January 2016 Brings the Debut of CliQue Bar and Lounge, a Partnership with The Cosmpolitan, JROC, Labbe and Andy Masi
Written By: Michelle Armstrong Vegas Nightlife According to Jason “JROC” Craig and Ryan Labbe
Photographed By: Angel Manuel
Welcoming guests to an ever-iconic desert milieu along a four mile expanse, the Las Vegas Strip has become a microcosm of sorts; bringing to life a pulse that flows among bright lights and high rollers. For some, it’s the notable entertainment and foodie scene that holds the draw while for others it’s all about the escape. But no matter the attraction, Sin City is undoubtedly where the fun begins.
In January, nightlife connoisseurs will be treated to the highly anticipated launch of CliQue Bar and Lounge, an avant-garde cocktail lounge in the heart of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Adding to the resort’s dynamic bar collection, CliQue will feature a well-appointed interior where the drinks take center stage, including artisanal cocktails, housemade mixers and fresh juices. Both Jason “JROC” Craig and Ryan Labbe have partnered with industry legend Andy Masi of CliQue Hospitality for this venture—continuing to add to their already impressive repertoire at such a young age.
“We are extremely thrilled to partner with The Cosmopolitan on this venture, ” said Clique Hospitality founder Andy Masi. “I think this is a concept that Las Vegas has been waiting for.”
Settled among 2, 800 square feet of pure indulgence, CliQue is redefining lounge expectations by offering a more personal approach to the nightlife scene, from table-side mixes and high energy entertainment to an ambiance that simply resonates and “cliques” with guests.
Meet Jason “JROC” Craig
Known for his charismatic personality, good looks and easy rapport, JROC, 34, is very much a modern-day Renaissance man. From his service in the Marines to his humble beginnings on The Strip, and even a stint on reality TV, his forward momentum knows no bounds. He’s already amassed a business acumen that encompasses marketing, operations and a knack for developing nightlife hotspots.
“Once I moved to Vegas, I started working on The Strip right away at age 16 and pretty much never left after that, ” states JROC. “Marketing is in my blood and something I really enjoy. So I worked my way up [in this business], [and am now] focusing on CliQue, making it the swankiest spot for a cocktail.”
JROC and Labbe currently own 8182 Group, a marketing consultancy that manages a nationwide portfolio of projects and partnerships, working with several leading Vegas venues and hospitality brands along with helping to launch both 50 Bleu Premium Vodka and Resqwater, the anti-hangover drink.
Meet Ryan Labbe
Driven by passion and an ever-present tenacious spirit, Labbe brings balance to the team with an East Coast vibe all his own. After choosing to build his career in the nightlife scene over attending law school, the 33 year old has never looked back.
“I moved to Vegas after an extended birthday trip in 2011, ” notes Labbe. “I had plans of going to LA, but friends persuaded me to move to Vegas instead. JROC and I met through mutual friends and 8182 was formed. But CliQue is actually our first venue as managing partners–it’s an amazing deal for us and it’s something we have been working for since we [joined forces].”
Calling the opportunity to partner with Masi and CliQue a “no brainer, ” Labbe’s focus has remained on the bigger picture: creating a venue destination with a more personalized guest experience. And beyond the perks his career has lent, what he enjoys the most is that “you can never stop learning, especially in this market; always be on the lookout for that new thing.”
Q: How did this partnership with CliQue come about?
Jason “JROC” Craig: We’ve worked with Andy [Masi] on various projects over the last three years to get to where we are now. [Ironically], the first nightclub I ever applied to was at LIGHT Nightclub, Andy’s first nightclub venue at the Bellagio. I didn’t get hired. However I did go on to pave my way with other top companies in town until I was able to make a name for myself. Andy took notice, and we sat down to look at different opportunities. CliQue truly is an amazing deal for us, and perfectly brings together everything we’ve been working toward and aspire to.
Ryan Labbe: Since I’ve moved to Vegas, I have always worked with Andy in some capacity. When this opportunity came along, it was a no brainer for us. The Cosmo is a great hotel and brand right in the center of The Strip; and to be able to add to that with CliQue and start our first partnership with Andy, it’s an opportunity we couldn’t turn down, overseeing the venue and its direction. We [Masi, JROC and Labbe] have formed a great team of open-minded and hospitality/experience driven individuals. Our focus is singular: making CliQue the destination of choice for a one-of-a-kind guest experience.
Q: What makes CliQue stand out?
JROC: First, we’re in The Cosmopolitan; it’s full of energy and it’s the place to be with good nightlife, restaurants and bars that [hold both a] hip attitude and feel. We look to build that momentum with CliQue and will push to make it the swankiest spot to stop for a cocktail.
RL: What’s really going to separate CliQue isn’t just one thing in particular, but a variety of things collectively. We have a staff of well-experienced mixologists who know the ins and outs of liquors and the processes that make a cocktail stand out. Pair that with the intimate atmosphere, Chef Brian Massie’s selection of small bites (from deep fried birthday cake Oreos to ahi tuna pizza), mixed with a little live music or a DJ and closed out with a Not Your Father’s Root Beer Float from our tableside mixology cart, and you have fully experienced CliQue. Join us.
Q: What do you mean by “cultivating one-of-a-kind experiences for guests?”
JROC: We are a cocktail lounge and bar, and our mixology program is where we are looking to take a step forward and stand out. The Cosmopolitan already has a great program on property, but we want to push the envelope. Our mixologists will engage customers and tailor their cocktails to fit their specific needs. We want to create an experience through knowledge of the craft and sharp details with a personal touch for each guest.
RL: I could repeat [our menu], but then I’d be left hungry and thirsty until we open.
Q: Additional projects for both Vegas and San Diego have been hinted. Can you give us a sneak peek at what is to come?
RL: That might be as much of a sneak peak I can offer at this time. All I can say is 2016 is going to be very exciting. Stay tuned.
Q: For you personally, why Vegas? What’s the attraction?
JROC: It’s Vegas. If you go anywhere in the country and say you’re from Vegas, most people are instantly intrigued because of the city’s mystique. It’s a 24-hour city and it’s accessible to anything you need or are looking for. I like being a part of that.
RL: For me, Vegas is always moving, growing and changing—which allows for people to do the same, bringing opportunity! That was the main reason I moved to Vegas; to me it screams opportunity on so many levels. Plus you meet people from all different walks of life. You can be at a restaurant where there is a couple that has saved all year for their Vegas trip and on the other side of the room there is a millionaire or celebrity, and it’s all just normal here.
Q: At such a young age, you both have acquired an impressive resume. How did you get to where you are now?
JROC: I was born in LA and moved around quite a bit with my dad. Once I moved to Vegas, I started working on the strip right away at age 16 for Wet ’n’ Wild and pretty much never left after that. I worked in various popular restaurants, including Wolfgang Puck’s Spago at Caesars Palace and Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans Fish House at MGM Grand. After high school, I started at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, majoring in marketing and business; I even joined the boxing team. Fun fact that most of my friends don’t know: In that period of time, I also went to massage therapy school and became a masseuse. Upon returning home from my tour in Iraq with the Marines, I basically took the lowest position. Through the Palms and Hard Rock, I worked in every position within nightlife until I grew to the top, then [helped] opened Hyde Bellagio. It’s been a steady progression.
RL: Hospitality started for me as a summer job bar backing and bartending back home in Rhode Island, then grew while in college. It wasn’t until I had to make a decision to quit the business and enter law school or stay in the business and make it work; clearly I chose the latter. Once I made my decision, I made it a priority to learn every facet of the business. I learned from some great people back home that helped me climb the ranks to eventually run my own venue, to sitting on a board that helped shape nightlife in the city—all before moving to Vegas.
Q: What inspires you personally and professionally?
JROC: I could think of 10 movie quotes right off the top of my head, but I don’t know if I can pin point one in particular. Anything motivational or inspiring, and I like success stories (and I don’t just mean financially). I also accredit my time in the Marines for really defining my outlook and appetite for life. In 2001, I joined the Marines; Sept. 11 hit my family hard as we lost a family member in the attacks. I left school with the hope of contributing to my country and keeping my family safe. And through that, I learned a lot about myself: There is no substitute for hard work and leadership is about engagement [and teamwork].
RL: I am a firm believer that you have to work for what you want; and if at first you don’t succeed, try again.
Q: How would describe each other in three words?
JROC: Family, East Coaster, hard worker, and an asshole with a good heart. I might have broken the rules with the three words thing.
RL: Creative. Disciplined. Family.
Q: How did you guys meet?
JROC: Funny enough, we met each other while filming a reality show for MTV. I had heard a lot about Ryan before I met him, and naturally we became friends right away.
RL: I was coming to Vegas monthly for a period of time while working on a project with a buddy. These guys would always tell me that JROC was “the West Coast version of you.” We met, we “cliqued, ” we became friends, and then business partners.
Q: Despite a busy schedule, what’s your favorite pastime when you have a free moment?
JROC: Boxing, martial arts and fitness. It’s something I’m passionate about for sure and it’s something I enjoy. I will box and do martial arts in some form until I’m an old man and can’t move any longer.
RL: I try to go to the gym as much as possible, but that’s only because I [indulge in] going to dinner and enjoying the nightlife; so it helps keep a balance.
Q: How did the nickname “JROC” come about?
JROC: I’ve been boxing since I was 15 and [continued] when in the Marines. The nickname started off as Rocky, then Rock, and eventually JROC.
Q: What is your favorite mixed drink?
JROC: It depends on my mood. On a night out clubbing, it’s always a 50 Bleu and soda or water with two limes. I try to keep it light and as healthy as much as possible. On a casual evening, my favorite is a Negroni with mezcal (instead of gin). It’s got a sophisticated flavor and the Mezcal adds a bit of smokiness that just does it for me.
RL: Right now I’m on a Moscow Mule kick; it’s just super refreshing.
Q: What are your plans for New Year’s Eve?
RL: Naturally, we will be ringing in the New Year with our CliQue.
CliQue Libations on Tap:
+ CliQue’s Signature Cocktail: Spring 44 Gin, Aloe Vera, Watermelon, Cucumber and Lime.
+ Dr. Cel-Ray Pepper: 50 Bleu Vodka, Celery-Peppercorn Shrub, Cucumber, Lemon, Seltzer and Celery Bitters.
+ Blackbeard’s Delight: Bulleit Bourbon, Blackberry, Lemon, Mint, and Ginger Beer.
+ Apple of My Eye: Daron Fine Calvados, Pear, Unfiltered Apple Juice, Lemon and Spiced Honey.
CliQue Menu Highlights by Chef Brian Massie:
+ Ahi tuna pizza with creamy ponzu
+ Chicken skewers with fattoush and harissa yogurt
+ Mini lobster tacos with grilled mango and avocado
+ Table Snacks: Popcorn, sliders, mac & cheese bites
+ Desserts: deep fried Oreos and Signature S’mores
Vegas in the Winter?
Any tips for navigating Vegas during the winter season?
JROC: The holidays are actually a bit slower here in Vegas, so choose the right weekend if you’re looking for a scene. It’s always a playground in Vegas, but this time of year offers a bit more peace and cooler temps, as well as a few great deals.
RL: Always be prepared; someone always knows someone who has a deal. If you work on a budget, set it and stick to it. Things can get out of hand quickly here.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702.698.7000 | www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com
A I N ’ T /// Nobody F*cking with My CliQue: A New Las Vegas Bar and Lounge, CliQue, Will Open in January 2016.