Through all the changes the Strip has seen over the past quarter century, Drai’s After Hours has remained a mainstay of the Las Vegas nightlife scene.
The iconic Cromwell venue will celebrate 25 years of adventure on June 25. For founder Victor Drai, creating such a long legacy will always feel like a happy accident.
“I never think that far,” says Drai, the Moroccan mogul and film producer who helped modernize Vegas clubs. “It’s my magic. I always do things and I live with them.
When he opened Drai’s as a restaurant in 1997, in the basement of what was then the Barbary Coast, he knew he had a wonderful space in a prime location. It was just a matter of what to do with it after the dinner service was over.
Drai’s pioneered the late-night lounge, keeping revelers enticed into the wee hours with glamorous and exclusive vibes. His influence would touch every aspect of the Las Vegas nightlife industry, from introducing the first sounds of EDM to ushering in the era of bottle service.
Victor Drai went on to open other venues like Tryst and XS at the Wynn and Liaison at Bally’s – the first LGBTQ nightclub inside a casino – while expanding the Drai’s brand with the Cromwell’s rooftop nightclub and nightclub. .
These days, he’s being hailed by many, but especially by his son, Dustin Drai, Vice President of Marketing and Entertainment for The Drai Group.
“Yes, we’re celebrating 25 years of Drai’s After Hours,” says Dustin, “but what we’re really celebrating is 25 years of being part of Las Vegas nightlife and how [my father has] created not only jobs for the companies he owns, but just an industry that provided livelihoods and careers for thousands and thousands of people who may or may not have come [here] without him coming here.
Like most things in this family business, Dustin joining his father wasn’t part of a master plan. In fact, Victor says he thought his son would become an actor. But the father-son duo made a great team.
“We have always been together. I traveled all over the world with him,” says Victor. “I didn’t look at it as something weird. For me, it was just my kid and we were doing things together because I was working. We were very close, and we also work closely.
There was never a board meeting that Victor didn’t allow his son to observe, or a discussion that he couldn’t engage in, even at 12 years old.
“I was always raised like that, being there and him never being afraid to ask my opinion,” Dustin says. “Through that, I could see how hard he worked, and that really translated to how my work ethic is now.”
It “develops more and more into a partnership as I get older,” Dustin says of the relationship, though nothing overshadows the personal connection they have when it comes to business.
“The whole company knows when they need something, they go to him, he comes to me and he knows how to approach me,” explains Victor. “He knows when I go crazy to back off, and leave me and my shit for a few hours and come back. He is very diplomatic. He knows me better than myself.
Innovation is in the family DNA. He kept Drai thriving for 25 years and transformed Drai’s Beachclub & Nightclub into a live concert destination for today’s biggest hip-hop and R&B stars.
“Here you can almost touch the [artist onstage], and people are freaking out about it. That’s what we like,” says Victor. “It’s another level of spectacle, almost like a showroom in the nightclub.”
As the anniversary approaches, the Drais are determined to stay in the moment and trust their instincts. “You must,” said Victor. “Otherwise, you’ll never be great.”
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