I met the charismatic and refreshingly down to earth West End entrepreneur Asher Grant at a dinner in South Kensington and was instantly inspired by his story.
As we feasted on various culinary creations, Asher regaled me with the incredible story of how he went from spraying perfume in Harrods as a teenager to finally co-owning one of London’s most exclusive nightclubs – The London REIGN Showclub.
This was a club said to be miles ahead of its stealthy West End competition, and after a champagne-fulled night at the venue I could see why.
Instagram-ready decor is found in every nook and cranny – from the regal gold throne upstairs, to the cheeky neon signage sprawled across the glitzy walls. Champagne is extravagantly brought out to tables in a sea of delightfully frivolous fanfare – retro cinema-style signs held high and camera-ready sparkers aplenty.
Then there’s the massive jellyfish tank…
As if this wasn’t enough enticing pomp, ruby red lasers beam from ceiling to floor in time to the beat of the epic DJ sets and bejewelled showgirls dance suggestively from hoops hung from above – My kind of club…
I decided to interview this nightlife maverick a few weeks later to learn more about his inspirational story – and about the glamorous club which has revolutionised the way Londoners party…
Tell me how it all began. How did you start working in the nightlife industry?
I was 18 and spraying perfume at Harrods. A friend of mine who was working in clubs said “You should try and be a promoter, you could get paid to bring girls to the club, you know some cool people.” I made more money on the first night than I did in a whole month spraying perfume. I thought there has to be something to this, so I quit my job and started there and then.
A lot of people go into nightclubs and see it as a way of having fun and meeting girls, but I saw it differently and saw it as an opportunity to become successful in the industry.
I started thinking of different ways to find girls to come to these clubs. I once paid a girl who worked in a dance school £20 to put my BBM pin in the toilets and all these girls would message me saying it’s their birthday and could I arrange a night out for them.
A few years later I realised that the real money was in the clients (the big spenders who would buy tables in the clubs). Every single night in London, people are spending 30, 40, 50 thousand pounds on a night out. So, the question is how do you find those people? When I was younger there was a guy who was my first employee and he was always saying that every night in London it’s someones birthday – someone just got promoted, someone got divorced. Someone always wants to party and you need to be the guy they call.
I remember there was a woman who ran American Express Centurion – a credit card for very wealthy people. I called her every day for 6 months and asked her to have dinner with me, yet her assistant kept fobbing me off. Eventually after 6 months she called me herself and said ” Ok, what is it that you want? No one has harassed me for this long.” I told her, I just want to take you for dinner and show you a night club and she agreed.
It turned out we grew up in the same area of Brighton and got on so well. She ended up giving me the contract for Centurion’s concierge service, so every time someone would call up asking for a nightclub they would come through to me. I started to get all these clients. I remember the first time I was sent one of them, he spent so much money that night, I cleared all my debts. So then I was like right, where are the other concierge services! I decided to personally deliver cupcakes to 5 star hotels in London with a picture of the club I was working with at the time. I was Lola’s Cupcakes’ best customer!
The hotel concierges would call me up and say “Hey cupcake boy! Someone wants to go to a nightclub.” I would always try and sort out a VIP experience whether they were a celebrity or not. I was a young guy at the time and felt so honoured to be a part of the industry.
Eventually these people would refer me to their friends as they would all mix in the same circles, and I also made friends with them. When you’re getting to know people in the nightlife scene it’s so easy to bond and connect. The most incredible part of being in this industry is you can meet CEOs of big companies, you can meet billionaires and become friends with them almost overnight. They invite you to their holiday homes, they invite you to everything, and there’s people working in their companies ten jobs under who’ve been trying to get a coffee with them for half a year.
What inspired you to make Reign the fabulously unique club it is today and how did you come to co-own it?
My little black book was getting bigger and bigger. I was flying to Vegas and LA with clients while I was working. I started to realise that we were behind the times in London when it came to the clubbing scene. We just had these dark rooms with people in them dancing, so if you took a photo there would be nothing differentiating that club from another one. I thought surely these clubs needed to be exciting from the minute you arrive to the moment you leave. If people are spending thousands of pounds on night out, they deserve to be rewarded. Some people who go to these clubs and get tables aren’t even rich – they go with group of friends and chip in a hundred or so each to celebrate a birthday. So how can you reward these people who come to your venue, especially when there are so many out there?
So, I asked a few of my clients if they would like to invest in a new nightclub I wanted to open with a different concept to the norm and they were all really interested. I was seen as a kid no one took seriously at all and was going around saying “hey I want to buy your nightclub!” and club owners wouldn’t take me seriously and would say “whatever!” Someone older and more of a player in the game would always come forward when I was making a deal and get the club before me.
Eventually I got lucky. I had my eye on Reign for a really long time but the owner wasn’t selling it easily. It was called Ra Ra room then and wasn’t a high end venue back then. There was a stabbing outside on NYE, which revokes a lot of things from your licence. So I called the owner and said “hey, do you want to sell your nightclub now, but I have a million less than I had before” and he said “yes I’ve had a change of heart. let’s do it!”
What was your initial experience like when you first opened the club. How did you adjust to your new life?
If I’m completely honest there was this fire in me. There was an ignorance and naivety to how difficult it would be. I was thinking I would work hard and make it happen and not sleep. But the reality of not sleeping is not good. For the first year and a half I didn’t sleep, You have to repay the millions of pounds it takes to open a nightclub back You inevitably go over budget. You have to spend £200,000 on alcohol just to stock the place. If we had one bad night I couldn’t sleep for a week. Now, we’ve come such a long way and are doing so well and I’m proud of that. I couldn’t have done it without the good team of people around me. I really feel that the success of the business has also been massively accelerated by my partners.
Tell me a little bit about each of them
Scott Chester – Literally runs the entire company for me. No one is scared of me because he’s the real “boss”!
Michael Chellew – One of the veterans of the industry. Been part of some of the most iconic venues over the past 20 years.
Francesco Russo – Was cleaning tables in night clubs 5 years ago and now he has one of the biggest black books in the industry. A hard work success story.
Garry Caprani – The youngest of the group but he somehow knows every girl in London and they follow him like the piped piper.
Ryan Bish – The owner of multiple other venues and the godfather of the industry.
Stuart Finch – My business partner in everything including EggRun – a new venture coming soon so watch this space…
What was your opening night like?
It was September 14th 2017. It was completely incredible, but if I look back now it was a complete disaster. There were way too many people outside who we couldn’t let in. the traffic was gridlock outside. We also hadn’t finished the upstairs as we were in a hurry to open. It was interesting because in the first few weeks everyone in London comes to see what you’re all about and later you realise you need to maintain the buzz and try and fill the club every night.
What is the secret to a successful club? Especially in London when clubs don’t survive that long and fast become yesterday’s news.
The two things that will always stand out is somewhere that’s concept driven, so for us we do shows. Bottle shows and shows on the stage that are immersive. The number one thing is innovating. How can you keep your business fresh and original? How do you change the decor, how do you put photo opps in? Our clients come again and again every week, some from abroad, some who come three times a week. You have to always do things that surprise people so every time they walk in they feel like something is new and different. This is a social media age where people want to take photos in exciting locations and upload them to social media.
Since we have opened, four clubs have opened and closed. People think it’s easy to open a club and survive for 3 years. But to keep it going and keep it fresh for 5 years or more, that’s a completely different story.
I love the unique, Instagramable decor in your club. Tell me the story behind the massive jellyfish tank.
I was inspired by a nightclub in Shanghai that had a massive shark tank. It wasn’t feasible to have a shark tank in the club, but jellyfish, because they are translucent are so beautiful. When we were doing the planning we were definitely well over budget so I called one of my partners and said, “We have to quickly pay for the jellyfish tank. It’s to be custom made and shipped in from Hong Kong.” He said “Why?,” I said “Because tomorrow they are going to cut all this stuff because we are way over budget, so we have to pay for this now!” He was like “ok fine, I will pay for it”. The next day I kid you not, the other partners said ” well obviously the jellyfish tank is the first thing that has to go. and I was like but I already paid for it otherwise I would completely agree, it should be the first to go!”
And that, dear Asher is why you are officially my Party Guru with a capital G…
Featured image: Asha Wall