Day in the life: 360° general manager thrives in Dubai’s entertainment scene

As the general manager of the nightlife venue 360°, Samuel Graham works up to 14 hours a day, clocking off at 3.30am.
Samuel Graham, the general manager of 360° bar at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, has a long career in the F&B industry and managing nightclub venues. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Samuel Graham, the general manager of 360° bar at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, has a long career in the F&B industry and managing nightclub venues. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Samuel Graham is the general manager of 360°, the nightlife venue with a rooftop bar at Jumeirah Beach Hotel located at the end of the long curved pier, opposite Burj Al Arab. The venue has been part of the Dubai entertainment scene for over 10 years and has recently undergone an overhaul, changing both music policy and management as well as a large section of staff. The Briton, 40, has a long career in the F&B industry and managing nightclub venues with previous roles at Pacha London and Planet Hollywood.


I wake up around 10:30am to 11am in the morning and have a large black coffee before I do anything else. I eat a bowl of cereal, whatever’s in the cupboard, I’m not fussy, and watch Fox News. After that I check my BlackBerry. On an average day there will be between 50-60 emails waiting for me, discussing all the changes going on with the venue. When taking on a project like reviving 360° there are so many opinions. Investors tell you one thing, old regulars tell you another, security tells you something else. We currently have approximately 10-12 projects on the go, so emails are wide and varied.


I get dressed and leave the house. I generally opt for a smart casual look. I made the mistake of wearing a suit on my first day which I quickly realised wasn’t necessary. Now I wear trousers, T-shirt and a waistcoat. I try to fit in the gym beforehand but most days I’m too busy to make it.


At work, I start dealing with the operational details required for each day. This is my fourth “repair” job I’ve done on a venue. When I started at Pacha in London it had just been raided by police and temporarily shut down and I have a good reputation of rebuilding relationships between owners, managers and authorities. Once you move into a venue you have to start afresh and move forward. The previous management at 360° were very good at dealing with the corporate side of things but they weren’t experienced club managers and you need both to make a venue work well. This is the most I’ve ever achieved inside a 10-month period. We’ve changed the entire music policy, ended a 10-year residency with Audio Tonic, opened the Nine Zero concept downstairs and the 180 brunch on a Thursday. We’ve also changed staff where I felt it was necessary.


We open and for the next few hours I’m up on the floor with the team. I came into a venue where people were complaining heavily about service and this was a big area to change for me, as it has such a significant effect on people’s experience.


This is a very busy period for us, the early lounge crowd are now in full swing and are starting to enjoy the evening. I’m still on the floor, making sure everything is going smoothly and handling any issues that might arise.


For the next couple of hours the venue can be a little bit quieter as the lounge crowd go home or move on and the later party people haven’t come out yet. I use this time to take a break downstairs, have something to eat and deal with paperwork and more emails. I always try to make sure I’m back on the floor between 10 and 11pm.


Things often get really busy and sometimes a little bit crazy around now. I’ll be assessing the music, making sure it’s working for the crowd. It was my dream when I was younger to be a DJ, so music is my passion and although I never made it as a DJ, I feel I’m still indulging my love of music by working in this industry.


The roof shuts and people move downstairs. We want people to get excited and go crazy, but in a safe and secure way. There’s a phrase in club management: “you’re only 10 seconds away from disaster”, so we have to be on our toes the entire time.


Downstairs closes and I supervise clearing everyone out in a calm, orderly fashion. It’s important we escort customers out in a friendly but firm manner. Excitable people can need careful handling, so I make sure security are covering the situation correctly.


I head home to my apartment in JLT, usually picking up my wife on the way. She also works as the general manager of a nightclub, so we understand the particular stresses and lifestyle that come with working in this business. I often listen to some classical music on Dubai Eye on the journey home. It’s a soothing contrast to the madness of the club I’ve just spent several hours in.


I fall asleep watching TV, usually more Fox News or an old action movie from the ‘90s.

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Published: September 3, 2016 04:00 AM


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