Monthly Archives: August 2015

Caesars Palace Swaps Vista Cocktail Lounge for Shadow Bar, Cafe Americano for Central Michel Richard

A couple of things have changed since your last visit to Caesars Palace, and we’re on the case.

Shadow Bar at Caesars Palace was always pretty sexy, with near-naked women dancing behind backlit screens.

Shadow Bar

Shadow Bar was a holdover from another time. Specifically, 2001. At about 3:30 in the afternoon.

Surprisingly, sexy doesn’t always translate to profitable, so the hotel-casino invested some big bucks and hired the team at Hakkasan (they run a nightclub or two here in Vegas, including the new Omnia at Caesars Palace) to operate a new ultra lounge, Vista Cocktail Lounge.

The main difference between a lounge and an ultra lounge is the price of the drinks how uncomfortable you feel wearing a retro Stardust T-shirt. (Hint: We felt uncomfortable.)

Vista Cocktail Lounge

Turn left, Old Homestead Steakhouse. Turn right? Why would you do that. We just mentioned it’s near Old Homestead Steakhouse. Try the potato gnocchi with truffle butter.

The new lounge is located next to Nobu restaurant and was built at a cost of $1.9 million.

Vista Cocktail Lounge is billed as “interactive,” mainly because Omnia called dibs on “immersive” and “game-changing.”

Vista Lounge

Yes, we miss the dancers. But Las Vegas will make more.

The lounge features LED screens that show different cityscapes as the night goes on.

The cocktails are pricey, in the $18 range (it’s The Strip), but the good news it’s nothing like a nightclub, and seating is open. There’s also no cover to get in.

Vista Cocktail Lounge manages to be inviting and unpretentious. It’s open seven days a week, 5:00 p.m. until “late.”

Elsewhere at Caesars Palace, a relatively new restaurant has been launched with zero fanfare, Cafe Americano.

Cafe Americano

Cafe Americano is Italian for, “The name you give a restaurant when you want to make it abundantly clear a well-known French chef is no longer involved with it.”

The 24-hour cafe would be fairly unremarkable were it not for the fact it replaces Central Michel Richard, a high-profile restaurant that filed bankruptcy owing creditors a million bucks. It didn’t take a genius to see that one coming.

The failure of Central Michel Richard put Caesars Entertainment in a tough spot, as trumpeting a new offering would shine a spotlight on the previous endeavor. So, the restaurant just morphed.

Cafe Americano

The bar has one of the prime locations at Caesars Palace, just off the hotel registration area. The same one featured in “The Hangover.”

The interior design was barely touched (“value engineering,” baby), and plates suspended from the ceiling remain at Cafe Americano.

Cafe Americano

You should see the size of the sponge.

When Central closed, it was rumored Caesars was in talks with Giada De Laurentiis to take over the space. Her Giada restaurant at The Cromwell has been a windfall for Caesars Entertainment, but it seems Giada didn’t want to overextend herself.

We trust the search is still on for a celebrity chef partner for a new concept worthy of fanfaring.

Cafe Americano

Central cost about $4.5 million to build. You can get a lot of fancy for that much cabbage.

See the menu on the restaurant’s official site. And catch a review from our pal, food critic Al Mancini.

There’s always something new in Las Vegas! Sure, some of it’s super awkward, but that doesn’t make it any less new.

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Las Vegas Club Casino Closes August 19, But It’s Sort of Already Closed

The Las Vegas Club in downtown Las Vegas will close at midnight on Aug. 19, 2015.

News of the closure day and time comes after it was announced last week the casino has been sold to Derek and Greg Stevens, owners of The D Las Vegas and Golden Gate. (Until recently, the Stevens brothers were majority owners of Golden Gate, but now own it entirely.)

Las Vegas Club

The stage is set for a major shift downtown. Where we work. Because we’re lucky as a baby in a room full of nipples.

The Las Vegas Club’s rooms and restaurants have been closed for some time.

Now, the casino has shut down its table games and cocktail service, including its casino bar. In effect, the casino has closed before it’s officially closed, although the Las Vegas Club will apparently have its slot machines and casino cage operating until the bitter end.

Las Vegas Club

The Las Vegas Club was purchased for $40 million, or slightly less than we spend on Captain Morgan in a given month.

Once the casino closes, the new owners are expected to do an extensive assessment of the Las Vegas Club’s structures, including its hotel towers.

A major overhaul is anticipated and the hotel-casino, including a name and a party pit called the Vital Vixen Party Pit. Unless that last part is just wishful thinking.

Las Vegas Club

There’s nothing sadder than an empty bar. Although, “a bar we’re not currently bellied up to” runs a close second.

The relatively unexpected sale and quick closure of Las Vegas Club means those who may have fond memories of the casino won’t be able to take part in a time-honored tradition, gathering for a final round of drinks and a final spin of the dice. Or whatever you do with those things.

Las Vegas Club

A sizable portion of the Las Vegas Club is devoted to a gift shop. Folks in the store say they’ll stay open for a month, even after the casino closes.

There’s a chance visitors will gather at the casino’s outdoor bar (pictured below) leading up to the closure, but it’s unlikely the scene will be even remotely like the closing days of casinos like Riviera (we were there), Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall (we were there), O’Sheas (we were there) or Sahara (we can’t be everywhere).

Las Vegas Club

Perhaps we should try and remember Las Vegas Club the way it was. Better yet, the way it was before the way it was.

We took what is possibly our last stroll through the Las Vegas Club, and as with any casino closing, we got a little weepy remembering great times with friends and dealers and bartenders at the once-lively downtown fixture.

Here’s some video of the Las Vegas Club for posterity.

Enjoy some photos from the final days of Las Vegas Club. And if you get weepy on your keyboard or mobile device (unlikely but possible), we are not legally responsible for any damage.

Las Vegas Club Casino Closes

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Downtown Grand Hotel-Casino Will Announce It’s Up for Sale

Just when you thought the Las Vegas casino landscape couldn’t get any wilder, we’re hearing the Downtown Grand is set to announce it’s up for sale.

Downtown Grand will begin seeking new ownership within a week. It’s not known if the resort will remain open during the process of finding a new owner.

Downtown Grand Las Vegas

One of our favorite downtown haunts. Please don’t muck with the good parts!

Downtown Grand is owned by CIM Group and operated by Fifth Street Gaming, and was formerly the the Lady Luck, a hotel once described as a “carcass” by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.

The Lady Luck originally opened in 1964, it closed in 2006. The hotel’s transformation from Lady Luck to Downtown Grand cost about $100 million.

Downtown Grand has 650 rooms and 25,000-square-feet of casino space.

Downtown Grand

Art Bar is a hidden gem at Downtown Grand. Emphasis on “happy hour.”

The resort is part of Downtown3rd, a district which includes Pizza Rock (the best pizza in Las Vegas), Triple George (the best chicken parm in Las Vegas) Grill and Hogs & Heifers Saloon (the best place to take off your bra in Las Vegas).

Downtown Grand is located a block north of Fremont Street Experience, where we hold a day job in marketing. (Downtown Grand is not a member property of Fremont Street Experience.)

While Downtown Grand has received praise for its rooms, dining offerings and pool deck (see below), it’s struggled financially since it opened on Oct. 27, 2013.

Downtown Grand

Downtown Grand’s pool deck was originally called Picnic, but was recently renamed, wait for it, The Pool Deck. Still one of the best pools in downtown Las Vegas.

The hotel’s Asian restaurant, Red Mansion, and its Spread Deli closed in mid-July 2014. The once-popular Mob Bar, previously across the street at Triple George, was also shuttered. It was the dueling pianos. It’s always the dueling pianos.

The hotel’s Ninth Island shaved ice bar was also a casualty of lagging business. The hotel’s promising and over-hyped street dice game crapped out early on.

Downtown Grand’s casino has been an especially difficult challenge. Casino management has made great strides in recent months, with better video poker pay tables and intensified outreach to locals, but the resort being put up for sale appears to mean those efforts have failed to meet expectations.

Downtown Grand

Personal message for Downtown Grand: Please put our high limit Top Dollar machine back. Moving it messed with the mojo. Thanks.

It remains to be seen who might be interested in purchasing Downtown Grand, and if the owners can recoup their substantial investment. That’s unlikely, as the Lady Luck cost about $100 million, and another $100 million was put into overhauling the resort. It’s likely CIM Group has decided the bleeding needs to stop, even if the company is likely to take a painful hit.

The sad part is Downtown Grand has huge potential, but hasn’t been able to put all the pieces together to succeed in a challenging location.

More news to come!

Update (8/20): Changes at Downtown Grand in preparation for finding a potential buyer have been dramatic in recent weeks. Downtown Grand has taken significant steps to reduce labor and other costs, including laying off dozens of dealers, housekeepers and others, as well as reducing the hours of other employees.

Perhaps the most surprising change has been limiting table game hours. Downtown Grand’s table games are not operating only from noon to 2:00 a.m. on weekends and 2:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. on weekdays. Astonishing in a 24-7 town. Thanks to our friends in the Five Hundy by Midnight podcast Facebook group for tipping us off to the change in hours.

There have also been rumors Downtown Grand has removed a significant number of slot machines from its casino floor. Word has it this is to lower the gaming taxes paid, as well as concentrating play on a smaller number of machines to increase the amount of play on those remaining machines.

Anecdotally, since our favorite Top Dollar machine was recently relocated, we have yet to get a Top Dollar bonus after multiple visits. Unprecedented. So, we’re saying the motherboard was swapped out and the machine was tightened up significantly. Share your experience, please.

Update (8/23): A new round of rumors suggest Downtown Grand may close as it seeks new ownership. Read more. Rumored layoffs now number in the range of 80 employees being given their walking papers.

Insiders confirm it’s official: Downtown Grand is being shopped with potential new owners. A sale is hoped for by the end of 2015. The asking price is about what you might expect, but CIM Group is going to take a massive hit.

Interesting times at Downtown Grand!

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Downtown’s Las Vegas Club Casino Has Been Sold

Las Vegas has become a virtual musical chairs of hotel-casinos, with multiple game-changing (yes, we said it) sales in the works, some confirmed officially and others not (yet).

Now comes news Fremont Street’s troubled Las Vegas Club has been sold and will close at midnight on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015.

The Las Vegas Club was purchased by Derek and Greg Stevens (under the company name 18 Fremont Street Acquisition LLC), owners of The D and Golden Gate casinos.

Las Vegas Club

The site of the current Las Vegas Club was originally the Overland Park Hotel. There will be a quiz.

Las Vegas Club is the sister casino of The Plaza, and both are operated by the same company, Tamares Group.

Following on the heels of our story, Tamares Group released this statement, on Aug. 14, 2015: “Today we are excited to announce the sale of the Las Vegas Club to Derek and Greg Stevens’ company. The Tamares Group, owner of the Las Vegas Club, and PlayLV, its operator, had been working on various development prospects for the Las Vegas Club, but it is clear that the sale of the property provides a greater opportunity for the future of the company, its staff and the Fremont Street neighborhood.”

The statement continued, “Tamares and PlayLV will focus their efforts on their signature downtown property, the Plaza Hotel & Casino, and we look forward to welcoming many members of the Las Vegas Club staff to the Plaza team in the coming weeks. In the interim, until closure of the Las Vegas Club for renovations by its new owner, PlayLV will continue to run the day-to-day operations of the Las Vegas Club.”

Derek and Greg Stevens, new owners of the Las Vegas Club, are a known quantity in Vegas and the purchase comes as no surprise to downtown enthusiasts. (This blog counts itself among those who are enthused about downtown, of course. Our day gig is in marketing at Fremont Street Experience. Our opinions are our own.)

Las Vegas Club

When we asked around, employees were not aware of the sale yet, so that wasn’t awkward or anything.

Las Vegas Club includes its 19,616-square-foot casino and now-closed hotel. The hotel portion of Las Vegas Club has 410 rooms.

Las Vegas Club will always hold a special place in the heart of neon sign-lovers, because it was the first casino in Las Vegas to boast a neon sign, in 1931. It was the second neon sign in all of Las Vegas. A few more followed.

The Las Vegas Club was originally located across Fremont Street, next to what is now La Bayou casino. (Slogan: Come for the beads, stay for the daiquiris and whatever that strange stuff is on the ceiling.”)

In recent years, Las Vegas Club has struggled. Rumors of a renovation never materialized, and a portion of the casino was converted into a gift shop.

Las Vegas Club

Let’s get the “less this” started!

There’s been some talk recently of a CVS pharmacy moving into the Las Vegas Club, but that deal seems unlikely now that new ownership is taking over the reins. Please, in the name of all that’s holy, be unlikely.

The sale of Las Vegas Club offers the promise of a revitalized casino and possibly new room offerings downtown. Given the way The D and Golden Gate have evolved, there are great things ahead for Fremont Street and downtown Las Vegas.

Per the Tamares statement, we trust displaced employees of the casino will smoothly transition to the Plaza, just across the street. No word yet on the Las Vegas Club’s infamously sad go-go dealers, but go-go dealers don’t seem to go unemployed long in Las Vegas. Even the sad ones.

Thanks to our friends at EdgeVegas.com for putting us on the scent of this scoop with a carefully-worded Tweet.

Las Vegas Club

We’ve walked by Las Vegas Club a million times and never, before today, realized the exterior is supposed to resemble the outside of a sports stadium. D’oh!

These are interesting times for Las Vegas, to be sure, including Fremont Street and downtown. Change is good. Unless it’s a 50-cent piece. Those are truly annoying.

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The Las Vegas Secret Hidden in Plain Sight

It’s a Sin City curiosity many who visit the Las Vegas Strip miss entirely.

Between two iconic resorts, The Venetian and Palazzo, there’s what would have been a 50-story building that was never completed.

Rather than leave a steel framework exposed, Las Vegas Sands Corp. (owners of The Venetian and Palazzo) decided to wrap the tower instead. At first glance, it appears to be an ordinary condo or hotel tower.

St. Regis Residences at Venetian

When you’re in Vegas, it can’t hurt to wrap your erection. Oh, like we weren’t going to go there.

Construction was stopped on the St. Regis Residences back in 2008, a result of the economic downturn. Back then, Las Vegas Sands Corp. was on the verge of bankruptcy, so the company had to get creative.

The wrap, a kind of “urban camouflage,” was put up in 2011 at a cost of about a million dollars. That investment saved the company $600 million in additional construction costs. Nearly $180 million was spent before construction screeched to a halt.

St. Regis at The Venetian

Just as with Las Vegas magicians, up close, the illusion is often much less convincing.

Now that Las Vegas Sands Corp. is back on its feet, a variety of options have been explored for the building, including the possibility of turning it into a time share or another hotel-casino. So far, further construction hasn’t penciled out.

Here’s another angle. Scaffolding can clearly be seen behind the decorative tarp.

St. Regis

For now, we get a million-dollar conversation piece.

The next time you’re near The Venetian and Palazzo, take a closer look at the St. Regis tower. In Las Vegas, things aren’t always as they appear and sometimes beauty’s only skin deep.

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How to See Any Las Vegas Show for Free

We recently saw one of the best shows in Las Vegas, “Michael Jackson: One” at Mandalay Bay, for free. The great news is you can, too.

You can actually see any Las Vegas show for free. You don’t have to be a high roller, a relative of a cast member or even an award-winning blogger. Ahem.

Michael Jackson: One

Number of hits in “Michael Jackson: One”? At least 25. Dollars paid to see it, zero.

The trick to seeing a Las Vegas show for free is being given a ticket. How do you get someone to give you a ticket? It’s easier than you might think.

First, some context.

For any given performance of any Las Vegas show, there are tons of people with extra tickets. Why’s that? Several reasons. Some people in attendance are the aforementioned high rollers. They get perks from their casino host, including batches of tickets intended for friends and family. Other attendees have been given tickets as part of a hotel room package. The list goes on and on.

Of the hundreds of people with free tickets (or even tickets they’ve paid for, you don’t care how they got them), many have members of their party cancel at the last minute. That means lots of tickets will go to waste. And that’s where human nature kicks in, potentially to your benefit.

If someone’s seeing a Las Vegas show and has an extra ticket, they’ll feel guilty if the seat “goes to waste.” Even if a ticket didn’t cost them anything, it has a value, often several hundreds of dollars, and nobody likes throwing money away.

Also, everyone likes to feel important and generous. Giving a stranger a ticket accomplishes exactly that.

Michael Jackson: One ticket

That’s $200 which could be better spent on your drinking and gambling problem!

How do you make yourself the recipient of a show-goer’s generosity? Just follow our simple suggestions below and you could save hundreds of dollars on Las Vegas show tickets. Let’s do this thing.

1. Show up.

Our main strategy for getting a free ticket to a Las Vegas show is this: Show up. That’s right. Go to the show you’d like to see. Once there, head for the ticket office or lobby area outside the show.

2. Be flexible.

Remember, this method of seeing a show free isn’t guaranteed. You may or may not achieve the goal of being given a spare ticket. So, don’t get emotionally attached to seeing that particular show on that particular day. If you can, that’s great. If not, try again.

3. Be willing to fly solo.

Getting someone’s spare ticket isn’t too tough, but getting a pair of tickets, together or apart, is nearly impossible. Again, flexibility is key. You can try this as a couple, but be open to seeing the show in different parts of the theater, and talk through your options if only one ticket presents itself.

4. Look respectable.

This is key. If the theater has assigned seating, you’ll be seated near the person who gave you the ticket, as well as their companions and family members. That prospect might give someone pause. Don’t give them a reason to pause. Dress (and behave) like someone you’d like to sit next to at a Las Vegas show.

5. Smile and make eye contact.

There’s no formal way of giving one’s ticket away. People with spare tickets tend to scan a theater lobby to see what their options might be. If you’re outgoing, warm and friendly, they’re likely to make a beeline to you. They won’t want to miss the curtain going up, so the transaction is going to happen quickly. Smiles are the international symbol of “I’m not a stalker and I’d love your extra ticket!” Oh, and don’t flirt. It’s not worth the hassle of having a friendly transaction mistaken for a potential hook-up (or worse, solicitation of prostitution).

Michael Jackson: One

The magic words: “Room Charge Comp.” The “use it or lose it” policy means a great night out for you, gratis.

6. Do not offer compensation.

Here’s the twist. People are generous, but they aren’t typically dumb. In a moment of weakness, their¬†magnanimity may turn to opportunism. You may get the question, “How much is this ticket worth to you?” Would it be an incredible deal to get a $200 ticket for $25? Sure. But that’s not the game we’re playing. We’re playing the free show ticket game. If someone implies you should pay them for their spare ticket, say, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that. It’s scalping and the hotel frowns on that. I’m happy to take a ticket off your hands, though. Maybe you can find someone to sell it to. If not, swing back around. I’d love to see the show.” Trust us, they’ll give you the ticket, free of charge.

That’s pretty much it.

There are probably steps you can take to lubricate the process, but in our most recent case, none were needed.

It’s possible you could write “Extra ticket?” on a cocktail napkin and hold it discreetly to facilitate the transaction.

You could also learn American Sign Language and hope a fellow theater-goer knows it as well.

You could watch for odd-numbered groups. More than likely they got an even number of tickets and somebody decided they’d rather play blackjack.

Another tip from our Facebook fan Joanne, who often gets comped tickets she gives away, “If I even get the hint you are looking to resell and not attend the show yourself, I will avoid you like the plague.”

Other than that, just be open to something amazing happening.¬† It’s Las Vegas, after all. Our primary export is amazing.

When you get your ticket, don’t be shy about expressing your appreciation. You might even offer to get your benefactor a cocktail.

And someday, if you find you have a spare ticket to a Las Vegas show, pay it forward.

Questions? Comments? Success stories? We’d love to hear them.

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