This week I had a moment to catch up with my good friend Dave Pappas, Director of Customer Development for the new $100 million Encore Beach Club at the Encore Hotel expected to open May 2010. Find out what Dave had to say about the new hotel, his amazing career and the business of beach clubs in the City of Sin.
Marc Jay: I’m sitting here at the wonderful Blush Boutique Nightclub inside the Wynn Hotel with my dear friend, Mr. Dave Pappas. So, Dave, I’m here to talk to you because you’ve just actually come on to this group and this is a new role for you, so tell us about your role and what you’ll be doing here.
Dave Pappas: Well, I’m excited to join this group. Las Vegas Nightlife Group has some serious experience in town. Sean Christie, the original owner and founder, was one of the original members of the Light Group and Bob Mancari has come on board from the MGM Mirage Casino marketing side (along with my same lineage). They brought me in to help develop and train the staff here at Blush to get ready for our next project that’s coming up at the Encore. I’m really excited about getting in and showing the young guys what it’s like to actually host and develop a customer as more than just a handshake and a “how do you do” to understanding who is in your club. The customer might not be a bottle service customer, they might be somebody who’s at the bar having a great time who doesn’t know about bottle service. I’m taking that role of showing the next generation of hosts what it’s actually like to be in customer service development.
Marc Jay: So, I remember I met you about 10 years ago when you were an executive over at the Mirage. Your background was as a casino host, would that be correct?
Dave Pappas: It is. In 1993 I went through the management associate program, Steve Wynn’s ultra-exclusive program. It takes the top 1% of the graduating classes at hotel-accredited universities. So I went through the program – it’s a two-year intensive training program and it teaches you everything about the hotel and casino in operations and marketing. I originally went into operations; I went into slot operations at the Mirage. I was one of the youngest casino shift managers on the Las Vegas Strip at just 25 years old. When Bellagio opened I was on their opening team, went over to director of slot operations and then from there I moved into casino marketing in 1999. So, the titles I’ve held were Casino Marketing Executive, Director of Customer Development and then Vice President of West Coast Operations. I actually went out to the Beverly Hills branch office and took over the branding for the MGM Mirage Corporation on the West Coast. I had some experience with SBE out in LA. Sam Nazarian who is one of my “big whales,” showed me the nightlife out there and how he did things in LA. Then I kindof took the LA attitude to the Vegas market when I came back and asked Scott Sibella, the President of the Mirage, for the opportunity to go into nightlife. He gave me Revolution Lounge, which had only been open for about eight months and was not performing. I came in with an understanding of what I wanted to do based on customer service and relativity to the market place. We brought rock ‘n roll to the Las Vegas strip.
Marc Jay: So I know – and this is an exclusive for Clubplanet – that you’ve been brought on for two new projects coming to Encore. Can you give us any indication of what is it you are opening?
Dave Pappas: It’s going to be Encore Beach Club and Surrender Night Club and they’re being built currently outside of the Encore. If you go to the fourth floor Wynn parking garage you can actually go over and take a photo [laughs]. So, we’re letting the people know the scope of the project, just saying go over and look for yourself. It’s quite encompassing, taking the whole area in front of the Encore and re-doing it, turning it into what we’re referring to as a “nightlife complex.”
Marc Jay: Now I understand this is probably the most expensive beach club that’s ever been built and it’s being built right here in Las Vegas, is that correct?
Dave Pappas: I think the number is close to $100 million and I don’t know the official number, but there won’t be anything like this built for the next five years I don’t think.
Marc Jay: It’s amazing how Vegas has changed, because I remember Moorea being one of the beach clubs that opened in 2002 or 2003 and now it seems that every hotel wants their own little beach club.
Dave Pappas: Well, if you go back to 1993 when Mr. Wynn made his staff aware of where money came from in hotels at staff meetings, you’ll see a change where the hotel started to surpass the casino for income and it certainly hasn’t changed since then. The nightclubs are off the chart, so it only makes sense to take the daytime. There’s another 12 hours during the day that no one has really taken advantage of and maximized and created an entertainment vibe and energy and experience. Vegas is 24-hours so why not take that amazing nightlife, put it in the daytime, put the service with it, the entertainment and the sexy people and create a new element to Vegas. And there’s nothing sexier than Vegas people in their bikinis and looking great out there.
Marc Jay: Oh, I love it; I’m always at the beach clubs. So, when can we expect this Encore beach club to open?
Dave Pappas: There’s no official date but I’m hearing April/May is the time frame. And once again, you can peek over the wall and see, since it’s only five feet off the strip, so literally the experience we’re building, you’re going to be able to walk down Las Vegas Blvd and see it just five feet away.
Marc Jay: Anything else you want to add or talk about?
Dave Pappas: You know, we’re really excited. The group that I’m involved with has a lot of experience in customer service, understanding Vegas as a whole, and to be involved with a group that’s all about the customer, that’s about its employees is great. We are inside the Wynn Encore and you know Mr. Wynn is a visionary that’s really started all of this. I started working for him in 1990 as a pool boy, so from May 1990 to May 2010 I’ve come full-circle with three college degrees and all these titles. The funny thing is, all my life the most exciting job I’ve ever had, the most money I’ve ever made and the most fun I’ve ever had was working at the Mirage pool, so here I come full circle.
Marc Jay: So is it true what they say, that you can actually start off as a valet or a pool man and really work your way to the top very much how you’ve done it?
Dave Pappas: The other owner, Bob Mancari, worked for Mr. Wynn at the Golden Nugget as a dealer and worked his way up from a Blackjack dealer to the Vice President of Bellagio’s Customer Development and now to an owner of this company that’s going to be involved in a game-changing venue. So, yeah, you can definitely work your way to the top in this organization, in this town as a matter of fact.
Marc Jay: And that’s why you should all come move to Las Vegas.
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