The man who takes care of the day-to-day at LA’s hottest nightclubs (Hyde, Area, Foxtail) under SBE’s Sam Nazarian claims he’s a dedicated family man well before he’s a nightlife guru. “I’m family guy, I have two little boys. I have one side — the cool factor, being ahead of the game and in the nightlife scene — but at the same time I have another side that people don’t normally get to see.” Nonetheless, he’s running some of the biggest celeb magnets in LA and is constantly surrounded by bottles and models. Can he really turn out to be a normal guy?
Tell me about your position with SBE. I work the nightlife division at SBE and deal with anything that has to do with our nightclubs. I try to get the same hype and energy into our restaurants. I’ve been with the company since almost the beginning and helped get us where we are right now.
What piqued your interest in LA nightlife? My profession now is completely different from what I went to school for — kinesiology and athletic training. I’ve always been interested in nightlife. I’m European, and I just worked different positions, in many different clubs on different continents. I also had a little restaurant open in Santa Barbara before I joined SBE in the 90s. When the joint venture came together for SBE, and it heard of the proposal, I jumped on board.
How did you first come to meet Sam Nazarian? I knew Sam from way back. He would hang out in some of the places I worked back in the day. I used to do physical training, so I knew him from the athletic club as well.
What was your first impression when you met him? Sam is a very generous, very smart guy, but he’s not flashy about it. That’s what attracted me from the beginning … I knew what his powers could be and a little bit of his background, but he’s not the guy who’s throwing into your face. That was my first impression of him. He’s a very nice guy.
What’s your favorite of all the SBE venues? One of my favorite spaces now is the Area location. I like big spaces; I like the energy; I like the layout.
What are some positive trends you’ve noticed recently in nightlife or hospitality? One that is positive and negative at the same time is the option that consumers have of more locations and more options. It gets more people involved in going out, and I think, in general, more people are going out. This could have a positive or negative effect depending on how good of a grip you have on the clientele and how you stay ahead of the game. We hope to tap into a bigger market and attract and engage. That’s been a big focus for us in the past five or six years. Before, you had only a few locations to choose from. For a long time, there was one spot going strong per night on the weekdays.
So you think people are going out in general more now? I think so … there’s more options, more nightclubs, and it attracts more people to be out there and in the city. A lot of people take the nightlife component into consideration before moving to a new city.
How does SBE maintain the cool factor in venues? We try to keep our heads on top, as we’ve got to know what’s happening today. This is a city, and if you lose a connection with what the people want — you’re pretty much done. We’re very active in what we do, we mobile run it. I’m still active 100% into the trends and the nightlife component. We’re basically selling something that you can’t see and you can’t touch — the vibe. To create that, you have to be part of it, otherwise people won’t come back.
What do you think people are looking for now? It went from big clubs to small locations, and now I think it’s coming back to the bigger spots. They want energy. This is true in the music world also. I think house music is making a huge impact on our society at the moment, and especially in nightlife. I’m Greek myself, and house music was all I grew up with. I’m happy to hear it here and know it’s coming to this side of the world.
Where do you go out? I definitely hang out in more of the SBE locations. One of my favorite locations is the Bazaar at SLS. It’s an amusement park there, you get great food and great drinks, and the ambiance of the people and all of the above. The design is phenomenal. I also love The Abbey That location is by far one of the most exciting, unique places with the ambiance that you could find in the city regardless of the clientele, but that’s definitely that’s a unique space. I love the energy.
You were a Navy SEAL in the Greek Army. Any comparisons between that experience and LA nightlife? From that experience, I learned the respect factor and I use it every day. That experience shaped the way I work, the way I function, the way my brain works. Discipline is key into what we do, especially now because we create the party instead of being part of the party.
Do you have any non-industry projects in the works? I’m looking into an electronic cigarette. They have no tobacco. It gets you the amount of nicotine that you wish you could . And you can smoke it anywhere because there’s nothing burning in the air. Those have been out by Vegas companies, but I’d like to take it to the next level and provide users with things other than nicotine. I’m working with one that would give you energy and vitamins.
What’s your dream spot for a project for any sort of venue? Something at the beach where the party goes on all day and the energy goes through, and the night comes down and sinks into more of the nightclub vibe.
Aside from SBE, who else does it right in nightlife? There’s a few people in other cities that I envy, but I can definitely count those people on one hand.
Anyone in particular? I don’t want to mention anybody.
What are you doing tonight? I’ll be out at Hyde. I’m out and about tonight.