After several pre-launch events, Pacha Macau held its grand opening on Saturday, January sixteenth featuring a special performance by DJ Erick Morillo. Initially making a name for itself in Ibiza, and later New York, the super-club franchise represents a potential new direction for the gambling enclave of Macau.
Pacha Macau: first impressions
The Studio City complex that houses Pacha is the newest gaming and entertainment development to open in the Cotai area. In addition to a sprawling casino, it features hotels, rides and shopping, as well numerous restaurants. The gleaming new development boasts a Hollywood glamour theme and kicked off its promotional campaign with a short film starring Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Robert Deniro.
Just a short walk from the front entrance of Studio City, the doorway to Pacha is so low key that during the day you could be forgiven for walking right past it. Entering a small hallway, guests proceed up two long escalators to reach the club. While it’s an interesting entrance, with good branding throughout, it might be slightly problematic towards the end of the night as drunk partygoers attempt to exit the venue.
Arriving at the top and entering the space, there is small lounge area with couches and a large bar, followed by an opening to the main club with a dance floor in the center. Walking past two more standing bars, there are elevated VIP sections discreetly tucked away on either side of the room, with a medium size stage featuring a DJ booth at the far front end. On either side of the DJ area there are doorways leading to a large outdoor patio with various tables, fountains, and sculptures.
The interior design of Pacha is modern and sparse, without much that jumps out at you. There are several columns with raised balconies that provide a space for professional dancers to do their thing.
There are a good number of VIP tables on either side of the dance floor, and the atmosphere in the raised area was comfortable, with a good view.
However, the VIP areas might be a little too low key for local tastes. In a part of the world that enjoys an ostentatious display of wealth, splashy spending is often part of gaining face. While a cool concept, the raised booths aren’t as visible as some perhaps would enjoy.
Across the water in Hong Kong, certain clubs have taken to highlighting tables that order particular bottles or trains of bottles. These come complete with sparklers, a theme-song, and a parade of waitstaff. Likewise bottles even come in gold cages to add to the spectacle.
One highlight of Pacha is a superior lighting system that constantly changes the look of the room, shifting the atmosphere from a futuristic vibe at one second to an intense illumination the next.
As the party got underway, DJ Erick Morillo played a strong set that also managed to be friendly to the diverse audience in attendance. The music included House remixes of well known songs that even a mainstream crowd would have some familiarity with. Morillio is actually a co-founder of Pacha New York, along with Eddie Dean, who now serves as CEO for Pacha Macau.
Check out excerpts from the opening ceremony and have a look at the club in action in our exclusive video below! Watch in HD for better results by clicking on the gear icon and selecting ‘Quality’ 720!
Can Macau become a top destination in Asia for nightlife?
Due to a downturn in its former customer base, Macau is looking to diversify into other forms of entertainment, and one of the areas it is experimenting with is nightlife. Melco Crown, owner of Studio City, which is also a partner in Cubic, Macau’s original super-club, is the first to explore this possibility.
Using nightlife as a draw is not far fetched. The last five years have seen Las Vegas transformed into the epicenter of the international Electronic Dance Music scene. Every night of the week visitors can turn up to catch the biggest names in dance music from around the world. Multiple clubs are consistently packed as guests party in state-of-the-art entertainment venues.
With the opening of Pacha, Macau is testing the waters to see if it too can transition into a nightlife capitol. In theory, people from around Asia would come to Macau to experience the excitement inside the region’s slickest venues. However, as we’ve seen multiple times over the last ten years, what works in Vegas doesn’t always succeed in Macau.
Hardware VS Software
Can you replicate an amazing club by buying a franchise? Often it’s not the hardware, but the software that’s the crucial part. Though you can create an exact copy of nearly any club in the world, you might not have the local culture that makes it a success.
In many ways it boils down to the questions: do you have the audience to interact with it to make it popular? Do you have people that enjoy this kind of music and nightlife experience?
Clubs are not dead assets that can be uprooted and dropped into a new environment and expected to be a hit. They don’t operate in a vacuum or divorced from local culture. The region’s drinking habits and taste in music – which are different from Ibiza and New York, also needs to be taken into consideration.
Attracting a new crowd
The domestic crowd is not large enough to support multiple super-clubs. Macau itself is not a big place, and going clubbing is traditionally a low priority for the average gambler. Therefore, you need to attract people from out of town that care about clubbing, music, and DJs, to make it work. Alternatively, you need to devise a strategy to spread interest in this type of nightlife experience.
In Vegas, going out to clubs has become a major part of the visit. Similar to the movie The Hangover, groups of friends descend on Las Vegas expecting a wild night on the town. The challenge for Macau is to create the same environment and spread the message to groups most likely to heed the call.
In 2014 there were 31 million visitors to Macau. It’s not an impossible task to achieve, but perhaps one of rebranding, marketing and attracting a new audience.
Signs of success
Club Cubic, the city’s existing super-club, which is also owned in part by Melco Crown, has achieved a regional reputation as a fun place to party. Their selection of big name artists and frequent champagne-soaked nights have won them fans from around Asia. On big occasions, such as an anniversary, or when a major act performs, they will attract guests from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, China, the Philippines and Singapore.
Cubic has strong ties to the party scene in Macau and Hong Kong, and has a Chinese, local feel to it. At this stage of the city’s nightlife, if you’re looking to make money by drink sales, the primary focus should be on wooing Macau, Hong Kong, and Mainland Chinese. The expat crowd that may already be familiar with the Pacha name are not major spenders, nor do they represent a large segment of the market.
As the newest place in town, Pacha has a window of opportunity to build momentum and make a name for itself. People always flock to what’s new and they can use that to their advantage. However, emphasis should be placed on paying particularly close attention to understanding regional drinking culture, marketing music effectively, and cultivating relationships with the type of crowd most likely to make the trip.