Don your flashiest Vegas-themed earbuds, it’s another rambly installment of the Vital Vegas Podcast.
In this episode, we badger casino owner Derek Stevens into sharing some amazing stories about his new downtown resort, Circa.
This is easily the most in-depth interview Stevens has ever given about Circa Las Vegas, which opens Oct. 28, 2020.
Stevens, who also owns The D and Golden Gate, talks about challenges his team faced during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as some first-in-Vegas innovations coming to the new casino resort.
They were originally going to name this new resort “Badass,” but that’s already a nickname of a certain Las Vegas blog.
Fun fact: One of Circa’s restaurants (8 East) won’t open along with the others, because on Oct. 28, Stevens says there will still be a construction crane going through it.
We’ve also got our perfunctory round-up of Las Vegas news, including the latest about Cirque’s bankruptcy, how Vegas botched being an NHL hub city, what’s going on with the four Station Casinos that haven’t reopened yet and the official debut of Resort World’s 100,000-square-foot video screen.
You’ll also get the latest about the reopenings of Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Delano, Aria and Waldorf Astoria, a Las Vegas hotel with a fancy name but no casino, so meh.
We’ll also tease two new venues downtown, Discopussy and Lucky Day.
Discopussy has destination restrooms.
You know we’ve got a spectacularly slapped-together listicle, too, inspired by news Las Vegas could be the site of the first video game-themed Atari Hotel.
All that and less, so listen up and Vegas a little.
Many Las Vegas casino companies are increasingly concerned with rising COVID-19 cases, including among their employees.
We’ve also heard front line staffers at Caesars Palace have relayed to guests the resort will temporarily close following the long weekend.
These rumors are unconfirmed, but it’s unlikely any casino would telegraph such moves heading into what’s expected to be a busy July 4 weekend.
Every casino we’ve visited has upped its enforcement of mandatory mask and social distancing rules, mainly due to the threat of another mandated closure by Nevada Steve Sisolak.
That said, the Governor’s office released a statement that just half of businesses are complying with face covering requirements.
Casinos are doing their part, but bars and restaurants not so much.
Just 50 percent of bars and restaurants visited were found to be in compliance. The number was 61 percent at auto sales, gyms, hair and nail establishments.
Here’s page two of the Governor’s statement. The ominous part.
Trust us, nobody wants to be on the receiving end of “swift and decisive action” right now.
The strategy of voluntary, time-specific closures for casinos makes sense, despite it being painful to think about some of our favorite places on Earth closing their doors again, even if only for a week or two.
It’s unknown how many casinos may voluntarily close, but at the moment, it doesn’t appear there’s a threat of another full, mandated closure as happened from March 17 to June 4, 2020.
Voluntary closures mean casinos take their fate into their own hands, and at least they’ll have hard dates for reopening again. The uncertainty of rolling reopening dates the last time around was a logistical nightmare.
This saga is far from over, and as always, we’ll let you know what we hear.
Update (7/4/20): Venetian Tweeted the rumored shutdowns are false.
It’s a strange time to open a Las Vegas restaurant, but Ahern Hotel has done just that.
Chef Marc’s Italian Steakhouse has flown under the radar since its debut, but we expect that’s going to change dramatically.
The bread alone makes Chef Marc’s a destination restaurant.
Do not weigh yourself after looking at this photo.
Ahern Hotel, of course, is the rebranded Lucky Dragon. The hotel is located a block or two west of Las Vegas Boulevard on Sahara.
If Ahern sounds familiar, it’s because Lucky Dragon was purchased by Don Ahern, owner of a construction rental company, Ahern Rentals. We have no idea how much John Ahern knows about running a hotel, but after meeting Chef Marc Sgrizzi, we’re convinced he knows talent
when he sees it.
Marc Sgrizzi is the former owner of the popular Chef Marc’s Trattoria in Lakeside Village, wherever that might actually be.
Ahern Hotel still has a lot of Lucky Dragon inside.
Our first interaction with Chef Sgrizzi was when he called back to confirm our dinner reservation. We naturally assumed he recognized our name and wanted to roll out the red carpet for a self-important social Las Vegas influencer. Yeah, no.
Come to find out, the chef was literally calling every customer to confirm their reservation to ensure his longtime fans knew how to get to his new restaurant.
The only thing that impressed us more was the chef’s life-altering Jidori Chicken Parmesan, easily one of the best we’ve ever had. And we have had some chicken parm in our day.
If we ever have to choose between rescuing a baby or this chicken parm from a fire, well, you’re on your own, baby.
According to our well-placed sources, it seems Las Vegas is now set to be the first home of an Atari Hotel.
Back in January 2020, plans were announced for eight Atari Hotels across the U.S., with the first slated for Phoenix. You know, the one in Arizona. Please try and keep up.
Now, we hear Las Vegas will leapfrog over Phoenix to get the first Atari Hotel. As it should be. Because Las Vegas.
We just leveled up in our pants.
Additional, less relevant, Atari Hotels are scheduled for Denver, Chicago, Austin, Seattle, San Francisco and San Jose.
When the chain of hotels was originally announced, it didn’t get a lot of buzz because there were relatively few details about financing and location. That’s still the case.
What we do know is Atari has partnered with GSD Group, touted as “a leading innovation and strategy agency, led by founder Shelly Murphy and partner Napoleon Smith III.”
Smith was a producer of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reboot, so he may have his finger on the demographic drawn to a video game-themed hotel.
Fun fact: Atari was named after a word used in a game called Go, popular in Japan.
Smith said in a news release, “When creating this brand new hotel concept, we knew Atari would be the perfect way to give guests the ‘nostalgic and retro meets modern’ look and feel we were going for. Let’s face it, how cool will it be to stay inside an Atari?”
He’s not wrong. Imagine grabbing a bite in the Space Invaders Cafe, dancing the night away at Pong Nightclub, catching some rays at the Q*bert Dayclub, shopping at Pac-Man Promenade or getting a facial at Frogger Baths & Spa.
Timing and execution, of course, are everything.
In contention for understatement of the year: It’s a very weird time to be developing a Las Vegas hotel right now.
Atari is a well-known and beloved brand, so it could have an edge others wouldn’t.
Still, while gaming (eSports gaming, not gambling gaming) is wildly popular, it’s unclear if that would translate into hotel business.
Example: The 2019 revenue from the snack bar at Luxor’s eSports arena was approximately what a typical gambler places on red in any given roulette spin.
That said, we like new and shiny things in Las Vegas, and an Atari Hotel would certainly qualify.
Also, a retro brand could draw older guests with more disposable income. That mixture of middle-aged Asteroids fans and their “Call of Duty” offspring could end up being a magical and profitable combination for Atari.
We actually took 15 seconds to try and confirm our rumor Las Vegas is now the location for the first Atari Hotel, but we haven’t heard back.
While we won’t bet money on this project coming to fruition, we’re now actively rooting for it given Las Vegas could be the first Atari Hotel outpost.
We first broached the possibility of a bankruptcy for Cirque du Soleil back in April 2020, and we’re sad to report the company has done just that. Sometimes, we hate being right.
While news coverage of Cirque’s bankruptcy has focused on “immense disruption” caused by the COVID-19 crisis, Cirque du Soleil was in deep financial trouble prior to the closure of its shows, 44 in all, including six Las Vegas productions.
What kind of trouble? Roughly $1 billion in debt, largely due to leveraged loans.
Let’s hope the sun isn’t setting for Cirque.
Read our story to learn more about some of the WTF moves leading to Cirque du Soleil’s staggering debt.
Cirque furloughed about 3,500 employees in March 2020. Now, those employees are terminated.
The company has signed an agreement with its existing investors to take over Cirque’s liabilities and invest $300 million to keep the company afloat. A Canadian government body called Investissement Quebec will contribute $200 million in debt financing.
Yeah, it’s confusing. We just want our bendy people and creepy clowns back!
It’s expected that once Cirque’s capital is restructured, most of its Las Vegas shows will return: “O,” “Zumanity,” “Love,” “Ka,” “Mystere,” and “One.”
Insiders believe one or more Las Vegas shows won’t be back. Likely candidates are “Zumanity,” “Love” and “Ka.”
Among Cirque’s challenges, there’s no clear timeline for reopening their shows.
Here’s hoping Cirque du Soleil can get its act together. Cirque shows are as much a part of Las Vegas as roulette wheels, strip clubs and people mistakenly using an apostrophe in “Caesar’s Palace.”