The Latest From Park MGM, Plus Bad News About the Future of Comped Drinks

It’s been awhile since we popped into the Park MGM. In fact, the last time we visited, it was Monte Carlo.

All that’s changed, because Monte Carlo is no more.

Park MGM

Park MGM might have less character than Monte Carlo, but we love that new hotel-casino smell.

That’s right. Monte Carlo, after two decades, is officially Park MGM, a member of the MGM Resorts family.

The company is investing $550 million in the rebrand.

While the hotel’s name has changed, the resort is still in transition, so we snapped some pics to keep you in the loop about what’s up. No thanks, necessary, although we are a big fan of foot rubs. Just saying.

Park MGM

Yes, you’re suppressing a yawn, but it gets better.

We’re pleased to report Park MGM isn’t in the rough shape we’d heard rumors about. The rebrand of Monte Carlo started in 2016, if you can believe that.

Business at the Strip resort has taken a huge hit because guests encountered extensive construction for months on end, with lots of venues closed and walled off, and word spread.

Now, though, things are starting to take shape at Park MGM, including the unveiling of new offerings like Juniper Cocktail Lounge and Money Line sports bar.

Let’s take a look at Park MGM, back to front.

The rebrand has included the build-out of a new reception area.

Park MGM

Vegas hotels have castle themes, circus themes, Egyptian themes and Venice themes. Park MGM is foliage themed.

Nearby, there’s a new restaurant and bar, Primrose.

Park MGM

Primrose comes from a Scottish word meaning “tree of the moor,” moor or less.

The hotel’s pool area has been completely done over. Now, there are three small pools, with lots of seats and umbrellas and people wishing they’d hit the treadmill a bit more often before their Las Vegas vacation.

Park MGM pools

The pool complex offers a number of ways to spend money, including reserved lounge chairs ($15), daybeds ($75), cabanas and Baja loungers ($15).

There’s a new high limit slots room, where we made sure to donate some of our disposable income.

Park MGM high limit

The high limit table games are awkwardly out on the casino floor nearby, but we suspect they’ll have a new home soon.

A very new addition to Park MGM is its new West Bar. It’s a fairly typical casino bar, with 19 video poker machines.

Park MGM bar

Only about half the seats at West Bar have video poker, presumably because guests aren’t gambling like they used to.

We played some video poker and were given comped (that’s Vegas for “complimentary”) drinks during our play. And, yes, they even poured Captain Morgan spiced rum from a bottle.

Yes, we’re touting the fact a casino bar 1) comps drinks, and 2) pours liquor from a bottle. You’ll see why in a minute.

Making our way through the casino, we got to see the new Juniper Cocktail Lounge. We’re pretty sure this was the same space as Monte Carlo’s Hit Lounge.

Juniper has a pretty swanky design, and features a number of video poker machines at the bar.

Park MGM Juniper Cocktail Lounge

Don’t try to read that sign or you’ll put an eye out.

As you might expect at a lounge called “Juniper,” there are a ton of gin-based cocktails on the menu. Gin gets its main flavor from juniper berries, a reminder how much you can learn while hanging out in Las Vegas cocktail lounges.

Most of the cocktails at Juniper Cocktail Lounge are in the $15-17 range.

We were dismayed to learn no drinks are comped (free) for those who play video poker at the bar. Hey, we warned you in the headline there would be bad news. There’s more to come.

Park MGM Juniper Lounge

We say either have video poker and comp drinks, or don’t have video poker. Otherwise, you’re just being annoying.

Closer to The Strip, there’s the new Money Line Sports Bar & Book.

Money Line Sports Bar & Book has a welcoming layout, with a pool table and a couple of mini bowling lanes.

Park MGM sports bar

When you bet on a “moneyline,” you’re betting on the outright winner of your favorite sportsball game.

The bar, of course, is lined with video poker machines.

As we started to play, we were informed (again), there were no comped drinks for video poker players. Not even a soda.

Park MGM sports bar

The Moneyline sports book and bar was almost entirely empty during our visit. On a Saturday night. Coincidence?

Our earlier dismay turned to annoyance as we realized this isn’t a fluke, but a trend, and not the good kind.

It seems MGM Resorts is taking a page from the Wynn Las Vegas playbook, as Wynn stopped comping drinks at its video poker bars some time ago.

This “trend” is troubling because while Wynn and Encore are just two hotels, MGM Resorts has a slew of them on The Strip. Don’t be surprised if this is a glimpse at things to come.

Denying video poker players comped drinks is getting some customer backlash, according to staff we spoke to, but whether this policy will spread remains to be seen.

Oh, well. We’re not going to let a misguided policy put a damper on our visit. Probably. We’ve got more exploring to do.

Much of the negative buzz about Park MGM has had to do with the temporary entrance from the Las Vegas Strip.

It’s fairly easy to see why.

Park MGM

Not optimal.

Again, these are growing pains, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

Let’s head out front. Who needs comped drinks when we’ve got a security breach to lighten our mood?

Here’s a look at the construction on the Strip side of Park MGM.

Park MGM

Former home of 800 Degrees Pizza, Blvd. Creamery, Yusho Japanese Grill and Sambalatte. Hey, they were all four years old, so time to go!

There are a ton more photos in the gallery, so hang out awhile.

Park MGM Las Vegas

Our first Park MGM security breach. You always remember your first.

This front structure is supposed to be Eataly, a “vibrant marketplace with cafes, to-go counters and sit-down restaurants from Mario Batali, the guy accused of sexual misconduct.”

We added that last part ourself.

This whole Eataly thing is complicated.

MGM Resorts says the $13 million project will continue despite explosive allegations against Mario Batali, but we’re thinking the company is probably looking for another partner for the venue.

Las Vegas Sands (owner of Venetian and Palazzo) recently pulled the plug on three Batali restaurants, despite his company’s claims Batali is no longer involved.

Set to close July 27, 2018, are B&B Ristorante and Otto at Venetian and CarneVino at Palazzo.

Park MGM Eataly

If you miss the Monte Carlo casino, we hear there’s another, less interesting one, in Europe somewhere.

MGM Resorts has been very public about its zero tolerance policy for sexual misconduct, so they’re in an impossible position at the moment.

The space is looking pretty good, though, and here’s what it’s supposed to look like when it opens.

Park MGM resort rendering

They’re definitely trying to class up the joint. Just ask the former Diablo’s Cantina.

So, that’s our whirlwind tour of the new Park MGM, a work in progress.

While we’re not thrilled about the comped drink policy at Juniper Cocktail Lounge and Money Line sports bar, there’s a lot to like about Park MGM, including the staff.

Most members of the Monte Carlo staff have made the transition to Park MGM with their friendliness intact. They’re not shy about admitting there’s been some chaos during the rebrand, but they’re starting to see former Monte Carlo customers return.

The reality, though, is those Monte Carlo customers aren’t really the target customer of Park MGM. Park MGM has aspirations to attract younger, more affluent customers.

A prime example is Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar. While we’ve heard it’s good, it’s not really for the value-conscious.

Juniper seems more along the lines of Skyfall at Delano and Clique at Cosmopolitan than fans of the Hit Lounge.

Park MGM

Although it’s not on the sign, Park MGM will have a boutique hotel, NoMad. NoMad needs a better agent.

It’s odd to think of the Las Vegas Strip without Monte Carlo, but Las Vegas is always throwing something new against the wall to see if it will stick.

Enjoy more photos from our recent foray to Park MGM.

Park MGM Progress - June 2018

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Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace is a Qualified Success

Our favorite celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay, has another Las Vegas hit on his hands.

Hell’s Kitchen is currently one of the hottest restaurants in Sin City, so we had to check it out.

Hell's Kitchen restaurant

Fun fact: Gordon Ramsay toyed with naming his Las Vegas restaurant “Hell’s Vestibule,” but that didn’t have the same ring to it.

Hell’s Kitchen opened at Caesars Palace on Jan. 26, 2018, and was an immediate hit. The restaurant claimed to have received 12,000 reservations in 10 days.

In restaurant parlance: That’s a metric hell-ton.

So, why are we saying it’s a “qualifed” success, rather than an “unqualified” one? Well, to be honest, we didn’t really get it.

Hell's Kitchen Las Vegas

“Donkey!” Sorry, we had to get that out of our system.

First, the place is really, really loud.

Hell’s Kitchen moved into the former Serendipity 3 restaurant space, and it’s pretty much a big, square box. You know, like a speaker box. The place is packed, so the sound reverberates, and you end up having to shout throughout your meal.

Some people enjoy that cacophony in restaurants, as it can create a feeling of high energy and excitement. We are not one of those people.

A minor quibble at the start of our meal: It was odd when our waiter informed us we couldn’t order our appetizers unless we knew our whole order. It made the evening feel like we were there for the convenience of the restaurant staff, rather than the other way around.

Next, while Hell’s Kitchen restaurant was inspired by one of our favorite reality shows, wait for it, “Hell’s Kitchen,” there wasn’t too much of “Hell’s Kitchen” to be found.

Hell's Kitchen wall of winners

This wall is devoted to past “Hell’s Kitchen” winners, a mere 80% of whom are in therapy following their appearance on the show.

Yes, the walls of the show kitchen are half red and half blue, and there are lots of pitchforks to be found, that’s about it.

There’s no real tie-in to the show, other than as a marketing hook.

Hell's Kitchen

Everyone in the Hell’s Kitchen kitchen seemed to be working in harmony. What fun is that?

Our real issue, though, was with the food and drink. (We’ll resist grumbling about the fact the menu looked like it was produced by a printer running out of ink. Well, sort of resist.)

The bottom line: The food and drinks were good, not great.

Let’s start with a cocktail, as most nights out in Las Vegas do.

We tried the Meet Your Maker ($15), with Maker’s Mark bourbon, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, mint, apple, strawberry and cinnamon. It was perfectly acceptable.

Hell's Kitchen cocktail

In a town full of amazing cocktails, this was certainly a cocktail.

Next up, the Wagyu meatballs ($18), featuring slow-roasted tomato sauce, polenta croutons, parmesan cheese and basil. The meatballs, too, were passable, but nothing to write home about.

Oh, who are we kidding? Nobody actually writes home anymore, but you know what we mean.

Hell's Kitchen meatballs

We didn’t know polenta croutons were a thing, but they were a pleasant surprise.

Time for the entrees!

While we didn’t try Gordon Ramsay’s most famous dish, the Beef Wellington ($49), our new friends at the next table did and they raved about it.

Hell's Kitchen beef wellington

Beef Wellington looks like a steak wrapped in pastry, but it has to be more complicated than that. Probably.

We ordered the filet mignon (eight ounces for $47), and it seemed to be prepared properly. Not especially flavorful. Not awful. Just there.

Hell's Kitchen filet mignon

Sadly, our mind wasn’t blown. A state we’re all too familiar with, actually.

Same for the roasted rack of lamb ($39). It was entirely adequate.

Hell's Kitchen Caesars Palace

We’re pretty sure they’re not going to use “Entirely adequate!” on their advertising.

You can check out the full Hell’s Kitchen menu on the restaurant’s official Web site.

Again, we don’t claim to be a food critic. Hell’s Kitchen is a smash.

Hell's Kitchen

Are you going to get mad if we say the potato gratin was just average, too?

Let’s talk about some bright spots at Hell’s Kitchen.

The service was top-notch. Friendly, knowledgeable servers were attentive without being intrusive.

Also, the restaurant has a bar. Always a good thing.

Hell's Kitchen bar

Yes, they carry Captain Morgan spiced rum. Don’t you ever think about anything else?

There’s also a life-size video of Gordon Ramsay that greets guests as they arrive. We are a fan of the chef, so that was fun.

Gordon Ramsay

Gordon Ramsay has said he’s a fan of In-N-Out Burger, so he can’t be all bad.

We hesitated about dessert, so the waiter brought one, anyway. A gratis dessert is a wonderful way to make a good impression.

The sticky toffee pudding ($9) was selling like crazy, so people obviously liked it. Other people.

Hell's Kitchen sticky toffee pudding

We wouldn’t know sticky toffee pudding from spotted dick pudding, but we do know ice cream, and this got a resounding “just all right” from us.

Another positive: While the prices are steep at Hell’s Kitchen, they don’t seem outrageous. After all, Caesars has to pay Gordon Ramsay his five percent commission on gross sales (it’s six percent if sales top $15 million a year).

Ultimately, Hell’s Kitchen was worth a visit, just to see what all the buzz is about.

The place is getting solid reviews on Yelp, with much of the criticism related to the experience not living up to the hype.

Our bottom line is that “good, not great” doesn’t really fly on the Las Vegas Strip, especially at these elevated prices.

Still, lots of Las Vegas visitors are going to check out a new restaurant no matter what they read in blogs. Have at it!

If you have limited resources, though, drop by Hell’s Kitchen for a photo op, then make your way to one of the exceptional restaurants nearby that’s more worthy of your time and money.

Hell's Kitchen Las Vegas

The Hell’s Kitchen logo uses a trident, but devil’s are traditionally depicted with bidents. Yes, we have officially run out of photo captions.

If you’re a Gordon Ramsay fan, head to Paris Las Vegas for Gordon Ramsay Steak.

Even his Gordon Ramsay Burger at Planet Hollywood is better, and Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips restaurant at Linq promenade is a much less expensive and equally satisfying offering.

If you’re just looking for an amazing steak, go inside Caesars Palace to Old Homestead Steakhouse.

If you’re a meatball person, some of the best in town can be found at Rao’s, also at Caesars Palace.

For the record, the best meatballs in Las Vegas call Pizza Rock home, downtown.

If you’ve tried Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and disagree with our level of “meh,” we’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment, or whatever people are doing to share their thoughts these days.

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“Baz” to Close at The Palazzo Las Vegas

It has not been a good week for Broadway-style musicals in Las Vegas.

First, it was announced “Marilyn” will close at Paris after just 15 performances.

Now, the cast of “Baz” at Palazzo has been informed that show, too, will close.

The final curtain comes down at “Baz” on July 29, 2018.

Baz

Don’t be too hard on yourself, “Baz,” that was a a solid run.

For a good part of its run, “Baz” was called “Baz: Star Crossed Love.” At one point, its title was “Baz: A Musical Mash-Up.”

Lately, it’s been referred to as “Baz: A Musical Tour de Force.”

The show originally opened at Light Nightclub in Mandalay Bay in 2015, but closed after just two months, in August 2015.

To the surprise of just about everyone, “Baz” re-opened at the Palazzo Theater in July 2016.

Baz Star Crossed Love

Where will we go now when we want to see lovers thwarted? There’s a definite lack of thwarting in Las Vegas shows.

In November of 2016, we got wind of lagging ticket sales and shared that the show’s days were numbered. While ultimately true, its number of days were greater than most expected.

“Baz” boasted songs and scenes from three Baz Luhrmann films: “Romeo + Juliet,” “Moulin Rouge” and “The Great Gatsby.”

The show has featured any number of world-class peformers, and the closing will come as a blow to its die-hard fans.

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 81: Hell’s Kitchen, Orgy Recap and Baseless Rumors Galore

It’s the podcast that moves at the speed of Vegas.

We should totally copyright that.

Anyway, we’re back with another installment of the 11th best Las Vegas podcast!

In this week’s inexcusably feeble attempt at entertainment, we share our thoughts about a forgettable dining experience at one of the hottest restaurants in Las Vegas, Hell’s Kitchen.

Hell's Kitchen Las Vegas

In a town with amazing meatballs, the ones at Hell’s Kitchen we’re really those.

We’ve also got exclusive scoop about the world’s largest orgy attempt, the winner of a $1.4 million jackpot at Golden Gate, top secret restaurants and bars planned for the Linq hotel, chatter about investors moving to bring Major League Baseball to Las Vegas and more.

There’s also juicy news about the future of Hard Rock casino as it transitions into Virgin Hotel. Among other things, we hear Mr. Lucky’s and Pink Taco are out, and it’s the last hurrah for Rehab, the hotel’s decadent pool party.

Word is the Hard Rock’s pool will be made over taking inspiration from Richard Branson’s private island, Makepeace Island.

Makepeace Island

Richard Branson is bringing a bit of his private island to his Virgin Hotel Las Vegas.

Get the latest about “Jersey Shore: Family Vacation” taping in Las Vegas and Wynn Resorts rolling back paid parking, two things we honestly never imagined we be typing in the same sentence.

Sqeeze the most from your next Vegas visit by letting us give it to you in the earholes. Which isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds, sadly.

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Disastrous “Marilyn, The New Musical” to Close at Paris

Like a candle in a wind tunnel, “Marilyn, The New Musical” is being extinguished at Paris Las Vegas after just 15 performances since its official opening on June 1.

“Marilyn” closes June 17, 2018.

Marilyn musical closed

“Marilyn” is closing. Sorry, the gays.

From what we hear, the implosion of “Marilyn, The New Musical” had little to do with the talent of its cast.

Even as the show opened, there were rumors of behind-the-scenes drama, including a lack of competent direction and serious financial issues, and entertainment insiders predicted the show would have a very short run.

Few predicted the run would be this short. Oh, wait, no, there was us.

Marilyn

Look at all the fatalistic fun you’re missing on Twitter!

It should be noted we’re the one calling the show “closed,” not the show itself.

In an admirable piece of fiction, a news release says, “After launching to critical acclaim, ‘Marilyn: The New Musical’ will be going on a summer hiatus from Tuesday, June 19 through Monday, Sept. 3 in order to further refine the show and prepare for the Las Vegas-created production to launch a national tour. Performances at Paris Las Vegas will resume Tuesday, Sept. 4.”

Ah, the old “show refinement” ploy.

“Marilyn, The New Musical” won’t be resuming at Paris, or anywhere else for that matter.

In fact, we’re going to predict several others shows planned by the producer, writer and director of “Marilyn,” Tegan Summers, won’t be happening as announced, either. Las Vegas is a very small town and word gets around.

Summers was supposed to bring a series of Broadway-style shows to Las Vegas. The shows were to feature stories about Bettie Page and James Dean, with another involving EDM DJ and producer Steve Aoki.

Don’t hold your breath.

While ambitious, Broadway-style theatrical productions are hit-and-miss in Las Vegas. For every “Jersey Boys,” there’s a “Surf, The Musical.” For every “Phantom of the Opera,” there’s an “Avenue Q.”

For every “Mamma Mia” at Mandalay Bay there’s a “Mamma Mia” at Tropicana. Long story.

We trust the “Marilyn” cast and crew will find new gigs worthy of their time and talents.

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Wynn Resorts Rights a Wrong, Rolls Back Paid Parking

Few saw it coming, but Wynn Resorts has bucked a trend by announcing it will give free parking to its hotel guests, as well as a way for us commoners to get free parking, too.

Your first question, of course: Las Vegas hotels make their own guests pay for parking?

Well, yes. Where have you been?

Currently, Wynn and Encore charge guests for self-park and valet, a trend that’s become the norm in Las Vegas, just as it is in other cities.

Self-park rates run $7 for the first 1-2 hours, $12 for 2-4 hours and $15 up to 24 hours. Valet charges currently run from $18 (up to two hours), to $27 for 24 hours.

Starting July 1, 2018, that all changes.

Wynn Encore

Wynn Resorts could use some positive buzz right about now. Free parking is a great place to start.

Guests of Wynn and Encore will be able to self-park or valet for free. Remember when free parking was a thing in Las Vegas?

Free parking for hotel guests will be included in their $39 resort fee. Wynn Resorts assures customers the resort fee won’t be increased to accommodate the new policy.

Don’t get us started about resort fees. That’s a fight for another day.

But wait, there’s more.

Non-hotel guests will also be able to park free, albeit with validation. Guests will be validated upon receipt of a $50 spend at Wynn or Encore.

That minimum can be spent at all the retail stores, restaurants, shows, nightclubs and lounges at either of the resorts.

Players will be pleased to hear even money spent gambling counts toward the $50 minimum spend to get free parking. The company hasn’t release details about how that will work, but we trust they’ll figure it out.

Wynn parasols

Sorry, gazing at the pretty things won’t get your parking validated. Buy a couple of drinks, though, and you’re good.

This change in paid parking policy is a pretty big deal in Las Vegas. Paid parking is an ongoing source of frustration for visitors, and many believe is has caused a shift in public perception of Las Vegas as a value destination.

We are one of those people.

So, what’s the motivation behind Wynn Resorts’ move?

Well, there’s the official answer, referred to as “horseshit” in public relations parlance.

Maurice Wooden, President of Wynn Las Vegas, said, “We have come to believe that charging additional parking fees is counter to the personalized service we provide. This new policy directly reflects the way we know our guests want and deserve to be treated.”

So, it suddenly dawned on them guests don’t like having to pay for parking? Right.

Wynn $5,000 machine

This machine at Wynn is $5,000 per spin. You’re covered on the parking.

Wynn Resorts has at least three reasons to change its paid parking policies.

First, its restaurants, shows and retail stores have taken a hit since paid parking was instituted. And it’s not just happening at Wynn and Encore, but at casinos all across Las Vegas.

Restaurants don’t receive the financial benefits of paid parking, at all, so they’re being hurt with nothing to show for it.

Increasingly, restaurants, shows and retail stores are letting their casino overlords know they’re suffering, and it appears Wynn Resorts is listening.

Second, it’s Wynn Resorts, so there’s an undeniable public image component.

Generously setting aside parking fees can’t hurt during a time when Wynn Resorts is trying to restore its tarnished reputation following the Steve Wynn sexual misconduct scandal.

Wynn Resorts is throwing everyone a bone. Which, come to think of it, is what got Steve Wynn in all that trouble in the first place.

We’ll wait.

Wynn funny chip

Oh, like we’d do a story about Wynn without including this chip. Do you know this blog at all?

Third, follow the money.

Wynn’s neighbors, Venetian and Palazzo, still offer free parking. That means many customers park at these competing casinos and walk to Wynn and Encore.

One of the cardinal rules of Las Vegas casinos: Don’t send customers to a competitor. Guests may intend to pass through Palazzo to gamble and dine at Wynn, but there are lots of distractions along the way.

So, the bottom line is Venetian and Palazzo deserve props for holding strong on free parking. If they’d rolled out paid parking, it’s unlikely Wynn Resorts would be changing its policies.

Palazzo

We all owe you a beer, Palazzo.

Along those same lines, let’s not forget another neighbor with free parking: Fashion Show Mall. You can bet there’s a collective sigh of relief at retail outlets inside Wynn and Encore right about now.

We can only hope the new parking program at Wynn and Encore is an acknowledgment by casinos that paid parking is an unnecessary annoyance to customers.

Paid parking is a short-sighted revenue play that hurts brands and, ultimately, Las Vegas.

Let’s hope the other big casino companies in Las Vegas, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts (which started this whole paid parking mess), see the light, too.

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