Five-story, $100 million Hakkasan ‘sets a precedent’ for Las Vegas nightlife

Tom Donoghue/

Hakkasan is under construction at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Neil Moffitt has spent almost a decade developing a slew of iconic clubs along the Strip.

As CEO of Angel Management, he owns and operates Pure at Caesars Palace, LAX at the Luxor and Coyote Ugly at New York-New York.

But ask Moffitt to compare those projects to Hakkasan, the new nightclub that opens tonight at the MGM Grand, and he’ll decline — because it wouldn’t be fair.

“Hakkasan definitely sets a precedent,” Moffitt said. “It’s moving the needle.”

The buzz surrounding the 80,000-square-foot, $100 million entertainment complex has been almost biblical. Ask its operators and they’ll tell you there’s really nothing like it in Las Vegas.

In a town where visitors have an overwhelming number of choices and can afford to discriminate, Hakkasan’s mission is simple: give people what they’re looking for, under one roof.

Pulling it off is much more of a challenge.

Built on the former grounds of Studio 54, Hakkasan has a record five levels. It also expands the restaurant brand, which has 11 locations worldwide, into the nightlife sector. London’s Hakkasan Ltd. runs restaurants in Miami, New York, India, the United Arab Emirates and other locations.

On the first floor is Hakkasan's main dining room, a Cantonese restaurant decorated with lattice cages. The eatery is set to open May 3 and will be captained by Chef Ho Chee Boon.

On the second level is a private dining room that will cater to diners with deep pockets. While the menu is the same, the room offers a panoramic view of the restaurant below.

The third floor brings the 10,000-square-foot Ling Ling lounge, an intimate nightspot that acts as a transition to the main nightclub upstairs.

Above that? Another club: Hakkasan’s main nightclub. And above it, the Pavilion, an Asian garden with its own bar and DJ.

Hakkasan’s footprint is big enough to easily fit four more typically sized Las Vegas nightclubs. The complex will staff more than 500 people.

Employees will need all the help they can get. Moffitt expects several thousand visitors a night.

Even when compared with a popular place like Pure — Caesars Palace’s $14 million club with 40,000 square feet, two stories and four venues — Moffitt said nothing can compete with Hakkasan.

That’s because Hakkasan has a unique, double-pronged business model, one that relies both on 4-star dining and multiple club experiences.

Hakkasan also has staffed all-star electronic music headliners, including deadmau5, Tiesto, Calvin Harris and Steve Aoki. The DJs reportedly signed residency deals worth $65 million.

Experts say Hakkasan’s over-the-top presentation is reminiscent of the early 1990s, when the casino industry boomed and resorts began adopting themes in order to compete.

The motivation behind the project appears to mirrorthe evolution of business on the Strip, said David G. Schwartz, director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research. It’s much the same reason Caesars Entertainment is building the Linq and SBE Entertainment is transforming the Sahara into SLS Las Vegas.

“It’s a crowded market,” Schwartz said. “It’s competitive, and businesses need something that distinguishes them.”