Deals on the dancefloor

2011-05-13 13:35

Forget about the boardroom, the working lunch is dying and the golf course is so old school. The best place to see and be seen, network and cut deals is the high-end nightclub.

There was a time when wearing a suit and tie to a club meant that you were either a chaperoning parent or too stuffy to lower your standards to casual clothing. Neither are flattering assumptions.

But now it’s common to see men in full suits and women dressed to the nines, ­congregating at a reserved VIP table talking shop.

“There’s no other place that is more relaxed and conducive to finalising business deals or networking than a nightclub,” says Stephane Cohen, part owner of popular Joburg nightclubs Hush, Icon and Latinova.

Cohen should know, he has been in the clubbing business for more than 15 years.

He himself conducts most of his business ­meetings at clubs.

For those who are always on the lookout for a new business deal or a new way to make more money, clubs are breeding grounds for new connections in a less serious environment.

Those club owners who have embraced the networking trend at their venues have made provisions for those who want to conduct their business away from the prying eyes of the public by way of secluded VVIP rooms.

Kenny Kunene, the co-owner of ZAR in Joburg and Cape Town, says: “Although I’ve found that most people use clubs as a way to introduce themselves to each other and exchange contacts, there is a section that is not part of the dancefloor where people can talk in private.”

He believes that a club can successfully help its business clients by making the ­environment as relaxing and comfortable as possible.

“People want to feel like they’re at home. The decor, the food and drink they’re served need to be what they would want to have at home. The location is also very important because people don’t want to feel like their cars might get stolen,” says Kunene, taking a slight dig at clubs situated in industrial areas.

Kunene says that 50% of the corporate events that take place at his clubs are from people who also party at the clubs.

“People no longer go to nightclubs just to dance. They also go to make lasting business connections,” says Kunene.

Events promoter Tebello Motsoane says the main attraction of clubs as a place of business networking is the comfort people feel being among equally successful people.

Motsoane says: “We all want to go to a club where we can enjoy a certain lifestyle as VIPs, drink champagne, listen to the best DJs and be surrounded by beautiful people.

“Clubs that provide these needs are the ones that attract the rich clients because ­everyone just looks like they’re successful at what they do,” he adds.

Visit any posh club and you’re bound to see two or more familiar faces that are either celebrities, politicians or businesspeople.

People like mining magnate Patrice ­Motsepe and his wife Precious, Paul Mashatile, Zizi Kodwa, Julius Malema, and celebrities and socialites are regulars at ZAR; while local ramp models and Nigerian businesspeople can be found hobnobbing at Hush.

As you enter ZAR, there’s a wall of ­cubicles each home to a luxury alcohol brand and each has a famous name under it. For example you’ll find Dudu Zuma’s name under The Chivas because that’s what she drinks.

Kunene explains that these cubicles are rented for a year at R20 000.

The clients keep their unfinished bottles of drinks for the next time they come back to the club.

Cohen adds: “We’re in an extremely competitive hospitality business. People want to feel special, treated special and that’s what we do. If you don’t go the extra mile for your clients, they will leave for the next spot that caters for their needs.”

Most local high-end clubs’ interiors are planned to make them look extravagant and luxurious in order to attract the monied crowd, who are more likely to buy a R25 000 bottle of whisky than a beer.

In fact, it has even come to a point where they all look like they’ve been designed by the same interior ­decorator.

Club owners believe that if you ­invest in the way your club looks, you have a higher chance of success.

Kunene says: “We have researched the decor from some of the most ­notable clubs across the world in order to come up with an interior that will make our wealthy clients feel ­comfortable. When they walk in, they will know that their money is well spent.”

He adds that people have turned away at the door because they realise they’re not comfortable in that set up.

“We don’t turn them away. The ones that are comfortable staying, even if they buy beer, are those who aspire to be successful businessmen and be rich like everyone else at ZAR,” says Kunene.

It is not only the clubs in the ­affluent suburbs that have gone for the “moneyed” decor to attract big spenders.

There are ­various ­township-based clubs that have made efforts to keep up with the trends.

These include So Chila, Changing Room and Ozone in Soweto; Jack Budda, PYY Lounge and The Village in Mamelodi; Taliban in Ga-Rankuwa; Busy Corner, Caprivi and Joe’s Lounge on Joburg’s East Rand; and Club Neh! in Alexandra.

Chris Coutroulis, the owner of ­popular nightclub Taboo, which has been catering to the ­well-heeled in Sandton for eight years, says: “You can now put the standard of ­clubbing in South Africa on par with any in the world.”

His is the place to go if your ­connections run along the lines of models, judges, celebrities, actors, media personalities and other well-known businesspeople.

So, if you’re in the mood to go ­clubbing, keep in mind that your next big business deal might just be doing the samba close to you.

After all, there’s no better excuse to go ­partying than to say you’re are ­going out to network, is there?

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