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Nightlife business convention brings parties, concerts

A beer-branded hotel, reality TV stars and elite nightlife parties. Nightclub &Bar must be in town.

The 2014 Nightclub &Bar Show’s exhibition starts today at the Las Vegas Convention Center, led by Jon Taffer, the trade show’s founder and host of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” show. Taffer’s trade show, in its 29th year, is bigger than ever.

“The show grows, but every once in a while there’s a year where it just jumps,” Taffer said.

This year the industry-only show is about 30,000 square feet bigger, at about 110,000 net square feet in the convention center’s central hall.

There’s also a jump in quality and quantity of sponsor activities this year: Anheuser-Busch, for one, has rebranded the Hard Rock Hotel as the Bud Light Hotel, replacing the property’s purple signs with Bud Light’s signature blue.

“It’s a huge brand commitment that cost them a huge amount of dollars,” Taffer said. “When a company makes a commitment like that to a trade show like this, it speaks to the value of the show. It’s never happened before.”

Ludacris was set to perform at the Bud Light Hotel Monday to start a week of trade show parties, followed by a party at Marquee. Today will usher in a show by Calvin Harris at Hakkasan, and Wednesday brings out David Guetta at XS.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimates the 2014 Nightclub &Bar Convention and Trade Show will bring a nongaming economic impact of $39 million to the city. Taffer said he expects 41,000 attendees, up from last year’s 37,000.

“Our people are great Las Vegas tourists because they eat, they drink, they gamble, so we really provide a lot of spread of wealth in the city while we’re here,” said Taffer, who lives in Summerlin. “As a local, that’s particularly rewarding to me.”

On the floor, attendees will see 3-D menus, new texting technology for restaurants, nightclubs and bars, and of course, new alcohol offerings from large and small brands.

“In the bar and restaurant industry, you’re always one idea away from your next quarter-million,” Taffer said.

The show will include exhibitors such as BLOW, which is debuting its electronic vapor hookah. The device is adorned with an light-emitting diode diamond crystal on the top, an LED system that provides an ambient lighting effect for the BLOW display, a variable voltage control knob and is fitted with two rechargeable lithium-ion batteries complete with an AC adaptor. The brand manufactures its Vsmoke E-Liquid in the U.S. using vegetable glycerin and natural flavoring.

Taffer said that flavored spirits and crafts beers are still hot, with mainstream brands such as Anheuser-Busch throwing their hats in the ring.

Debuting this week is Johnny Appleseed, a hard apple cider to arrive on store shelves nationwide April 7. In development since 2011, Johnny Appleseed Hard Apple Cider is Anheuser-Busch’s the new brand in eight years.

“Cider is hotter than ever right now, said Adam Oakley, vice president of high-end at Anheuser-Busch. “And Johnny Appleseed is an exciting new entry to the category.”

Off the show floor, Nightclub &Bar offers an educational track that features Bar Rescue classes, trend conferences and advice from industry experts.

As the “Bar Rescue” star, Taffer acknowledges that his celebrity affects the trade show’s popularity.

“There’s no question that the success of my brand in the consumer market on TV has made a big difference,” Taffer said. “The only reason why, though, is because bar people watch the show.”

There are about 225,000 independent bars across America, Taffer said. That doesn’t include all the TGI Fridays and other chains.

“We’re one of the largest employers in America,” Taffer said.

Overall, the industry is doing better as people have adjusted to the new economy. However, Taffer said there are major concerns about health care and how it will affect the industry’s costs and human resources. Other than the convention, restaurants and nightlife is a very fragmented industry, he added, that needs to come together and figure out these changes as a collective.

“We don’t communicate with each other, which is why this event is so important,” Taffer said.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.

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