May 09, 2011
Long lines snake through the casino. Gorgeous women in skimpy dresses. Celebrities walking the red carpet amidst the flash of cameras. TMZ, US Weekly, Access Hollywood etc. mention the names on a regular basis. XS. Haze. Pure. Surrender. Playboy Club. Studio 54. Tryst. The list goes on and on. What does it take for the average Joe to get into these popular nightclubs without waiting hours in line? Is “bottle service” worth it? Can a regular guy really be treated as a VIP for a night?
Unlike hot clubs in Los Angeles or New York, you won't be turned away from the door for not being attractive enough or stylish in Las Vegas. If you choose to wait in line and pay the hefty cover charge, you will eventually make it inside. How long you wait depends on the club and the night of the week. Anyone at Caesars Palace on a Saturday night has probably noticed the general admission line for Pure, which stretches along the casino wall almost to the lobby. But there is no reason to stand in the general admission line once you know how the system works.
Ten years ago, Las Vegas was more of a guys town. It was rare to see groups of twenty-something year old women heading to Vegas for a weekend. Nightclubs changed that. Magazines and gossip websites started covering the Vegas scene and suddenly it was the place to be. The more women that came which meant more men came chasing them. Vegas capitalized on this with fancier restaurants, shopping and of course more and more hip clubs filled with hot celebrities and the best DJ's in the world. Once casinos saw the crowds and the profits that nightclubs like Pure, Rain, Light, Rum Jungle etc. brought, they opened more and more lavish clubs. Steve Wynn got into the act by partnering with Victor Drai on Tryst. The Venetian introduced Tao. Palms opened two new clubs in their new Fantasy Tower. Even casinos like Luxor needed to have a nightclub (LAX). They became more and more popular, and soon they were everywhere. Every weekend flocks of celebrities descend on Vegas for paid appearances at various nightclubs or just to party at the latest hot spot. Before the economy tanked, celebrities like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, etc. were getting up to $100,000 appearance fees just for being at the club for the night!
The average person might be intimidated by all of this and unsure of how to fit in...If they could even get in! As you walk the strip you have probably been besieged by promoters with passes, cards and clipboards all promising they can get you in to whatever club you choose. Website after website promises the same thing, offering VIP packages of tables, bottles of booze, even limousine service. What does the average person do? Is it worth it to pay for a VIP package? Can a promoter on the street really get you into the club? Without breaking the bank can a regular person go out and have a night of fun at a club in Vegas? Where do you turn for these answers? Well the Wizard of Vegas of course!
To figure out if it’s worth it, first you need to understand how a club works. When you see the entrance to the club you generally see a mass of people milling around, and it seems like they aren’t organized in any way. Who would even know where to go or who to talk to? Some clubs, like Jet, can be so confusing that you might not even know where the lines are. Thankfully, security is in abundance and you can simply ask a security guard what line you need.
Typically there are three lines: A general admission line, an invited guest line, and a line for tables. The general admission line takes the longest to get in and everyone will pay cover. The invited guest line this is for people on the guest list, and will usually be shorter. Finally there is a line for tables. Even if you are on a list or have a table you can end up waiting quite a bit to get helped. A good host will tell you to text them when you get there so they can make sure you are taken care of as fast as possible. If you have a connection with the club to get you in faster, stand in the appropriate line but the first chance you have tell a guy with a clipboard who your connection is and what was promised and they will take you out of the line and take care of you.
Before you go to the club make sure you meet the dress code. Vegas clubs will turn you away if you don't meet the dress code no matter who you are. Shaquille O'Neal was once turned away from Pure for not having appropriate shoes! For women, it's easy since just about anything goes. Men should have a collared shirt, slacks or nice jeans and nice shoes. No tennis shoes! It doesn't matter how much you spent on stylish tennis shoes, you will not get in. So bring a nice pair of shoes with you. No jerseys or hats are allowed either, so leave your baseball cap in the room.
You're at the club, you meet dress code and you're in the appropriate line. If you are in the general admission line, once you get towards the front you will be dealing with the doormen. They decide who goes in next and it is not always first come, first served. It's not uncommon at all for the doormen to pull groups of attractive women out of lines to go in ahead of you. It's up to the door to keep a good ratio of men to women inside the club. If you don't have a table it's not a bad idea to tip the door for quicker entry. How much to tip depends on the club and how busy it is. I certainly would never expect the door to help me for less than $20 per person and at a busy place, like XS on a Saturday night, this would be more like $50 per person. If you are willing to tip the door then try to get their attention and simply tell them how many people you have and what you are looking for. Don't be loud or obnoxious, they'll simply tell you there is nothing they can do.
Once you are past the door you will still have a short wait. Security will check your ID no matter how old you look. This is Las Vegas and nightclubs are in casinos so Nevada Gaming has some oversight. Everyone's ID is checked for the camera so be cooperative and have your ID ready when asked. After your ID has been checked and you've gotten a stamp on your hand, you come to the cashier and you'll be required to pay cover. If you don't have to pay cover for some reason you'll either be walked past the cashier or given a comp slip to give the cashier. If you do have to pay the cover charge this will range from $20-$40 depending on the club and the day of the week.
What about hosts and promoters? Can they get you a better deal or into the club faster? What does that even mean to be a host or promoter? Good questions and something that is probably new to you. Promoters work the street, the pools, even the airport! They are the lowest people on the nightclub food chain, but they serve a purpose. The job of a promoter is to be out there day after day and promote! They are required to have a certain number of people on their list every night that have to show up at the club, with the majority being female, of course. It is a tough job since you might put ten people on the list just to see one show up. Promoters get paid a dollar or two for every guy that shows up and up to $5-6 for every girl. They deal in mass numbers and while they can get you on a list, it is unlikely that you'll get any special treatment like skipping the line or not paying cover (Note: This is If you are a man. Promoters can often get women in without cover charge.) So why bother with a promoter? If you are on a promoters list you don't have to stand in the general admission line, and that is worth it right there!
Hosts are above promoters and work in the club itself. They also go out to their assigned hotels making sure casino hosts and concierges know the latest promotions, celebrity appearances, etc. so they are able to pass the info on to their guests. Club Hosts have more power than promoters--they can walk you in past any line for example. They also book tables. In Las Vegas, you don't get a table at a club unless you pay for it (or have it comped). Every vacant table you see will have a “reserved” sign on it and if you try and pretend like you don't see the sign so you can sit for a second, security will quickly point it out to you and ask you to move. To get a table you go through a host and buy “bottle service” which is a set number of bottles of alcohol based on how many are in your group.
Bottle service originated in Europe but was taken to a different level in Vegas. For a popular nightclub you will be expected to buy one bottle for every four people in your group. Less popular clubs may have more relaxed requirements. With bottle service you are treated like a VIP. You have a reserved table for the night, an assigned waitress and porter plus security for your table. It is their job to make sure you have a good time. Interested in getting some pretty girls to come over but too shy to approach them? Ask your security guard and he will bring them over and introduce you. Of course you are expected to tip for this (anywhere from $20-$100 depending on the size of your party and of course the girls he brings over!). The waitress will keep your drinks filled, flirt with you and maybe even do a few shots and dance with you. It is a fun environment and for a night you are the star.
Bottle service starts at around $400-$450 per bottle depending on the club, and that's for the cheaper vodka like Absolut or Stoli. Grey Goose or other premium liquors increases the cost. Don't forget that taxes and tip are added on to the bill automatically, so a bottle is actually going to cost between $550-$600. That may sound like a lot of money especially when the same bottle at the local convenience store runs maybe $20-$30. You are actually paying for real estate. Bottle service guarantees your access to the club, the team of employees mentioned above that take care of you and your reserved table for the night. Four people buying bottle service for $600 (tax and tip incl) breaks down to $150 per person. That might sound like a lot but you have to remember that you didn't have to wait in a long line, and you also didn't have to tip the doormen to get in. You also saved $40 per person on the cover charge and individual drinks at the club cost between $12 and $20, so you can see that it's not that bad of a deal. It's hard to imagine a night out at a club without a table costing any less than $150 a person unless you don't drink! Without bottle service you also have to wait in line at a packed bar every time you wanted to get an expensive drink, and once you have that drink you have nowhere to sit down and relax.
Another thing a good host will do is to answer all of your questions about what to expect for the night and how much it will cost. The general rule is one bottle for every four people, however on some busy nights they might increase it to one bottle for every three people or have other restrictions. A good host is going to make sure you understand all of this going in so there are no surprises when you sit down at the table. All tables are not created equal and a good host will explain ahead of time in what area of the club you can expect to be seated. Tables on the outskirts are generally the one bottle tables. The more bottles you buy the closer to the dance floor you get. That might not seem fair if your group is only a few people, but the club is there to make money. If you are determined to have a better table but don't want to buy extra bottles, simply ask the host if he can move you to the area you want for a tip of whatever amount you feel comfortable. He will tell you what he can do for that tip. A host has some leeway but still has to answer to his bosses. If you don't want to tip you can always meet the required bottle minimum for the table you want, but this can get expensive especially if you want the dance floor. At a popular club like XS you can expect to buy five bottles to be on the dance floor! Is it worth it? Depends on if you want to be in the center of the action and have easiest access to beautiful women dancing. There are many other quality tables you can have for less and many people don't want the crush of people that the dance floor brings, so it comes down to personal preference and your ability to pay. Again, talk to your host and tell them what your expectations are and they will help you find a table that you will like for a budget you're comfortable with.
What if you don't want to get a table? Maybe it's just you and your girlfriend. Or maybe a small group and a bottle is too expensive. Can you still get into the hot clubs and have a good time? Of course you can! Talk to a host or promoter to get on a list or wait it out in the general admission line. There are several areas in each club where people can stand around if they don't have a table and don't want to dance. Several clubs like Surrender, XS and Pure have large outside areas also where you can walk around and have a good time without a table.
You know what club you want to go to and you know what night you want to go. How do you go about getting in contact with a host or promoter to get a table or be on a guest list? Promoters are all over the place and it's difficult to walk the strip without bumping into one. Try and stick with a promoter who actually works for the club and not a service that sends customers to many clubs. You will probably get better attention this way. It's tough to know who the promoter works for but ask for a business card if in doubt. To find a host you could just call the club and ask for a host, although you will probably get someone pretty new who might not have the same pull as a more senior host. If you gamble enough to have a casino host you could ask him if he has a club host he could recommend. The best way is to get a recommendation from a friend who has used a host before. That way you know the host has done a good job for someone you trust in the past. As a service to Wizard of Vegas members, if you private message me I will give you the name of someone I know and trust at whatever club you choose to go to. Note: I don't make anything from this. I don't get any kickback or anything else. It's simply helping members here get in contact with someone I know who will take good care of you at the nightclub.
The final question that is common to everything to do with Vegas is of course, “how much do you tip and to whom?” There are a lot of people at a nightclub and they all will have their hand out, especially if you have a table. However unless you're feeling really generous it's unnecessary to tip most of them! This is contrary perhaps to what you'll read elsewhere but I don't work in the nightlife industry and I'm not trying to get you to tip more. Certain people, like the doorman, don't need to be tipped unless they do something for you. As stated above, if you are trying to skip the line then you definitely have to tip the door, generally about $20 per person. If the door hasn't done anything for you it's useless to tip, since they won't remember you next time. I others tipping the door all the time as the host walks them in. I did this too when I first moved to Vegas but it is unnecessary and a waste of your money. If you don't have a table the only people you need to tip are the bartenders who make your drink. If you do have a table and your host has done a good job then a tip is in order. A good host does a lot of work ahead of time to make your night enjoyable. I've heard a very wide range of how much to tip a host, but I think 10% of your bill is pretty good and I would max out at $100. So if you're getting three bottles, your bill is going to be over $1,500 but a $100 tip is still good. Most clubs add on an automatic gratuity in the range of 18% to the bill for the table. Sometimes people don't notice this and tip the waitress even more. If she does a spectacular job and you want to reward her with more money I'm sure she will love that, but the automatic gratuity should cover the waitress and table porter. If the porter goes above and beyond such as always having a lighter ready to light cigarettes or cigars then toss a few bucks his way. $5 to $10 is decent. Security generally does not share in the tip pool so giving your security guard $20 is a very nice gesture. It's not required but is customary in most clubs. Of course if the security guard brings girls to the table, walks you ahead of the bathroom line or other special services then take care of them even more.
You should have a pretty good feel for the nightclub experience now. All that is left is to go out and experience some clubs! Yes, it can get expensive but it is also a great experience unlike clubs in any other city. I have yet to meet someone who bought bottles at a club and complained later that it wasn't worth it. Live the VIP life for a night, you won't regret it!