A successful nightclub is often a hotspot that manages to bottle some fleeting notion of cool. Studio 54 in the disco ‘70s. Bungalow 8 in the Sex and the City aughts. But as the mastermind of massive club chains like Marquee, Tao, and Lavo, Noah Tepperberg has brought a new business model to nightlife. You might call it the Cheesecake Factory approach to clubbing.
Tepperberg would blanch at my comparison to the painfully bourgeois restaurant chain. But his big-box clubs rely on similar branding principles: Wherever patrons encounter them, they can expect a satisfying, consistent, mildly indulgent experience. “People know it will be glamour and bottle service and sheen and polish,” says Madison Moore, an American studies doctoral candidate at Yale who studies nightlife trends. “When you standardize a brand like Marquee has, it means you’re confirming that what people are buying into will be uniform wherever they go.”
The original Marquee opened in Lower Manhattan in 2003. It featured cavernous proportions, crowded banquettes, big-name DJs, and a steady flow of celebrity patrons (Paris Hilton, Usher, Lindsay Lohan). Still going strong after nine years, Marquee is now ancient by the standards of an industry in which trendy-for-a-nanosecond clubs can get shuttered after 18 months. At the end of 2010, Marquee expanded to Las Vegas, with a branch that soon became the top-grossing nightclub in the United States. This March, Marquee went global, opening a third outlet in Sydney, Australia. Tao and Lavo both have New York and Las Vegas venues, though they haven’t yet ventured abroad. “There’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to carry the brand overseas,” says Anita Elberse, a Harvard Business School professor who has studied the economics of clubbing. “Particularly with social media, it’s much easier for consumers to communicate to friends what they’re doing on a given night. And groups of friends extend all over the globe now.”
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