Carlos Grijalva helped invent a Vegas business where there wasn’t one.
By Joey Rappa | Photos by Manny Espinoza
We have all been placed in our own high-pressure situations, the kind that makes your throat dry and palms sweat. Whether it be a last minute PowerPoint presentation or the big speech at your best friend’s wedding, nerves can get frazzled. But there is one unenviable task which may top them: having to plan a blowout party weekend in the Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world.
There are so many choices when deciding on the right hotel, restaurant, pool party, nightclub etc. The experience can be daunting, especially with your friends’ happiness dependent on your planning skills. Have no fear — enter Carlos Grijalva. His premium hosting company, All-Access VIP, is a one-stop shop that started organically because alleviating party throwing pressures for clients proved to be a highly valued commodity.
So much so he’s been providing those services for 17 years running.
Upon moving to Las Vegas in the late ’90s from Fresno, Grijalva found a city in transition. A new, family friendly Vegas had emerged. The city’s focus was changing from the Sin City gambling mecca to a resort destination where the kids and grandma were welcomed with open arms.
That didn’t last long.
By the end of the decade, Las Vegas was headed back to being an outlaw town, where adult nightlife and the birth of the Vegas club scene was beginning to emerge. For Grijalva, it became his opportunity. While serving as a bodyguard for celebrities, such as Sylvester Stallone and NSYNC, Grijalva began to forge relationships with the movers and shakers of Vegas nightlife. He began gaining access to exclusive parties, high-end restaurants and the most elite clubs. Most of these hotspots can be very exclusionary to those who don’t have an “in” or a bankroll (and grace) to grease the right palms. But Grijalva would consistently bring in the awareness clientele and in turn, his presence was always welcome and appreciated.
“When I first moved to Vegas, it seemed every weekend I was entertaining guests,” he says. “Friends. Family. Friends of friends. It was always ‘You going to Vegas? You gotta call Carlos — he will hook you up.’”
“And not only did I begin to enjoy it, but I realized that I was good at it.”
As many entrepreneurs will tell you, that game-changing idea is often right in front of you. Grijalva distinctly remembers the weekend that changed his path in life. An acquaintance called and had heard about his ability to obtain access all over the strip.
Grijalva wasn’t particularly in the mood that weekend and declined. Then he was offered $500 for his time and the light bulb went on. Through word of mouth from satisfied acquaintances, the requests just kept on coming. He decided then he could expand his business and run it legally…and bigger. So he headed to the City of Clark County business licensing office.
“They just stared at me. They had no idea what kind of license to issue me. I wasn’t exactly a broker, but I was kind of brokering. Then they suggested travel agent, but I wasn’t really sending people anywhere.We certainly were the very first business of its kind here.”
The timing turned out to be just right as the Vegas nightclub scene started to blow up in a way they had not previously. The clubs and pool scenes just got bigger and bigger, and started to become an even more major part of the Las Vegas economy. Mega resorts such as the Wynn and Encore began to shift focus away from chasing the gambling dollar and into their nightlife choices. Millions were spent on new venues up and down the strip. Bottle service, VIP rooms, and pool cabana’s became priorities to the party-going crowds. And Grijalva had his business in place and was ready for the demand. After three whirlwind years of navigating clients through Vegas, he decided to open an All-Access VIP in Miami. The full service company is now 17 years old and both city businesses are flourishing.
All-Access has full time executive hosts that handle all plans from the minute clients step off plane to the minute they leave town. Some clients, many international, can drop up to $300,000 for a weekend trip. In fact, he says about a third of his business is now generated from the International market. This type of client is certainly welcomed and will be catered to but Grijalva stresses it’s not only the high-net worth individuals or high rollers who deserve to be treated with importance.
“Most people just don’t have the right access,” he says. “We do. And no one likes waiting in these long nightclub lines. It’s frustrating and can ruin a night. Our staff escorts you and your party in personally. It makes a difference.”
Grijalva says the bachelor and bachelorette parties tend to be the craziest groups and, in turn, can present quite a challenge to the staff. Understandably, a certain skill is required by staff when dealing with a large, often liquor-fueled group. And while most client requests are met, he says others simply cannot be. Why? “They’re highly illegal!” he says with a laugh. Navigating Vegas the nightlife scene as a full-time host is certainly not for everyone. The long hours and general lifestyle can be grueling. Their late nights inevitably turn into late mornings before their clients decide to call it quits. Being a single guy with no attachments can certainly have its advantages. For Grijalva, his longtime single status ended recently when an attractive client named Jenny approached All-Access VIP for help with a special birthday party she needed to plan for a friend. He met with her and immediately decided to handle this party personally. The birthday party held at Caesars Palace went off without a hitch. And now Grijalva and Jenny are engaged to be married early next year.
The All-access VIP tag line promises the “Ultimate VIP Experience,” and if you take a look at the numerous testimonials from their website, it seems that Carlos Grijalva and his executive staff certainly seem to have made a lot of people very happy on both coasts. >
More at allaccessvip.com.