Raise Your Glass!

NCB Awards 2011Who are the industry favorites? Which clubs, bars, bartenders, DJs and promotion programs earn the admiration of industry pros, consultants, trainers, writers and experts? On these pages we present the Finalists and the Winners of the 2011 Nightclub & Bar Awards, the only awards program where the industry’s best are selected by the industry’s best. For more extensive profiles of each Winner and a look at our panel of judges, please go to Nightclub.com.

More than 290 entries were submitted into the 21 categories – 7 Bar, 7 Nightclub and 7 Las Vegas Nightclub – and reviewed by a panel of judges including the nation’s top nightlife, spirits and mixology, beer, wine and hospitality journalists, writers and consultants. Judges ranked their favorite entries first, second and third for each category judged, and a calculation was used to identify the Finalists and ultimately the Winner in each category.

Modern Line Furniture is the proud sponsor of the Nightclub Category, showing its support of the talent and enthusiasm within the nightclub segment. We thank Modern Line’s leadership for stepping up to help us showcase such great concepts and programs and assure everyone that, as per our policy, the company had no hand in the judging process.

We at Nightclub & Bar are truly impressed with the energy and innovation we saw in the entries, and our judges report that it was indeed a tough competition. Many of the Winners will be at the Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas, so look for them at the Welcome Kick-off Party at Caesars Palace on Monday, March 7, and on the Red Carpet at the exhibit hall on Tuesday, March 8. Also, during the next year, check out their venues yourself to see first-hand what makes them winners with their guests and the industry.

Thank you to everyone who entered this competition – every entry demonstrated why this industry continues to grow and thrive in difficult economic times. And a special shout out to all of our judges – your expertise and your passion for this business helps us to recognize the best of the best.

Join me in Las Vegas for a toast to our Winners!

Donna Hood Crecca
Publisher & Editorial Director

Nightclub & Bar 2011 Bartender of the Year
Jackson Cannon, Eastern Standard, Boston

Jackson Cannon

Jackson Cannon is a bartender Hemingway would admire: He’s passionate about taking care of his guests and making the finest drinks possible night after night. For the former musician, working the stick is more of a lifestyle than a job.

“One of the things I enjoyed most about touring was making cocktails after hours for fun with the tenders,” says Cannon. “Eventually it got to the point where I wanted more — to be running the bar, from setting it up, doing the service and then breaking it down. So I ventured behind the bar full time. I fou

nd out quickly that I love the life.”

At most any time — day or night — you’ll likely find him hovering about the bar at Eastern Standard in Boston’s Kenmore Square. He describes the popular eatery as offering a mix of craft cocktails, grower wines and artisan beer, plus a bill of fare that includes chicken cordon bleu, traditional salad niçoise and a killer burger. It’s all presented with a “yes” attitude and served alongside great tunes on the stereo.

Although he did pick up on bartending while touring, then expanded his repertoire with on-the-job training and his own personal research, he also bolstered his knowledge and skills with some formal education; Cannon successfully completed the intensive BAR program in 2009.

Humbled by the professional acknowledgement of this award, he attributes any success he may enjoy to a deep and abiding respect for the craft. That said, he bridles somewhat at being described as a master mixologist.

“Mixology is one of a number of disciplines required to be an accomplished bartender, but it’s not the end all. Indeed, being outstanding at guest service and hospitality are disciplines as valuable to the house — if not more so — than being a great mixologist. As far as I’m concerned, I’d say I’m a bartender who’s pretty secure in my mixology at this point.” Better to leave the titles to those who need them.

In fact, Cannon has advanced well beyond working solely as a bartender, or mixologist for that matter. He oversees the bar operations at both Eastern Standard and its sister restaurant, Island Creek Oyster Bar, which opened next door in October 2010. There, his beverage program features seasonal cocktails made with fresh produce and herbs, small batch organic spirits and bitters made in-house.

The depth of his immersion into the art and science of bartending is most evident when he’s interacting with guests. Cannon knows that although precision crafting is important to being a standout bartender, engaging guests who often times get stuck on what to order is the real mark of a great bartender.

“I occasionally like to ask people if they enjoy dirty Vodka Martinis. If they say yes, then I take them in a slightly different direction, but along the same lines — perhaps a gin cocktail prepared with bitters and a healthy dose of vermouth like a Martinez or an Astor. It works well because people who order dirty Martinis crave flavor. Satisfy their craving, and you’ve made friends for life,” he advises.

Get a group of bartenders out socially and the talk soon turns to the lame things guests do at the bar, and most bartenders wouldn’t hesitate to share their pet peeves or bar disaster stories. Cannon, however, opts for the hospitable high road.

“Am I supposed to say I don’t like split checks or guests who keep their change in front of them after cash transactions or order Mojitos in New England during the winter…well, you’ve got the wrong guy. I don’t care about any of that,” he quips.

Jackson Cannon is a most deserving recipient of this year’s Nightclub & Bar Bartender of the Year Award. As further evidence is his personal philosophy on his chosen profession: “Bartending is essentially a metaphysical pursuit. The more you embrace guests’ needs and treat them with compassion, the better the bartender you’ll be.”

Honestly, who wouldn’t want a guy like him working at their bar? And who wouldn’t want to enjoy a drink with him after closing time? NCB

Nightclub & Bar 2011 Bar Awards

If there’s one thing the Bar Category Winners in the 2010 Nightclub & Bar Awards have in common it’s just that: one thing. Each of these Winners – and the Finalists, for that matter – succeed because they focus on one thing and execute it every day and in every way. Whether it’s ChurchKey’s singular focus on stellar beer selection and service, Embury’s devotion to preserving the tradition of pre-Prohibition cocktails, the near fanatic obsession with rum at Smuggler’s Cove, Mercy Wine Bar’s service with a splash of education or the all-sports-all-the-time approach at The Tavern Downtown, these bars define themselves clearly in the mind of the guest and focus all their operations on delivering that singular experience consistently. To read more about the secret to success of these great bars, visit nightclub.com. Hats off to the 2011 Bar Award Winners!

Nightclub & Bar 2011 Sports Bar of the Year
The Tavern Downtown, Denver

The Tavern DowntownSitting amidst the Rocky Mountains, flanked by views of Coors Field and the downtown Denver cityscape, The Tavern Downtown literally stands above other sports bars in the mile high city. In fact, for Owner Frank Schultz, this labor of love has been in the works since he and his mother conceptualized it in the late ‘90s.

“I didn’t see a lot out there: attention to details, fireplaces, dark wood finishes, high-def TVs, patios, heaters and misters. It didn’t seem to be in Denver as much,” he says, noting that run-of-the-mill sports bars seemed to come and go as quickly as the seasons change. Schultz decided to make sure his venture would survive the most arduous sports and weather seasons.

That means 30 large HD TVs adorn the interior bar, and even with Coors Field always in guests’ peripherals, fans stick around to watch the games on two massive18-foot projection screens on the rooftop patio, where misters keep them refreshed in the humid Denver heat.

The Tavern is a 16,864-square-foot indoor-outdoor Mecca of sports furor and excitement. After a remodel and expansion in 2008, the patio tripled in size, becoming the bar’s pièce de résistance. With a capacity of 1,000 people, 18 bartenders on hand, 18 Fat Tuesdays Frozen Daiquiri machines and a newly-installed burger bodega, created for quick services of hamburgers and sandwiches, customers at The Tavern are always satisfied.

By nature, The Tavern Downtown isn’t a traditional sports bar — its upscale ambiance belies its hard-core sports focus. The meticulous attention to the smallest design details — mahogany bars, high-end light fixtures, large leather lounge seating areas, an in-house advertising system, etc. — coupled with attention to all things sports, an investment in clientele and a focus on impeccable service are the core of The Tavern’s strategy, and one that scores every time.
– Alissa Ponchione

Bartender of the Year

Winner: Jackson Cannon, Eastern Standard, Boston

Finalists: Russell Davis, Bourbon & Branch/Rickhouse, San Francisco and Joshua Rademacher, Langosta Lounge, Asbury Park, N.J.

Beer Bar of the Year

Winner: ChurchKey, Washington, D.C.

Finalists: Eulogy Belgian Tavern, Philadelphia and Tapwerks Ale House & Café, Oklahoma City

Cocktail Lounge of the Year

Winner: Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco

Finalists: Downtown Cocktail Room, Las Vegas and Elixir, San Francisco

Hotel Bar of the Year

Winner: Eastern Standard, Hotel Commonwealth, Boston

Finalists: Forty Four, Royalton Hotel, New York and The Chandelier Room, W Hotel, Hoboken, N.J.

Small Wonder Bar of the Year

Winner: Embury, Pittsburgh

Finalists: The Empty Glass, Charleston, W. Va., and Recreation Billiards, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Sports Bar of the Year

Winner: The Tavern Downtown, Denver

Finalists: Eddie George’s Grille 27, Columbus, Ohio, and The Sporting House Bar & Grill, Henderson, Nev.

Wine Bar of the Year

Winner: Mercy Wine Bar, Dallas

Finalists: Beneluxx, Philadelphia and WiseGuys, Hilton Head, S.C.

Visit nightclub.com for profiles of all the winners.

Nightclub & Bar 2011 Nightclub Awards

The 2011 Nightclub & Bar Awards Nightclub Category Winners and Finalists hail from all around the U.S., and each reflects the cutting edge in nightlife trends. The Pool after Dark at Harrah’s taps into the trend of waterside revelry, while the ever-changing FLUXX hits a high-tech note. Sleek and stylish SL presents an intimate yet energetic milieu, while Webster Hall dishes up DJ performances and live musicians with equal flair, and Chris Garcia delivers electronica with an international panache. Baja Sharkeez courts the industry itself with its ongoing Fashion Industry Nights, and Kiss & Fly celebrated its one-year anniversary with an all-out homage to Parisian cabaret style. Go to nightclub.com to read more about how, from coast to coast, these venues keep the energy high, the lines out the door and the good times (and dollars) rolling in. Rock on!

Nightclub & Bar 2011 Ultralounge of the Year
SL, New York City

New York City is called the city that SLnever sleeps, with good reason, and chic lounge SL is one of those reasons. Nestled among the trendy boutiques and restaurants of the Meatpacking District, SL, owned by EMM Group, is a dichotomy: sleek and modern with a hint of old-school nostalgia. 

The 2,200-square-foot ultra-lounge features a bar area enveloped by banquet seating, from which guests marvel at the cut mirrored glass bricks that cover the backbar. Edison-style bulbs light up the surrounding reflective blocks, creating a stylish yet laid back atmosphere.

Danny Volk, EMM group director of operations says SL is a modern boutique ultra-lounge, reflecting a healthy marriage between club energy and lounge appeal. “It’s a big personality in a small space,” Volk notes, adding that beyond its rousing aesthetics, SL excels at hospitality and consistent service.

“It’s everyone from the operators at the top who create systems that set us up for success to security who offer patrons a ‘Good evening and welcome,’ to the servers and bartenders who say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you.’”
SL is a juggernaut of transforming moods, bringing to life all your senses. It’s certainly the best of both worlds with a lively backroom and a laid-back front room. In the backroom, “the front room’s sexy twin sister,” as Volk describes it, the dramatic lighting and sound energize guests, while the segmented mirrors and screens are visually interesting. The DJ contributes to an elevated vibe, immersing customers in the vibrant vigor of any night. “By contrast, many clients prefer the front room where they get the same atmosphere with a little more room to sit, spread out and socialize,” Volk says.

Volk describes SL as a “modern day ‘Cheers,’” where clients become regulars because SL treats them with loyalty and respect. SL encompasses all that New York has to offer — stylish and cool in front, energetic in back — it’s a club guests can tell their friends about the next day, enticing them to share the unique experience. — Alissa Ponchione

Mega-club of the Year

Winner: The Pool After Dark at Harrah’s, Atlantic City, N.J.

Finalists: Pacha, New York and Temple Nightclub, San Francisco

New Club of the Year

Winner: FLUXX, San Diego

Finalists: Kiss & Fly, Austin, Texas, and The VIBE, Chicago

Nightclub of the Year

Winner: Webster Hall, New York

Finalists: 1Oak, New York and Opera, Atlanta

Ongoing Promotion/Party/Event of the Year

Winner: Fashion Industry Nights at Baja Sharkeez, Hermosa Beach, Calif.

Finalists: DUBStep at Malaia World Lounge, Austin, Texas, and Flavor Tripping Parties at {three} Sheets, Atlanta

Resident DJ of the Year

Winner: Chris Garcia at Playhouse Hollywood, Los Angeles

Finalists: DJ Sterling at Revolver Lounge, Scottsdale, Ariz. and Danny Tenaglia at Pacha, New York

Single Promotion/Party/Event of the Year

Winner: Moulin Rouge Anniversary Party at Kiss & Fly, Austin, Texas

Finalists: David Guetta at Pacha, New York and Birthday Celebration at Shade Lounge, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Ultralounge of the Year

Winner: SL, New York

Finalists: Hyde Staples Center, Los Angeles and Whiskey Sky, Chicago

Nightclub & Bar 2011 Las Vegas Nightclub Awards

New this year, the Las Vegas Nightclub Category proved to be one of the toughest to judge of all the 2011 Nightclub & Bar Awards. Our Winners each excel at delivering an all-encompassing experience that results in crowds and revenues that are nothing less than stunning, especially in a tourist-driven city hit hard by the recent economic trends. This slate of Winners includes well-established clubs that continue to maintain relevancy — Pure, Tryst and TAO — along with newcomers Haze, Encore Beach Club and Liquid Pool Lounge that succeeded in grabbing a fickle audience’s attention. On the promotional front, bigger proved better, with a mega-event at TAO picking up an award, while familiarity won out for an ongoing DJ-focused event at Lavo. Driving each venue and event’s success — both for Winners and Finalists — is that whether large or small, they connect with the guest and keep them in the house and coming back for more. Read more about the Winners at nightclub.com Salud!

Nightclub & Bar 2011 Las Vegas Club of the Year
Haze Nightclub in Aria Resort and Casino

Since Haze opened in December 2009, the 25,000-square-foot club’s innovative décor, sound and lighting elements take guests away from the bright lights of the strip and into a tech-fueled dreamscape.

“Basically Haze was built and designed for lighting, sound and production,” Kevin Dailey, general manager explains. “We do things differently than anyone in town.” Walking into the nightclub, with its constantly changing design elements, Avalon-designed sound system, 10 moveable screens, five tresses that are in constant motion and avant-garde production numbers, it’s evident that Haze is a larger-than-life concept. It’s not so much a club, as it is an experience.


“We wanted to make it look high end — a classy, comfortable environment for all our guests,” Dailey says. “It’s high energy,” though that may be an understatement. The uneven surfaces and hanging props present the club as a free-for-all carnival in which guests are immersed. The custom-built sound system, and the dancers in viewing rooms called aquariums, portray and perform based on different themes each night, adding to the cabaret-like elements that pervade every inch of the club.

Though visually stimulating, Dailey says the real key to Haze’s success comes from something as simple as service. “Our strategy, over and over, is service; our service isn’t like any other club.” Each section is small, holding only three tables with security at each section, and three cocktail waitresses servicing an individual table. “We have an exclusivity here,” he notes.

Being ahead of the technology curve serves Haze’s initial purpose of creating a multi-sensory, multi-dimensional experience; the bar and dance floor highlight large steel structures with projection screens, while two-way mirrors behind the bar play on people’s perceptions and senses. Plush suede couches furnish the room, creating a luxurious escape. Though the club’s moniker connotes a sense of intoxicating headiness, it’s clear why Haze made its mark on the Vegas scene in merely a year. — Alissa Ponchione

Las Vegas Dayclub of the Year

Winner: Liquid Pool Lounge, Aria Resort & Casino

Finalists: Encore Beach Club, Encore at Wynn Las Vegas and TAO Beach, The Venetian

Las Vegas Mega-club of the Year

Winner: Pure, Caesars Palace

Finalists: Haze, Aria Resort & Casino and Rain, Palms Casino Resort

Las Vegas New Club of the Year

Winner: Haze, Aria Resort & Casino

Finalists: Surrender Nightclub at Encore, Wynn Las Vegas and Vanity, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

Las Vegas Nightclub of the Year

Winner: Tryst, Wynn Las Vegas

Finalists: The Bank, Bellagio Resort & Casino and TAO, The Venetian

Las Vegas Ongoing Promotion/Party/Event of the Year

Winner: Vice Sundays, Lavo

Finalists: Daylife Sundays, Wet Republic and Industry Sundays, The Bank

Las Vegas Resident DJ of the Year

Winner: Kaskade at Encore Beach Club

Finalists: Steve Aoki at Surrender Nightclub and DJ Vice at TAO/Lavo

Las Vegas Single Promotion/Party/Event of the Year

Winner: Erick Morillo Labor Day Weekend at TAO

Finalists: Labor Day Weekend at Wet Republic and New Year’s Eve at Pure

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