D.C.-based entrepreneurs Wayne Johnson and Tony Perry have created a hospitality experience through nightlife, transitioned to ownership, and are now venturing into the restaurant space. Contradicting black male stereotypes amidst unprecedented gentrification, the evolution of social media, and the ultimate battle of personal growth, they’ve been consistent in providing a venue for celebration and self-expression for over 13 years.
Tony was raised in Prince George’s County and attended Largo High School. He got into promoting in 2006 when a friend asked him to hand out fliers and bring some girls to a party. After high school, he tried a stint at radio broadcasting school and worked at a cell phone store but always thought he could make a career out of his outgoing personality. Once he figured out how to make money in nightlife promotions, he never looked back. He had a vision of nightclubs, restaurants, and hotels that is now beginning to come to fruition.
Wayne was born in the Anacostia area where he lived until age 11 when he moved to the Landover/Glenarden area in Prince George’s County. He went to Flowers High School and studied Computer Graphics (BFA) at Bowie State University. He started a successful development company while at Bowie and created an app, ValPark Mobile, which was featured on “Shark Tank.”
One night, while attending Bowie, he attended a party at Love Nightclub and met some friends who would later be known as The Overachievers, a nightlife promotions group who’s alumni still reign today. He created the marketing materials, managed the website, and oversaw all creative. One guy stood out who he remembered from his high school days, Tony Perry, and they started a party together, Pasha Sundays, in Dupont. They began to work with high-end pioneers Dave & Ray and began to build their bottle-popping Rolodex.
They soon established events at K Street Lounge and Capitale that lasted over seven years. When owners David Chung and Ki Jun Sung went to find a new venue, they thought Wayne and Tony’s point of view would be valuable to their ownership group. They were able to put some capital together and became partners in their first venue St. Yves. Soon after another opportunity emerged to turn Huxley, a mid-sized nightclub in Dupont. into a new venue. Abigail.
The network they’ve built through the nightlife scene has had its perks. They have created an investment group that allowed them to raise capital for both ventures.
Their newest venture, Kitseun, meaning “smoke” in Japanese, is a combination, ramen and hookah bar on H St. NE, that they are betting will attract a neighborhood-friendly crowd. The tavern will have a summer garden with seating for 50, interior seating for 109, with a total occupancy load of 150.
“H Street is definitely up and coming. We wanted to make sure we got ahead and got a piece of it before it changes over,” said Tony.
Ownership comes with a new set of challenges. Instead of promoting one night, you are now responsible for every night. With two venues and other social responsibilities, they’ve had to learn to evolve. Social media has also had an effect on their operations. The work ethic of the new age of promoters is alarming, according to Wayne Johnson.
“Most kids under 25 have never seen a physical flier before,” said Wayne. He admits it’s been a struggle to find talented recruits with his drive for success.
Regardless of the trials, the team has grown from its two founders since they were first established in 2009. They now boast a robust operations and hospitality staff for both venues, St. Yves and Abigail, and still have their promotions staff. They recently were presented the opportunity to open a satellite location for St. Yves in FedEx Field with their partners David and Ki Jun. A dream for W&T as they aspire to follow the path of club tycoons like David Grutman, the man behind LIV in Miami.
“We’re not for everybody. Our menu is a little more expensive, we like to bring talent, our staff is very eclectic…we’re just not for everybody. After being in the business for over 12 years, we’ve created relationships that we’ve been able to lean on that keep us going,” said Wayne.
With all the gentrification that has occurred, Tony sees their events as a way to keep the core of the community together. They have been able to put big names like Shy Glizzy and the championship Washington Capitals, among others, next to each other and create opportunities to celebrate being a Washingtonian.
With all their success they aren’t hesitant to give credit to their mentors Marc Barnes, owner of The Park at Fourteenth, and David Chung and Ki Jun Sung, their business partners.
“The information has been invaluable,” says Wayne. “I’ve learned back of house, payroll, and I can always reach out when I’m in trouble.” Some may say that there’s a crab in a barrel mentality in the nightlife community but they’ve found success through collaboration.
The future of the W&T Marketing Group is looking like a competitive hospitality headliner. They have a passion to upgrade the city as an eclectic entertainment destination and promote the urban dollar. The city could use more inclusion at the ownership table. To find out more about Wayne & Tony events and other ventures you can follow them on social media at @wtnightlife and online at wtnightlife.com.
Also, you can follow Kitseun Bar on Instagram at @kitsuenbar and online at kitsuenbar.com.