There are those transcendental evenings, out in the ephemeral orbit, that while passing through space and time we are able to dive into. The concert, the meal, the club. Nights that we still reminisce about with our friends decades later, that shape our own personal lore. It’s hard not to feel the magic of the moment and the symbiotic synergy that forms the spirit of giving, which is the essence of hospitality. But how do these ethereal moments come to be? They may feel presented by the powers that be, but behind the curtain of hospitality is an incredible ecosystem that makes these memories possible. For over twenty years, one of the most important names in creating these memories night after night has been Pavan Pardasani. As Chief Marketing Officer of Tao Group Hospitality, Pardasani oversees a half-billion-dollar empire of 80-plus hospitality venues around the world. A native New Yorker, Pardasani started his career moonlighting as a concert promoter while studying at NYU. Hooked into the Downtown scene, Pardasani made a name for himself. In 2016, Pardasani joined up with Tao Group Hospitality as part of their expansion into Los Angeles, where he has made a mark on Hollywood’s freshly minted Vinyl District, eventually opening intimate hotspot, The Fleur Room, on Sunset. FLAUNT caught up with Pardasani from his home base in the City of Angels to discuss gracious hospitality, life as a teenage club promoter, and the rhythm of LA nightlife.
What drew you to the hospitality industry?
You know, it’s funny, I’ve been doing this since I was 19. I inadvertently got into the nightlife business when I was in college in New York. Look, at the time I was a young guy and living in the city was super expensive, and I was trying to find a way to socialize and meet people. I got approached by somebody who was like, ‘I’m throwing this party every week. And I think you know a lot of people.’You have to understand, in the late 90s, nightclub promoters existed, but not in the way that they’re perceived now. Back then, if you wanted to go to a night club in New York, you waited in line, everybody waited in line, and you probably paid an admission too. So at that point it was purely a numbers game. A promoter, back then, was your connection to having a better experience at a club, than you would have on your own. Club owners were in it purely for the money, not necessarily fame, or notoriety, although that’s what it became. So we [promoters] were the connection between the masses and those places. You were really providing a service to people.
How did that feeling resonate with you?
I’m Indian, and it’s very common to entertain people at your home, in our culture. It’s a sign of respect and friendship, to invite somebody to your home. My mom and dad immigrated to New York City in the early 70s, and they would have parties at their apartment all the time with their friends. My mom would cook, my dad would play music and make drinks. That was kind of the culture I grew up around...That was a lot of my experiences and memories as a kid–watching my parents who had mastered that dance of hosting. Where should people park their cars and put their coats, what will he eat, and she likes this, he doesn’t like that. I think that sort of hospitality was something that just came naturally to my parents and our culture. I think, by exhibiting that growing up, it just rubbed off on me whether I realized it or not.
Did you feel like it was a natural progression for you going from an independent club promoter to working with larger hospitality groups?
I double majored in marketing and international business at NYU, and I always joke, it’s ironic, that I’m the CMO of a Global Hospitality Group, because I don’t ever think that I connected the dots between what I was studying and my work as a promoter. In my mind, when I was studying at NYU, I was going to get a job in corporate America somewhere, rather than go on this entrepreneurial, zigzag route into now being at a big corporation. It was a natural progression to work with larger hospitality groups, though. Having had that organic experience in nightlife, I felt that there was an opportunity that was being underutilized and underrepresented about how brands could participate in what we were doing. Whether that was alcohol brands, which were omnipresent in our space, or other lifestyle brands, I felt like that was an area that I could tap into. I spoke that language well. I really felt like that was an area that we should be pushing in. So as I continued to mature in my career, I was able to tap into that formal education and experience while working with really incredible world-class brands.
Coming from New York, what was your perception of nightlife in Los Angeles?
It’s funny you should ask that, because honestly, I spent very little time in Los Angeles before moving here...You know, LA is so intrinsically different from New York though. LA is driven by the entertainment business, of course, and people gravitate towards venues or nightclubs, or nightlife that have a celebrity component to them. Whereas in New York, you have serious industries outside of entertainment, whether it be finance, real estate, fashion...but you have a confluence of people of different backgrounds. You’re colliding with all these different people of different cultures. The [nightclub] experience in LA for a long time felt like a smaller community of people going out. Having brought our nightlife concepts to town, it has been so interesting to see how we have been received and how there are certain things that the LA market responds to more than other markets. Even from a design perspective in New York, you might have seating arrangements where people are more clustered together [in a restaurant]. In LA, people really want their space. People want to get that wow factor in New York [nightclubs], bigger works, but in LA, people want places that are more intimate and private. In my role, I oversee marketing for the entire company, so I’m constantly finding these different preferences. And by the way, there are things that we’re doing in LA now that are really popular in New York as well. There’s a push and pull there. But in the beginning, I felt like LA behaved totally differently.
Speaking of the intimate spaces that characterize LA nightlife, I was wondering, can you tell me a little bit more about the Fleur Room and the new nightlife concepts Tao Group is developing?
As we get older, we tend to develop concepts that resonate with us. We all started as nightclub guys, and then we got into the restaurant business. And now we’re doing these smaller, bespoke venues to complement our larger business. Like I said, I think every market behaves differently and wants different things, and in LA, we found that privacy and intimacy are important. So we wanted to create a place where, as I always joke, adults can go and have drinks. It has the same sensibility from a design and service perspective as a nightclub might, but without any of the bells and whistles that tend to alienate a certain demographic, who want to be able to dance and hear songs they know, but not feel like they’re in a club environment. The music is at a level that’s still fun and vibey, but not overbearing so that you can have a conversation. We don’t let people dance on the furniture or create that type of environment that can be off-putting to two couples that are out for drinks after dinner. There are a lot of subtle things that we’ve been really thoughtful about [at the Fleur Room], that I’m really proud of.
What signifies Tao’s hospitality to you?
When it comes to nightlife, there have always been two prevalent ways to run a nightclub, in my opinion. The first is ‘You’re lucky I let you in here.’ And that begins from the moment you arrive. For a long time it was acceptable in America to run a nightclub like that. People sort of expected that to go to a really hot club, you were going to have a rough experience at the door. We, on the other hand, have always been of the attitude of, “Thank you so much for being here.” Sometimes that means “Thank you for coming down tonight. Listen, unfortunately, I can’t accommodate you, we’re fully booked. You don’t have a reservation, there’s nothing I can do. Please come back the next night. ”But there’s a way that we can have that conversation with you that doesn’t leave you feeling like, ‘I’m never coming back here.’ We view ourselves as ambassadors of gracious hospitality. There’s a stereotype about what you can expect, and instead of lowering our standard to what people perceive the industry to be, we’re going to treat everybody with respect and take really great care of people.
Photographed by Scott León
Written by Bennett DiDonna
Styled by Gorge Villalpondo
Groomer: Mirna Jose
Styling Assistant: Rebecca Dumitrescu
Location: The Fleur Room