The Nightlife Industry Power List: the 7 Most Influential People of 2018
How does one become a power player in the nightlife industry? Making your name as an incredibly popular club owner isn’t a terrible start. Flexing your business skills as an operator + owner: even better.
To find who holds the true power and influence, we dug beyond just bold-faced names and also profiled gatekeepers, innovators and disruptors who are altering the industry for the better, whether it be through philanthropy, advocacy or inclusion, plus those who are forever evolving the way our nightclubs look and sound, and entrepreneurs doing everything they can to shake up the industry as a whole. Our choices weren’t based wholly on pure revenue or number of locations. They also took into deep consideration who has the most sweeping effect on the overall industry—and who everyone else can look to as a model for tomorrow.
Here are the 7 power players most deeply influencing nightlife in 2018 and beyond.
Co-Owner, The Alinea Group
Chef Grant Achatz simply won’t stop innovating. Two and a half years ago, he closed his award-winning flagship Chicago restaurant, the high-concept, tasting menu-only Alinea, for six months to give it a complete remodel and menu revamp. Nearly fourteen years into its tenure (as well as a James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant and multiple 3-Michelin-star rankings later), the kitchen still rolls out some of the most creative food in the country: “We try to create the impossible. We can’t do it every time, but if we can do it every third time, that’s great,” Achatz says.
On the heels of opening an outpost of The Aviary in the tony Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City’s Columbus Circle and the release of an Aviary cookbook later this year, Achatz now has his sights set on continued Chicago domination, with two projects in the works: a classic French restaurant, slated to open next year, as well as an ambitious supperclub and music venue, which could take a couple more. As Achatz puts it, “Gastronomy has a very predictable pace. In order to stay relevant, you need to continue to push.”
Founder, The Butter Group
Richie Akiva’s particular brand of New York hustle has gone global. His famed 1 Oak nightclub, which originally opened in New York City in 2008, now has locations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and in the last year has opened outposts in Dubai, Tokyo and The Maldives. And his West 14th Street nightclub and music incubator Up & Down continues to book emerging artists in NYC, in addition creating pop-up parties at Coachella, Art Basel and more.
Akiva sits comfortably at the intersection of nightlife, music, celebrity and fashion. His Fashion Week after-parties are the stuff of legend. The artists he’s helped to evolve into world-class acts by giving them a stage reads like a who’s who’s of who’s hot right now (Travis Scott, Fetty Wap, Post Malone, Future) as do the pre-established big acts that perform at his spots (Drake, Mark Ronson, The Biebs) and those he’s thrown parties for (Rihanna, J. Lo, Usher). And although he couldn’t share details just yet, he’s working on two new food and beverage concepts for later this year or early next. Akiva says of his eye for spotting new talent, “I think by being hands on and staying present within the industry, you often discover emerging talent without even looking for it.”
Executive Chef and Founder, ThinkFoodGroup
Through his nonprofit World Central Kitchen, José Andrés has become just as synonymous with giving back as he’s been with flashy hotel restaurants: The Washington, D.C.-based chef, who owns more than 20 restaurants nationwide (not counting multiple locations of Pepe Food Truck and his ever-expanding fast-casual, vegetable-forward chain Beefsteak), made TIME’s “100 Most Influential People” list this year for his relief efforts in places like Haiti and Puerto Rico, where he reportedly fed 3.6 million people after Hurricane Maria.
“I’ve spent many years feeding the few at my restaurants, and now I am starting to understand what it means to feed the many. This is only the beginning,” Andres, who at the time was helping out with hurricane relief efforts in the Carolinas, said. This fall has seen the publication of a book recounting his time in Puerto Rico,We Fed an Island, as well as continued work with World Central Kitchen—this time feeding victims of Hurricane Michael in Florida.
Founder, Groot Hospitality
“In all of our places, you’re either going to see a star or be treated like one,” David Grutman says of his trendsetting Miami hotspots LIV and Story, both on Forbes’ list of top 10 nightclubs in annual revenue. Once known mainly as a nightlife impresario, Grutman has branched out into restaurants as well, having opened the sushi spot Komodo and the plant-based restaurant Planta in the past couple of years.
His latest project is a flashy combo of the two—nightlife and dining—which is set to come to fruition this month with the opening of the glitzy 13,500 square-foot Swan (a 250-seat French restaurant) and Bar Bevy (a lounge and craft cocktail bar) in the Design District. His partner in the project? A musician you may have heard of named Pharrell. And that’s not all Grutman has up his sleeve: He’s working on a retail and shopping concept in an old South Beach Firestone. “We always set the tone and the trend, we never follow them,” Grutman says.
Founder and CEO, Sales Jet, inc.
Former owner of "Show" and Star Nightclub in New York City known for attracting some of the biggest A-list celebrities in the entertainment industry. He created an untapped niche for female clientele with Hunk-O-Mania. Savage Men. Manhattan Men. Among Armand Peri’s portfolio of 19 Male Revue Nightclubs for women are some of the most recognizable names in the game, and although his stronghold is in the Big Apple, Armand continues to expand and dominate in new markets like Philadelphia, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles.
This year saw the opening of Hunk-O-Mania in San Diego...Despite the fanfare that usually surrounds a Peri nightclub opening, he might shine brightest next year when he expands into new territory.
$48 million. That’s what the world’s top-grossing DJ can earn, according to Forbes’ list of the highest-paid DJ’s this year. And that DJ would be Calvin Harris. In fact,The Times London named him #18 on its list of the richest musicians in England, tying with Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones.
Harris makes money from hit singles like “One Kiss,” but also from headlining festivals around the globe and sets in Las Vegas, where he’s the resident DJ at Omnia nightclub at Caesars Palace. Harris also spins at Hakkasan and the Wet Republic pool party. Sounds like he’s making quite the splash at the bank as well.
Co-Founder, TAO Group
In 2003, Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss opened the still-buzzy nightclub Marquee a handful of blocks away from Madison Square Garden—and along with their business partners in TAO Group, Rich Wolf and Marc Packer, have built up such an impressive 19-property nightlife and restaurant portfolio (including TAO, LAVO, and more) that last year, the Madison Square Garden Company acquired a majority stake in the TAO Group. Along with that stake comes plans to expand the group’s offerings in Las Angeles, Chicago and Singapore.
As Tepperberg and Strauss continue to oversee daily operations, the TAO Group continues to print money hand over fist: According to Restaurant Business, TAO Las Vegas is once again this year’s highest-grossing restaurant, with sales upwards of $43 million, and TAO Downtown, in NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood, ranks at number four, with sales topping $34 million. The group’s New York City location of Lavo comes in at seventh...You get the picture. And with Madison Square Garden behind the company, the ball’s in their court.Article by, Kelly Rodrigues Nightclub & Restaurant Industry Expert