After an overhaul of its management structure and contingent on nearly a dozen memo points, the embattled Prive Nightclub was granted a temporary 30-day liquor license by Clark Country department of business license director Jacqueline Holloway last week. The 30-day license allowed the venue to open last Friday, with Jermaine Dupri serving as celebrity DJ for a filled-to-capacity crowd of 650 (while about 150 more waited outside), according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Gone from management positions are former “key employees” Greg ‘J’ Jarmolowich and Frank Tucker and former managing partner Justin Levine, and in their place are three new applicants to serve as key employees: Orlando Oquendo, Jim Reding and David Hicks.
The trio of prospective key employees certainly isn’t new to Las Vegas, and two of them are former Opium Group employees. Oquendo served as general manager at Opium Group’s bustling South Beach hotspot Mansion Nightclub and formerly held a management position with the Light Group at JET Nightclub (The Mirage) before helping to open the Bank Nightclub at The Bellagio. Reding, who also has been in Vegas for some time, doesn’t exactly fit the nightclub mold; his background includes retail, construction, tenant operations and amenity development. Lastly, Hicks, who will take over the security role, served under former Prive security director Ron Lyons and reportedly is a former U.S. Marshal.
While a temporary liquor license usually carries a 90-day duration, Holloway recommended the license be approved for 30 days and the issue be discussed at the board’s next meeting on Sept. 1. Among the 11 good behavior conditions: Prive must provide open and unobstructed access to the venue to any licensing, gaming or local police representatives; any serious incidents must be reported to the license department within 24 hours; all guests must be restricted from the kitchen, surveillance areas and the club’s stripper poles; and former key employees Jarmolowich and Tucker must not have any involvement in management or operation of the venue. It will be interesting to see during the next hearing how the board handles the fact that Hicks worked for Prive when the gaming control complaints took place and that Oquendo is being brought in from another Opium Group operation.
With high-powered and highly connected local attorney Jay H. Brown representing Prive, the case is taking the Vegas stereotype of “It’s all about who you know” to a legendary level. Las Vegas Sun reporter Joe Schoenmann has even questioned if the situation was indeed, “A classic case of juice versus justice.” One member of the board is Rory Reid, (son of Senate Majority leader Harry Reid), who has a long documented history with Brown (Reid removed himself from the vote). Another board member is John T. Moran, Jr., the father of attorney JT Moran III, who was partners with a local developer in a failed attempt to launch a live music venue named The Hive downtown on Fremont Street. The third partner in that deal was none other than new key employee applicant for Prive, Reding. And the old school Vegas connections continue from there.
Opium Group principals Mitchell Rubinson and Roman Jones were both present at the hearing to defend the Opium Group’s continued involvement in the club. They reportedly were peppered with questions by board members who plan on using the next 30 days to determine if any of the complaints or alleged foul play can be traced back to Miami or any of the Opium brass. It is rumored that dozens of ex-employees of both Prive in Las Vegas and Opium Group venues in Miami contacted board members with a wide array of complaints that would seemingly dispute the notion that it was simply local management run awry.
As for Jarmolowich and Tucker, both have remained quiet, and the Opium Group released a statement saying neither is still employed by Prive Nightclub. However, with Oquendo coming west, it leaves an opening for the general manager position at Mansion and rumor has it, Jarmolowich has been seen in the South Beach area and may step in to fill that role.
The black-list stamp issued by Holloway also has further-reaching implications to the pair than just Prive, as they both were involved with Mandalay Bay’s new poolside venue, Bambu Bar. MGM Mirage decision-makers closed the bar as the Gaming Control complaint unfolded, noting, “The decision was arrived at mutually and was done to give all sides the opportunity to fully understand the recent rulings and future impact of events.” Additionally, it was a loosely guarded secret that Bambu Bar was simply the first step in a multi-venue deal on property that also was to involve Ivan Kane’s former Forty Deuce space. It would seem that deal will no longer move forward either.
Still publicly unheard from is another well-respected local with clout of his own, Billy Richardson Sr., who is believed to be one of the main investors in the club and has had no say in the operational structure that got the venue in such hot water. While his group has yet to step forward, it seems likely the elder Richardson probably would be pleased as punch to get his initial investment back and step away from the whole mess altogether.
With Planet Hollywood absent from the proceedings and board members left with questions and reservations, Holloway has extended the outcome at least another 30 days. During that time, Prive will be open for business, primarily, it is believed, so its employees can go back to work while the board decides whether to extend the license and what the stipulations might be. In the meantime, Prive will dust off the velvet rope and attempt to bring bodies through the door. It’s anyone’s guess how the headlines and closure will affect business, but if one thing’s for certain, expect big brother to be in the house.