The King of Clubs
Written By: Jessica Gomes
Photographed By: Tara Simon
Upon your arrival at Drai’s Beach Club and Nightclub, you are greeted by a vast dance floor surrounded by two tiers of VIP booths decorated in red and black patent leather. Overhead hangs a colossal sphere, encompassed in LED lights that seem to steal the show, making your eyes helplessly drawn to it. As you continue walking across the venue, ahead are the elongated pools, surrounded by dual tiered cabanas and palm trees, transplanting you somewhere tropical; you forget you are 11 floors up from the infamous Las Vegas Strip. The view is breathtaking, and at night, the lights throughout Sin City sparkle, giving you that second wind you may need after a long day of festivities.
I was formally introduced to Ryan Craig, a managing partner at Drai’s, as he walked up the stairs to greet me surrounded by an entourage. He was wearing a well-tailored suit, tie-less, feeling relaxed with a couple of top buttons on his collared shirt being undone. As we found our way to a VIP booth, his warm smile made me feel very welcomed and comfortable in his home. When it comes to the nightlife industry, an industry he has been in for over a decade, RMC (as they call him in this town), knows the ins and outs of everything there is to know about this wild city.
Q: How did you end up in Las Vegas and when did you realize you wanted to be a part of this nightlife industry?
Ryan Craig: I came out here over 12 years ago with my buddy. We packed up a U-Haul and headed out here with nothing. I was going to school playing soccer and one night I was walking around and saw this spot called Tabu. It isn’t open anymore, but it was a place in the MGM. There were beautiful guys and beautiful girls; everyone was waiting to get in there, and I thought it would be fun to work at a place like that. I waited until they closed around 4am (I had soccer practice at 6 am), and I started talking to the guys that worked there. They ended up being soccer guys, so we became friendly, playing indoor soccer together. I ended up asking them how to get a job in this industry, and they informed me it was more about who you knew. They told me about a few people who I should know, and I did everything I could to get in contact with them. I eventually got hired for the graveyard shift, which was no money, and then when I finally turned 21, I was able to work anywhere I wanted.
Q: Where did you start and how did you end up in the position you are in now?
RC: I started, as a busser at Tabu on my 21st birthday, and within a year, I became a door host — the youngest in the city. When the Wynn opened up, I went over there, and I was there for 9 years. They didn’t have a “host” position, so even though I left Tabu as a door host, I went back down to a busser at the Wynn. Within 3 days of being there, I met with the Executive Vice President, and they created the host position for me. They eventually closed the nightclub because it wasn’t doing very well, and during that transition of Victor Drai coming in, I asked him to keep me on as the host. I told him, “If you keep me on, I promise I will be the top host here.” And then I was. From there, I went to a manager, to assistant director, to director of the clubs there and then I left about a year and a half ago to be a partner at Drai’s.
Q: So you knew Victor from your beginning in Las Vegas?
RC: I was friendly with Victor when I was a bus boy at Tabu; he was always nice to me when I was a nobody. I always felt this sense of loyalty to him. He went to Tryst and then XS, and when he left, we had discussed me moving out to Los Angeles or working Drai’s After Hours, but I wasn’t ready yet. I didn’t want to leave Las Vegas because the clientele at Wynn was so amazing, and I had met so many people. If we were going to do anything within a few years, it would benefit me to stay here and meet more people.
Q: Has being a host helped you out with the position you are in now, especially with the clientele and guests that you come into contact with?
RC: Being a host has introduced me to a lot of people in Las Vegas, both visitors and those in the industry. It has helped me make connections and maintain a specific clientele throughout the past decade of working in this industry.
Q: Can you walk me through your typical day?
RC: I am in the office early. Usually around 10am — sometimes noon depending on the night we had before. In the summertime, we have Drai’s Beach Club, Nightclub and After Hours; it can be a very long day that results in a later morning. If I get here at 10, I have 2 or 3 hours of meetings and answering emails. I like to follow up with all the guests that I have personally booked or interacted with from the previous week. We go through upcoming marketing, promotions and talent, and check on what else is going on in town. If I remember to eat lunch, I’ll eat lunch, then we will go through programming at Drai’s or other contracts. We have 30 hosts, 45 promoters and 100 waitresses to manage. There is always something coming up, whether it is specifics in the design we are changing, policy or procedure, and, of course, we have constant meetings with Caesars. At night, we are open 4 or 5 days a week; I stay through the night, go home, get some sleep and then come back and do it all again!
Q: When the concept of Drai’s was being discussed, did you have a large input in how Drai’s was going to be set up and in its overall concept?
RC: I would say Victor did the majority of the design. Ryan and Joe, the other two operating partners, who I have also known for over a decade, along with myself, probably had 10 percent of figuring out the details. Whether it was where to put the stage, the height of the tables, or where to put the lighting, there were a million different things involved, and we applied our knowledge from our different experiences. We each brought something to the table. We wanted to take all of our favorite things from the different nightclubs we have seen around the world and bring them here.
Q: How is Drai’s different from the other Las Vegas nightclubs, and what makes this venue so special?
RC: Number one is the gorgeous view. More of the educated consumer cares about the view; I don’t think the 21-year-old bachelorette party cares too much about it after they take that one photo. What we think when we open nightclubs is that everyone wants to be closest to the DJ, but what we found out is that, yes, half of everyone does want to be close to the DJ, but the other half wants to be outside looking at Las Vegas Boulevard. We manage the club appropriately to provide the best of both worlds. The other thing I like is the ball above you; it’s called the Octacontagon. It’s an 88-sided LED sphere with triangular LEDs in it. It lowers, it lights up, it’s very advanced, and it’s our centerpiece for the club. We also have a cryo system.
Q: It’s said that Drai’s puts the venue before the DJ, when Las Vegas is known for its resident DJs. How come Drai’s wanted to shed more light on the venue, and how does this affect the overall nightlife atmosphere at this nightclub?
RC: It used to be more organic. Now, it is more assembly line: we have to pay this talent X amount, which means that we have to have X amount of people through the door. That means we need to bring in these customers, and they need to spend this amount of money. You want to make the guests feel organic and let them have a great time. A lot of people try to copy our way of doing things. It’s not like we invented everything, but we don’t have this crazy enormous budget and we have to be creative with what we have. We can facilitate these parties within the limits of our budget, and these other clubs can throw a million dollars into their marketing. We aren’t even at a 10th of that, yet we have the best turnout and do it better. Sometimes, they are perplexed on how we are doing that.
Q: How do you choose your DJs and music entertainment?
RC: We focus on the up and comer. If you say X DJ is the biggest DJ in the world right now, where was he 6 years ago? We want to find someone that reminds us of that celebrity DJ, and has an amazing talent, but is still the up and comer. We haven’t even been open for a year, and the six or seven guys that we picked are now on the top 100 DJ board. We have picked the right guys within the price range that we are comfortable with; hopefully they become that celebrity DJ because we love to see them grow. I think they rival any set from anyone that is super famous. They are one collaboration away from making it at that next level.
Q: What kind of clientele do you typically deal with?
RC: Your typical nightclub demographic is 21-35-year-olds. We do have those 60 or 70-year-olds that come in, both men and women. We don’t discriminate; I love seeing people wanting to come in and have a great time no matter how old they are. We do have high-profile clientele that we deal with, and a lot of them are reoccurring guests that I have known for quite a few years from working in Las Vegas and from traveling. We try to accommodate them as best as possible. For instance, we have a guest that comes from Texas; he is very “All-American.” When he comes in, we decorate his table with American flags and have the girls come out in American flag outfits and Statue of Liberty outfits to welcome him. He loves it. A lot of our guests like that become our friends.
Q: How do you go about customizing an experience for a particular guest?
RC: When certain guests come in, and we know they are coming in, we will create certain packages under their name or nickname — something cool for them on the menu so they can order it.
Q: Can you tell me a little more about other experiences you provide here at Drai’s?
RC: We kicked off Drai’s LIVE in 2015 with live acts, where we actually changed our sound system around and made it more for live performances, which is the direction we want to take this year. We have people that come in and they might do one or two songs, but with the Drai’s LIVE concept, it is a full 45-minute live band performance that is choreographed with the sounds, the lighting and the LEDs. It’s pretty cool. It’s like you are at a concert, but you are in a nightclub! We also have some really cool branded parties like SunDrai’s. SunDrai’s is held on Sundays, and it is a big room hip-hop night. We keep a very clean crowd. High dress code is enforced, but we sell Drai’s flat hats, so you can be wearing your suit with a Drai’s hat to the side, which is a cool look inside. It’s actually kind of become the industry night in Vegas. Everything in Las Vegas is all about house music, but you see the transition since we have started doing this. A lot of venues are having a hip hop night again, which is what it used to be like, and we are bringing it back!
Q: How does Drai’s transition from day to night?
RC: The pool opens for hotel guests at 10am, and the Beach Club is open Friday through Sunday from 11am to 6pm. If someone is really spending money or we have a big crowd, we will hold it open until 7, and then the nightclub will open at 10-10:30 based on the demand that night. It takes 2 hours to clean the pool deck, and the nightclub gets cleaned during the day. We switch out the staff for the night and have After Hours, which is totally different.
Q: What is After Hours?
RC: At around 3am, people either go to the strip club or they go to After Hours, which opens up at 2am. It’s open four nights a week, mimicking the rooftop, Thursday through Sunday. At 3:30am, it is at full capacity and is the hardest door to get into in town because of its size. From 3am to 5am it is nuts to get in. It has low ceilings, dim red lights, and it’s very comfortable and sexy. There are two platforms containing four rooms, three of the rooms are dedicated to house music, and the last is dedicated to hip hop. We redesigned this space with Victor on a napkin at dinner one night. I kept the napkin and framed it. He perfected the idea, we just changed the layout and put some finishing touches to maximize the space. It crushes it over there.
Native Knowledge: They have a full kitchen at the Beach Club and provide an exclusive offer for their guests paying a large sum of money, where they will do a four-course dinner in the rotunda area. No nightclub does that in Las Vegas!
Drai’s Beach Club, Nightclub & Afterhours
3595 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109