When Francois Safieddine moved to Denver from his native Lebanon in 1989, his first job was manning the fryer at a local KFC franchise. Now, he’s the founder of Lotus Concepts, a budding club empire that includes four hot spots (and counting). He talks to 5280 about Denver’s nightlife scene, Lady Gaga, and dressing down.
How does Denver’s nightlife stack up to that of other U.S. cities?
A couple of years ago, Las Vegas was the most-visited city by Denver residents, which means they’re sophisticated when it comes to nightlife. Plus, people here are very attractive. It’s definitely one of the top 10 nightclub cities in the United States.
Do you hang out with the celebs, like LeBron James and Lady Gaga, who visit your clubs?
I’m not into that stuff. I rarely drink. I’m more of a behind-the-scenes guy. I’m not a big partier. If I were, I wouldn’t be as successful. I look at this as a business, not a playground.
Go-go dance-offs and bikini contests are the norm at Lotus’ venues. What’s the craziest scene you’ve ever witnessed?
That’s easy: Halloween. Every year, I’m shocked at how people are so uninhibited. They have very wild costumes. One year, a couple showed up only wearing body paint. We made them put some clothing back on.
You’re a poker champ, with nearly $2 million in lifetime winnings. How does card playing relate to your business philosophy?
I’m not a huge risk-taker. I calculate my moves and make sure I have the odds on my side. I do that with my venues, too. I make sure I have the right location, staff, concept, and timing. Poker and business are both about making good decisions.
We’re working on two projects for 2012. One, by the Denver Tech Center, is similar to Chlóe. The other is my biggest yet: an 18,000-square-foot tavern, garden, and rooftop across from Coors Field. The crowd will be a little sportier than the one we cater to right now, but I think our current clientele will fit in. Even they like to dress down and go to baseball games.