Vegas nightclub Omnia promises VIP feel without VIP price

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Neil Moffitt had an LED twinkle in his eye, the reflection of pulsing lights above as he stared up at the centerpiece of his newest megaclub, opening this week on the Las Vegas Strip.

The 22,000-pound undulating lightshow of a chandelier at Omnia inside Caesars Palace can be hoisted up just as quickly as it descends within a few feet of heads below.

It's not unlike a Hollywood-inspired spacecraft abduction. Or as Moffitt puts it, "It literally moves like a crazy thing."

And he wants everyone — VIP or not — to have a good view of it and every other feature of his 75,000-square-foot nightclub, including an open-air deck and LED screens that react to people around them with help from motion sensors.

"Here, there's no cheap seats," said the 48-year-old CEO of the growing-at-warp-speed Hakkasan Group. "You don't feel you've been gypped."

Nightclubs have spread across Las Vegas as fast as a viral video, and the hot spots have long been the definition of the haves and have-a-little-less: Those on the guest list and those not. Those who pay handsomely for a table (and with it, bottles of booze), and those who remain perched on two feet with nothing to prop them up.

Omnia will be no different in that regard, with separate entrances for both groups and custom booths for VIPs with cocktail waitresses suspended from the ceiling and delivering drinks below. Exclusive access also will be offered to a smaller, cozier lounge dubbed the Heart of Omnia.

What Omnia's creators do pledge is a better experience for those paying general admission than perhaps elsewhere, with broad access and a layout that allows for some freedom to move and see the action.

Omnia more than doubles the space used by predecessor PURE, a nightclub often credited for advancing Sin City's renown for clubbing when it opened in 2004.

Jon Taffer, Nightclub & Bar president and host of Spike TV's "Bar Rescue," said Hakkasan's philosophy for Omnia was spot on.

"They don't need us for the music. They don't need us for the drinks," he said of club-goers. "They need us for the social interaction."

Seven of the top 10 nightclubs nationwide based on revenue are in Las Vegas, according to industry publication Nightclub & Bar, which surveys owners and operators. The top two — XS at Wynn and Hakkasan at MGM Grand — each brought in more than $100 million in 2014, an unprecedented figure, Taffer said.

At Omnia, women can expect to pay about $30 for admission, men at least $50, and table service starts at $1,000. All prices are subject to change depending on demand, usually centered around the club's crop of well-known celebrity DJs, including Calvin Harris, who will set the soundtrack for opening night. A beer will cost $10. A cocktail might run $16.

Moffitt's club has 109 VIP tables, or 17 fewer than the company's five-level 80,000-square-foot namesake Hakkasan nightclub and restaurant. The company reportedly spent $100 million to open Hakkasan at MGM Grand in 2013, but won't say how much Omnia cost.

Adam Carmer, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor of food and beverage in the school's hospitality program, said the club's concept is brilliant.

"I think there's nobody serving that customer, and certainly no one saying they're serving that customer," he said.