It’s Always a Pool Party at Harrah’s in Atlantic City
One of the focal points of Harrah’s Casino and Resort in Atlantic City is the domed pool just off the main hotel lobby. The massive area, which takes up more than 125,000 square feet, features more than 100 VIP sections (65 tables, 20 cabanas, 10 daybeds and five hot tubs) and can accommodate more than 2,800 people within the climate-controlled space (always set to 82˚F). The slight feeling of humidity, the sun trickling through the glass ceiling and the lush and towering vegetation all combine to make for a tropical day experience. But come nightfall, the pool turns into the Pool After Dark, a full nightclub with a massive body of water right in the middle. Howard Weiss, regional director of nightlife operations for Caesar’s Eastern Division, which owns Harrah’s, chats with Nightclub Confidential about the Pool After Dark.
NCC: Your nighttime programming revolves heavily around celebrity hosts. How important is whom you select?
Weiss: It’s very important for two reasons. One, it helps us remain relevant in nightlife industry, but it’s also crucial to be able to give the “wow” experience when the customers come here. We want them to share that experience via word of mouth. We’ve seen the best response from our more popular hosts, like Lindsay Lohan, Kendra Wilkinson, Snoop Dogg, Nicky Hilton — and from a DJ perspective, Deadmau5, Steve Angello and Pauly D.
NCC: Do you charge a higher premium for entrance based on the name hosting?
Weiss: The door cover all depends on what’s going on. Typically, any given Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, we’ll have a starting rate. Wednesday and Friday is $10 and Saturday is $20. Then it goes up, depending on the celebrity, to $50 to $60. P. Diddy commanded $60. Pauly D is about $40.
NCC: Who’s filling the room predominantly: locals or tourists?
Weiss: About 65% of the room is comprised of locals. The rest are from NYC or Philadelphia. I have teams of promoters in NYC, Delaware and Philadelphia and different parts of New Jersey. Our biggest tools are a social-media email and text-message blasts, which are coming from the promoters depending on the event. For example, Pauly D is coming soon, so I have a team from NYC coming in for that. They’ll bring in their own database and reach out to whomever, and they get paid per head they bring in. The promoter strategy has been very successful for us, considering we’re going on year four here.
NCC: Since the pool is covered, you have the ability to do year-round daylife parties. Anything planned?
Weiss: This summer, we partnered with a team from NY, Area events, for a daylife party we called Daydream, which ran on the holiday weekends. We opened at 3 p.m. and treated everything just like a nightclub. It went very well, and we had record-breaking days, fiscally and attendance-wise. Then again, we were open for 14 hours on a Sunday where we’d typically be open for much shorter. President’s Day of 2012, we’ll announce the schedule for a weekly daylife party, which will run Memorial Day through Labor Day. It’s a pool party, so everyone comes in beach attire. People are in the water all day and night, and there are flying beach balls and even a volleyball tourney at midnight.
NCC: How do you best utilize a pool in your venue to your advantage?
Weiss: I think the biggest piece is having a unique experience. Attire to get into the Pool After Dark is nightclub attire, but once you’re in, you can put on a swimsuit and go for a dip. You can have bottle service in a hot tub all night, if you want. You can’t do that on the East Coast in the dead of winter. We’re going to do a laser light show, which will bounce off the water. We have lights in the pool which are dual-function and can flash and strobe, so we’ll have lasers elevated off the cabanas working with those pools lights and combine them for a spectacular effect. We can also program everything to display logos, which are visible from the 1,000 hotel rooms located above the pool. It can double as free ad space, essentially. And sometimes, people go back to their rooms at 1 a.m. only to see the party at the pool and come right back down to check it out.
NCC: The Pool After Dark has to be only nightlife venue with a proper tree budget built into the operational costs.
Weiss: This is true. We spend about $150,000 annually on trees and plants. During the day, we market and leverage the pool as a strong amenity for hotel guests. When they come, we want them to feel that they’re on vacation and that it’s tropical. So live trees are needed. Since we’re also operating as a nightclub three nights a week, we need it to be in tip-top shape, and with 3,000 people, some of the plants take a beating. Someone vomits in them or pours a drink on them occasionally. We have plant people who come in to clean and replace them as needed.
NCC: Pours a drink on them? Your trees are getting drunk?
Weiss: (Laughs) The vegetation is definitely getting drunk. They’re staying hydrated, but not with water.