Everyone knows what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, yada, yada, yada.But for the gay and lesbian community, a night out in Sin City may have been decidedly sinless - there has not been a single successful gay and lesbian-oriented nightclub on the Vegas strip in recent history.
West Coast nightlife maven Sia Amiri set out to change that on October 1 by opening an opulent "omnisexual" club called Krave smack dab in the middle of Casinoville. Amiri enlisted veteran entertainment publicist Phil Lobel and his firm, Lobeline Communications, to make a media and PR splash with Krave's grand opening.
"There had been a lot of previously failed clubs, so they were looking to find a niche market that was untapped in Las Vegas," says Lobel. The only gay/ alternative clubs that existed were exiled out by the airport, far from the action of the strip. Lobel decided to capitalize on the "first time ever" angle, playing it up to excite press coverage, and the "wow" factor.
"The response was, 'Well, it's about time,'" says Lobel. He set his sights on both gay and mainstream news outlets to position Krave's opening as a real sociopolitical story, generating free coverage in the month leading up to the big event.
While Amiri expressed some reservations about blowing the homosexual horn too loudly (thus the "omnisexual" label and an emphasis on all tastes being welcomed - as Amiri says, "metrosexual, heterosexual, everybody's dancing"), Lobel counseled him to lead with it. "It was our recommendation to the client to deal with this issue head on and play into the news cycle that is very visible in mainstream media," he says.
Lobel created the brash slogan "Out of the closet and onto the strip" as a tag for his publicity campaign. At the same time, he shrewdly convinced the Las Vegas powers that be that Krave was a bellwether for gay rights, enlisting the Chamber of Commerce, city website lasvegas.com, and mayor Oscar Goodman as unpaid promoters for the club.
"Everyone wanted to be politically correct," Lobel says. "Hence, they embraced what was being put to them as something that was long overdue. It was good politics for everyone."
The mayor issued a proclamation celebrating Krave, and the city's tourist board signed on to hype it to the gay and lesbian travel market. Lobeline put together a b-roll package and a satellite feed to accommodate visiting broadcasters who visited dress rehearsals and went live from the club on the 11pm news in the week leading up to the launch. Finally, Lobel and Amiri arranged an exclusive Friday night party for nearly 1,000 sponsored by Q magazine, the city's leading gay publication.
More than 1,500 people showed up for the Saturday night grand opening of Krave, with a neat (and politically correct) 50/50 split between gay and straight guests, Amiri estimates. Amiri himself was blown away. "I was taken by the reception we got," he says. "It was overwhelming."
The event was covered by a broad range of media outlets, from the staid Las Vegas Business Press to sxxxy.org's "News for Perverts." Amiri's experience creating "it" gay night-spots like Rage in Hollywood had paid off in Krave, Vegas' "Omnisexual G-spot."
What do people want? "They want a mix," Amiri says.
Nightclubs depend on constant promotion, and Lobel is continuing to work with Amiri to build Krave's reputation. A week after the successful grand opening, Krave celebrated National Coming Out Day by unfurling the Rainbow flag over the Strip for the first time in history. A couple weeks later, John Kerry's daughter Alexandra stopped in for a campaign event. Perhaps her dad will make it to Lobel's next Krave stunt: a talent search for "The Gayest Act in Vegas."
PR team: Lobeline Communications (Los Angeles) and Krave nightclub (Las Vegas)
Campaign: Grand opening of Krave
Time frame: August to October 2004