‘The Show’ For Bars and the Spirits And Beer Industry Is A Trade Show Like None Other
I won’t be at the Nightclub & Bar Convention in Las Vegas this year.
Feel no pity for me; I’ve been invited to the opening of a new Penthouse club in San Francisco at the same time.
In my place in Vegas, this March 12-14, getting stories and photos for PubClub.com, will be a suitable replacement who has covered the Phoenix Open, Scottsdale Culinary Festival and other fun events. PubClub’s coverage is in good hands.
Still, I’ll miss “The Show,” as it was once called by adoring attendees. It’s a convention for the bar, nightclub, beer and spirits industry.
But this is no boring convention with snooze-inducing speakers, objects of uninteresting items on the show floor pushed by over-enthusiastic sales or marketing people, followed by boring dinners to discuss the changing aspects of a tool bit or pieces of office furniture.
No, it’s about all about bars and nightlife! In fact, there are bars and nightlife in the Las Vegas Convention Center, blank floor spaces turned into sampling stations by liquor, beer and wine producers and distributors.
Some of the booths are modest while others are massive. You walk up, take a cup or glass, and get it filled up with beer. Vodka. Rum. Tequila. Wine. The shots are small, but the impact is huge, and so is the fun, for you do it all afternoon. For two days.
I first learned of this spectacular event from a friend. He had wondered into it while at another convention in Vegas. And stumbled out of it. Somewhere in between, he called to say, “you’ve GOT to come to this show!”
And so for the next few years, I did, even bringing along a PubClubette and photographer. They were equally impressed.
It’s not a time or place for party wimps. That’s because what goes on during the show is just half the fun. When the show ends for the day, you’re hustling back to the room for a quick shower and change to make it to a cocktail reception. Then there’s some type of “mid-evening” event, followed by a huge bash at a hot Vegas Club.
You’re constantly on the go, day and night. That’s the way it should be in Vegas, right!?
One memorable year, we went to Pure in Caesars Palace for a Stella Artois pouring competition among Vegas bartenders. This enabled us to drink unlimited quantities of one my favorite beers as the competitors perfected their craft. We then hustled over to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville for a great event and eventually sprinted out of there to a Sammy Hagar concert, where we stood right by the stage.
We’ve also seen Blues Traveler and this year, 50 Cent is part the final night bash at Tao.
The first of the big parties I went to was put on by Bacardi O. They had rented out the entire House of Blues – all levels – with Cirque du Soleil performing. You could have any mixed drink you wanted, as long as it contained Bacardi O. All comped. The thing must have cost $100,000. I don’t get to $100,000 parties very often.
Those mega budget-busting bashes have vanished, but there’s still fun to be had at their slightly less over-the-top replacements. I’ve put my arm around Carmen Electra’s surprisingly thin waist for a photo at a Malibu Rum party, enjoyed free drinks at cabana parties and had cocktails poured by expert mixologists who throw and twirl bottles. It’s all part of The Show. I suppose you could say it’s The Show showing off what its people and products do best.
Sleep during the Nightclub & Bar convention is often an after-thought, a brief necessity so you can do it all again the next day. And night.
To try and get as much of this limited luxury as possible, we stayed at the Riviera hotel the first couple of years. We would awake and, hair sticking up and clothes disheveled, find nourishment with huge breakfasts next door at the Peppermill Lounge. We would then shower and make the short walk to the Convention Center. Thankfully, this is not an early-morning event; it opens at noon and most people arrive between 1-1:30.
Later, I found it more convenient to stay on the main part of the Strip so we could walk to the parties and use the monorail to come and go from the Convention Center.
I won’t be on that monorail this year, and will miss it. But “The Show” will go on, and it will be great.
• 2012 Nightclub & Bar Convention Preview
• Column from “The Bartender” on Surviving & Thriving At the Event
• Tickets for the Nightclub & Bar Convention
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