Inside St. Tropez’s Sexiest and Most Storied Nightclub
Celebrities, royals, rock ’n’ roll stars, the great, the good, and the intoxicated have been flocking to Les Caves Du Roy since 1967.
The story of the infamous Les Caves du Roy nightclub at the Hotel Byblos in St. Tropez starts with a fairytale. And a fairytale princess Vanity Fair once described as “youth, sex, flirtatiousness, insolence, and grace, all wrapped up in a bewildering nonchalance—a heady mix.” They could well have been referring to Les Caves du Roy itself; but in fact they were describing the inspirational force behind it—Brigitte Bardot.
For some might say she is the real reason the hotel and nightclub exist. Bardot initially made her way from ballet lessons in Paris to the movie screens of France with a string of lighthearted comedies, and then in 1956 took the world by storm as a blonde bombshell in Roger Vadim’s cult film And God Created Woman.
A burning spotlight had been shone upon St. Tropez, a small, quiet fishing village in the south of France where the movie was filmed. And nothing would ever be the same again. For Bardot, St. Tropez, or an impresario in a different Francophile world across the Mediterranean Sea. A spell had been cast from the silver screen onto a man in Lebanon. And magic was about to happen.
Jean-Prosper Gay-Para was born in Beirut to a Lebanese mother and French father. From humble beginnings, by the age of eight he had already found his calling in life, working at his father’s restaurant learning about hospitality.
A calling that combined with his vision, charm and grace would allow him to create venues curating time, space and crowds into a string of hits. And make him a billionaire in the process. By the time And God Created Woman came along, he was the king of Beirut’s nightlife, and as entranced with Bardot as every other red-blooded man on earth.
But Gay-Para’s infatuation was not like that of other men—and neither were his means. Thus began a grand gesture so enormous it would transcend itself and stand the test of time, to create something so special that celebrities, royals, rock ’n’ roll stars, the great, the good, and the intoxicated would flock to it from its inception.
And continue to do so as it became, andremains, one of the most exclusive and iconic nightclubs on the planet— said to stock 1,000 bottles of champagne per night in high season. The casual suggestion of a friend led Gay-Para to transport his vision from Beirut to chase Bardot. And led him to build a luxury hotel in St. Tropez in the shadow of Henry IV’s Citadel, named after the tiny Lebanese port city of Byblos, with a nightclub that was an exact replica of the original Les Caves du Roy at his Excelsior Hotel in Beirut.
The grand opening of the Hotel Byblos was in 1967, by which time Bardot was married to the German playboy photographer and filmmaker Gunther Sachs. She didn’t make it to the debut of the hotel, but made it for the opening bacchanal of the nightclub shortly thereafter, along with a guest list that may have put Mrs. Astor’s “Four Hundred” to shame. But despite his enormous expression of love, romance with Bardot never blossomed.
The Six-Day-War in Lebanon forced GayPara to retreat home brokenhearted, selling his idyllic gem in the south of France as he left. But a new owner stepped in, in the form of Sylvain Floirat, and the party went on, as a constant stream of celebrities, revelers and partygoers made the pilgrimage to Club 55 for lunch, Byblos for dinner, and Les Caves du Roy to dance the night away.
Over the years The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Grace Kelly, Prince Charles, Lauren Bacall, Paloma Picasso, Cher, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, George Clooney, Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio, Grace Jones, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Naomi Campbell, and other notables have partied the night away in the embrace of the Floirat family and their descendants at Les Caves du Roy.
And as the family custodian for the present generation, Antoine Chevanne, Sylvain’s grandson and the CEO of Groupe Floirat, says “Our secret is keeping the secret.”
With discretion being the better part of valor, little leaks out past the champagne fumes at the doors, except for whispers of the magnificence of the party within. But as Antoine also says, “You can be 100 percent sure when you open the magazines every summer and see the stars coming to St. Tropez, that once during their stay, they pass through Byblos or Les Caves du Roy.”