By Lubna Hamdan
Cavalli Club General Manager Hayan Abou Assali says million dollar bills and private jet requests are just a few of the things happening at Dubai’s oldest fashion branded club when the lights go out
Before clubs were a dime a dozen in Dubai, Cavalli Club, Restaurant and Lounge was the place to be seen since its 2009 launch in the cosmopolitan city.
The brainchild of legendary Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli is famous for its over-the-top glamour and celebrity crowd, its magnificent Swarovski chandeliers and signature zebra striped prints becoming some of the most photographed nightlife attractions in Dubai.
In 2012, the club made media headlines around the world when a picture of a customer’s single night bill totalling AED387,988 ($105,629) went viral.
Seven years later, some people argue that the venue has lost its charm and become somewhat outdated, holding a hazy reputation and an older crowd. But Cavalli Club General Manager Hayan Abou Assali ascertains the night is still young at Dubai’s only club open seven nights a week. And that shockingly high bill? A ‘normal’ one at Cavalli Club.
A customer reportedly paid AED387,988 ($105,629) for one night at Cavalli Club in 2012. Was that the highest bill a customer has ever paid at the venue?
It used to be a normal bill at Cavalli Club. One night we had a bill of up to AED 3 million in one night. The client had ordered two premium bottles of bubbly one of which cost AED 350,000 and the other AED 150,000. It was a huge pre-wedding party for 300 people.
Are those your most expensive bottles?
Our most expensive bottle was our biggest, 15 litres of rosé bubbly, which we sold for AED750,000 last year. We are now customising the world’s biggest rosé bubbly bottle in the world to launch in October. It will be 30 litres and exclusive to Cavalli Club. It will be designed in white and pink Zebra prints.
What are some over-the-top or distinctive customer requests that you’ve encountered at the club?
Sometimes customers ask for private jets, helicopter tours of Dubai or limousine airport pick up and drop off, all of which we are always available to provide. The repeated request is arranging a room in Burj Al Arab. We also have a lot of wedding proposals at Cavalli. Customers like to put the ring in our chocolate surprise cake.
With overwhelmingly expensive bottles and even higher priced bills, Cavalli Club is considered one of the city’s most high-end clubs. But from your experience in nightlife, what makes a club high end?
Look at the Swarovski chandeliers around you. Look at the fabric from Roberto Cavalli, the fine dining elements on the tables such as the gold cutleries and the fine wines we have. We have very rare bottles here that no one has in the world now like 1960 or 1980 Château Margaux. We also have golden cigars made with leaves of gold. We always try to target the ‘one and only.’ Go big or go home.
What about the crowd at Cavalli Club? There are rumours that the club attracts an older crowd as opposed to a young one nowadays.
We have a very mixed crowd starting 25 years old and above. Each night of the week has a different crowd. On Wednesday for example, we have R&B and Hip Hop night. We have young people that we only see on that night. On the weekend, we see people aged 30 to 50 years old. They have business meetings and dinners and then continue celebrating and closing deals.
How do you keep Cavalli Club relevant with so many new clubs opening up in Dubai?
With the new concepts we create, we target new and different crowds. That matters a lot. We try to mix the same crowds from Sunday to push them to Wednesday, but we can’t push people to come to the club three nights a week, so it’s fair to have some people for different days. We also just launched our -18 degrees Celsius ice bar downstairs – the first of its kind in the Middle East – made completely of ice. You wear a jacket, you go inside and you have a shot of spirits -18 degrees Celsius. It’s nice to try it when the temperature outside is 40 degrees Celsius.
What is the most popular night at the club?
Our strongest nights for the club now are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. In terms of dining, the midnight brunch on Sunday night is always fully booked. Our offer is a good value for money where we offer unlimited food and drinks for AED250 only with a dinner show as well. We have ladies night as well, Leave Your Boyfriend At Home Tuesdays, which is a very strong night. We gather all the beautiful girls here. It’s a very nice atmosphere.
Do you have any celebrities lined up for the coming months?
We have booked Bob Sinclar in October and we have Akon coming, Sean Paul, Yo Gotti, Silentó. There are plans for a Russian artist, Dima Bilan, in January on the Russian New Year’s Eve.
In terms of consumer spending, have you seen a change or decrease since the oil prices declined?
Definitely yes. For the first season, we used to have the big spenders spending. But now I can see that spenders are not spending crazy money like before. Maybe they would rather go for Europe where there are cheaper prices than come to Dubai for the hot season. I’ll be better able to answer you in October as summer is our low season. When tourists come back and start spending, I can answer you better.
Cavalli is a well-known international name. Does that help you compete in what many believe is an oversaturated nightlife market in Dubai?
We don’t compete with anyone in Dubai honestly speaking. We focus on how we’re going to do better at Cavalli. So yes we check what is happening in the clubs around us, but we don’t feel that we need to compete with this club or that club. On the contrary, other people might be competing with us .
The competition before was easier because there were few clubs in Dubai.
Nowadays there are so many clubs and so many options. But people are going to try new clubs for the first 3 months, 4 months, then they’re going to go back for the quality and the service. They’ll see the difference between clubs. Everyone can provide good music and everyone can provide artists, but the difference is the service.
Roberto Cavalli is the only fashion nightlife brand still alive I think. To sustain your business for 8 years is not easy. The fashion brand name has very much supported our business. It holds a lot of value for us.
What is a day in your life?
As a general manager I have a lot of responsibilities. I work at night but I have so many meetings in the morning where I meet my marketing, public relations, human resources, finance team and suppliers to plan ahead for events. After closing the club I finish my shift at around 5am or 6am. I go home and watch football or play Xbox with my son. Then I sleep at 8am and by 1pm I’m awake and checking my emails to start my day again.
What is the best part of your job?
Meeting high end people every night. These people, to meet them in the morning you need to have an appointment one week before and you need to wait one hour in the reception just to meet them, whereas in the club you have access to them. These include CEOs and company owners who you can’t see in the morning. They come to party here and do business. Meeting a lot of people every night makes for a huge network.For all the latest lifestyle news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.