Ruling the Night

The party’s just about to start at the 2013 Nightclub & Bar Show, March 19-21 at the Las Vegas Convention Center (ncbshow.com for more info). The major trade event for the on-premise promises an expanded educational program—up to 70 workshops—a larger Craft Brewers Pavilion, keynotes by Boston Beer founder Jim Koch and TGI Friday’s CEO Nick Shepherd, cutting-edge bar technology and accessories and the latest artisanal spirits innovations at the Emerging Brands Pavilion. And, if last year’s event is any indication—the likes of 50 Cent and Toby Keith dropped by—expect a few celebrity surprises as well. Jon Taffer, the president of Nightclub & Bar Media Group, which presents the annual show, is a celebrity in his own right, as the star and executive producer of the reality show “Bar Rescue,” whose 20-episode third season kicked off on Feb. 10 on Spike. Between shooting the series and prepping for next month’s trade show, Taffer found some time to chat with Beverage World about bars, adult beverages and A-list celebs.

Beverage World: What would you say is the biggest product trend at the show?
Jon Taffer: I think the big trend this year from a product standpoint is the flavored spirits. The flavors are remarkable, from the Malibu Reds to the [Bushmills} Black Bushto the new Captain Morgan Dark Spiced to some Bacardi flavors. Now we’re getting into some of the flavored whiskeys—the Red Stag—and these products are doing very very well out in the field. And these flavors create a culinary opportunity. Guests loves tasting them and that equates to a lot of sales.

BW: What do you think the principal appeal of flavored spirits is?
Taffer: When you hear {Smirnoff] ‘Iced Cake Vodka,’ or ‘Fluffed Marshmallow Vodka’ you’re just curious to taste it. And, son of a gun, they’re good! I think these brands create curiosity. They keep the brands vibrant.  

BW: What sort of presence will craft beer have?
Taffer: The Craft Brewers Pavilion is almost twice the size [versus last year]...Every craft brewer’s looking to grab a few more distributors or a few more states of distribution...Last year a bunch of them sent us notes, that they picked up a bunch of distributors at the show, which is great to hear.

BW: What have been some of the biggest elements that have evolved over the past few editions of the show?
Taffer: The celebrity and media elements of NCB have really changed over the past few years. Last year the Nightclub & Bar Show got almost 300 million media impressions. When I cut the [opening] ribbon with [country star] Toby Keith, that one photograph got almost 180 million media impressions. Nightclub & Bar for the spirits brands and the breweries has become as much of a media opportunity as it is a meet-the-operator opportunity.

BW: And speaking of celebrities, why are more and more of them getting involved with beverage brands?
Taffer: The early beginnings of that were with Sammy Hagar and Cabo Wabo [tequila]. About two and a half years ago Sammy sold that company for about $100 million. That’s a lot of money, even for a music or TV star. A lot of people stood up and looked at it. As an end result, Toby Keith has Wild Shot Mezcal, George Clooney now has his tequila, Justin Timberlake has his 901 Tequila, Adam Corolla has Mangria—it goes on and on...And then you look at Diddy with Ciroc. Diddy has probably a half-billion brand now. So as much money as they can make doing their entertainment, it’s hard for them to ignore the kind of dollars they can make easily with a beverage product.

BW: Kind of a nest egg for a point in life where they may not be as in-demand.
Taffer: $20 or $30 million—that’s a nice nest egg.

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