Anybody who works in clubland knows that when a venue can mark a decade of operation, it’s quite an accomplishment – indeed, it’s the very definition of success.
This past spring, Boogie Nights – the retro-themed disco inside The Tropicana Atlantic City – celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a big weekend bash that filled the house and kept it shaking until closing time.
At Boogie Nights, it’s a concept that works in a big way. Not only do its DJs spin the most-loved dance music from the past, but its patrons can enjoy a spacious layout with a variety of “lounges,” a superb sound-light-and-video system, and fun-filled interactions with a troupe of in-house characters (from Roller Girl to the mirrorball-headed Mr. Boogie) and celebrity impersonators (from Britney Spears to Michael Jackson).
And on Aug. 10 at DJX – DJ LIFE’s annual trade show/exhibition – Boogie Nights will host the mobile-centric “Turning the Millennium” party featuring DJ Kool and co-hosted by Jake Jacobsen and Mike Alevras.
We caught up with Boogie Nights impresario Dave Peña and a pair of the club’s DJs, Jimmie Palumbo and Gabor Kiss, to find out the secrets to the venue’s ongoing success.
What’s your background in nightlife?
Dave Peña: I got my first taste of the industry as a DJ in a rock nightclub in New York at the age of 15. I went on to spend years in television as a producer. Then, in 2001, I opened Planet Rose Karaoke Bar in New York City and then at The Quarter in the Tropicana Casino, Atlantic City in 2004. In 2007, Boogie Nights was launched in markets in Atlantic City, Indiana, Baton Rouge, Biloxi, Miss., St. Louis, and Lake Tahoe. Currently, we are working on a Boogie Nights pop-up tour around the country, as well as additional residencies.
What was your original concept for Boogie Nights?
Boogie Nights is the Ultimate ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s dance club. Boogie Nights is like Studio 54 meets Disneyland. Yes, there’s been retro concepts like Polly Esther’s and 8TRAX at Disney World, but I think Boogie Nights takes it to the next level with an experience like no other. We take all the best elements: visual, audio, and décor, and add in our Boogie Nights crew of characters: Mr. Boogie, Roller Girl, Mirror Man, The Boogie Beaver, Hula Girl, Sparkle, and much more that warp guests back to the retro years.
Which elements of the room and the general party atmosphere, do you think, most resonate with the club-goers?
I believe it’s all the elements we created in Boogie Nights combined with the energy of the guests and the characters that together makes Boogie Nights a club like no other. You feel it the second you walk in with the music, the lighting, the video montages, the characters, the light-up dancefloor, and the largest disco club you’ve ever seen. In addition, we have themed VIP booths ranging in décor from The Awesome ’80s Lounge, Love Shack, Lava Lounge, to Miami Suites and more that guests can reserve and generally plan their attire to match their themed areas.
In the club, what has changed over the years?
I am a strong believer in never straying away from the brand that people expect, but always keeping it fresh. Every two years, we like to do a refresh, whether it’s lighting and audio, décor, or expansion. Over the years, we have added an additional dancefloor, the Hi-Fi Lounge, Peak-A-Boo Lounge, VIP booths upgrades, the projection screen, and constantly updating our lighting and sound.
What’s your sound and lighting set-up now?
For the main PA, it’s JBL’s TR Series. For the supplemental dancefloor PA, it’s JBL’s SRX Series tops and subs. Everything is powered by Crown Macro-Tech and I-Tech amps. We also use Behringer crossovers and a X32 mixer. For lighting, it’s lots of Elation Lighting – things like ACL 360i luminaires, Spots, and Atomic Strobes. We have two Base Hazers and an [MA Lighting] grandMA2 ultra-light.
You get people into the club who are staying at The Trop, but I also notice a good amount of locals. How do you maintain the local regulars?
We have always focused on the return customers and that is what separates us from every other clubs. We keep our admission cost at a reasonable price, a loose dress code where flip flops are welcomed and costumes are encouraged, and a genuine warm welcome and welcome back. We remember our regulars, most of which are locals and we thank them each time by name for coming back. This loyalty and respect combined with non-stop entertainment is what keeps our guests coming back and are locals feeling appreciated.
What’s the key to the club being able to celebrate a 10-year anniversary?
For a nightclub to celebrate 10 years, it’s true milestone and honor. Consistently, loyalty, dedication, and passion combined with overall great entertainment is what keeps us going.
What are some of the club’s special nights, in terms of themes?
We have the fan-favorite Cougars & Cubs Ball, which occurs the first Friday of every month in all markets across the country. Women 40-plus and men 21-29 receive free admission before 11 p.m., and at midnight, we crown The Cougar and The Cub of the month. We’ve also added a monthly Stoplight Singles Mixer where guests get a green glow necklace at the door if they’re single, red if they’re taken, or rainbow for LGBTQ. In addition, our two biggest nights of the year are Halloween and New Year’s Eve where we guarantee a party like no other!
How do you oversee the DJ situation? What’s the formula for keeping people in the club and enjoying themselves?
Our DJs are the quarterbacks of the team. I am thankful to have our house DJs that have been loyal to Boogie Nights – some since Day 1 and others for many years. We have a well-oiled machine and a formula that keeps guests on the dancefloor. Every 10 minutes, there is a changing of genres, so that everyone gets a taste of what they enjoy and like.
You told me that you’re a metal guy – any chance of doing a metal-friendly venue at some point?
Metal and hard rock have always been a passion of mine. I started as a hard-rock DJ and still love it to this day. Hopefully, someday soon we can make that rock-and-roll dream come true.
The DJs: Boogie Nights’ Music Maestros
Boogie Nights DJs like Jimmie Palumbo and Gabor Kiss keep the joint jumping with select tunes from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Working on state-of-the-art gear and with a variety of themed characters, the jocks maintain the retro vibes three nights a week and keep the customers happy. Just after the club celebrated its 10th anniversary at The Tropicana, we caught up with the DJ duo.
What gear do you use in the DJ booth?
Jimmie Palumbo: A Rane MP 2015 rotary mixer, Technics SL-1200 turntables with Ortofon needles, Pioneer DJ CDJs also. I spin regular vinyl records, CDs and I also use Serato DJ software.
Gabor Kiss: Technics SL-1200 turntables with Serato/Video, Phase DJ, and a Pioneer DJ DJM-S9. We also have two Pioneer DJ CDJ-900 decks for back-up.
What are the top tunes at Boogie Nights?
Gabor: Also, I’d add The Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men,” which is an upbeat, high-energy dance tune that brings out everyone to the floor, while bubbles and snow fall feverishly from the ceiling.
How do you plan out your sets?
Palumbo: I program on the fly, while always being mindful of the crowd, the floor, and the room. Being able to mix this format comfortably allows me to go in and out of the ’70s and ’80s without losing the energy or having what seems like one genre falling off a cliff getting into the next one. That, in itself, is an indispensable tool in the booth.
Gabor: I don’t plan any set on any night. The crowd’s age ranges from 21 to 61, so you just have to pay attention to who’s dancing and who’s not. I tend to play classic disco and funk songs earlier in the night and then fun sing-alongs later in the night.
Are there any programming challenges?
Palumbo: When spinning at other venues that have, say, an open format – it might take a bit to feel out your crowd to see what they are going to respond to. But Boogie Nights is its own animal. Patrons know what to expect before they go in.
Gabor: The crowd loves our impersonators, and they specifically come out to see them. Musically speaking, all the genres go over very well at the club and anything they can sing to, or hustle to – yes, we have them – keeps the energy flowing all night from start to finish.
Why has the club has succeeded for so long?
Palumbo: Three things… one, Boogie Nights is a great concept! It’s fun, nostalgic and the club’s retro decor has the unique ability to transport our guests – both young and old – back to a time when disco was it. Two, the unwavering dedication, support, and professionalism from both the casino management, staff, and the Peña Productions crew. And three, extremely talented dancers, performers, and well-versed DJs of ’70s disco and ’80s dance music keep the crowd wanting more!
Gabor: The music, cast, decor, entertainers, videos, and one-of-a-kind experience is why the club has been around this long. Boogie Nights has a strict musical policy for each night that keeps it unique and entertaining. On Friday and Saturday, we only play records from 1970 to 1989 with a sharp cutoff before 1990. This is because on ’90s and 2000s Thursdays, they will have a totally different experience. I have been the resident DJ for Boogie Nights since 2008 and I make sure the experience is one-of-a-kind every weekend.
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