Cafe Americano at Paris Sticks It to Guests With “RRF” Fee

We’ve long reported about the various WTF fees in Las Vegas restaurants and other venues.

The tradition of nickel-and-diming continues with a dubious fee at Cafe Americano restaurant at Paris Las Vegas.

Cafe Americano fee

On the bright side, “Dubious Fees” would make a great band name.

This time, it’s an “RRF” charge.

No explanation. Just shut up and pay it, already.

Here’s this crappy new charge in action.

RRF charge

Same suck, different name.

Although the restaurant doesn’t explain it on the bill, on its menu or Web site, “RRF” stands for “Restaurant Regulation Fee.”

The purpose is to presumably offset losses related to the pandemic.

Our take: It’s a shameless money grab and it sucks.

It’s worth noting such fees are voluntary. Guests can and should ask for the charge to be removed. Better yet, they should take their business elsewhere.

The fact is most tourists fail to even notice the charge, or aren’t willing to take time out of their vacation to protest the charge.

Restaurants rely on people not noticing, which is part of what makes the practice so shady.

For some reason, we thought Las Vegas businesses might lay off the idiotic charges for a bit following the challenges posed by the pandemic. Instead, it seems some establishments are using COVID-19 as cover for gouging.

The perception of Las Vegas as a value destination was fading even prior to the pandemic, and we railed often about how short-sighted business decisions were going to hurt Las Vegas in the long run.

We even created a fake ad on behalf of Las Vegas, a wishlist of things Vegas needs to do in order to lure customers back.

make Vegas a value

Still waiting.

Let’s just say not everyone has signed on.

Instead, we get new ways to screwing their customers, as if $28 Double Cheese Bacon Burgers weren’t generating enough profit already.

The only way such irksome charges go away is if we fight the good fight. Speak to a manager. Tell them you aren’t paying it. Let management know you’re going to post this fee in social media so others know to avoid the place.

It goes without saying customers shouldn’t punish their sever for these annoying fees. They don’t make the rules, so tip generously, as always.

Thanks to @LVVinny for giving us the heads up about this crappy new charge at Cafe Americano at Paris.

Yes, restaurants and other businesses have had a rough go of it for the past year. We all want to help. This isn’t the way. Restaurants need to dump nuisance charges once and for all, or Las Vegas will continue to lose visitors as it has for the last several years, exacerbated by increased  competition across the country.

Cafe Americano isn’t the only restaurant at Paris with questionable fees. Read more about the CNF charge at Hexx and Beer Park.

We’ll keep beating this drum until they listen. In the meantime, caveat emptor. Better yet, try another Latin phrase: “Te futueo et caballum tuum, Cafe Americano.” Seriously.

Pinball Hall of Fame Opens on Las Vegas Strip

Rejoice, pinball fans. The beloved Pinball Hall of Fame has opened its new location on the Las Vegas Strip.

The Pinball Hall of Fame operated for years on Tropicana, but now the Vegas fixture has new digs, much more space and many, many more games.

The new Pinball Hall of Fame is near the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, just south of Mandalay Bay. If you’re not into winging it, the address is 4925 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, Nevada, 89119.

You sort of can’t miss it.

Pinball Hall of Fame Strip

Las Vegas isn’t a nuance kind of town.

The new Pinball Hall of Fame is officially in “soft opening” mode, but nobody’s being turned away.

The official Grand Opening is slated for July 1, 2021.

At the moment, the hours of operation of the Pinball Hall of Fame are 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., seven days a week.

Here’s a look inside the new Pinball Hall of Fame.

We’ve been chatting with the Pinball Hall of Fame’s owner, Tim Arnold, throughout the process of building and opening the new location. Take a listen to our most recent interview.

The new Pinball Hall of Fame cost in the neighborhood of $10 million.

Now, everyone can be a baller in Vegas.

The previous location had about 250 machines. The new location, boasting 27,000-square-feet of space, will have about 700. Yes, they’re all playable.

Here’s our favorite pinball machine so far. Because, well Vegas.

There’s no fee for admission to the Pinball Hall of Fame, and about half of the machines cost a quarter. Try and think of another value like that in Las Vegas, we’ll wait.

Many of the machines being moved into the new Pinball Hall of Fame on Las Vegas Blvd. have been in storage for three decades due to space limitations in the previous venue.

It’s worth noting the Pinball Hall of Fame is a nonprofit, and all the folks who work there are volunteers. The organization has a history of donating to local charities.

Pinball Hall of Fame Las Vegas Strip

So many gobble holes, so little time.

You know we got some exclusive scoop about the new place from owner Tim Arnold!

It seems the narrow plot of land had some challenges, so one of the options considered was to build the entire venue underground. Above ground would’ve been just a parking lot and a garbage truck. The garbage truck would have been a “secret” entrance to the Pinball Hall of Fame. This plan was tossed somewhere along the way, and no, we are not making this up.

New Pinball Museum location

We liked our version of the sign better, but whatever.

Another nugget: The Pinball Hall of Fame building doesn’t need to be as tall as it is. Down the road, there are plans to build out a second level, a mezzanine, for still more pinball machines.

If the venue looks a little stark in photos, it’s because the walls were left blank intentionally. There will soon be images on the walls courtesy of a gaggle of projectors.

Yes, a group of projectors are called a “gaggle.” It’s on the Internet, so it has to be true.

Pinball Las Vegas Strip

Here’s the complete list of the classic pinball machines at the new Pinball Hall of Fame: All of them.

We are just so happy for our friends at the Pinball Hall of Fame.

The new location, and massive “Pinball” sign, are sure to raise the visibility of this Las Vegas gem.

We can’t wait until the July 1 Grand Opening, and if masks are no longer a thing, the Pinball Hall of Fame is promising an “unmask-arade ball.”

Emphasis on “ball.”

Let us know what you think of the new Pinball Hall of Fame, and tell them we sent you. They’ll probably let you in, anyway.

Bellagio Conservatory’s Spring Display is a Colorful Cultural Mash-Up

Bellagio Conservatory’s spring display for 2021 has a little something for everyone.

Yes, that’s a diplomatic way of saying it’s all over the place, but let’s take a look at what remains one of the best free attractions in Las Vegas.

The display tips its horticultural bowler to springtime in The Netherlands, England, Thailand and the U.S.

Spring has sprang at Bellagio’s Conservatory. “Sprang” is how they say it in Thailand. We’re worldly like that.

What the spring display lacks in a coherent theme, it more than makes up for in flowers, of course.

More than 30,000 flowers and plants make up “Springtime Celebrations Around the World.”

There are also koi.

Bellagio spring 2021

The koi pond is in the Netherlands section of the attraction. We told you it’s all over the place.

In a rare misstep, Bellagio’s Conservatory decided the centerpiece of the springfest (the “West Bed”) would be a greenhouse with hundreds of live butterflies, two of which are flying at any given time.

Guests must strain to actually see the butterflies, and the greenhouse itself isn’t visually interesting. Even the butterflies seem a little bored.

Great idea, in theory. How about a way to walk through next time? The butterflies won’t care. They have a lifespan of two weeks or something, they might as well stay awake the whole time. Just spitballing here.

The England section “pays homage to the famed Chelsea Flower Show.”

It’s safe to say they’re using “famed” a little loosely here.

Anyway, there are some awesome over-sized hummingbirds. We are an unabashed fan of hummingbirds of any size, so this was a high point of our visit.

The blue-throated mountaingem’s heart beats 1,260 times a minute, or the same as ours when forced to walk up stairs because the escalator is broken.

The “South Bed” globe hops to Holland, complete with a windmill, tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.

This area features a recreation of the Keukenhof Festival, which we assume is also “famed” among flower nerds.

There are also clogs. The Netherlands remain the only place in the world where you can wear clogs in public and not be mercilessly taunted and pelted with stones.

We got jet lagged just strolling from one part of the Conservatory to another.

The U.S. part of the attraction seems a tad random and tacked on, but is intended to make reference to the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.

There are a ton of roses, which is apparently our National Flower. Did everyone know this but us? President Ronald Reagan made the rose the national floral symbol in 1986, proving conclusively Presidents have way too much time on their hands.

Butterflies replacing stars? There’s a chance the horticulturalists at Bellagio have been smoking some of the 30,000 plants. Just saying.

Here are more stats from the Bellagio Conservatory’s spring display for 2021:

googie 75: Team members involved in the display’s assembly
googie 11: Number of hanging butterfly sculptures
googie 18 feet by 28 feet: Height and length of the butterfly greenhouse
googie More than 100: Live butterflies in the greenhouse
googie 12: Cherry blossom trees
googie 3: Number of hanging seven-tiered Thai regal umbrellas
googie 20 feet: Height of the highest point of the windmill
googie 9,000: Gallons of recirculated water used throughout the display
googie 2: Over-sized jewel-toned hummingbirds made of botanical materials
googie 8: American flags
googie 2,000: Dusty Miller plants lining each of the four beds
googie 4: Hours of music specially curated for the exhibit
googie 4: Calling birds
googie 3: French hens
googie 2: Turtle doves
googie 1: Smartass blogger trying to see if you were paying attention

If you haven’t seen Dusty Miller in concert, you’re missing out!

Fleek flora for flower fans.

There are still some weird pandemic procedures going on at the Conservatory. Guests must now walk along a specific path through the attraction.

You can still hang out and meander, though, and it’s a great way to spend some time taking in an astonishing collection of flowers while appreciating the talent and ingenuity of the Conservatory’s horticultural team.

While we may nitpick about the Conservatory’s springtime extravaganza, we enjoy every display and no visit to Las Vegas is complete without a pilgrimage to the popular attraction.

Also, did we mention how free it is?

The “North Bed” features an homage to Thailand’s Songkran Water Festival, which is more a New Year thing than a spring thing, but just play along.

Bellagio’s Conservatory is free and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Eight days a week if you’re a whale. High rollers do whatever the hell they want in Vegas.

Bellagio’s springtime display ends May 22, 2021.

Here are more photos of the Conservatory’s spring display at Bellagio. Yes, you’re cheating on the fountains, but they’ll get over it.

Big-Ass Slot Jackpots Kick-Start Las Vegas Recovery

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority spends millions of dollars marketing Las Vegas, but lately, the town has been promoting itself with a flurry of massive slot jackpots.

Things kicked off with a $2.1 million jackpot on a Monopoly Millionaire machine at Cosmo, and the hits just keep on coming.

The jackpot was $2,101,093.50, actually, but who’s counting?

There was another big win at Venetian on a Wheel of Fortune machine for $2.9 million ($2,946,335.63, to be exact).

Roger is a noted physician or dentist or popcorn ceiling installer, probably.

Yet another mind-boggling jackpot hit at The D a short time later. The lucky winner snagged $1.2 million (for posterity, $1,222,784.35) on a Buffalo Grand machine.

Please don’t write on slot machines. Somebody has to clean that up.

Just when the euphoria was about to subside momentarily, South Point dropped a bombshell.

Two words: Mega. Bucks.

Which, technically, is one word, but when you win 10-freaking-million, you can slice Megabucks up into as many pieces are your heart desires.

Money can’t buy you love, but it can pay for a limo to the Bunny Ranch.

While Vegas is no stranger to multi-million dollar slot jackpots, they do seem to be happening with a much greater frequency just as Las Vegas is opening up again fully following a year of challenges related to the pandemic.

So, why are these big jackpots hitting so often? We’re pretty sure it’s related to how much play the machines are getting.

There was a lot of pent-up demand for Vegas, and visitors have come back in large numbers, fueled by a need to party, as well as stimulus checks, unemployment checks and tax refunds.

The more play machines get, the more frequent the payouts. It’s the law.

Megabucks

When Megabucks hit, machines across Las Vegas reset to $10 million. Oh, like you’d turn that down.

No, actually, it is sort of the law. Las Vegas casinos have to adhere to strict guidelines about slot machine payback minimums. (Machines can’t pay back less than 75 percent. The vast majority pay much more, with some approaching 100 percent payback.)

Beyond the regulations, though, it feels like the machines are collaborating to spark excitement about Las Vegas at a critical time.

So, come get yours.

We look forward to sharing our own million-dollar jackpot soon! Because, you know, good things come in, well, fives.

Confirmed: Palms Casino Sold to San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

As we were the first to report, the sale of Palms casino to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians has been confirmed.

Thanks for following up on our scoop, every other media outlet!

Also confirmed: Modesty is exhausting.

Palms San Manuel

You knew there was a reason we went to the trouble of Photoshopping this.

The sale price for Palms is $650 million.

The tribe recently created a new entity, San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority, to operate Palms.

In a statement, Red Rock Resorts (Station Casinos) said the sale is expected to close by the end of 2021, but we’d say it’ll be closer to 90 days. After that, it’s licensing time, which could take in the neighborhood of six to nine months before Palms could reopen again.

As we’ve shared previously, San Manuel telegraphed its intention to buy a Las Vegas casino in a variety of ways, including advertising at T-Mobile arena, partnering with the Las Vegas Raiders and donating millions to Las Vegas nonprofits and UNLV.

While not reported elsewhere, we have further details about the sale, including that San Manuel plans to keep the Palms name.

In addition, we understand San Manuel plans to reopen Palms as quickly as possible. Anticipate the announcement of a job fair soon.

The existing Palms restaurant concepts are believed to be out, although discussions with Michael Symon’s Mabel’s BBQ are ongoing from what we hear.

The sale of Palms follows on the heels of denials the resort was even for sale. We had some eloquent thoughts on that at the time.

Palms never reopened after the mandatory closure in March 2020. We were the first to share the Palms wouldn’t reopen under its current ownership.

We’ll play nice when the Review-Journal starts giving attribution.

While Red Rock Resorts got a solid return on what it spent to buy Palms, $313 million, the company didn’t come close to recouping its $1 billion (if you include the cost of a major renovation, $690 million).

We’ll put it plainly: Palms was an unmitigated disaster for Red Rock Resorts, a huge financial misstep based upon arrogance (bordering on delusion) and a misguided vision even its own executive team didn’t seem onboard with, according to industry chatter.

And don’t get us started on Kaos, the trainwreckery against which all others are measured.

We have high hopes for Palms under its new ownership, the San Manuel tribe. Its Southern California casino is printing money, and everyone we’ve talked to speaks highly of the operation.

Palms will be the first Las Vegas casino owned by a tribe, although feathers have been popular here for ages, if you get our drift.

While Palms may never return to its mythical “former glory,” it doesn’t have to. It just has to provide a solid, gambling-focused experience, keep locals in mind and (gasp) turn a
profit.

Welcome to Las Vegas, San Manuel. Show us what you’ve got.

Podcast, Ep. 122: Brothels Are Healing, Palms is Sold and Las Vegas is Back

It’s an especially saucy edition of the Vital Vegas podcast, so lube up, gird your loins and strap on your earbuds.

We start with all the latest on the as-yet-unannounced sale of Palms casino to the San Manuel tribe. Yes, we’re the only one reporting this story to-date, which makes the scoop, and us, even cooler.

Palms San Manuel

This is going to shake things up real good.

As of May 1, 2021, Nevada brothels are open again, so we went to a legal brothel icon for what’s going down.

We chat with none other than Air Force Amy, of “Cat House” fame, about how sex workers have navigated the pandemic and the closure of brothels for more than a year.

Air Force Amy shares insights about what customers can expect now that brothels have opened again, as well as her experiences at the famous Bunny Ranch (and just about every other brothel in Nevada).

Air Force Amy

Here’s brothel legend Air Force Amy on Casual Friday.

Naturally, we’ve got a butt-ton of updates about pandemic restrictions being lifted (Las Vegas capacities are up to 80%), what’s opening again (nightclubs, dayclubs and strip clubs, sorry, still no lap dances) and more.

Of course, we’ll dive into the recent spate of million-dollar-plus jackpots around Las Vegas. The biggest was a $10.5 million beauty at South Point which should’ve been ours, but we’re not even slightly bitter.

Of course, amidst all the good news, there’s still a lot that annoys us, so we share our “Top 11 Annoying Things in Las Vegas Right Now.” Highlights: Broken escalators (only 11 of 60 are working on The Strip right now), rideshare and rental car problems, the $1,200 taxable threshold and, of course, masks.

Strip broken escalator

“Grrr” just about covers it.

Get ready for a wild ride as we fill your head, heart and moist regions with so much Vegas, you’ll probably spill a little when you run over speed bumps.

Take a listen, and we’re so sorry.