THE CONSTRUCTION of Surrender Nightclub and Encore Beach Club has become something of a Las Vegas legend. In a fractured economy, here was Steve Wynn, going against the grain, building onto his empire and doing so with a rumored unlimited budget, hovering somewhere in the $50 million to $60 million range. At the helm of the project is Sean Christie, a lifelong nightlifer who quickly climbed the ranks to become a major player on the Strip; major players tend to catch Wynn’s eye.
Boston-bred, Christie, 36, has a rep for being a bit cagey—he’s mysterious and impervious to drama, big egos and flare-ups. In other words, he’s game for the job.
Many would say that Christie revolutionized the club scene in 2007, when he joined Wynn and introduced the “boutique” concept, a hybrid of megaclub and lounge. He opened Blush at Wynn to astounding success; people liked the intimacy and became accustomed to the service. Today it’s one of the world’s top-grossing nightspots.
But this summer, it’s all about Surrender and Encore Beach Club. At 60,000 square feet, the Beach Club can accommodate 2,300 people; the nightclub interior boasts 5,000 square feet. Together, day and night will combine in a lush, chic locale, with indoor and outdoor partying, a gaming pavilion, cushy bungalows with private bathrooms and Strip-view balconies and terraces. It’s been a monster of a task, but Christie thrives on carrying the burden of a new gift for the city. Here, a few of his thoughts:
“I THINK THAT after Light opened [at Bellagio], there have been some milestones, parameters for nightlife in this town, and they were Light, Pure, Tao and XS, and Rehab for daylife. These were benchmarks that got people thinking, ‘Oh, this is a business, this is working, this is making money.’ The pool business this year could be around half a billion dollars. Nightlife in Las Vegas could be looking at a billion. Those two industries have grown every year, even with the recession. They haven’t declined; they still deliver those profit margins. So every casino wants to have that. And I think there are only a handful of people that do it well. We’ll be the best.”
“NIGHTCLUB PEOPLE are born out of nightclubs. If you want to make a profession out of it, it’s just like anything else; you can’t get drunk until 5 in the morning and wake up at 3. In this town, people reach success by getting serious about the business. I mean, if you had told me 15 years ago that I’d be building Steve Wynn one of the most expensive—if not the most expensive—nightlife projects ever built, I would have laughed at you.”
“ONE DAY Mr. Wynn said to me, ‘You want to go over and check out Bare [at The Mirage] with me?’ So I said, ‘Sure,’ and we went over there and checked everything out. Soon after that he said to me, ‘Do you want to do this project [here at Encore]?’ and I said, ‘Of course.’”
“THE CHALLENGE is that from concept to opening, we’ve had one year, which is superfast. We had to take down the front of the building and all that.”
“THE NIGHTCLUB looks like a glass jewel box. There will be outdoor dining now at Switch on the pool deck. The goal is to wow people. They’ll have high expectations. It’s all about how you deliver, how you raise the bar.”
“SURE, I go out, I check out the competition, I have friends in nightlife. Hey, I’m a single guy.”
“THERE WILL BE a three-hour window where we close the pool and literally have a team of 50 to 100 people that clean everything, and I mean everything, and then we’ll open again for the night at 10. We have a Beach Club team, a transition team, and then we have a nightclub team. We’ve hired over 450 people.”
“MR. WYNN personally approved every piece of stone, every piece of fabric, every piece of furniture. [Wynn Design and Development executive vice president of design] Roger [Thomas] and I collaborate to bring those concepts to life. It’s kind of a happy collaboration of ideas.”
“OUR JOB is to make sure everyone stays here. Once you see it all, why go anywhere else? When I was at Bellagio, from 2001 to 2007, Light Group had it all; people would go from Fix to Caramel to Light [now The Bank] and never walk outside the building. And that’s our goal. Your average visitor stay in Las Vegas is three days. There’s enough to do here now, at Wynn and Encore, to keep you busy and not leave.”
“AS MUCH AS you plan, you can throw it all out the window the second you open the door.”