Motor City Success at the MGMNovember 12, 2009 By: Bryan Bass
When you talk about major nightlife markets, the conversation rarely strays to the birthplace of Motown, the assembly line and the Model T. But that’s just where the MGM Grand Detroit is having great success with two nightlife-infused venues: V Nightclub and Ignite Sushi Bar and Lounge in a casino property that general manager of nightlife and entertainment Joe Bravo boldly declares, “rivals anything on the Las Vegas Strip.” Bravo would know, as his roots reach deep into Las Vegas nightlife, first with MGM Grand’s ground-changing Studio 54 Nightclub before joining the PURE Management Group team.
In today’s economic recession, Detroit is amongst the hardest hit cities in the country, but according to Bravo it hasn’t hampered the historic city’s pride or enthusiasm. “I’ve never seen a city like this before; people here love this city and are so supportive of turning things around and remaining positive.” And the state of Michigan is helping, too, by offering major incentives to production companies to film in the area, a move that has provided an influx of celebrities and stars, many of whom find their way into MGM Grand Detroit’s pumping venues.
“We wanted to establish our nightlife as approachable,” Bravo continues. “People want to go out and have a good time and be treated like they are an important part of the process and not just a filler crowd.” That doesn’t mean MGM’s nightlife entities are turning away the suburban big-spender, “We can provide the Vegas bottle service and make a customer feel like the biggest dog on the block, but if you just want to come in and have a good time, you can do that, too.”
At V Nightclub, which is open on Fridays and Saturdays, Bravo finds creative ways to toe the fine line between offering appealing events and staying competitive with an entertainment budget that’s a fraction of his sister property on Las Vegas Boulevard. “The night before Thanksgiving is a traditionally popular night here, so we are bringing in DJ Vice to spin in V. Bringing in entertainment like Vice reinforces that we are not just another venue; we’re doing things differently to establish that we are the leader in the marketplace.” Events featuring big name DJs like DJ Skribble and Bob Sinclair are creating the type of buzz Detroit hasn’t seen in years, leading to weekends regularly packed with more than 1,000 party-goers. Bravo’s latest move, signing popular local DJ Captn20 to a residency for V Nightclub, “is going to be big for us on a local level,” he added before confirming a December appearance with globally known icon Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, which will help ensure the buzz continues to grow.
Bravo and his team, which includes his right hand and assistant general manager Awsem Zbair, decided to open part of the venue to the great outdoors, adding The Patio, an outdoor space with a DJ booth that has helped V bring in more nightlife guests serving as a VIP room for the venue with expanded bottle service seating complete with its own dance floor. Over at Ignite, a high-end lounge and cigar bar was transformed into a sushi lounge able to accommodate nearly 600 covers three nights a week in a laid-back, yet still high-energy environment. “Ignite has a cool, casual feel to it but it really gets popping,” Bravo adds with a smile.
With star power like Drew Barrymore, Wesley Snipes and Usher spending more time in the area — Snipes and Usher have already hit up the clubs — and a steadily rotating stream of known local and national DJ talent, it’s no wonder Detroit club-goers are enjoying what the MGM Grand and Bravo have brought to the city. While the MGM has had a presence in Detroit for almost a decade, the current casino has only been open for two years, making slight tweaks to the property over that time. Bravo, who has been on board for almost one year now, has been instrumental in creating a true nightclub scene.
Bravo bristles at the compliment and is quick to share the success with the property itself and its executive team, many of whom also have roots in the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip. “From the president all the way down to the service staff, the team on this property is amazing. People are proud to work here and offer a fun Vegas experience that you don’t have to travel 2,200 miles to get.” With restaurants from celebrity super chefs like Michael Mina and Wolfgang Puck and a blossoming club scene, it’s no wonder Bravo is so confident when he says, “You can stay in Detroit and we’ll bring that experience to you!”