It’s got all the elements you’d expect from one of Atlantic City’s hottest nightclubs: the loud and pulsating rhythms of popular songs, a swirling light show and, perhaps the most essential ingredient, a frenetic and sweaty energy that never quits.
But long about the time the hip and trendy clubs in town are just getting cranked up for the evening — say around midnight — the crowd at Resorts Atlantic City has already been partying hearty for several hours.
Welcome to Boogie Nights, the über-successful retro dance club that, almost ironically, is packing them in every weekend with the same music that was heard in the casino’s former disco when Atlantic City’s first gaming hall opened more than three decades ago.
“We’ve definitely filled a void in the market in a big way,” says Boogie Nights creator Dave Pena, a nightclub operator who pitched the idea to Resorts more than two years ago.
“Boogie Nights was the missing piece of the puzzle in Atlantic City nightlife,” he adds. “We throw one hell of a party.”
Pena, who came to Atlantic City five years ago to open the Planet Rose karaoke lounge at the Tropicana, says sensory bombardment is one of the keys to the success of the club, which occupies the space that once contained Camelot, Resorts’ original steakhouse.
In addition to the lights, non-stop music and tiny bubbles cascading from a two-story ceiling onto the lighted platform dance floor, the room has costumed characters making the rounds, like Michael Jackson and Madonna look-alikes.
The staff is dressed in period costumes — polyester leisure suits, platform shoes, big hair, bartenders sporting Afro wigs and a young woman in hot pants zipping around on skates who calls herself Roller Girl (but whose family, friends and 1996 Mainland Regional High School classmates know as Helene Vaspoli). While the music is playing and people are dancing shoulder-to-shoulder, video walls are displaying TV shows and commercials from the era.
“We’re active, we’re animated, we’re in your face, we engage our guests,” Pena, 38, explains. “We bring the party to you.”
There’s no denying the club is geared toward an older crowd; the 20-somethings who came to Resorts in 1978 are now pushing 60. Yet Boogie Nights also attracts people in their 20s and early 30s who want a taste of the retro nightclub experience.
“One of the things I love about Boogie Nights is that you can walk in there and see a 25-year-old dancing next to a 55-year-old, and you don’t see that in the younger clubs,” says Kathleen McSweeney, Resorts’ senior vice president of marketing. “That’s because of the music. There’s no better dance music than from that era.”
The Boogie Nights theme carries out of the club and has spread to the casino floor, McSweeney says. Last year, the casino introduced a small number of Boogie Nights-themed retro slot machines that actually accepted coins, something Atlantic City hasn’t seen in years.
Resorts will soon be offering $2 and $5 “retro blackjack” games, she explains. Two-dollar tables disappeared from the casinos years ago, and $5 tables are nearly extinct as well.
Even the music that’s programmed in Boogie Nights, where Thursday’s (Jan. 21) Atlantic City Weekly “Nightlife Awards” will be handed out, is pumped into the casino. The retro theme even extends beyond the walls of the building itself. One area party store sells the wigs and costumes some people wear to the club to round out their throwback experience.
“It’s become a very definite niche for the property,” McSweeney says.
Not bad for a concept that was launched Thanksgiving weekend 2007 strictly as an experiment. The casino tried the retro club out as a special event limited to holiday weekends. But within several months, the club was operating every Saturday night and then expanded to include Fridays.
In addition to its regular guests — many of them locals — the club has also become a popular place for bachelorette and birthday parties and high school reunions for graduating classes from the era. The club also offers other celebration packages
“It’s been an amazing addition to our property,” McSweeney says. “There’s just an unbelievable energy in the room.” See more at resortsac.com.
The performers in Cirque Risqué will be dressed — actually, undressed — in just enough clothing to conform with New Jersey gaming laws that prohibit nudity in casinos. That means pasties, G-strings, peek-a-boo lingerie and body paint for the women and glorified jock straps for the men.
Resorts’ classic Italian restaurant, Capriccio, has just introduced a new tapas menu. The term comes from Spain and refers to small plates served as appetizers, usually paired with wines and other spirits.