Our club experts discussed their most innovative party and special event ideas, especially those aimed to attract your newest generation of customers.
Editor’s note: It’s often been said that adult nightclub operators “throw a party” every night in their venues. But what does it mean to actually choose, plan, promote and execute a party or special event in 2018? That question eventually led to the theme of this year’s EXPO — “Party Business” — and this theme was directly reflected in the three seminars on Monday, August 20th. Also, for the first time ever, some of the EXPO’s seminars were presented in a “talk show” format; meaning, the moderator (aka talk show host) brought his “guests” (aka seminar speakers) on stage to sit on the couch and have a more informal discussion on the topic at hand. This new format was well received and may very well return for future convention seminars.
This industry in the business of “throwing a party” each and every night. But, what does it mean to throw a party in 2018? What does it mean for outside-the-box ideas? We’re not just talking about the parties everyone does, the Halloween or St. Patrick’s Day, we’re trying to look at some things that are parties you may not have heard of or thought of before. These gentlemen here are all successful at putting on those types of parties.
Jerry Westlund is the owner of Pony Clubs/Fantasy Showclubs chain of clubs, and is a major proponent of special events, parties and feature entertainer bookings. John Miller is the General Manager of the Penthouse Club in New Orleans, a club that has become the leader in the very competitive NOLA club market by having innovative, outside-the-box events and club promotions. Mike DeSuno (aka DJ Platypus) is the Entertainment Director for the Rick’s Cabaret club chain, and is also the head DJ at Tootsie’s Cabaret.
For the sake of brevity, we have posted the questions posed by moderator Dave Manack, Associate Publisher for ED Publications, and select answers from the panelists.
MANACK: Why are parties and special events so important to your clubs and to adult clubs in general?
WESTLUND: We throw parties every month, whether it’s around a feature entertainer or football. Our customers have to have a reason to justify them coming to the strip club repeatedly. We have to be able to branch out to new customers—that’s why we throw parties
PLATYPUS: It’s a different way to promote your club today than even five years ago with social media and things of that nature. It used to be very taboo to discuss what goes on in our clubs; today it’s not quite as taboo. On any given Friday night we have 1,000 customers and our goal is to have each of those customers go to work on Monday and tell three of their co-workers about the “party” they attended.
“We throw parties every month, whether it’s around a feature entertainer or football. Our customers have to have a reason to justify them coming to the strip club repeatedly. We have to be able to branch out to new customers—that’s why we throw parties.” – Jerry Westlund
MILLER: It’s not just about creating an event, it’s about creating a moment. A moment in someone’s mind translates a lot further than an image or idea. When you have a party, it gives them something to tie to, relate and sell. Customers are walking out your idea saying they were at some random club, they’re walking out saying they had a great time at that party, or that club.
MANACK: What are some of the recent parties or special events you’ve done in the last year that weren’t typical at all?
WESTLUND: I encourage everybody, you have to read the newspaper so you know what’s going on in your town. Every one of your local areas, there’s something going on every week. If you’re not a member of your local visitors convention bureau, join. They put out a newsletter, even the small towns. They come out with a monthly newsletter of what’s going on. If they deny you membership, screw them. Call me, I’ll tell you how to sue so they have to let you in.
To me, parties are for our regulars. Parties aren’t playing to tourists, at least in my clubs. So play off of what’s going on in your communities.
MANACK: When you’re planning a party from the get-go, how important is it to get not just the input of your staff, but to get them excited for it?
PLATYPUS: Your wait staff is so vital to this part in the sense that it gives them something different to discuss with the consumer or guest. Instead of “What do you want to drink?” now it makes that interaction more conversational and personal, which means more money for your wait staff because they’re building a rapport with the customer.
MILLER: If you have an idea, the entertainers buy in just as much as your wait staff. In reality, they’re the ones that are going to sell it for you and get people in there.
“Millennials work off concepts, ideas, things that are, a lot of times, foreign to most of us. We look at hard things, but if they believe in something, if they think it’s going to be a big happening, they’re going to go and push it a lot harder and faster than most of us do in any format. Just get your idea out there—trust the young people.” – John Miller
MANACK: Have you had a party in the last year or so you could tell connected with a younger audience and what was it about that idea that connected?
MILLER: Millennials work off concepts, ideas, things that are, a lot of times, foreign to most of us. We look at hard things, but if they believe in something, if they think it’s going to be a big happening, they’re going to go and push it a lot harder and faster than most of us do in any format. Just get your idea out there—trust the young people.
MANACK: What’s the single most successful party or special event you’ve thrown in the last two or three years and what do you think made it so successful?
“Our biggest party, we did a waitress wet t-shirt contest. I’ve never seen people go more absolutely insane over that. It came down to giving the guest what they always asked for, which is what they cannot have.” – DJ Platypus
WESTLUND: I don’t know if one dominates another to be honest with you. If you do regular parties, one builds upon the next. At the party, the most important thing is to be talking about the next party.
PLATYPUS: Our biggest party, we did a waitress wet t-shirt contest. I’ve never seen people go more absolutely insane over that. It came down to giving the guest what they always asked for, which is what they cannot have. That’s the key to any type of party—it’s about establishing communication with your guest. What do they want? What is going to make them come in? Whether they’re a millennial or an 80-year old—the point is finding out that link between what’s going to sell.