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Lessons from Behind the Red Velvet Rope

Writers search for stories in the darkest, most unlikely places. Here’s my Dr. Livingston moment from Monday night: I saw that a party girl linked in print to Lindsay Lohan almost as much as Wilmer Valderrama actually had some lessons to offer about business. The femme in question was Amy Sacco, a club owner/restaurateur who caters to the Clooney set, fielded questions at the behest of Glasshouse, a sort of social club for entrepreneurs.

Writers search for stories in the darkest, most unlikely places. Here’s my Dr. Livingston moment from Monday night: I saw that a party girl linked in print to Lindsay Lohan almost as much as Wilmer Valderrama actually had some lessons to offer about business. The femme in question was Amy Sacco, a club owner/restaurateur who caters to the Clooney set, fielded questions at the behest of Glasshouse, a sort of social club for entrepreneurs.

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Sacco was the night’s speaker, sharing tales from the trenches of the night club business. Here’s a lesson on how knowing your market is only half the battle: Sacco’s challenge from the beginning was to get celebs in the door — unlike baseball-playing ghosts, building it isn’t always enough. To get them there, she mailed out “quasi-membership” cards (a promotion, not a necessity) to A-lister homebodies who she knew wouldn’t come out often. The hope, she said, was to get them to make those rare appearances at her venue. “The backfire was everyone thought it was the only way to get in,” resulting in a less than stellar opening. Clarity, it appears, is valuable. Another way that point was illustrated was with her recently sold club, Lot 61. It was meant to be a restaurant, but she launched the intended tapas spot with only a quarter of the menu, planning to add dozens of dishes later. Too late — the Lot 61 brand already strayed from its intended “eatery” label because of such a small menu on opening night. “That’s how it became a nightclub,” she lamented.

She was also candid about the blessings and perils of attracting investors as a woman, noting that it “never hurt me to be six-foot tall and blonde,” as well as, “It’s a vanity investment” for people looking buy entrance to a trendy club or score with the beautiful and rich. Of course the Q&A steered predictably towards the later. Sacco was quick to paint her celebrity patrons as a group of entrepreneurs — a distinction that didn’t evade some of the audience — as if Richard Branson and Paris Hilton had more in common than primetime.