In this business, a bar or club surviving its first year is something worth celebrating. When it hits year three or five, you know you’re doing all the right things to keep the look, the vibe, the drinks, the promos and the service fresh and exciting so fans keep coming back for more. The same holds true for a new spirit, a debut brew or a wine label launch. Making it through the first few years is an amazing feat; logging decades is worth celebrating in a big way, and that’s what we aim to do to honor Nightclub & Bar’s 25th anniversary (see page 16 for details).
Part of the fun of marking an anniversary as big as this one is looking back. In 1985, Jerriel Stephens, a bar owner in Huntsville, Ala., realized it was tough to find good info for operators like himself, so he created Nightclub & Bar Magazine. Pretty soon, he recognized publishing is not an easy business, and he sold the magazine to Ed Meek of Oxford Publishing Inc. A small trade show with a few educational speakers was quickly organized, and word spread that if you wanted to know what was happening in bars and nightclubs, you had to be involved with Nightclub & Bar.
Twenty-five years later, Nightclub & Bar Magazine remains the leader and The Show remains just that — The Show you simply must attend. We checked in with some longtime attendees and supporters of the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show for their recollections and reflections on what Nightclub & Bar means to them.
—Donna Hood Crecca, Editorial Director/Publisher
Pay it Forward
“In 1986, as a nightclub manager I attended my first of many Nightclub & Bar Shows. In the first few years, I didn’t take full advantage of The Show to excel in my profession.
“I had been an experience manager in the business for 15 years, but when I attended the 1990 Show, I was so taken with a presentation by Jon Taffer that I needed to share it. That day I ordered a cassette tape of his program and edited his presentation into three versions: one for the owners of the nightclub I ran, another for the managers reporting to me and the last for our hourly staff. I was on fire!
“This was only the first of my many learning experiences at The Show. Along the way, I began to pay it back, sharing what I’ve learned by writing for Nightclub & Bar, speaking at The Show and serving on the Advisory Board. But even now, with nearly 35 years in the business, I still learn something at every Show.”
— Barry Gutin, President, Libre Management
“The first time I attended the Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas was in 1987. I had just started writing for the magazine, which was only two years old and still finding its voice, so to speak.
“The convention that year was held at the Tropicana. Despite being a fraction of the size of what it is today, I still needed a minute or two to take it in. The smallish hall was rocking — walls reverberating from hard-driving music, laser lights circling the room, strobes flashing and confetti cannons occasionally filling the air with streamers.
“It took less than an hour to make several unforgettable laps around the show floor, but I rejoiced in sampling new spirits, beers and bar foods, not to mention checking out equipment purveyors and suppliers demonstrating the latest and greatest.
“The Show’s mini-educational track presented me my first opportunity to hear industry mega-stars like Patrick Henry, Jon Taffer and Bob Sikora of Bobby McGee’s speak. To say I was awestruck is an understatement.
“Now, 25 years later, the annual convention is referred to simply as ‘The Show,’ and every company catering to the on-premise industry is represented — and I do mean everyone. The educational program has grown into the best in the business, with scores of graduate-level seminars and workshops.
“I’m extremely proud of my longstanding association with Nightclub & Bar Magazine, and having attended 23 of the 25 Las Vegas Nightclub & Bar Shows, it still ranks as the professional highlight of my year.
“Kudos, NCB, and continued success.”
— Robert Plotkin, BarMedia, author, trade writer and beverage consultant
Center of the Universe
“I was only 12 years old for the first Nightclub & Bar Show. I was its youngest founding Advisory Board Member, and I’m sticking with that story.
“Our beginnings were modest. Ed Meek nurtured the magazine and show in Oxford, Miss., with a bunch of college students from Ole Miss. Our first shows had about 150 booths and a few hundred attendees...and we were thrilled!
“Why? Because at that time, there was no show for the bar industry, and so it was a fragmented, independent industry without a common voice or base of industry resources. We wanted to change that.
“The early shows were in the meeting rooms at the Tropicana, Bally’s and The Sahara, and then we entered the big leagues when we moved up to the Sands Expo & Convention Center. Those were exciting times — each year, we added more and bigger booths, more educational programs and keynotes and the greatest group of evening events and parties of any convention anywhere. Along the way, NCB became important...very important.
“Now, our show attendees are responsible for about 20 percent of the on-premise beverage business in the country — about $13.5 billion dollars. The depth, power and reach of our show now exceed even the greatest visions of the founding Advisory Board Members. I know it exceeds mine.
“The Show became the place we all go to be in the center of our industry each year — the most energetic, exciting, powerful and fun nightclub and bar event and networking opportunity in the world…period.
“Two months ago, I became the President of the Nightclub & Bar Media Group for Questex Media with great excitement. My passion for The Show has been a big part of my life for more than 25 years, and now, as its leader, I’m looking forward to bringing it to new heights of excitement and energy as we continue to be the annual center of the greatest industry in the world.”
— Jon Taffer, President, Nightclub & Bar Media Group
Friends Helping Friends
“If Nightclub & Bar was a lady, my story begins when she was a teenager — just a skinny, awkward yet attractive young thing. As the years passed, I, along with many others, have watched her become a polished, sophisticated woman.
“When I attended my first show about 10 years ago, talk about a kid in a candy store! I couldn’t believe how much I’d been missing. I’ve met fellow professionals and created lasting relationships that without this great event I would have never forged.
“Those who know me know I truly believe this business is built on Friends Helping Friends, so I have tried to give my time, sharing and teaching at the last several preconference workshops, which I will do again this year, and sitting on the Advisory Board.
“Here’s the bottom line: You can go to Vegas any time, you can sample product any time, you can take classes or workshops any time, but you will never be engulfed by this business anywhere else in the world like The Show.
“Here is something I try to do each year: Bring someone who has never been and just sit back and watch. God, I love this business!”
—Raymond Burton, Senior Corporate Food & Beverage Consultant, InterContinental Hotels Group
Never a Letdown
“While I have many great memories of the Nightclub & Bar Show, what truly sticks out in my long history of attending is how many acquaintances have turned into true friends because of our shared experiences of the craziness that is The Show.
“There are moments where the sheer size of the floor becomes overwhelming, but then you turn a corner and see one of your best buds walking toward you with a smile on his or her face. There are moments of exhaustion where answering so many people and trying to be everything to everyone become demanding, but then you have one-on-one time with a particular person you’ve been trying to reach for quite some time. There are surprises, from the magnitude of some of the booths to the brands you get to see years before they actually make it big.
“Nightclub & Bar has never let me down in its over-the-top enormity. It’s led to new business and new friendships and taught me things … that I have to keep to myself. After all, what happens in Vegas … ”
— Carlo Barone, OneBar USA