Monthly Archives: December 2014

The 15 Most Epic Las Vegas Fails of 2014

Las Vegas does so much right, it’s hard to nitpick about the things it gets very wrong. Oh, who are we kidding? It’s easy.

Here’s then are the biggest Las Vegas fails, gaffs, public humiliations and colossal WTFs of 2014, in no particular order, because that would take “thoughtful analysis” and “decision-making,” which we’re clearly not all that into.

1. Las Vegas Sands Hack

Casino giant Sands Corporation, the company that owns the Venetian and Palazzo, was hit by a disgruntled Iranian hacker and hit hard in February, 2014.

Blindsided, the company’s Web site was down for weeks, costing the company an undisclosed ass-ton in revenue, and customer as well as employee data was stolen.

The Sands cyberattack was a wake-up call that sent shock waves through Sin City like a vibrator dropped into a bathtub. Or something.

Sands cyberattack

This is what the Sands homepage looked like during the hack. The blurred out parts were the names and social security numbers of Sands employees. This does not make us want to reserve convention space.

2. Gansevoort Las Vegas Fiasco

Not familiar with the Gansevoort Las Vegas Hotel & Casino? Understandable, given it exists only in our Las Vegas WTF file. When Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon (formerly Barbary Coast) closed, the plan was to renovate and re-open as Gansevoort.

Announcements were made, logos were designed and renderings were rendered. Then, the plan went sideways. An investigation into Gansevoort Hotel Group revealed one of the company’s business partners had connections to Russian organized crime. The hotel’s owner, Caesars Entertainment, dropped the Gansevoort name, opting to open the renovated boutique hotel as The Cromwell.

Good times. And by “good,” of course, we mean “we couldn’t make this crap up if we tried, and we’re pretty good at making crap up.”

Gansevoort Las Vegas

Fails keep lots of rendering artists employed in Las Vegas.

3. Curtains for “Viva Veracruz” and “Sydney After Dark”

They were Las Vegas shows that closed before they ever opened. “Viva Veracruz” was a lavish production commissioned by the government of Veracruz, Mexico to promote tourism. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, it turns out.

The August premiere never happened due to abysmal ticket sales. The show popped up in Sep. for a short stint at Planet Hollywood, and claims it will return in 2015. Don’t hold your breath.

Viva Veracruz

Viva Veracruz is Spanish for “long live shows created by government entities, because those tend to be awesome.”

“Sydney After Dark” also closed before it officially opened. Such is Sin City showbiz.

Sydney After Dark

The end of “Sydney After Dark” must have been crushing to these talented young women, and we look forward to personally comforting each and every one of them.

4. Harmon Hotel Implodes

What’s worse than a show that closes before it opens? How about a $275 million hotel tower that never hosted a single guest? It’s one of the most expensive and visible debacles in the history of Las Vegas.

As a result of building defects, the hotel, at CityCenter, is being taken down piece-by-piece, floor-by-floor. (It can’t be imploded due to its proximity to other buildings, including the Cosmopolitan.)

A trial to resolve the battle between MGM Resorts and contractors over the Harmon Hotel mess was recently settled, avoiding prolonging the pain of a truly epic Las Vegas fail.

Harmon Hotel tower

The Harmon wasn’t going to have a casino, so we weren’t exactly emotionally attached.

5. Donny & Marie Outed on Wrap

It’s awkwardness on a grand scale. Donny and Marie Osmond’s long-festering feud was pretty much on the down-low before the Flamingo got a new building wrap. The Flamingo’s new wrap has the performers on opposite sides of the building, facing away from each other, with text separating between.

Given the two barely perform with each other onstage (and rarely speak offstage), the Flamingo’s wrap is truth in advertising, but the decision to depict them living separate lives is a disappointment to fans and, in our book, one of the biggest, most cringe-worthy Las Vegas fails of 2014.

Donny Marie Flamingo

Bonus 2014 fail: Every photo of Marie Osmond, one of the most Photoshopped people in Las Vegas. Unless she’s 24, of course.

6. “Vegas Nocturne” is Cast Out

This blog was the first to report the closure of “Vegas Nocturne” at Rose.Rabbit.Lie., and the news rocked the fans of this quirky, “Absinthe”-like production.

The fail, though, wasn’t so much related to the show itself (although it was a money suck for the Cosmo), but rather how ugly things got after it closed. Spiegelworld, the producer of “Vegas Nocturne,” sued the Cosmopolitan for “sabotaging” the show, including failing to pay severance to show employees and trying to block the show from moving to a competing venue.

It was a disappointing end to a promising entertainment option in Las Vegas. Then again, disappointment isn’t uncommon in Las Vegas, especially for those who have had sex with this blog.

Vegas Nocturne

Being able to operate a show in the red for months sounds like a pretty sweet racket.

7. The Quad Renamed The Linq

In another glorious hotel-naming cluster, 2014 was the year The Quad (formerly Imperial Palace) was renamed The Linq Hotel & Casino. A solid move, despite the confusion arising from a hotel being named the same thing as an adjoining shopping promenade (The Linq, please keep up).

No, the fail here was the naming of The Quad in the first place. Among its challenges, “quad” also means “four,” which is bad luck in Asian cultures, and Asian gamblers are valued guests at Las Vegas hotels. Also, while “quad” evokes collegiate memories, the hotel’s responsible gaming policies wouldn’t permit it to market to college-aged customers. Oops.

This gaff was a multi-million dollar mistake, as two re-brandings happened within just a couple of years.

Linq hotel

At this rate, they might as well make the walls of The Linq Hotel & Casino one big dry erase board.

8. Downtown Project’s Mess Layoffs

Layoffs are rarely happy occasions, but they’re even more painful when they’re bungled.

Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project (he’s CEO of Zappos) laid off a small number of its employees (30 of 300) in Sep. 2014, but the fallout from the news ended up being the real news. “Mess” is an understatement.

The backlash was immediate, and a mole hill quickly became a mountain, mainly due to inept communications by Hsieh and his team. The incident wasn’t a complete fail, ultimately. It was a chance for Hsieh to regain confidence in his vision and clarify his role in the Downtown Project. It also served as a reality check for all the folks who thought the bajillionaire could do no wrong.

Tony Hsieh

At the opening of the new Zappos headquarters, in downtown Las Vegas, Tony Hsieh makes some cutting remarks.

9. “Pawn Shop Live” Cashes in Its Chips

It seemed like a good idea at the time. “Pawn Shop Live” was a stage show inspired by the loveable misfits made famous by “Pawn Stars,” the History channel’s reality TV juggernaut.

“Pawn Shop Live” opened at Golden Nugget, but eventually shuttered and moved to the Riviera’s Starlite Theatre. It was only about a month before the show’s plug was pulled on Aug. 24, 2014.

The show wasn’t bad, but suffered from a lack of competent direction, and its failure would have passed unnoticed were it not for the fact the show had so much potential. It was a huge missed opportunity, especially for the legions of fans of “Pawn Stars,” this blog included.

Pawn Shop Live

Chumlee’s reaction sort of covers it.

10. “Cake Boss” DUI

It didn’t get a ton of media attention in Las Vegas, but “Cake Boss” star Buddy Valastro, the guy behind Buddy V’s restaurant at the Venetian, was recently nailed for drunk driving (in Manhattan).

While a very public fail, we give Valastro props for pleading guilty, owning up to his mistake and publicly apologizing for disappointing his family and fans.

Las Vegas is all about second chances, so we’ll give him another shot, because cake.

Buddy Valastro

Hope that $300 fine didn’t take too big a bite out of your wallet, Buddy.

11. Lip-Syncs Sink Ships, Unless You’re Britney

By now, it’s no secret Britney Spears lip-syncs her entire Las Vegas show. In 2014, any lingering doubts were crushed as any number of stories came out about snafus highlighting Spears’ use of vocal tracks, sometimes with voices not her own, flubs where she failed to sing into her mic as the vocals continued without her, and so on.

That said, this is the one “fail” on our list we should probably put in quotation marks. From all reports, “Piece of Me” is making a killing. In Las Vegas, money talks, even if its lips don’t always line up with its voice.

Britney Spears Women's Health

No, that’s not Heidi Klum. The jury’s still out on whether this is a plastic surgery fail or win. Sorry, contour fail or win.

12. Money Laundering for the Wynn

Las Vegas casinos tend to have a lot of money in them. This makes them prime candidates for money laundering. Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported Wynn Resorts was involved in a criminal probe to determine if the company violated money-laundering laws. Trust us, “criminal probe” sounds a lot sexier than it is. Those pesky whales!

Wynn reps denied the story, but the Wall Street Journal has, you know, a pretty solid track record. If we’d had a 2013 fail list, it would have included a money laundering investigation at Caesars Palace, as well as a money laundering settlement with the Las Vegas Sands. Honestly, Vegas must have some of the most hygienic money anywhere.

Wynn Las Vegas

The Pesky Whales would make a great band name.

13. Sam Nazarian Troubles

Things have been a bit rocky at the new SLS Las Vegas, formerly the Sahara, in recent weeks. Sam Nazarian, nightclub mogul and Chairman of SBE Entertainment (10 percent owner of SLS Las Vegas), has been taking hits following an embarrassing Nevada Gaming Control Board license hearing.

Revelations during the hearing included testimony about drug use and Nazarian’s dealings with an extortionist. The result has been Nazarian’s relinquishing of control of SLS to his principal investor, Stockbridge Capital.

In opening SLS Las Vegas, Sam Nazarian beat the odds, so he should be a hero. Now, we’re just left scratching our head, a recurring theme among 2014’s biggest Las Vegas fails.

Sam Nazarian

All is not lost when you have a supermodel fiancee.

14. Downtown Grand Blackout

In early 2014, a gambler sued Downtown Grand casino, saying he lost $500,000 because casino employees served him so much liquor he blacked out and couldn’t remember losing, or even playing.

At first we figured this was a case of someone being a sore loser, but casinos are required to adhere to laws prohibiting them from “permitting persons who are visibly intoxicated to participate in gaming activity.”

This lawsuit put a spotlight on the seedier side of Vegas, and it’s surprising this sort of lawsuit doesn’t happen more often, especially given how often this blog gambles while several sheets to the wind.

casino sign

Just say “no” to over-serving gamblers. Unless they’re this blog.

15. Caesars Entertainment Bankruptcy

It’s looking like the year’s biggest Las Vegas fail won’t be official until early 2015, but many consider the impending bankruptcy of Caesars Entertainment (where we used to work, by the way) a foregone conclusion.

In 2014, Caesars Entertainment did everything imaginable (and some even we couldn’t imagine) to avoid Chapter 11, but to no avail. Caesars lost an eye-popping $908.1 million in the third quarter of 2014 alone. Most recently, the company defaulted on a $225 million bond interest payment.

Now, the jig is up and Caesars has to pay the piper, or feel free to substitute another, better, mixed metaphor of your choosing. If a rumored sale of Rio Las Vegas goes through, it could free up some much-needed cash, but in the end, just about everybody loses in a bankruptcy. Except the lawyers, of course.

Augustus Caesars Palace

Sorry, Augustus, the cocktail party’s over.

Sure, there were other Las Vegas fails in 2014, but these were the ones that jumped to mind when we were slapping this listicle together. If you have other 2014 Las Vegas fails, let’s hear them.

We’re hoping 2015 in Las Vegas will be fail-free. And if you believe that, we’ve got a pyramid-shaped hotel to sell you.

Vince Neil’s Tatuado Restaurant & Cantina Goes South at Westgate Las Vegas

Vince Neil’s Tatuado Restaurant & Cantina has discreetly closed at Westgate Las Vegas.

The Mötley Crüe singer’s restaurant and bar opened at the former Las Vegas Hilton (later LVH, now Westgate) in 2010. It was originally named the Tres Rios Cantina.

Vince Neil cantina

The ultimate fate of Vince Neil’s leather pants may never be known.

Back in 2010, the Las Vegas Hilton’s executive vice president Ken Ciancimino said, “He [Neil] is a rock star known around the world. His cantina will be the perfect addition to the many things we have going on here.”

Now, apparently, not so much.

Vince Neil Las Vegas

Not uncommon, unfortunately.

LVH was purchased by Westgate in July 2014, so the closure of Vince Neil’s place may have been the result of the ownership change.

During our infrequent visits, the place was never busy, so we trust the owners no longer wanted to pay for privilege of having Vince Neil’s name on the joint.

In interviews, Westgate’s owner has said there are plans to open another Mexican restaurant. Read more.

Tatuado Primal Scream

We may not miss the restaurant, but we’ll certainly miss the Primal Scream cocktail.

If you still have a hankering for food and drink with Vince Neil’s name on it, head to Tatuado Eat, Drink, Party at Circus Circus Las Vegas.

New Noodle House at California Casino Gets a Name, You Can Probably Guess It

A few weeks ago, Pasta Pirate restaurant closed at the California casino, downtown. We were the first to report it would be replaced by a noodle restaurant.

Now, there are signs revealing the name of the new restaurant, although you probably could’ve guessed it on your own. The new restaurant will be called the California Noodle House.

California Noodle House

Isn’t “Asian fusion” the reason nobody wants to visit Fukushima?

No opening date has been announced for California Noodle House, but things tend to move quickly in Las Vegas. (We’re not talking about you, SkyVue Ferris wheel.)

A noodle restaurant should be a good fit for the California (a contributor to Fremont Street Experience, where we work as a day job), as much of its clientele is from Hawaii. Along with this blog, of course, as we frequently crave the best ice cream in Las Vegas. More news to come, noodlewise.

A Las Vegas Quote We’re Sharing as Words on an Image

Like most things, Las Vegas truths are best shared via words on an image.

Las Vegas

“Word images” are the new “writing an actual blog post.”

We’d love to hear your Las Vegas truths. And you don’t even have to put them on an image. Just type them in the comments. All the kids are doing it.

Thousands Suit Up for Great Santa Run Las Vegas to Benefit Opportunity Village

Downtown Las Vegas was overrun by thousands of people dressed as Santa (8,725, to be exact) to help raise funds for nonprofit Opportunity Village. This year’s Kringle-Palooza was held on Dec. 6, 2014.

Great Santa Run Las Vegas

That’s a lot of faux fur fringe, baby.

This year’s Great Santa Run marks the 10th anniversary of the event in Las Vegas.

Great Santa Run

Yes, there was a Santa goat. It’s still Vegas.

The 8,725 participants were down about 3,000 in number from 2013. Who cares? This isn’t about counting, it’s about having a blast.

Great Santa Run

Some run. Some walk. Many get beard rashes.

The weather was beautiful and unseasonably warm for the popular event.

This year’s event was hosted by reality TV star Holly Madison, and The Chippendales served as Grand Marshals.

Great Santa Run

Which part of “This event takes place in Las Vegas” didn’t you get?

Opportunity Village is one of Las Vegas’ best-known charities, providing support to many with intellectual disabilities.

Santa Run 2014

This is how we hydrate after a 5k in Vegas, baby.

Find out more about Opportunity Village at the organization’s official site.

Enjoy more exclusive pics of one of the quirkiest events in Vegas, the Great Santa Run to benefit Opportunity Village.

2014 Las Vegas Great Santa Run

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Tacos El Gordo Closes on The Strip (Temporarily)

Tacos El Gordo, a Mexican restaurant with a rabid cult following, shuttered suddenly to just about everyone’s surprise on Nov. 30, 2014.

Update (12/5/15): Just nevermind the rest, Tacos El Gordo is back!

Here’s a look at Tacos El Gordo prior to the abrupt shuttering.

Tacos El Gordo

Tacos El Gordo sat in the shadow of the Encore. Which might explain why it was so pale.

Rumors flew that the restaurant would re-open again, but we’ve confirmed that’s not to be. Immediately after the restaurant closed, owners of Tacos El Gordo began taking down signs.

Tacos El Gordo

Tacos El Gordo went from booming to nada, virtually overnight.

The tent outside Tacos El Gordo (erected due to the popularity of the restaurant) was removed right away, and owners of the restaurant have been taking out kitchen equipment and other fixtures, all signs there’s no turning back now.

We had to poke our head inside for a security breach, of course.

Tacos El Gordo

After the anger and bargaining stages of grief comes the drunchies stage. This would be that.

We spoke with a teary-eyed Tacos El Gordo manager to try and get the inside scoop on why the restaurant closed.

Apparently, the restaurant’s closing was a mutual decision between the owners and management of the strip mall where Tacos El Gordo has thrived for some time. The decision to close the restaurant wasn’t financial, but rather was the result of an acrimonious relationship between ownership and the mall’s general manager.

While we’re not taking sides, the mall manager sounds like a bit of an asshat, at one point saying Tacos El Gordo serves “junk food.” It appears the mall manager also was not a fan of the traffic caused by the popularity of Tacos El Gordo. Clearly, this individual is also not a fan of “money,” because Tacos El Gordo was the main draw at this otherwise bland mall, and the foot traffic was undoubtedly a boon to other businesses in the mall.

Tacos El Gordo

The sadness, she is mucha.

During our time at Tacos El Gordo, a few days after closing, there was a steady stream of disappointed fans of the restaurant, many of whom had been coming to Tacos El Gordo for years. The looks of shock and dismay were universal.

One of the few bright spots in the closure is that the employees are being transferred elsewhere and will not be laid off.

Taco lovers will also be happy to hear there’s another Tacos El Gordo location in Las Vegas. While not as accessible for those staying on The Strip, it’s a short taxi ride, and possibly worth the trouble, depending upon the depth of one’s desire for tasty, cheap tacos.

The other location is at 1724 E. Charleston Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89104.

The anguished wails following the closure of Tacos El Gordo are a reminder that in Las Vegas, it’s best not to get too emotionally attached to anything. The good news is that even when something worth loving goes away, Las Vegas always makes more.