By Lubna Hamdan
A look at the Dubai nightlife scene through the eyes of an insider – general manager of London club concept Mahiki in Dubai tells all – from the highest paid bill at the venue to 4:30 am work shifts
Stan de Boissieu has worked at some of the world’s most prominent nightlife destinations including Monte Carlo’s Sea Lounge and Jimmy’z to Dubai’s recently opened Cove Beach. Now, he takes up the role of general manager to Mahiki – a London-based bar and club concept with a branch in Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
The club, which has a royal and celebrity following including Prince Harry, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga, has operated for around 5 years in the city and 10 years in London. We talk to Boissieu for an inside look on staggering bill prices, challenging nightlife rules, and 4:30am working hours.
What is the biggest amount of money one customer has paid at Mahiki in one night?
About a year ago, we had an American customer who paid AED 80,000 in one night. In May, we had a group of English people who paid AED 70,000. Since I joined, we had an Indian customer who paid AED 48,000 in one night, and a few weeks ago, we had French people who spent AED 25,000.
Which night of the week do you make the most money?
Tuesday is our biggest night because it’s ladies night. We have 80 percent of girls for 20 percent of guys. Guys will come to party if they know that 500, 600 girls are at Mahiki. I think we are the only club in Dubai with that fraction. We make the most money even if the girls are not paying, because of the amount of people at Mahiki on the night. Spenders are coming to party until 12:30am.
Are consumers spending less now at nightclubs than they used to a couple of years ago?
Yes, they are spending way less than before. I have friends in all the clubs in Dubai - VIP Room, White, Movida and [they say] the big spenders are only once in a while. I have friends who are big spenders as well who spend once or twice a week maximum. For nightclubs, it’s not as amazing as before.
Missing element in Dubai’s nightlife scene?
In Dubai people come to the club at 1:30 - and at 3 o’clock it’s finished, but they want to stay longer. That’s a major issue for clubs. In Abu Dhabi, some clubs are allowed [to remain open] until 4am. During Formula One, they are open until 6am. In Dubai, an hour would make a huge difference. During Eid time, they’re allowed until 4am in Dubai, but it’s only the music, not the alcohol. You can’t order between 3am and 4am – which is worthless, because we can make so much money [in an hour]. In Monaco between like 4am to 6am, I was making the biggest money of the night. Massive.
How is the nightlife here different than cities like Monaco?
I think the timing is the biggest difference. In Monaco and Europe, you can make money all night. Here, [clubs] have an hour and a half to make some money.
Some people say there is a bubble surrounding the nightlife industry in Dubai with so many new places opening up so quickly. Do you agree?
I agree. I think competition is healthy, there is a choice for every single customer. Some places compete with others, but some places are different. For example, Mahiki is completely different than [other clubs in Dubai]. We are not pretentious. People are fun and friendly, the music is really happy, you can talk to everyone, and everyone is just there to have a good time.
What do you mean by pretentious?
When you have very high prices at a place that is already very high end, you select a target, and some people are scared to go to those places. And I think in Mahiki we are more relaxed. Mahiki is also much cheaper than other clubs.
A lot of clubs in Dubai have a strict door policy – does Mahiki?
The brand is for ladies, so on Tuesday nights we let in couples or mixed groups only, because we are also very busy. Other than that, we are flexible.
There has been talk of heightened competition in the market for skilled bar and club staff. Do you see that as the case?
To find good staff in Dubai is very difficult. The [staff] that are here are spoiled already, for me, because they used to work in Dubai for several years and they expect certain amounts of money even when the business is going down because of too many places [popping up] and not enough people for every place. So you need to find people from Europe, but if you don’t have a good position, the salaries are quite low. And some places are ready to pay a lot of money, that’s why the competition is not healthy I think.
High rents seem to be a big issue for some venues in Dubai. Has it been a problem for Mahiki?
For Mahiki the rent is the same, it has not gone up. We have a contract with the Jumeirah Group for years and years and it will remain the same.
Best social media platform for Mahiki?
Instagram – it’s very helpful [because of] pictures, videos, and comments. Everyone now is using it. I think Snapchat is starting to be quite helpful as well.
What is your daily routine as a general manager of a club?
Day time is more office job and emails. So from early morning it is emails and meetings with suppliers and the marketing team to find new ideas to develop the atmosphere. At night time I make sure the staff do what they have to do. People leave around 3:30am after which I have a briefing with the staff. So I leave Mahiki around 4:30am.
How do you stay energetic through a hectic schedule like that?
I think life is too short and you just need to enjoy. When you see what is happening now with the world, one of my friends was in Syria, and when you see what is happening there, I think we should just be happy with what we have, with the quality of life that we have. And if you keep your problems on the side, I think life is fun, and you should just enjoy it.
What does it take to be a successful general manager at a club in Dubai?
I don’t think you can succeed if you are not close with your staff and you are not walking in the same direction. In Cove Beach, as a beach club and restaurant, I was working 18 hours a day, but I was ready to help staff. I think you should not be too arrogant because you are the manager. Especially in Dubai where it’s all different cultures and nationalities, if you respect everyone and every nationality, it will help you succeed in business.
How do you stay relevant?
At Mahiki our structure is always the same. We don’t try and compete. We know we’re different and that’s what makes us stand out. We know we’re not going to be bringing big time artists and celebrities that other clubs are bringing. But we will make sure that if you come, every week you will have a happy experience - all the way from when you walk in until you leave.
We have different theme nights that stay on brand, which are fun and quirky and cheeky, which is what the whole experience with Mahiki is about. This for us is really important - the show with the dancer, the qualities of our drinks. We’re not a club where everyone will order a drink with Red Bull. It’s more about [creative, in-house] drinks. All the glasses are custom mugs. Everything is friendly.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.
This guy is absolutely amazing. He has mentioned everything to the point, and comparisons are accurate.
Stan, is that you?
Thank you for this feedback !