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Arnold M. Knightly

Beat returns at Prive after shutdown

24 August 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada –- Embattled Privé nightclub reopened late Friday night inside Planet Hollywood Resort without missing a beat: a body-shaking, floor-bumping beat.

The club, and its sister ultralounge, the Living Room, received a temporary liquor license Friday afternoon, less than five hours before the club planned to reopen.

Many people the Review-Journal interviewed in the club or waiting outside, mostly tourists stretching from New York to California, did not even know the club had been closed.

"The weekend is about visitors to the city," Planet Hollywood founder and resort co-owner Robert Earl said Friday. "I am expecting them not to even be aware of the problems that occurred because they're a crowd who in the last month haven't been to town."

By the time rapper and music producer Jermaine Dupri took to the turntables as celebrity disc jockey at 12:30 a.m., the club's dance floor was packed, the V.I.P. areas were full, the dancing girls were back on their platforms and the pricey liquor was flowing.

In other words, Privé was back in full swing.

"The reality is there is nothing that has happened that would really concern the patrons," Privé principal owner Roman Jones said Friday. "But we're going to be very, very careful to manage."

The clubs were closed in late July after they lost their liquor license. The Clark County Business License Department pulled the licenses after a series of violations and what the county viewed as poor oversight by the club's then management team.

The clubs were cited for three violations in 2008 by the Business License Department.

The citations included instances where security managers either stalled or interfered with routine and compliance inspections at the clubs.

Compliance inspections include ensuring that patrons are being properly carded at the front door and ensuring that employees have work and alcohol awareness cards.

Privé was cited for allowing topless and lewd activity to take place on site.

The nightclubs are still owned by the Opium Group, a Miami Beach, Fla.-based nightclub owner, but the management team has been replaced and Jones will be spending more time in Las Vegas to oversee operations.

What Privé and The Living Room have gone through could lead to an industry shift in how nightclubs are operated in Las Vegas, he said.

"I'm going to be spending much more time on property until I feel confident that the operation is running smoothly and to the level we want and the community expects," Jones said. "Once we go through this process it's going to bring a higher standard to all nightclub operations in Las Vegas. The outcome will be positive."

About 250 people were gathered outside the club's ropes at 10:30 p.m. when the club opened. By the time Dupri arrived, welcoming the club's reopening with a profanity laced salutation, the 12,000-square-foot club was nearing its capacity of nearly 650 people.

Another 150 people were still outside.

The club's owners and patrons were not the only people glad to see the club reopened.

Not having the club hurt the property's late night revenues in the casino, bars and restaurants, resort officials said.

"A nightclub is an important component of each of the properties on the Strip," Earl said. "It brings a different crowd at different hours that consume different product."

More than the resort's revenues have been affected.

State casino regulators fined the resort $500,000 in July for not providing better oversight of a nightclub operating on their property.

According to the state's complaint against Planet Hollywood Resort that led to the fine, the Clark County Fire Department responded to 70 percent more calls to the hotel-casino the first eight months the club opened compared with the previous year. Regulators also cited the increase in police calls and the county's complaints in handing down the fine.

Privé's owners plan to reimburse the resort for the fine.

"It has caused us to have increased vigilance," Earl said. "We clearly dissatisfied the (casino regulators) and it is our full intention for that not to occur again."

There were some growing pains in the relationship between the club and Planet Hollywood Resort after Privé opened in December 2007, Jones said.

That has all changed.

One of the changes includes a provision in the club's lease with the nightclub to allow hotel-casino personnel to enter the nightclub without having to be escorted by Privé's security, as was the case before.

That change was evident Friday night with security from the resort at the front rope and inside the club. Management from the resort, including Vice President of Resort Operations Joe Eustice, were seen coming and going from the club.

"I find myself very, very confident that it's a seamless operation (between the club and resort)," Jones said. "That is really the key to the success of the club."

Although Privé has reopened, and the Living Room reopens tonight, the temporary license is good only through Sept. 20 unless extended by the county.

Club officials are scheduled to appear on Sept. 1 before the Clark County Commission.

County spokesman Dan Kulin said Friday that undercover business license agents will be monitoring the clubs.

The most important thing is not to figure out what happened, but rather to make sure that the club's owners and management work with county officials to address concerns and correct any problems, Jones said.

"It has definitely been a trying time and situation," Jones said. "Ultimately, the outcome is going to be good. There's always a positive behind every negative. I never really dwell on negatives."