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Keepers of the Night

With keen eyes for detail, these longtime friends have mastered the art of creating top-notch nightclubs and restaurants.

Vital Stats: Michael Morton and Scott DeGraff, both 41, of N9NE Groupin Las Vegas
Company: Restaurant and nightclub owners and operators
2006 Projected Sales: Over $60 million

Palms Pilots: Though partners Morton and DeGraff already had a steakhouse and lounge in Chicago, as well as two Drink nightclubs, it was conversations with George Maloof of the Las Vegas Palms Casino Resort that led to their current night-life empire. In 2001, N9NE (pronounced "nine") opened Rain nightclub, Ghostbar, N9NE steakhouse and Skin pool lounge, all at the Palms-making the already popular resort white-hot.

Dynamic Duo: Childhood friends since age 9 (hence the name), the partners own, operate and oversee every detail of their venues, cultivating the hottest spots by insisting on exceptional ingredients, service and design, like Rain's awe-inspiring skyboxes and one-of-a-kind private booths surrounded by walls of water. "It kind of naturally worked out," says DeGraff. "A great partnership is one where people complement each other." DeGraff takes the lead on design, while Morton focuses on day-to-day operations.

Party Syndicate: Currently, N9NE is focusing on bringing a Ghostbar, a N9NE steakhouse,

A Liquid Sky nightclub and a Nove Italiano restaurant to Dallas by partnering with Ross Perot Jr. "Partnerships bring so much more to the table. They make us stronger," says Morton.

Back in Las Vegas, Moon nightclub, Nove Italiano and the only Playboy Club in the world will open at the new Palms Fantasy Tower in 2006. "We're very selective," says Morton. "We don't want to be in 20 cities. We're meant to be in big urban centers."

This story appears in the March 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »