Day + Night: St. Louis’ Ray Davila and Chris Cosenza Make it Happen
From booking and promotions to bringing in the hottest DJs and celebs, these two St. Louis gentlemen are the men making it all happen behind the velvet rope at HOME Nightclub. But behind the star-powered events and VIP treatment, it’s a business that takes much work and talent well before the lights dim and the music begins.
Late in 2005, the Ameristar folks targeted the St. Louis metro area as a place that could support some Vegas-style entertainment. Ameristar knows hotels and gaming, but operating a nightclub was out of their scope. To help, they brought in Angel Music Group, a nightclub specialist, to bring the project to life, along with Chris Cosenza, Director of Entertainment for Ameristar. Cosenza helped develop and plan the club, then, along with AMG, tapped Ray Davila to be Director of Nightclub Operations and run the day-to day.
Ray Davila and Chris Cosenza made their bones in Las Vegas nightlife. Davila started as an independent promoter, putting up flyers and throwing parties, and eventually worked with the big boys, like the Paris Hotel and the MGM Grand. Cosenza followed the dot-com boom to the desert, and when the bubble burst, he abandoned the tech sector and threw in with Ameristar.
In December of 2007, the $15 million HOME Nightclub opened its doors with a lavish five-day party that saw the likes of Kim Kardashian, the late DJ AM, Tiesto and a bevy of other local and national celebs come through the doors.
Although it sounds like it’s all Maxim girls and velvet ropes, in truth, making HOME happen day-to-day is a whole lot of work. While everyone else gets to hang out in the luxury booths, Cosenza and Davila are behind the scenes making it happen. As Cosenza says, “With this type of operation, you’re not just managing a bar, you’re managing a business. And that also takes having a great promotional team and staff. We have the best.”
Davila is the go-to guy onsite, and Cosenza, who’s based in Vegas, flies in monthly. Together, they come up with 90-to-100 unique promotions and events every year; they’re constantly looking for what’s hot, and more importantly, what’s about to be hot.
“In Vegas, you have a different set of people coming off the plane every Thursday, and 5,000 rooms over your head,” Cosenza says. “You have built-in traffic. We have to come up with concepts to get people here.” Plus, one has to take into account gaming restrictions and how to best represent the Ameristar brand. It means a lot of planning and strategizing and educated guessing.
“A lot of people don’t understand the amount of work that goes into making a nightclub successful,” Savila says. “It’s 9am-5pm during the week, then 9pm to 5am on the weekends.” But when it pays off, it pays off big. Take, for example, last May, when they booked an emerging Cuban hip-hop artist named Pitbull. He had some buzz when they signed him, but by the time he performed in September, he’d blown up.
“He was white-hot by the time he got to us,” says Davila. The same goes for DJ Pauly, DJ from MTV’s “Jersey Shore.” Cosenza and Davila booked him before the show got legs, then when Pauly D hit HOME, 2,000 people came through the door. But, sometimes they’ll book an act that, by all accounts is on fire, but it ends up being the wrong time and they will only get a so-so turnout.
“Really being abe to truly understand the St. Louis market has been the biggest challenge,” Davila says. “Just when you think you’ve got it, you realize that you don’t.”
“It’s 10 percent booze and 90 percent intangibles,” Consenza says, and boom or bust, no matter what happens on Friday or Saturday, you pick up on Monday and move forward.
After two years, HOME isn’t the new kid on the block anymore. The initial crowds that turned out just to check out the new player can’t be relied on to come out now just for curiosity’s sake. “Our goal now is to keep churning out cool programming and keep the city coming back,” Cosenza says. It’s a gamble, sure, but with upcoming events like the Crystal Method, Jersey Shore’s Mike “The Situation,” and the return of the St. Louis Prom, chances are, Lady Luck will be smiling.
Day + Night
Chris Cosenza and Ray Davila of HOME nightclub.
Photo credit: Photography by Tuan Lee