6 secrets to nightclub success

From security to DJs, here are six tips for nightclub success.

MICHAEL RIETMULDER
Updated 4/2/2015

Running a nightclub is tougher than hailing a cab at bar close. Clubs seemingly open, rebrand and close in the time it takes to pour a vodka Red Bull.

In a world where five years feels like forever, longevity isn’t easily achieved. One minute the line is wrapped around the block, the next the very important people have found somewhere else to look very important. But perpetual swagger is not impossible.

We’ve compiled a list of six secrets to keeping your club cool. Strictly adhere to them and your club will live eternally, netting billions of dollars and good times. Or at least you won’t get made fun of on Facebook.

 

Establish an identity

You don’t have to be everything to everyone. It’s a recipe for awkward when clubs with a “dress to impress” attitude throw events geared at the “dress to sweat” crowd. Conversely, if your room eschews opulence, who are you kidding with VIP and bottle service? The best clubs find their identity and own it, but that doesn’t mean being one-dimensional. “I’d be really disappointed in the Record Room … or any of the things we do if we just settled into one kind of music or one kind of audience,” said Nate Kranz, general manager of First Avenue, which celebrates its 45th anniversary Friday.

 

Party-plan decisively

Cultivating a vibe and crowd can take time. Some parties are born hot, but others are a “slow burn,” Kranz said. In the nightlife world, word of mouth is king and giving a dance night the chance to catch a buzz can payoff longterm. However, wait too long to fold ’em and word is your club is empty. “We try to at least give something a few months and give people a chance to develop,” Kranz said. “But for whatever reason sometimes things don’t work out. One of the keys is recognizing when something’s not going to work and moving on.”

 

Know the landscape

This isn’t New York or Chicago. Pocket scenes can only be stretched so thin in the Twin Cities. If Aqua has the Latino crowd locked down on Friday, salsify your Saturday night. While Get Cryphy’s wildly popular monthly rap party ran at First Avenue, Jon Provenzano’s Honey, a small basement club in northeast Minneapolis, bumped with house music those nights. “There’s only so many people going out, so what part of the pie do you think you can get?” he said. One room packed with hip-hop heads is better than two rooms half full.

 

Trust your DJs

Chances are your DJ knows music better than you. Over the past few years, club managers have been ripped for throwing DJs off the decks because they didn’t approve of the playlists. Don’t be that boss. DJs invested in building a party want maximal feet on the dance floor, too, and actively read the crowd. “Once we start a night, we let the DJs play what they want,” Kranz said. “We treat them much like we do the bands or any other artists we’re working with.”

 

Security: Keep calm

One of clubgoers’ biggest gripes is over-aggressive security — a minority who give the profession a bad rap. Dealing with the crazies is the most trying job in the biz. But the bouncer mentality is out of date and the staffers who get that are studs. Violently shoving a woman who already left the club, as we recently witnessed one goon do, won’t de-escalate a situation. We could have told you she would only come back angrier, but then your buddy’s mace would have gone to waste. Least of all, it’s a bad look for your club.

 

Don’t believe your own hype

The louder and flashier you open, the more noticeable the honeymoon hangover. Eventually that new bar smell fades and a gaudy grand opening alone does not guarantee a returning core audience. Honey’s first year in 2009 was quiet and even though it meant some dead weekend nights, Provenzano said starting slowly and gradually building a sustainable crowd helped in the long run. “In the club atmosphere, when you come out of the gate storming and think you’re the hottest thing, there’s only one way to go after that honeymoon,” he cautioned.

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