NCB Showas Top 100 Panel Sees Hope for 2012

During the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show, held March 12-14 in Las Vegas, owners and operators of the highest-grossing bars and clubs in the nation held court at the 2012 Top 100 panel, answering conference attendees’ questions about the inner working of their venues. This year's panelists featured Top 100 operators David Rekhson, co-owner of Chicago’s Bull & Bear (No. 95) and Public House (No. 48); Jason Strauss, managing partner of The Strategic Group, which operates Las Vegas’ Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub (No. 1), TAO (No. 3) and LAVO (No. 12) as well as LAVO NYC (No. 10); and Dave "Renzo" Renzella, partner of RMD Group, which manages San Diego’s FLUXX (No. 24). David Henkes and Donna Hood Crecca of Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based hospitality market research firm, hosted the panel.

Top 100 panel

The 2012 Top 100 Panel answers questions at the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show. From left to right, David Henkes, David Rekhson, Jason Strauss, Dave "Renzo" Renzella and Donna Hood Crecca.

The 2012 Top 100 list was developed by Nightclub & Bar Media Group in partnership with Technomic using primary and secondary research. Determining the Top 100 required an online survey, secondary sources, triangulation and, where necessary, estimation. The owner/operator survey was conducted from Oct. 13 to Dec. 1, 2011, and yielded primary data from 817 nightclub, bar and lounge locations. To be considered for the Top 100, bars and nightclubs must garner 60% of their sales from alcohol, be open for the full calendar year and be independently owned and operated. In 2011, venues in major metro areas continued their domination of the Top 100 list. On average, the bars and clubs that earned places on the list grew by approximately 7.8% with an alcohol sales mix of 56% spirits, 32% beer and 12% wine.

Employee management, of course, is a key component to the success of any business. One audience member asked the panel if nightclubs and bars should hire staff members based on personality, rather than particular skillsets. Quick to answer, Renzella stated he hires first for aptitude; when a pool of talented individuals is accumulated, he makes sure potential employees have the personalities required. Rekhson and Strauss agreed wholeheartedly with Renzella's approach.

When asked about the possibility of nightclub and bar employment as a career path, Strauss revealed that people in hospitality-heavy cities — such as Las Vegas and New York — accept nightlife-related jobs early in their careers as life-long vocations. Renzella and Rekhson both agreed that in many cities a nightclub or bar job is seen simply as a way to get a paycheck while waiting for or pursuing a "real" job. Strauss mentioned that owners and operators must identify and acknowledge talent and create a mentorship program; promotion from within is key to a venue’s success.


Jason Strauss, managing partner of The Strategic Group, at the 2012 Top 100 Panel.

The Top 100 panel also had valuable insight to share regarding marketing. Renzella and Rekhson, representing vastly different venues, cautioned against hiring big-name DJs just to keep up with or attempt to draw business away from competitors. Strauss takes a different approach, stating, "Sometimes you have to take a loss to create excitement, gain media hits and maintain the brand, your credibility and differentiation in the market in regards to the cost of entertainment."

He added — to no surprise — that social media currently is the most powerful marketing tool because it is "targeted and provides a dramatic response." All of the panelists feel it is imperative to create a position within a bar or nightclub’s organization that monitors social-media content; it is imperative that staff members not damage a venue’s reputation through personal Facebook statuses, Tweets, etc. Renzella added that employees should "inject their own personality but also be consistent" when using social media.

Finally, an attendee asked, "Is the luxury consumer coming back?" The upscale sports bar and night pub "are heating up a little bit," Rekhson said. According to Strauss, high-end clients are coming back. With confidence, Renzella noted, "People are spending, particularly on Champagne."

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