Velvet ropes alone can't keep out an economy unsure if it's on the verge of recovery or double-dip recession. But gloomy economic conditions aren't deterring a renegade collection of club owners In New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles from celebrating the onset of fall -- and a new season of nightlife -- with a combination of incredible concepts and cutting-edge business sense.
PARISIAN IMPRESARIO ON NYC ROOFTOP Even if you spent the summer away from New York you're likely aware of the cultlike status of Andre Balazs' Standard Hotel and its legendary Boom Boom Room; it's hosted everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to Madonna in the past year. Now Boom Boom has a neighbor and competitor in Le Bain, created with the help of 38-year-old French graffiti artist-turned-nightclub proprietor André Saraiva, of Paris' Le Baron nightclub. Don't expect to find it on the Standard Hotel website or even on its Facebook page. It's accessed by a freight elevator ride to the top of the hotel -- if you can fight your way through a cruel street-level velvet rope.
It's still easier to get into than the Boom Boom, which has a further guarded curtain to ensure its VIP pedigree. Le Bain, if and when you see it, features a minimalist all-black bar of frothy society it girls and indie artists chit-chatting, a graffiti art installation in the stairwell and a rooftop rumpus room collection of waterbeds and mini hot tubs. There's also a small pool downstairs, although it's more for splashing than plunging. (Note the sticker disclaimers: The pool is only four feet deep, so "No diving.") A nearby vending machine sells limited-edition bikinis and Quiksilver (ZQK) boardshorts, including not-so-shorts for those a bit too modest for 3 a.m. exhibitionism.
A RARE CONCEPT IN VEGAS There's been turmoil in Las Vegas involving Paris Hilton and Cy Waits, a former partner in Tryst and XS Nightclub at WYNN (Wynn Las Vegas), that has many nightlife regulars leery of the scene. But those looking for an alternative to the nightclubs and lounges at large casino hotel resorts such as the Wynn, MGM (MGM - Get Report) Mirage and Palms have few options. That's where Rumor fills the void, with a sprawling new boutique hotel concept across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel. Rumor Boutique Hotel, owned by Nevada's Siegal Group (Artisan Hotel, Resort at Mount Charleston), puts the party within a series of two-story bungalow-style structures in a courtyard. The outdoor lounge and DJ pool scene -- more grassy than concrete -- makes for beach club flair on a much smaller scale.Visitors first pass through a porte-cochere, guarded by porcelain Chinese dogs instead of the usual casino security, to a lobby mixing elements of Palm Beach and The Palms casino through modern Italian styling and Hollywood Regency inspiration. It's filled with guests in sundresses and flip-flops strutting to the party held poolside from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with a hipster guest list rooted in well-organized Facebook promotions (and, recently, alum from ABC's The Bachelor/Bachelorette tying the knot in swimwear.) By night there's dining and a DJ'd lounge where real Vegas residents groove, making for a great scene inside and out.