Joe’s Steakhouse at Forum Shops Institutes Optional COVID-19 Crisis Fee

One of our favorite Las Vegas restaurants, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab at the Forum Shops, has risked the ire of customers with a new “COVID-19 offset fee” in the amount of four percent on all checks.

The reasoning for the fee is provided on the company’s Web site.

Joe's COVID fee

Don’t bury the lede, Joe’s. The fee is optional!

While we’d typically lose our mind over a fee like this, we’re reeling in the WTF this time. Hear us out.

We’ll say up front we think this fee is a bad look for Joe’s and its parent company, Lettuce Entertain You.

But everyone can agree restaurants are going through a particularly difficult time right now.

Yeah, understatement of the year.

In Las Vegas, most have had zero revenue in more than two months during the shutdown.

Joe's Seafood Las Vegas

Joe’s will change your life. You can’t put a price on that.

Even as restaurants have opened their doors again, they have been faced with a daunting 50% occupancy limitation. Even the most financially successful restaurants (Joe’s is one of those) are struggling with the unprecedented financial challenge that limitation (in addition to new costs related to safety protocols and equipment) presents.

To the credit of Joe’s, they’re transparent about the fee. It’s not only on the restaurant’s Web site, it’s on the menu and printed on the checks.

Joe's COVID receipt

Optional is cool. Keep an eye out for restaurants where it’s mandatory.

The biggest saving grace is the restaurant makes it very clear customers can simply ask to have the fee removed.

So, it’s completely optional.

We initially figured we’d ask to have the fee removed, but as we thought about it further, we’re pretty sure we’re going to pay it.

Why? We love Joe’s. We love that Joe’s employees are finally back to work. We want to place to thrive, and we don’t mind helping Joe’s through a rough patch.

Yes, Joe’s could just add 4% to their prices, but that could end up being permanent. This “offset” fee is very much temporary, just the way we prefer our fees.

As mentioned, Joe’s is one of the best restaurants in Las Vegas, and it’s hard to get too mad when you love something so much. They get a pass from us this time.

If you refuse to pay fees out of principal, good for you. As to have the 4% removed from your tab and tip the server 24%. You can afford it. You’re eating at Joe’s!

Thanks to Twitter followers @Austin5Fe and @trilldauterive for alerting us to this story.

Update (6/5/20): Perhaps not surprisingly, Mon Ami Gabi at Paris has also instituted this optional charge. Mon Ami Gabi has the same owner as Joe’s, Lettuce Entertain You.

Twin Peaks Goes Bust, Closes Permanently on Las Vegas Strip

Color us devastated. One of our favorite Las Vegas “breastaurants” on the Las Vegas Strip, Twin Peaks, has closed permanently.

Twin Peaks was best known for its ice-cold beer, rock climbing wall and chicken strips.

Just kidding.

Twin Peaks Vegas closed

We also liked the chicken strips a lot. Seriously.

The parent company of Twin Peaks wasted no time erasing the Las Vegas location from its Web site.

Twin Peaks closed

 

Word is the other Twin Peaks location in Las Vegas (Henderson, technically), at 9510 S. Eastern Ave., will be back. So, there’s that.

To see more about what restaurant we’re even talking about, fondle our girthy archives.

Twin Peaks, a thinly-disguised Hooters knock-off, was one the fastest-growing restaurant chain in America, circa 2014.

Beyond challenges related to the COVID-19 crisis, Twin Peaks may have suffered from being in a city where scantily-clad women aren’t exactly scarce.

During our visits, the Harmon Corner location did good but not great business.

Twin Peaks will truly be missed on The Strip, and our hearts go out to all the toothsome young women who will now have to seek other employment. It’s Vegas, so we get the feeling they’ll be just fine.

Park MGM to Be First Entirely Non-Smoking Resort in Las Vegas

Park MGM, formerly Monte Carlo, is reportedly going to break new ground when it reopens. Word is Park MGM will be the first completely non-smoking casino resort on the Las Vegas Strip.

Yep, the casino, the hotel and pool. The whole nine.

Boom.

Park MGM

The time for a non-smoking Vegas casino may have finally arrived.

There’s been a lot of buzz about Las Vegas casinos possibly going non-smoking (including a rumor about Planet Hollywood which Caesars Entertainment quickly denied), but popular wisdom has been a non-smoking casino in Vegas is doomed.

We beg to differ.

Park MGM is the perfect casino resort to take the smoking ban leap.

While the timing is related to the COVID-19 crisis, a smoking ban is going to be a huge market differentiator for Park MGM. That marketing hook is needed more than ever, especially because the hotel has not met expectations since the Monte Carlo rebrand. Ditto the resorts hotel-within-a-hotel, NoMad.

The goal for Park MGM has always been to appeal to younger customers (or any customers, really). The “bold” move to ban smoking is certain to be a draw for customers who may never have been to Park MGM, or Monte Carlo for that matter.

It seems likely the smoking ban at Park MGM will be presented as “temporary,” but if it results in pulling in new customers, it may end up being the beginning of a trend for Las Vegas casinos, despite the vocal opposition to such a cultural and business shift.

Interestingly, former MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren may have tipped the company’s hand about a smoke-free Vegas casino, without ever mentioning a specific resort.

In an interview with Fox 5 Las Vegas, Murren said he believed over time Las Vegas casinos will “gravitate” toward being smoke-free.

Another breadcrumb MGM Resorts would make this move? A survey sent to loyalty club members specifically asked if enforcing non-smoking policies would increase their chances of returning sooner. Somebody, apparently, answered “yes.” See more from the MGM Resorts survey.

smoking casino COVID-19

The survey question that launched a thousand blog comments.

We’ve hear there are a lot of MGM Resorts executives who are very nervous about this decision, and if the rumor pans out, we look forward to seeing how this surprising twist unfolds.

The best players at Park MGM are already being contacted by their casino hosts to make sure they’re cool with the smoking ban.

There’s been no official announcement from Park MGM about the rumored smoking ban or a reopening date. We’ve heard July 1, so let’s go with that.

Company Creates Socks That Smell Like Las Vegas

It’s an idea so crazy, it just might work. A company out of Bulgaria, Stinky Socks, has created a line of scented socks intended to remind people of their favorite places, including Las Vegas.

The socks are touted as carrying the scent of “the beach, the mountains and the heart of the city.”

The “city” in question? Las Vegas, of course.

Stinky Socks Las Vegas

No, Vegas casino carpets aren’t garish to “keep people looking up at the slots.” First, they aren’t all garish. Second, the patterns are sometimes busy because it helps disguise stains.

We reached out to Stinky Socks to see what inspired the scent for the Las Vegas socks, and the company’s CEO, named Risto, said, “I would describe it as a mix of old, heavy furniture mixed with air that wasn’t moved a lot.” We are intrigued.

As far as the design, Risto said, “[The socks] were inspired partly from carpets back in the day, mixed with some disco elements from the ’80s.” Read more from Risto.

Longtime casino visitors may see some similarities to the kitschy carpeting at Stardust.

The latest batch of socks from Stinky Socks was intended to appeal to folks staying home during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Here’s a look at a video promoting the fragrant socks.

The aromatic socks cost $14.95. Ours were $24.95 with shipping included. Of course, we ordered some! Do you know this Las Vegas blog at all?

Given the wide, wide variety of smells in Las Vegas, we’re curious to experience these socks first-hand. First nostril? Whatever works.

Vegas fans have long had an appetite for the smells of their beloved casinos. Companies have churned out Vegas-scented candles and aroma machines paying homage to our favorite places to stay and play. Sans the cigarette and cigar smoke, typically.

Find out more at the Stinky Socks Web site. Which is, frankly, a sentence we never imagined we’d be typing in this Las Vegas blog.

Plug Pulled on The Drew, Project in Default

Back in March 2020, we shared that The Drew project had been suspended indefinitely. Now, the embattled project appears to be in default.

The embattled Drew was formerly the embattled Fontainebleau.

Fontainebleau wrap

Just when we thought we’d expended all our sad.

Fontainebleau sits across from Circus Circus and was abandoned in 2009 due to the financial crisis.

In 2017, the unfinished Fontainebleau was sold to Witkoff Group for $600 million.

We’re now learning more about the investors in The Drew. A group of South Korean companies have sunk about $490 million into the project.

According to “Business Korea,” the investors include Mirae Asset Daewoo, NH Investment & Securities, Hana Financial Investment, Kangwon Land and a Hyundai Motor Group subsidiary.

Apparently, principal and interest payments have been suspended since May 8, 2020.

One of the securities companies claims the project is not in default yet, but a “deferment request has been made in relation to local conditions.”

As recently as January 2020, Drew owner Steve Witkoff believed he would close on a $2 billion construction loan. While we appreciate whimsy, it didn’t look good. Then coronavirus hit the fan.

The Fontainebleau/Drew saga has been a roller coaster ride. If roller coasters went through active volcanoes and minefields.

Everyone’s rooting for The Drew, but bringing the abandoned hotel back is expected to cost billions, and there were questions about the viability of The Drew even before the COVID-19 crisis.

The hope was The Drew would open by November 2022, but reality is likely to prevail over whimsy. Again.

Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 110: Let’s Vegas Again

Let’s talk about the reopening of Vegas, finally!

There’s so much good news, we’re going to have our podcast let out. What does that even mean? Who the hell knows? The bottom line: We get to gamble again!

In this episode, we chat with Derek Stevens, owner of The D and Golden Gate, about giving away 2,000 free flights to Las Vegas.

Derek Stevens

Thanks to Derek Stevens for being on our podcast and sorry about the parts where we talk.

We also get a sneak preview of plans for Ahern Hotel, formerly the Lucky Dragon.

Chef Marc Sgrizzi talks about his new restaurant, Chef Marc’s Italian Steakhouse, and also tells us how to pronounce his name.

Chef Marc's Italian Steakhouse

Ahern Hotel has some sexy stuff in store.

We’ve got all the latest scoop you won’t hear anywhere else, and some scoop we heard elsewhere but changed just enough to avoid getting into too much trouble.

Don’t miss our hastily slapped-together listicle, “11 Things We’re Doing on June 4.” Hint: They all involve gambling and drinking. Shocker.

It’s the podcast your mother would’ve warned you about if she weren’t so busy reading your diary.

Take a listen!