wrong when the doorman looked at my local ID and still made moves to charge me. “Nah, we’ll take care of you tonight,” he said, benevolently changing his mind. Thinly populated, but filling in, the dance floor and VIP areas stood largely vacant. The bar propped up a smattering of bodies, and the patio was closed outright. I know that many clubs are experiencing at least a little of the hurt brought on us by Wall Street’s shenanigans, but this was no launch party.

I couldn’t have been more right. Managing partner/marketing development maestro Dave Pappas informed me that ElectroRok—set to feature that night a DJ performance by Guns and Bombs (“All bangers, no mash”)—was pulled before the doors even opened. So instead we tapped our feet obligingly to some cleaned-up Missy Elliott and wondered aloud why in a club called Rok. Pappas, who oversaw a dramatic change at Revolution, ushering in Live Revolution first on Tuesdays and then Sundays, and who, along with promoter Kozmoe, brought the venue into the live music/indie/electro scene, says his hands are tied. Multiple out-of-market owners means multiple opinions. But the only one that should matter is that of the guest, who can get Ms. Elliott’s badonkadonk just about everywhere else in Vegas.

One day soon Rok is going to have make good on its potential, but I still have a lot of love for this little club. Tiny and red, like a shiny little apple, it’s simple in design and should be easy to pack. Rok offers four pillars of trendiness: stanchion-free VIP, alternative mini-bottle service, bottle-runners to keep the servers on the floor and a thoroughly co-ed bathroom experience. Rock, indie, electro, dirty beats, house, electronica even … all should populate the Rok schedule. I see industry night branching out, and maybe even the advent of one-off or monthly house nights—Sandra Collins on that stage? Bellissimo! Maybe my third visit will be the charm. And my apologies to Missy Elliott, wherever her badonkadonk is.

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