Jon Taffer of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue.”
By Robin Leach
Friday, March 6, 2015 | 2 a.m.
“Bar Rescue” reality-TV star Jon Taffer perhaps more than anybody else knows the nightclub and bar business inside out. For 30 years, he’s helmed the annual industry convention Nightclub & Bar Show and presided over its booming business, massive expansion and staggering growth.
In Las Vegas, it’s been more incredible than any other city on Earth, with revenue increasing into the billions.
But the man who leads a team of experts in saving failing bars has never had his own venue on the Strip, which sits at the center of the universe when it comes to the fabulous fun fueled by champagne wishes. That’s about to change, however, because Jon will soon announce the arrival of what he plans will be the “ultimate bar” and send the industry soaring even higher.
As he finalized plans for the 30th annual Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas from March 30-April 1, Jon took time out for a lengthy conversation with me about what he believes are the big changes ahead.
As one of the founders of the Nightclub & Bar Show, he’s promising that it will be the biggest industry event Las Vegas has ever seen. Attendees will represent more than 200,000 locations from the United States and 56 countries, with total annual beverage sales of nearly $20 billion.
Here is the final Part 3:
What can we expect for this year’s Nightclub & Bar Show? You’ve got Sammy Hagar involved for the ribbon cutting, you’ve got Nelly involved for the first party, Tony Hawke is a guest speaker.
We do. You know, Robin, this is my 30th one, can you believe it? I was one of the founders 30 years ago, so this is a really special one for me. Bacardi is back with a huge booth; they haven’t been here in five years. Diageo has the biggest booth ever. Heineken is back again, biggest ever. For the first time ever in the Nightclub & Bar Show, nightlife has all sorts of booths and exhibits.
Wynn nightlife is a huge exhibit on the floor with a lounge and everything in it just to promote Wynn nightlife. SLS nightlife bought a huge exhibit area as well just to promote local nightlife. There’s a real interest in local Las Vegas nightlife in the show; it’s fascinating.
Our square footage is up over 25 percent in the convention center, and that’s big. Our attendees are running about 30 percent above last year. There’s no doubt that this is going to be our biggest one ever.
Has the economy turned? Has the bubble that popped in 2007 started to form again? Are we on the road to recovery?
It’s two things. I think we are on a road to … I don’t want to call it a road to recovery. I think we have recovered to some degree, but you know, Robin, if you were in prison and they gave you bread and water every day for lunch, after a couple of months, bread and water would start to taste pretty good, right?
The fact of the matter is it’s a combination of two things. We’ve gotten used to this type of a marketplace, and we have seen some improvements, so I think our expectations are lower and the performance is a little higher. So as an end result, the industry is clearly more content.
We’re invested in building, openings are happening again, and as one who touches all 50 states with all that I do through Nightclub & bar, it feels really good out there, Robin; it does. One other thing which is interesting, I’m not sure even you know this, last year’s graduating university class was the largest in history — 13 million students last year.
Those 13 million college students are all going to be between 21 to 35, so we are facing on a local basis not in Las Vegas but nationally a demographic boom in under 30-year-olds in the bar space. That can be seized big time in the next five to eight years by the industry.
So demographically I see huge opportunities. Economically, I see some positive shifts. Confidence of the operators to open and remodel is much, much higher than it was. Robin, it’s a whole new field than it was two years ago, the entire marketplace.
So the whole nightclub and bar industry, which you are the king of, is not only alive and well but also booming and growing?
It is. In almost every market and every area I see owner confidence, I see growth, I see new concepts coming out, I see investments being made. It feels good out there, and I didn’t say that to you last year or the year before.
Our parties are unbelievable this year. We’ve added a whole new party on Wednesday night at Hakkasan. We always felt that the beginning of the Nightclub & Bar Convention was the beginning of a new year for the industry. That you come to Nightclub & Bar, you put together your marketing promotions and ideas for the year, and then you go back and you’d be fine until the next year when you come back.
We’re not ending with a new year party. We’re doing balloon drops and the whole thing because again we believe that the year for the industry starts at the end of the Nightclub & Bar, so that’s at Hakkasan on April 1. We’re at XS on Tuesday night March 31, and we’re at Marquee in the Cosmopolitan on Monday night March 30.
The local nightlife market is really important to me. I live here, Robin. These are all my friends. So we’re doing the first-ever locals industry events on Sunday afternoon March 29, before the show, at Encore Beach and Sunday night at the Bank.
It’s strictly for Las Vegas industry to come. I’m hosting both of those parties, and I’m really excited about it. Hopefully we’ll get a lot of industry support.
Before we wrap this up, tell me how your reality-TV series on Spike TV, “Bar Rescue,” is doing?
They just picked up 20 more episodes. Vegas DeLuxe is the first I’ve told that to; I finished 83. It just doesn’t end. The ratings are as strong as ever. Last week was one of our best weeks ever.
So what season does that make it?
Season 4 — it’s going to be 40 episodes. You’ll laugh being a TV guy. Season 1 was 10 episodes, Season 2 was 10, Season 3 was 40, and Season 4 by the time they’re done is going to be 50. I’m going to wind up doing 100 shows in just five seasons.
Wow. The only word for that is congratulations.
Thank you. You’ve been a great supporter, and I really appreciate everything you’ve done to support us, Robin. Thank you.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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