Behind the Deal: Former Vegas Nightlife Exec Brings a New Ethos to Ohio
Las Vegas is known for having one of the most electric and vibrant nightlife scenes in the world. Ohio, maybe
Las Vegas is known for having one of the most electric and vibrant nightlife scenes in the world. Ohio, maybe a little less so. But now, a Las Vegas hospitality veteran is bringing a bit of desert magic to the Midwest.
Josh Lang, who formerly worked for Las Vegas’ The Light Group and Clique Hospitality, operators of nightclubs and restaurants, is back in his hometown Cleveland, Ohio, heading up the nightlife division of Ethos Hospitality, a well-established food and beverage business with 18 venues spanning Columbus and Cleveland including the non-GMO restaurant Townhall and the craft beer-driven Barley House.
Taking the helm of this newly created nightlife division means debuting multiple new venues in early 2022 including Downtown Cleveland’s Lost Social Club, designed by Anis Nakhel and opening in time for NBA All-Star Weekend and Columbus’ Mandrake Rooftop, slated for April, both will bring the Las Vegas vibe to Ohio.
CELEB talks to Lang and Ethos CEO Bobby George about the dynamics and details behind opening the new social spaces
Mandrake and Lost Bring Cool Design Elements
While neither space is open yet, Lang gives a sneak peek of what to expect when the club and rooftop are unveiled.
He describes, “Upon entering the Lost Social Club, find an entryway that looks like a garden atrium with a 5-foot suspended bird cage. Before walking inside, grab a drink from Lost Lobby Bar. Next up, the Found Lounge is an intimate space with decor reminiscent of the “Gatsby” gilded age. The main room, formerly known as Spy Bar, has been completely remodeled with eight tables set up for European-style bottle service and flashy presentations to match the grandeur of Las Vegas. There are two private bathrooms and two public bathrooms, one of which has a unique design intended for the perfect selfie. A savory light bite menu features fun comfort food which the gourmet bar menu comes with elevated snacks. For entertainment, expect live performances and DJ sets all with a basement club vibe.”
Over in Columbus, Mandrake is a bar and ultra lounge with a 270–degree view of the city. It features an eclectic menu of Asian and Mediterranean-inspired small plates, specialty sushi, craft cocktails and bottle service. Mandrake, located in Short North, comes alive during happy hour, dinner and late night bottle service with an exclusive atmosphere.
Through these locations, Ethos will bring Buckeye love to the Vegas dream. Joining Lang and George is Eric E-V Vajda, as Ethos’s creative director. E-V has toured the world for years as a DJ, and is now responsible for the entertainment and programming direction, and aligning the design with brand direction. According to Lang, E-V is well connected and respected in his hometown of Cleveland.
Because Lang has the Vegas experience, and George has the know-how for the Ohio market, what they’re creating with these two new venues is a hospitality renaissance in a location that the Ethos team including longtime nightlife partners Corey May and Joe Oravec already dominate.
Changing the Game in Ohio
The Ethos Hospitality story starts with George and the early days of him breaking into the bar business as a student. “When I went to college, I was a finance and economics major. To be honest, I never thought I would be in the bar business [as a professional]. I worked at bars pretty much my whole young life,” George says. “And before I had a job in the private equity industry, I took the summer off, and I met a professional athlete by the name of Jeff Faine. He was the Cleveland Browns first round pick. And he kept pushing me. I was young, 21 or 22. [When] someone throws money at you, and says they want you to start a business with them, you’re dumb enough, naive enough to not know what you’re up against. I started a nightclub in Akron, Ohio, called Barley House. And it was a huge success. A year and a half later, I sold it. I thought I was rich because I thought I made a million dollars. But after paying taxes and brokerage commissions and trying to open three more places in a row, I almost went bankrupt.”
But George did not fail, he learned. And now, those rocky beginnings have spawned 18 restaurant bars across the country.
“Seems like we’re going on 1,000. But we’ve got four openings in the next 12 months,” George says.
“Now we consider ourselves an equity group. We own a couple million square feet and are invested in over probably 50 or 60 different entities. Our company operates with no debt, I learned my lesson,” he says.
George’s presence in Ohio has been growing—the restaurant, bar and nightlife has gone from a fledgling idea to a booming business. Now, Ethos is moving into the nightlife scene.
The Vegas Influence
Cleveland may seem like an unexpected place for a Las Vegas exec to land, but George has been trying to entice Lang to work with Ethos for almost a decade. They met in 2013 in Las Vegas through a friend, but took awhile to get together professionally. As a director of nightlife for Ethos, Lang will be behind the drive to create and develop new social concepts.
“The one thing that I learned when I got here was Bobby’s the guy,” Lang says. “Ethos, they own this marketplace and they do it at a very high level—the restaurants are absolutely some of the best I’ve ever been to in the world, they operate better than anyone I’ve ever seen. I wanted to take that same thought process and translate it to nightlife. It’s attention to detail, the ability to service the client and from a hospitality standpoint, bottle service and other nightlife nuances that don’t really exist in Cleveland. Those things are what we’re bringing to the table in these markets that don’t have it—not to that level.”
Because Lang has the Vegas experience, and George has the know-how for the Ohio market, what they’re creating with these two new venues is a hospitality renaissance in a location that the Ethos team already dominates. Locals won’t have to worry that the venues will be kitschy or too Vegas; George and Lang both translate the concepts into what they believe will work in Ohio.
“We’re appealing to a different market segment. For people who live in Cleveland, there’s a lot out there for the younger crowd. The demo is fresh out of college, they’re young, they’re out partying. There’s not really that spot where you can go as a 37-year-old—there are not a lot of places Downtown, where I would go out for drinks with my friends. That’s one of the things that we’re trying to change, especially in West 6 in the Warehouse District where Lost is located. It doesn’t exist at all on that street—right now it is a party for younger people. We wanted to create a place where the [the older Millennials] will go after a restaurant Downtown, and still continue their evening without going back to the suburbs.”
Together, they’ve crafted a plan. Work hard, invest in the business, incentivize the staff to stay by treating and paying them well and build a reputation that brings people back time and again.
“We are partnering with an A-List celebrity on a development project that will include a boutique hotel and wellness center,” Lang says. “We are partnering with a renowned chef on a restaurant and a nightclub concept. We are excited to bring such a prestigious project to Ohio.”