UAE's nightlife industry takes a casual turn
The bar and nightlife industry has undergone an explosive boom over the last five years. Not content with cookie cutter concepts and regular ideas, a stream of new openings have been announced or taken place in the last few months.
Q43 at Media One Hotel will open in November and is hyped to be the bar to fit the niche of the ‘middle-market’ — one step lower than the bling dresses and the fancy Ferraris. The Act Dubai launched with its concept of mixing theatre with nightlife. An independently operated nightclub is launching November 7 in The Address Dubai Marina, created by Fine Dining Limited and is touting a “non-pretentious environment”.
In light of the fast pace of this sector, bar and hotel managers took the opportunity at the second Caterer Middle East Bar and Nightlife Forum to discuss the changing nature of Dubai’s nightlife scene.
Media One Hotel operations director Luke James said the demand for more casual concepts in Dubai is increasing as people are seeking “something raw”.
“When is somebody going to stop this battle for the big spenders and for the flash and for the entertainment and lighting and the smoke? When is somebody going to do something really raw and very city rave-like or warehouse-like? Is there a market for that?” he asked.
His comments were met with a chorus of agreement from the audience. James went on to explain that the hotel’s warehouse-inspired club, Level 9, had found great success.
“I think what we found refreshing was people would walk into an unused floor that was hot, smoky, dirty and it was refreshing for them; they are sick of having to dress up.”
Speaking about Level 9, James revealed the venue welcomed 16,000 guests over nine weeks, which he attributed to the fact that the market is ‘sick’ of the same products.
“I think they want something really raw, something affordable but still fashionable and now we are looking at two or three levels of our car park for 5000 to 10,000 people potentially,” he revealed.
VIP Room Dubai general manager Nikolas Pazvadis, whose nightlife venue has a strict door policy commented: “The perception on Dubai, it’s all about that choice … at the moment you’ve only got those up-market venues to go to and have to be expanding out to the casual venues, it’s very brave but still it’s going to work.”
Solutions Leisure operations manager Sacha Daniel also echoed James’ sentiment saying: “Next month we are opening a new concept in Media One Hotel, Q43, which will be targeting that more casual crowd. We believe that the company is a bit too top end right now still in Dubai and we need to bring in a few more middle market concepts.”
However, Motorga Heathcliff, bar manager of 360, Jumeirah Beach Hotel believes that people still want the high-end concepts and it’s more about creating the right atmosphere to cater to the client’s expectations.
“Every year people are coming with new ideas, new concepts, and it is what our demanding guests in Dubai need. It’s important sometimes to have consistency and offer the right experience to your customers from the moment they come inside the place until they leave.
Ghazi Azzabi, general manager of Fine Dining Ltd, agreed with Heathcliff, and said: I think in general the Dubai crowd is a very discerning crowd and most of us here come from at least one other country. So the moment they land here, they are exposed to new cultures and new ways of dining and a new lifestyle.”
“I think you always have to keep an eye open in the market to make sure you’re tapping it but in trying to meet that market you have to be careful not to dilute your brand or your product,” he warned.
Azzabi stressed that while brands and concepts are important, the team is vital to the outlet’s success.
“The hospitality business in general, regardless of the brand, is about people. It’s the people that make the event, service, and experience happen that makes people come back. So regardless of what the brand is and what sort of market segment you’re looking at, I think it’s always the people that make it happen and it’s very important to have the team do it,” he stressed.