Bulletproof Business AdviceClub Owner Richie Akiva's Keys to Successful Partying
The wealthy, famous, and drop-dead gorgeous all go to 1Oak, Up&Down, and all the other clubs this guy owns. What's his secret? Read on to find out.
If you like to party and are attractive enough to fog a mirror, chances are you've been to 1 OAK or Up&Down, Richie Akiva's nightclubs, which are spread among New York, Vegas, Los Angeles, and Mexico. Or maybe you've been to one of his pop-up clubs in Miami, Cannes, or any other town where the DiCaprios and Rihannas of the world go to spill Moët and vibe out on banquettes. “What separates me from others in my business is that I know how to put the right people together,” Akiva says. “You can go to a club that has the same DJ, the same people, but it will feel different. I'm a conductor. I make the party happen.”
A well-designed space, the right music, copious amounts of top-shelf booze—all those things are important to Akiva's lucrative business. But the thing that really matters is his relationships, and if Akiva's iPhone address book were ever compromised, it'd probably put half the entertainment industry's A-list on blast. Because the most important part of being nightlife's great conductor is being its best relationship manager. And Akiva can handle having Kate Moss, J.Lo, Bieber, a handful of Hadids, a covey of Kardashians—and all the attendant egos—under one roof.
If you don't exactly have a Rolodex to rival Harvey Weinstein's, you might be wondering how all this applies to you. Well, when it comes to relationships, you gotta focus on the long play, not the quick leverage. To Akiva, that means not treating A-listers like cash cows. “I'm not just going after the money and the bottle service,” he says. “Some clubs will let 15 uncool guys buy a table next to Jay Z, and it'll fuck up the flow. I'd rather give that table away to some skater kids for no money.”
So is that the greatest nightlife commodity, being cool? “Sex appeal,” Akiva replies. “I don't want to be chauvinistic, but sex sells. Everyone goes out at night to either get laid, meet a girl or a guy, or find their future husband or wife.” And when you see Akiva in the wild, bouncing around downtown Manhattan or Art Basel Miami or wherever, he has a force field of long-legged models orbiting him. (Akiva after dark is basically a walking 1Oak pop-up.) And that’s when our interview gets interrupted by a phone call.
[iPhone rings.] “Hold on one second, it’s Naomi Campbell,” Akiva says in a professional voice. “Hey Ni,” he says, his voice now relaxed and familiar. “I’m doing this thing… When is your physical therapy over? Oh, ok. I’ll call you in an hour. Love you.” And then he finishes his thought as if the whole thing is normal. But for Richie Akiva, it is normal. In fact, creating a cool mix and making folks stand in line for it is the family business. “My father and uncle had clothing stores in the south Bronx in the 80’s,” Richie says. “They were famous for having lines down the block for the latest sneakers. I would be at the cash register, watching Biz Markie giving autographs and buying sneakers. It just did something to me.”
Merging worlds—putting the cool art kids next to the models next to Kanye—is normal to Akiva too, because, as he puts it, he grew up on “four sides of the fence.” He was a prep-school kid who did graffiti and hip-hop, with friends from some of the wealthiest families in NYC as well as some of the poorest. Akiva was once signed to Prince’s label as a rapper, and later created a cult T-shirt company that was written up in Vogue. In fact, back in ’88, at the age of 21, he was on the cover of New York magazine just for being a cool-ass kid who threw the best parties. So if you find yourself at 1Oak, trying to get Beyoncé on your snapchat or collecting enough liquid courage to actually speak to the 6’-2” bombshell next to you, know that you didn’t just get in by chance. You’re part of the design. Part of the magic.