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Nightlife

A tour of Hakkasan Las Vegas with Neil Moffitt

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Angel Management Group CEO Neil Moffitt stands outside the new Hakkasan complex at MGM Grand. The brand started as restaurants in London, and the Las Vegas outpost is the first to delve into nightlife.
Photo: Nick Coletsos

“And that’s our little venue,” Neil Moffitt says as we look down from the mezzanine level of Hakkasan Nightclub. Above us, a web of LEDs spreads across the ceiling, and below us, staffers in street clothes scurry around, prepping for Preview Weekend’s opening night on April 18. Deadmau5 is spinning—a soft opening with a bang, you might say.

Of course, there is nothing little about Hakkasan, the nightclub and restaurant complex that has taken over the southwest corner of MGM Grand with five different experiences layered and stacked like a sleekly designed game of hospitality Jenga. With paint still fresh, Moffitt gave me a tour of his new kingdom—from Michelin-starred restaurant to mega-club and everything in between.

The Details

Hakkasan Nightclub
Thursday–Sunday, 10 p.m. MGM Grand, 891-3838.

How did the idea to bring Hakkasan to Las Vegas and grow it into a nightclub begin? I always felt, as a foreigner, that this hotel was iconic, and when we first started doing the discussions to convert Studio 54 I felt that we needed an iconic statement. To me, just delivering another nightclub was not going to fly. So, we’re in London with the family on vacation and we went to Hanway Place and I literally sat in the cage [at Hakkasan restaurant], and I thought, you know what, this would make a phenomenal nightclub.

And the Hakkasan folks liked your vision? Hakkasan has been a Michelin-starred restaurant but now is going into a whole new world of hospitality. It won’t stop with this project. There will be others that maybe will have a daylife product to them, they may have a hotel concept to them. This is the first foray outside of restaurants.

Of course, Hakkasan Las Vegas also has a restaurant. People think that we’re opening the restaurant in May because we’re not finished. The restaurant is more finished than upstairs, but we’re very specific about how we open the restaurant and how the training is. The woks take four weeks to burn in. They’re running them constantly to make sure that when we open the doors the first time to the paying public that they actually get what they get in London. If you order a duck salad in London, it’ll taste exactly the same as a duck salad here.

There are four nightlife spaces. What’s the Ling Ling Lounge? This room will be invited guests. It’s small; it’s intimate; it’s cool; it has a very heavy mixology element to it in the early evening. We won’t be selling tables in the early evening. … I see this becoming part of that nightlife experience later in the night. Really, if you’re out at two in the morning, we’re now having a party.

Right down the hall is Ling Ling Club. In the original plans, this wasn’t here. I see hip-hop, rock, mashup. [I see] the old Body English, Light ... there’s still a huge market for that in this town. I think the strategic advantage that we have over all our competitors is there are some great clubs in this town, but they can do one thing. They’re one-trick ponies. And we have to choose.

If this wasn’t your venue, where would you hang out? I’m old, so I’ll be in [Ling Ling Lounge]. We give four real experiences. To me, I don’t ever feel like I’m in the cheap seats. I don’t ever feel like I’ve been pushed in a room because I couldn’t afford to be in that room.

You’ve challenged DJs to create their own concepts for Hakkasan Nightclub. Have any really risen to the occasion? I think they all have, ’cause in essence you only need one of them to do it to trigger the rest. ... I believe that we’ve created the best venue on the planet, and just as we’re privileged to have them be in here, they should be privileged to play here.

Is there a sound Hakkasan will be known for? I want the DJs, whomever they are, to be challenged and to continually try to push and move the needle, develop, evolve and stay relevant. I want the music to be fun. I want girls to be able to dance; I want girls to be able to have a good time. If girls are dancing and having a good time, I think everything else takes care of itself. (laughs)

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Sarah Feldberg is the editor of Las Vegas Weekly magazine. A veteran journalist, Feldberg previously worked as the Weekly's web ...

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