The next time a nightclub exec tells you his club can’t afford raises, cheaper drinks or charity, don’t believe him because Las Vegas’ top clubs and bars grossed a total of $612 million in 2014.
That’s according to the annual Nightclub &Bar Top 100 list.
Las Vegas blows away every other American city in bar grosses in the top 100. Second place: Miami ($192 million). Third: New York ($181 million). Fourth: L.A. ($97 million). Fifth: San Diego ($72 million).
The Wynn’s XS alone pulled in more money than all of the top Los Angeles clubs and bars combined.
Vegas accounts for seven of the top 10 moneymaking clubs in the nation:
1. XS ($103 million to $105 million).
2. Hakkasan ($100 million to $103 million).
3. Marquee ($80 million to $85 million).
4. Tao ($50 million to $55 million).
6. Surrender ($40 million to $45 million).
9. Hyde Bellagio ($25 million to $30 million).
10. Lavo ($20 million to $25 million).
Even club Chateau, whose early celebrated days seem long gone, was the 28th- biggest grosser in America ($10 million to $15 million).
All that crazy cash leads different clubs to their own paths.
XS just dropped $10 million on light, sound and tech upgrades.
Hakkasan just bought Light Group’s clubs and bars.
And Tao Group — owner of Marquee, Tao and Lavo — has been backing away from DJs, compared with XS and Hakkasan.
“You’ve got to give a hat’s off to (Tao partner Jason) Strauss for that strategic difference. I’m guessing he’s spending probably $15 to $18 million less a year on entertainment,” says Jon Taffer, president of Nightclub &Bar Media Group and host of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue.”
In other words, Strauss let XS and Hakkasan buy away multimillion-dollar DJs from Marquee, and Marquee remains the third-most moneyed club in the United States.
Marquee still has some DJ names coming this year, such as Alesso, just not the full-court press of Hakkasan’s lineup.
“This DJ thing is going to end. You can only see Tiesto so many times,” Taffer said.
“I think what’s going to happen in the next two years is that it’s going to be more of a push to earnings.”
This is partly why I think some clubs will fall back on celebrity red carpets. Paying celebs to do red carpets, interviews and promos often costs a fraction of DJ paychecks but keeps clubs in the international press.
Personally, I think these clubs should spend even more money on flying in models from around the world because pretty people serve as bait for moneyed interests to go to clubs and spend thousands of dollars per hour.
Clubs do already compensate loads of models to appear. (And dayclubs get their hot nightclub servers to sit around pools as ringers.)
“We call it ‘seeding the room.’ You gotta seed it properly to grow,” Taffer said.
“You ever see a bar with 200 beautiful women go broke? But I’ve seen a lot of bars with great DJs go broke.”
I’m surprised the most cutthroat club people haven’t resorted to secretly paying not-pretty people to stand in line at rival clubs.
Ah, missed opportunities.
Taffer finds Hakkasan’s gobbling up of Light Club properties a “Cirque du Soleil model.”
“I say this as a local, as a hospitality guy, and as somebody who wants a lot of heads on pillows in this town: Stuff like that worries me,” Taffer said.
“We start to get a sameness in approach, a sameness in mentality, a sameness in offerings. What makes our town special is the unique flavors.”
Taffer said XS’ financial victory over Hakkasan is interesting for a few reasons.
First, XS is about 20,000 square feet smaller than the younger Hakkasan.
Second, XS has 89 VIP tables with sight lines to the DJ booth (Hakkasan has 69), as well as a better entry and exit system, assisting turnover, Taffer said.
And what are people doing in clubs while trying to hook up? Oh, they’re drinking their buns off.
Nationally, drink sales rose by one drink per guest last year. That’s a serious increase in American binging.
“The average person consumes two and a half drinks the first hour; a drink and a half the second hour; a drink and a quarter the third hour,” Taffer said.
Wow. People got extra-plowed in 2014.
At least in Vegas, most of them were walking/cabbing to a hotel room, instead of driving.
“Most,” I said.
Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Email him at He blogs at