If you’ve ever been for a big night out in Vegas (is there any other kind?) then there’s an excellent chance you’ve experienced the work of Ryan Labbe and Jason ‘J-Roc’ Craig. Individually, Labbe and J-Roc were renowned kings of Vegas’s nightlife scene, curating experiences and spreading the word for some of the strip’s most happening spots. Labbe became known around town for his outside-the-box guerrilla marketing stunts, while J-Roc’s oversaw marketing and VIP services for seven exciting venues as director of marketing and nightlife at N9NE. But individual successes pale in comparison to their combined status since they joined forces.
Together with hospitality guru Andy Masi, they’ve completely revamped two the nightlife offering at the Palms Casino with two new venues: APEX and the Camden Cocktail Lounge. We spoke to the dynamic duo about their new ventures, how to dress to impress on the strip and how they work hard, play hard and still look sharp.
Do you have a project that you’re most proud of? Where do APEX and Camden Cocktail Lounge rank against everything else you’ve done?
Honestly, each project has its own unique qualities and differences, and we are proud of all of them. Apex and Camden both we had the opportunity of opening similar style venues where we were able to learn certain things that has helped us. Being the first two venues at the PALMS in the midst of this massive remodel definitely is a special thing, and we are so happy to be a part of it.
Do you have to take into account the aesthetic of the whole Palm Casino refurb when designing your space?
Yes, most definitely. We have infused different art pieces in both venues that goes along with the art movement happening at The PALMS Casino Resort.
What can you tell us about Camden Cocktail Lounge? What’s the vision for the space and the vibe?
Camden has one of the best mixology programs in the city and that was a main focus for us. Eric Hobbie, our Master Intoxicologist, really created some over-the-top menu items that are a must=see in LV. The space itself I’d have to say is sexy, but approachable.
If someone wanted to dress to impress at Camden Cocktail Lounge or APEX, what should they wear?
That depends on the events, but probably easier to tell you what not to wear. In Las Vegas, wearing upscale attire is always welcomed. That's one of the great things about Vegas, people come out in their best outfits dressed to impress.
What would be an absolute no-no? What’s going to get you turned away?
We have a whole list of them when it comes to dress code. It's actually posted outside APEX and it’s a combination of our humor and real items. You have to see it for yourself.
You’re heading out for a date night in Vegas, what’s your go-to outfit?
Depending on the spot, a sports coat and jeans with a t-shirt or that same outfit, but with a leather jacket.
Your professional lives sound hectic, so what do you do to keep looking and feeling your best?
Working out is definitely a must for us both of us to keep the stress in check as well as keep us feeling and looking our best.
Grooming on the go must be an important part of your lives, crossing the line between business and pleasure. What hacks or tips have you discovered that have made your lives easier?
Having clothes for all occasions in the different markets at all times. This helps on a lot of levels. Also, booking hotels with gyms!
How important is your personal aesthetic in your line of work?
It's important as we are in an image-driven business. It's important to always present yourself in the proper light, but also try to stay true to who we are and our sense of style.
How do you keep on top of what’s going to work in a new venture, in terms of décor, drinks, which DJs are going to draw the crowds? Do you have to have an understanding of every element of a new venture?
We both have been doing this for a very long time in multiple venues and in different cities. At this point, we know what to expect overall with each project and how the marketing will always be a bit different. We try to create new things as well as not reinvent the wheel so to speak when it comes to other things.
Ryan, your bio mentions that you’re known for your guerrilla marketing techniques. What does that encompass? What’s been your most outlandish/most fun campaign?
It goes back to thinking outside the box and not relying on just traditional marketing to drive awareness. There have been several campaigns, but one example that sticks out is the flash mob we did out on Las Vegas Blvd. We took a group of dancers and dressed them like normal tourists, but once they took off their coats, they went into a full choreographed dance set with signs and flyers promoting our event. The organic feel from a crowd that did not expect that was a big hit and we were able to capture great video content for promotion. In the future, you might see a semi-truck shutting down the Las Vegas strip wrapped with one of our events… you never know!
What’s the division of responsibility between you? Do you each have particular strengths or areas that you focus on?
We both are involved in all aspects of each project from top to bottom. With having projects in different markets, we both have to travel a bit. That being said, sometimes Ryan will focus a bit more on Vegas and I will focus a bit more on SD. We definitely have some different strengths and weaknesses, but we complement each other well on both.
What’s your involvement in a space once it opens? Are you primarily behind the launch and then on to the next project?
We are involved in everything - from finding the space to creating the concept, design, marketing to building the team, and the overall strategy. We make sure to stay involved with each project on all aspects.