Bathed in blue and orange light, some of Hong Kong and Macau’s most beautiful people pack the dancefloor of Pacha Macau on its opening night. It’s the first step into Asia by one of the world’s most recognized club brands. The first Pacha opened in the beach town of Sitges, near Barcelona, in 1967, and the group has since created dens of DJ-spun inequity in the world’s party epicenters, from Brazil, the US and Germany, to Egypt, Portugal, and Austria. With a 1,000sqft dance floor, a state-of-the-art sound and light system, a spacious outdoor terrace, a host of private suites and a capacity for 3,000 sinfully good looking ladies, the new Pacha Macau heralds in a new era in the city’s non-gaming entertainment scene. At its helm is clubbing guru Eddie Dean, who will tap into his extensive experience creating icons like Pacha New York to bring the party to the Vegas of the East.
You started your career in real estate, why the move into nightclubs?
You know it was just an opportunity that came up at the time. There was a mentor of mine who was asked to take a look at a failing business [Brooklyn live rock music bar Faces]. I went with him and I saw a few things I would have changed. Over lunch afterward he asked me if he should get involved and I said no, that they were failing for a reason and that wasn’t going to change. I told him my ideas and he suggested that I take the place over. This is something that was never even a consideration; it was never a dream of mine but he really stuck to it and believed I would be good at it. So I did it; I ended up taking the place over, this was 1989, and on the night of the grand opening 300 people turned up and it was a success from day one. I was 25 and I had my high school buddies there, my college buddies, all my friends and family. Then the same guy, Joe, came up to me and said ‘congratulations, I knew you’d be good at this. It’s just a real f*^king shame they’re all going to be rooting against you soon”. I didn’t really understand what he meant; it took me a while to realise that I was going to do good, and when you do good, people root against you. My heart fell into my shoes and I couldn’t figure out what I’d missed. A few weeks later I was bartending and saw two car loads of my buddies pull up outside. I put the beers on ice but after 15 minutes they never showed and so I looked down the road and there was another bar and they were all in there. I was devastated, but it was one of the best lessons I’ve ever learned; you quickly figure out you have a lot of acquaintances in life, but not so many friends. Treating people well doesn’t mean they’re going to treat you well back.
With the average lifespan of a nightclub only 18 months, what’s the secret to running a successful venue?
Nightclubs come and go; they’re very expensive undertakings, to build and to operate. If you don’t hit the ground running, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can lose a lot of money really fast. I’ve always been an owner-operator and very involved with my businesses, all aspects of them. You want to have a product that people want and you need to know how you’re going to distinguish yourself from the other spots, and why are people going to come to you? You need to have a great product, great staff, be aesthetically nice, and have great entertainment. It’s got to be everything.
So what does Pacha Macau have?
All of it! It’s a beautiful club environment built around great entertainment and great service. Those are the key ingredients. This club is probably bigger than most of the Pachas in terms of size and has a beautiful outdoor patio which is great and different. But at the end of the day it’s all about the team running it, marketing it, and promoting it, and just following through by delivering a great product.
How does Asia compare to hotspots like Ibiza, Miami, London and New York? Are we ready for this scene?
That’s the question everyone is curious about and it’s too early to say. I will say that on a scale of one to ten, we are at about a point five in terms of where this could go. Is that in the next six months, or a year? One thing I’ve noticed is that things tend to turn the corner faster in Asia; once something starts working it will mature quickly, but I think getting there might take a while and that’s something we are prepared for. We’ve built something that’s like nothing else.
You’re a husband and a father; how do you balance out the demands of the nightclub scene, especially when your newest opening is in Asia.
I will be here, once a month at least, and I love it, more and more every time I come. I meet great people, I’ve made friends, and my wife is with me on this trip and my kids will come in the summer. I have to balance everything, including my businesses in New York and my family life but I speak to the team here in Macau twice every day, first thing in the morning and last thing before I go to bed, and with technology today it’s not much different from being here. You just need to work hard at keeping the balance.
What’s the hardest thing about running clubs like this?
It’s managing the staff and making sure everyone is working in the right direction. It’s got to be a team effort because it’s just too big and there are so many moving parts. We are dealing with a lot of inexperienced staff that have never worked in a club, never mind a club of this quality and magnitude, so there’s been a lot of training and it’s going to take some big, busy nights for people to learn where they need to be and I will always be watching closely. It’s not hard to see if someone knows what they are doing in an environment like this.
What has been missing from the Asian nightclub scene?
I haven’t experienced a lot of nightclub culture here but for me, I see a lot of very similar type places that kind of do the same thing and that’s fine but I know we want to be part of history here, we want to do something that’s never been done before and that’s a massive undertaking. Lawrence Ho [owner of Studio City] brought us here to do something different; Studio City is something different, it’s like no other property here. There’s a whole transition going on right now within Macau towards developing non-gaming and we are part of that. I think as Macau shifts and changes it’s only going to get better and I think we can be part of influencing that change. There are people that don’t come to Macau because they don’t gamble and we are going to give them a reason.
Are there other destinations in Asia Pacha are looking at?
I can tell you there are some things peculating in Asia, in Shanghai I believe, but I can tell you this is a monumental night in the history of Pacha, opening in China is just amazing.
Have you had to change the product to reach the Asian club goer?
We have been very sensitive to the culture and the nuances absolutely but at the same time we are not doing anything totally different. We’re bringing in international talent, but they’re bringing in international talent all over Asia now so in a lot of ways as much as we’re doing things differently, we’re not. I think the way we curate our programming here will shape who likes this place versus those who don’t. Erick Morillo is a proper house music DJ; is Macau ready for that? I don’t know. You could put Calvin Harris or any of the big pop stars up but is the local scene really sophisticated enough to appreciate an Erick Morillo? We’ll see.
Pacha New York closed last month; what kind of emotions does that stir up?
It’s definitely more emotionally than I thought it would be. I really made the decision, voluntarily, that ten years, our Decade of Dance, was enough and we’re happy to put up what we’ve accomplished against any other club in the history of New York. I have friends of mine in their 40s that I convinced to come to the club and now they’re hooked; they come to festivals and they embarrass their kids, so I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished. I just felt it was time, that it wasn’t going to get any better and I didn’t want to be like 99 out of 100 clubs. We’ve finished on a strong note, with a packed dance floor, and that really brings out emotion in me because I treat every night like its opening night.
For guys coming to Macau for a night out, what can they expect from Pacha Macau.
I think they can expect a life changing experience. They’re going to come out here and see a Western-style nightclub that you’re not really going to get anywhere else in this market. It might not be for everyone but they’re going to see something different. I’m sure there is going to be pushback and people resisting the change but they are part of the change already; we’re having music conferences in Asia now and festivals that are sold out. It’s changing and it’s exciting. Hopefully in five years there will be four nightclubs here and people will be flying down from Shanghai and other cities just for a stag weekend or an anniversary. It’s going to take a little time but we’re ready.