Towards the end of 2014, Hakkasan Group acquired Light Group, the transaction sent serious shockwaves across the Strip. The two swanky and fresh nightclubs in Las Vegas at the time – Hakkasan at MGM Grand and Light at Mandalay Bay, both opened in the spring 2013 – were unexpectedly under the same banner. More importantly, the once-principal Light Group ceased to exist, and a newcomer with zero Strip presence just two years earlier became the leading non-gaming entertainment establishment in Las Vegas.
Fast forward to a mere couple of years, and it seems to be happening all over again, in a way that’s even more remarkable and shockwave-inducing. Recently, SBE publicized that it’s deep into discussions to absorb Hakkasan Group’s 50 restaurants and nightlife venues in the U.S., Europe, India, Asia and the Middle East. Supplement that stuff (and Hakkasan’s strategic developments in Indonesia and the States) to SBE’s fiery portfolio in the U.S., London and Istanbul (not to mention projects in progress in Qatar, Mexico, Egypt and the Bahamas) and you’ve got something close to “the most dynamic hospitality, residential, restaurant and entertainment company in the industry,” according to SBE CEO Sam Nazarian.
The bearing has even greater bearing on the Strip, where Hakkasan has been the prime name in nightlife in the latest years, presently operating nine restaurants, five nightclubs, three dayclubs and four casino lounges. A few of these venues are the most popular places you could find on the Strip, like Omnia at Caesars Palace, Hakkasan restaurant and nightclub, the 10-year-old Wet Republic pool club and the new Level Up “interactive” lounge. SBE’s present Vegas set-ups include Hyde lounge and nightclub at Bellagio, Hyde Lounge at T-Mobile Arena, Double Barrel Roadhouse restaurant and bar at Monte Carlo and the Delano hotel at Mandalay Bay.
If and when the unification is settled, don’t expect all the Hakkasan spots to endure the evolution. Don’t forget that after it opened Omnia in 2015, Hakkasan deserted Light Nightclub that October.
Some of these sites are predominantly ready for a different kind of change. Hakkasan had been scheduling a full refurbishment of the Bank Nightclub at Bellagio this year. SBE would now activate that space, plus Hyde, plus Lily Bar & Lounge, all at Bellagio. Who knows what will become of the Bank now?
Sleepwalking open-layout club 1 OAK at the Mirage is also in dire need of a revamp, and that place is also home to the popular topless pool club Bare. SBE could effortlessly fork these operations over to MGM Resorts if they don’t fit the company’s novel and sexy image. And once we’re talking about MGM, it just closed the only nightclub it was running itself – LAX at Luxor. Will SBE get in on that space?
What about Jewel, owned by MGM and operated by Hakkasan and still looking for its tempo at Aria? Or Fix at Bellagio and Stack at Mirage, two Light Group-era restaurant fixtures? More interestingly, how does all this affect Light Nightclub, which is owned by the Yucaipa Companies, also owners of a 25% stake in SBE? There’s quite a lot to mull over here.
Another question worthy to ask is: What kind of presence will Nazarian have in Las Vegas fortified with this new Godzilla-sized corporation? When he proudly opened SLS Las Vegas in 2014, he talked about making a home here and imitating his idol Steve Wynn. With this extensive, high-end throng of dining and nightlife settings on the Strip, he’ll be going contending with Wynn. Will the new SBE, which allegedly would have an equity value of about $1 billion, have the same autonomous, risk-taking essence it demonstrated in inaugerating SLS back then? Or will it be a more commercial nightlife shindig, more akin to Hakkasan Group’s functioning approaches?
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