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THE MOVABLE BUFFET

Scott Frost moves toward the threshold at Hussong's

A lesser-priced night-life option will soon open on the Strip. Scott Frost let nothing get in its way.

January 03, 2010|By Richard Abowitz

As a co-founder of VegasHotSpots.com in 2001, Scott Frost watched and participated in the Vegas nightclub boom. His site pioneered sales of online hosting, selling everything from limo service to front-of-the-line treatment at the Strip's hot nightclubs. "We called it a destination planner," says Frost, 43. "I backed into it. I am a technology person by trade."

At the time, there were just a handful of nightclubs on the Strip and the site had few competitors online. But Frost's timing was impeccable and his business rode the wave as hot clubs opened, including clients such as Pure at Caesars Palace and Tao at the Venetian. As Frost and his partners in the new venture Titan Nightlife planned, high-end nightclubs kept opening. There was LAX at Luxor. Wynn had Tryst, and Encore opened with XS. Even Planet Hollywood added Privé.

But by 2007, Frost had the revelation that somehow eluded the rest of Las Vegas: "We very quickly realized the market was becoming over-saturated. . . . But we did some homework and realized that regular people were being left behind. And we decided to create a space where we don't have to hire Britney Spears for New Year's or roll out a high-powered DJ to host every night."

Frost's new motto became: "We would rather own Margaritaville than Pure." He and two partners in the firm Titan shifted gears, emulating Jimmy Buffet's place at the Flamingo, which may not serve the chic celebrities but is usually crowded and, unlike nightclubs, is open seven days and nights a week.

Frost felt the time was right for a more modest enterprise on the Strip that catered to less trendy customers; this would not only be good business in Vegas but the city would present unique opportunities for franchising. So Titan made a deal for the worldwide rights to Ensenada, Mexico's, renowned Hussong's Cantina, which claims roots dating to the 19th century and is famous for its margaritas. "The first Hussong's in America opens this month at Mandalay Bay's Mandalay Place.

For Frost, the opening will be doubly special.

He talks about Hussong's in the new language of Vegas: not of extravagance but of affordability. "We want to make sure the price is moderate, the drinks are strong and the food is good. This is a dress-down version of Vegas. You don't need a cover charge and a bottle that costs $600. Here you can belly up to the bar for a stiff drink and try to strike up a conversation with the girl next to you. We can keep the prices low because we did not spend a fortune to build the place."

In the spirit of things, there will be a "Slammer Cart" (tequila and a bit of Sprite) stationed near the door offering shots for $5, and you can keep the glass for an extra $2. Frost plans on giving customers a free taco after midnight on their way out. Of the free taco, Frost says: "It is hangover prevention."

But the most impressive, behind-the-scenes facet of Frost's reinvention of his nightclub company is simply his ability to complete the Hussong's project.

Uncertain recovery

On May 10, in the middle of negotiations for the lease, Frost barely survived an off-road motorcycle accident in Madeira Canyon.

Frost had suffered a serious spinal injury that left him a quadriplegic; lying there on the ground he knew from the first he was paralyzed. He also knew he was suffocating and had the friend with him call his two teenage children so he could say his goodbyes. He then passed out. That was when help finally arrived by helicopter.

Frost spent nine days in the ICU, undergoing a surgery that fused his damaged vertebrae. His recovery prospects were uncertain at best.

But Frost not only intended to recover, he did his best to not let the accident slow down plans for Hussong's. While still in the ICU, he had his partners called to make sure lease negotiations continued. Soon he was involved from his hospital bed. The first time he stood up, still in the hospital, was July 14. Also at the hospital the architects visited him to go over designs for Hussong's. In September, when he was interviewing chefs, he was barely able to lift his arms.

These days Frost not only uses a computer but, including while sitting in his wheelchair in front of the build-out space for his club, he can lift his arms with ease to punctuate his expressions. His progress is followed by hundreds of friends and family via a Facebook group and website with video clips and photos of each improvement.

Frost has also had to learn to manage employees differently than he has in his previous projects. "When you are in this position you have to be really good about communicating expectations, because you yourself can't do it. When you are an entrepreneur it is very tempting to jump in there and do it yourself. And I physically can't do that." That said, Frost has stuck rigidly to the schedule for the opening and does not think that his injury will have even set the project back a single day.

To align his recovery with the grand opening of Hussong's on Jan. 21, Frost has for months been working toward meeting a self-imposed challenge: "My goal has been to stand up out of my wheelchair at the opening and walk across the threshold and sit down on a stool without any device." And when he gets there? "I will sample the margarita, that's for sure."

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