Oh sundance, my sundance. Christmas Day for celebrities, spring break for product-placement executives, all rolled into one centrally located, 10-day, egocentric, booze-fueled party package. And whether Robert Redford is willing to accept it or not, Las Vegas plays a huge part in putting the festive in his festival. For the best parties, you must look to the best partiers!
Once again, five years strong, Tao Nightclub has assumed a leading role in the Sundance party scene. For the second successive year, Tao took over the Lift at the bottom of Main Street, renovating and transforming a local pub into the Tao Lounge at the Lift. There, each night during Sundance’s all-important first weekend, celebs, Sundancers and homesick Las Vegans could enjoy an intimate recreation of the Tao vibe, complete with Buddhas, sexy lighting, and fresh beats provided by the likes of Tao/Lavo resident DJ Vice.
Unlike the massive Main Street mothership Harry-O’s, which Tao overtook successfully for three years, Tao Lounge at the Lift establishes a dependable and welcome respite from all the Crazy already in progress on Main. That is, of course, if you can get in.
It was there that I ran into actor Adrian Brody—literally, I’m afraid—for the second time in six Sundances. I watched Tao’s Deb Grimmel work her soignée velvet rope voodoo on the unruliest of stargazing, pumped-up superfans. And there I saw Tao/Lavo business development manager Brandon Roque escorting the always entertaining, frequent Vegas guest DJ/emcee, Lil Jon.
“Sundance was great,” says Tao co-owner/operator Noah Tepperberg, “the celebrity turnout was the best we have seen in years, and this was largely due to the fact that the festival had so many great movie entries. Tao will definitely be back at The Lift next year!”
But this Sundance, it was a former Las Vegan who ushered Utah a step closer towards social modernity. One of the last taboos of the alcohol restrictive state, Park City experienced … bottle service!
It’s no surprise Utah and Nevada aren’t best friends—the two don’t exactly sit at the same lunch table. Other than ski season, Sundance and the Shakespearean festival, Utah and Nevada don’t have too much to say to one another. And when the subject of liquor comes up, well, that’s generally where we Las Vegans go cross-eyed. Our “anything anytime” habitudes run into stiff opposition when confronted with, say, last call, dry afterhours, and grocery stores without liquor.
A former Vegas promoter, Dustin Esson, now oversees VIP services for actor Danny Masterson’s Downstairs nightclub via his 3Four Group. On the eve of his eighth Sundance, Esson introduced bottle service to Park City in December, a change that would seem intuitive, if not long overdue, by Vegas standards, but one that did not come easy to even a forward-thinking Utah town. “That’s what the tourists understand best,” says Esson. “They don’t understand buying a table without bottle service.”
Working hand in hand with the State Liquior Commission, the Park City promoter with the Vegas sensibilities studied the ins and outs of Utah’s dizzying liquor laws and found his answer in lockable, powder-coated metal lock boxes. The arguably stylish black cylinders keep the 750ml bottles of Goose and Patron right on the tables where Esson’s Manhattan, Miami, Dallas, Las Vegas and LA crowd wants them. While the cocktail server must do all the pouring, that keeps former Wet Republic cocktail server Kailee Gielgens at the table with her guests rather than waiting at the bar for rounds. Finally, Vegas and Utah can agree on something.
Las Vegans who partake in Park City bottle service thrill to hear that bottle pricing is done by the shot, so a 25-shot bottle of tequila, at $7 per shot, costs only $175. And you only pay for what you consume! Sampling Utah bottle service twice during my stay, I was blissfully able to focus on Privé’s DJ Scooter (imported from Vegas for the occasion) and not on the whereabouts of my next cocktail.
This year, a number of Sundance promoters even tried to make afterhours with alcohol—another party facet that Vegas has helped make indispensable—a viable part of the party scene. I think most Las Vegans would agree that, with a 1:30 a.m. last call, afterhours is a must for Sundance 2011. If you’re sleeping, you’re just not doing it right.