If it exists, it seemingly has a hall of fame. The Mascot Hall of Fame inducts sports-team characters in Philadelphia every year. Here in Las Vegas, we have halls for golf, pinball and burlesque, among others. Somebody came up with one for, of all things, insurance, and don’t ask about the other that honors roadkill.
So it should stand to reason that nightlife would have one as well. But up until recently, there wasn’t an official hall of fame to honor the national nightclub and bar scene, which generates an estimated $20 billion annually—an accomplishment not lost on Ryan Dahlstrom, a longtime club operator/manager and consultant. The then-director of nightlife for Nightclub & Bar Media (which produces the annual Nightclub & Bar Show) sought to acknowledge not the venues themselves, but the industry’s success stories and ladder-climbers, especially those thriving in Las Vegas’ lucrative scene.
“I think they’re under-recognized,” he says. “Some are worried about their brand and don’t promote themselves … but these guys have changed our lives and others’ lives so much, they deserve the respect and to be celebrated.”
Dahlstrom nabbed and sat on an unregistered URL early on; eventually reached out to operations/marketing specialist (and Krave colleague) Preston Rideout, who had been formerly associated with several Angel Management Group locations; and left his day job with Nightclub & Bar. In October, Dahlstrom and Rideout—in the roles of president and vice president, respectively—officially announced the Nightclub Hall of Fame.
A first round of sorts included 12 honorees from three different categories—national, Las Vegas and DJs—all chosen by Dahlstrom, Rideout and a board of directors. The list included heavyweights such as Jason Strauss and Noah Tepperberg of Tao Group, SKAM Artist Management founder Sujit Kundu and Lil Jon (the lone artist/DJ honoree, though more are expected in the future).
This summer, the inductions begin in earnest. On July 8, Nightclub Hall of Fame will throw its first big induction party for another honoree, Victor Drai, at his new Beach Club and Nightclub atop the Cromwell. And on July 21, Jesse Waits of Wynn Nightlife gets fêted at the venue he co-founded—America’s highest-grossing nightclub—XS. Both events coincide with each club’s industry night.
With the induction parties comes the need for someone to produce them, which is why Dahlstrom and Rideout hired Sancho Van Ryan of event-planning group Future M3dia and Viva Vegas TV, a luxury/nightlife media provider. Dahlstrom wanted a socialite and networker who knew how to throw a party befitting a hall of famer. He also wanted someone who shared his interest in getting the nightlife industry more involved with ongoing philanthropy—and as it happened, Van Ryan had been a full-time Christian missionary before turning 23.
“I’ll be the face of the company on the ground and in the trenches,” says Van Ryan. “I’m talking to DJs and marketing people every week, keeping up with new music and graphics, and building relationships.”
For Drai’s big night, Van Ryan’s plans begin with a private dinner at Giada for the big shots, then publicity opportunities that end with a procession into the nightclub/dayclub and video presentation, followed by a brief acknowledgment at the DJ booth. “It’ll be relatively quick,” says Dahlstrom. “Last thing we wanna do is interrupt club flow.”
All of this might seem pretty self-congratulatory to those on the outside looking in. But the back-patting and awards have largely been insular up until now. This year, Las Vegas nightlife stands to gross over a billion dollars, with around $500 million coming from the seasonal daylife industry alone. Those numbers have not only shifted the dynamics of local tourism and economics, but catapulted Las Vegas far beyond any other city’s nightlife scene. A national platform hailing those responsible for that dramatic ascent doesn’t sound unreasonable. Besides—there are only so many who truly deserve the honor.
“Preston and I go back and forth on how many [inductions] to do a year,” says Dahlstrom. “I’m not sure we’ll have another Jesse Waits or Jason Strauss. Is there even room in this town?”
Induction of Victor Drai July 8, doors at 10 p.m., $30 men, $20 women, industry locals free. Drai's Nightclub, 702-777-3800.