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It’s business — big business — as usual for Tao/Hakkasan partnership

Updated April 30, 2021 - 3:43 pm

The key players in the Tao Group Hospitality and Hakkasan Group merger contend it will be business as usual for the newly formed partnership. All that needs to happen is the return of business.

“I see a lot of pent-up demand for nightclub business,” Tao Group co-Chief Executive Officer Jason Strauss said in a Zoom session Wednesday morning. “I was in Miami last week, where the restrictions have been lifted, and it was so explosive. It was busier than I’ve ever seen. I went to four or five clubs and it was wall-to-wall people, busier than any music festival than I’ve ever seen.”

The two nightclub behemoths, competitors on the Strip for nearly a decade, announced Wednesday they would merge their international operations. Longtime Tao Group execs Strauss and Noah Tepperberg are co-CEOs, with Hakkasan Group execs overseeing the day-to-day operations of that company’s clubs under the Tao umbrella.

The combined portfolio now includes such favorite Strip destinations as Tao Nightclub at The Venetian; Lavo at Palazzo; Marquee and Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas; Hakkasan Nightclub, Wet Republic and Ling Ling Lounge at MGM Grand; Omnia at Caesars Palace; Jewel and Liquid Pool day club at Aria.

In all, the newly formed alliance operates 61 entertainment dining and nightlife venues in 22 markets on five continents. Talks of a merger have been ongoing for years, both sides have said, accelerating near the end of 2020.

The company has not specified how many jobs will be returning to Las Vegas clubs or to the company’s international workforce. The company says staff will increase as restrictions for public gatherings are relaxed, with the state moving to 100 percent capacity for indoor gatherings June 1.

The newly aligned Tao Group will continue to lure top-line DJs. The market has become ultra-competitive with Resorts World Las Vegas locking in Hakkasan favorites Tiesto and Zedd in its upcoming Zouk Nightclub/Ayu Dayclub headlining lineup.

“We think that the clubs speak for themselves, not just through our headliners but through the experience,” said Hakkasan Group Executive Vice President of Entertainment James Algate, also on the Zoom chat, along with Madison Square Garden Entertainment Senior Vice President of Communications Mark Costiglio (MSG is Tao’s parent company). “It’s not just about the artists, but we are definitely dependent on artists and MSG has built an impressive lineup. We see impressive artists across all of our clubs.”

The combined companies are seeking what Algate refers to as “synergistic views.” Hakkasan has built dominance on the Strip over the past eight years. Tao has chiseled a top-notch collection of clubs in New York, the Middle East and London.

MSG will play a role in cross-promoting from the Sphere at The Venetian, set to open in 2023. Officials from the Hakkasan Group toured the construction site of the under-construction venue Thursday.

In a statement, Hakkasan Group Executive Vice President Derek Silberstein said, “We are thrilled to join Tao Group Hospitality, a company we’ve long admired for their leadership and innovation in entertainment, dining and hospitality. We look forward to utilizing our collective strengths to continue raising the bar for exceptional guest experiences.”

Entering this weekend, the merged nightclubs are not yet offering general-admission servies. Table reservations for bottle service, or individual tickets (which offer seating in the venue without a table minimum) are offered. Either option must be purchased in advance on the company’s official website. Social distancing is in place throughout the venues.

There are no plans to rename or rebrand any of the clubs or restaurants in the new merger. We will still see Hakkasan Nightclub at MGM Grand, for instance.

“Our biggest focus is more on integration and less on branding,” Strauss said. “We want to have the right alignment moving forward. We are excited about restrictions starting to lift and a groundswell coming from California. We are very, very hopeful that we will have a phenomenal future.”

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The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Sheldon Adelson, the late chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates The Venetian.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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