Monthly Archives: September 2016

Please Stop Waiting in Line for a Photo at the Las Vegas Sign

Taking a photo at the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign is a must-do ritual for Las Vegas visitors.

Standing in a long line to take a photo at the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign is one of the most peculiar. Rituals. In case that wasn’t clear. Please keep up.

Las Vegas sign

Yes, it took us 45 minutes to remove all the power lines with Photoshop. Totally worth it.

Seriously, thousands of people visit the Las Vegas sign each day and many, many of them inexplicably stand in line for their turn to snap a pic.

On a recent visit, people were standing in line for 20-30 minutes for the iconic photo op.

Las Vegas sign

Self-regulating courtesy. Our faith in humanity is restored.

But here’s the thing. The Las Vegas sign isn’t a line thing.

The civility it appreciated, but you’re in Las Vegas. Why are you standing in line for something where a line isn’t accomplishing anything?

Just step to one side of the line or the other and have at it, already!

Las Vegas sign photos

Are you a fan of In-N-Out? That should be your strategy at the Las Vegas sign!

Why are people standing in line? We suspect many foreign travelers see a line and are just being polite. Which is awesome. Many experts believe politeness became extinct in 1998,
but that’s clearly not the case.

It’s also possible people are standing in line because everyone else is. That herd mentality, though, is stealing precious time that could be better spent gambling and drinking, especially that second thing.

There’s also a chance people are waiting so they can stand directly beneath the sign for their photo. That position is actually one of the worst to get a photo, by the way.

Matters may be complicated by the fact scam artists often pose as “official photographers” at the sign (a designation that doesn’t exist) and, in an attempt to earn more tips, direct guests to stand in line as it makes the fleecing process more efficient.

The bottom line is you have better things to do. So, skip the line. Taking a photo at the Las Vegas sign is a five minute thing, not a 30 minute thing. Which is also something you can tell your lover. You read it online, so it must be true. You’re welcome.

Caesars Entertainment Rolls Out Comp Drink Monitoring System to All Its Las Vegas Resorts

Las Vegas observers predicted this was coming, and now its here. Caesars Entertainment, which operates nine Sin City resorts, has rolled out its “Red Light, Green Light” (our term, not theirs) comp drink monitoring system to all its Las Vegas casinos.

The color-coded light system, installed on the back of video poker machines at casino and sports book bars, tells bartenders when a guest’s play warrants a free, or “comped,” drink.

Caesars Entertainment red light green light

Now, at Caesars Entertainment casinos, you have to get lit to get lit.

Las Vegas casinos have experimented with a variety of comp drink monitoring systems, the first being a voucher system at Mirage. The voucher system is now used in the lobby bar at MGM Grand as well.

Then, the Red Light, Green Light system appeared at the sports book bar at Caesars Palace.

Most recently, Cosmopolitan Las Vegas became the first Strip resort to implement a voucher system across all its casino bars, including its remodeled Chandelier bar.

The move by Caesars Entertainment to implement its comp drink monitoring system is a huge development in Las Vegas because the company owns so many casinos. Drink monitoring systems will now be the norm, and a company-wide roll-out at MGM Resorts resorts are sure to follow.

Caesars comp drink system

Today’s thing that looks like a face can also be a friend when you’re looking for a free drink.

We personally verified the comped drink system is in place at these Caesars Entertainment resorts: Bally’s (including Sully’s bar and Casino Bar), Cromwell (Lobby Bar), Linq (includes Tag Sports Bar, Catalyst and 3535 Bar), Flamingo (including X Bar and Bugsy’s, pictured below) and Harrah’s.

Our alert readers have confirmed that the system is in place at Rio, Caesars Palace, Paris and Planet Hollywood.

Remarkably, the Red Light, Green Light monitoring system seems to have been installed at all these Caesars Entertainment resorts within just a two-week window.

Bugsy's Bar Flamingo Las Vegas

Yes, the new system is in full effect at Bugsy’s Bar at Flamingo. One has to wonder what “Bugsy” Siegel (he hated that nickname, by the way) would think of the whole Red Light, Green Light thing. Oh, there would be whacking.

So, here’s how the system works, as best we can decipher, anyway. See, Caesars Entertainment hasn’t made any official announcements about the details of the monitoring system. Implementing the new system under-the-radar was a strategic decision to avoid potential backlash, as one bartender confirmed.

When you sit down at a video poker machine at a sports book or casino bar in a Caesars Entertainment resort, and put $20 into the machine, a blue light comes on. That signals to the bartender that you’ve “activated” the machine. Yes, there are guests who sit at these machines and put a dollar in and expect free drinks. They’re the ones this system is trying to address.

Once you choose your game, and begin play, you’ll need to play “max bet” for 4-5 hands (in most cases, $1.25 a pop, or five times 25 cents), then a green light comes on. That green light means you get a comped drink. Good times.

Las Vegas drink lights

Get the red, a dry spell’s ahead.™

As long as your green light is on, you’re good for comped drinks. This requires consistent play at max bet. There doesn’t appear to be a time requirement. You play, your light stays green, you’re hammered.

If you don’t play max bet, or if you play too slowly, you’ll get the red light. That signals to the bartender you no longer “qualify” for a free drink. You’ll need to meet the qualifications again before the liquor flows freely again.

That’s about it. Simple, but effective.

When we first learned of systems like this, we railed against them, but our position has evolved as we’ve learned more.

In essence, bartenders have always been the comped drink monitoring system. They watched the level and frequency of play and determined who earned a free drink. Now, it’s

When these systems first hit the casinos, bartenders weren’t thrilled. They felt it impeded their ability to give good customer service, and it also decreased their tips.

When asked during our most recent visit, one Bally’s bartender said, “They’re a blessing.” Now, the pressure is off the bartenders, and an automated system creates an environment where players know what’s expected, and the freeloaders know they can’t get away with scamming casinos for free drinks without a reasonable amount of play.

It’s worth noting bartenders say they have some discretion to veer from the rigidity of the Red Light, Green Light system for Seven Stars and Diamond tier loyalty club members. Those are some of Caesars Entertainment’s most lucrative customers, and it’s unlikely they’d nickel and dime them over cocktails that have a hard cost of mere pennies.

Caesars comp drink system

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because you’re in Vegas.

At the moment, the light system at Caesars Entertainment resorts can’t easily be seen by customers. They’re installed on the back of video poker machines, and most players don’t even realize they’re there. If you want to know which of your lights are showing, you can place your hand behind the light display to see the color reflected, or use your smartphone’s selfie mode to take a look. Or just ask your bartender. They’re not secretive about it at all.

One bartender suggested the lights should be clearly visible to players so guests could easily tell if they’ve earned another free drink. That suggestion, however, didn’t go over well with management due to concerns about the potential of a negative customer response.

The customers we’ve chatted with, though, understand the fundamental purpose of the comped drink system, and figure the only people it will impact are those who expect something for nothing. That arrangement has never actually existed in Las Vegas, despite many who mistakenly believe it did. They just didn’t understand how Vegas worked. Casino revenue has always paid for the free rooms, buffets and show tickets. People did the comping, not machines.

Cromwell comp drink system

Yep, even the Cromwell. At this point, we recommend just paying for your cocktail. It’s likely to be less expensive than feeding a machine in the hopes of earning a comped one.

The implementation of the Red Light, Green Light comped drink monitoring system at all Caesars Entertainment resorts in Las Vegas marks a dramatic turning point in the culture and business of Las Vegas casinos.

It means we’re going to see similar monitoring systems in all Las Vegas casino bars and, in time, on all slot machines across the entire casino floor.

These changes, along with downsized liquor pours and paid parking, have sparked heated discussion among Las Vegas visitors, many contending Las Vegas casinos are compromising the destination’s perceived value for short-term financial gain.

Ultimately, though, painful as they may seem, the changes are smart business, and casinos
are for-profit businesses. Always have been, always will be.

Update (9/27/16): Caesars Entertainment has confirmed that the comp drink monitoring system has been implemented at all its Nevada casinos. A statement reads: “Caesars Entertainment has implemented the comp validation system statewide throughout our Nevada resorts. This system enables us to offer complimentary beverages to those gamers who choose max play at our video poker bar top units.” See more on this story from our friends at KTNV.

It ain’t glitzy, but it is the reality, so play on.

Vital Vegas Podcast, Episode 27: News, History, Craps Mistakes and a Metric Hell-Ton of Carlos’n Charlie’s

It’s a surprise episode of the Vital Vegas Podcast. Mainly, the surprise is we’re still doing a podcast.

In this installment, we talk Life is Beautiful, Freedom Beat at Downtown Grand, Wynn Plaza and Gordon Ramsay’s new fish and chips joint at Linq promenade.

Gordon Ramsay

Gordon Ramsay says his Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips is a week away from opening at Linq promenade. He should know. His name is on it.

Next, we serve up an all-you-can-eat buffet of Las Vegas news, followed by some masterfully curated Las Vegas history. (We just read Wikipedia.)

Our “Listicle of the Week” is “10 Craps Mistakes Made by Virgins.”

A highlight of the show is a nearly 12-hour interview with Genaro Dispa, General Manager of Carlos’n Charlie’s. We ask all the awkward questions you can imagine asking a restaurant general manager, and also hear from a customer who has clearly been enjoying the libations at this fun restaurant inside Flamingo Las Vegas.

Take a listen to the Vital Vegas Podcast, if for no other reason than it will make you appreciate silence.

Harley-Davidson Cafe Failing, On the Verge of Replacement

The Strip’s Harley-Davidson Cafe, known for its iconic 7.1:1 scale Sportster facade, is months behind on its rent and is rumored to be closing.

While in a seemingly ideal location, at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue, the Harley-Davidson Cafe has struggled in recent months, forcing the restaurant’s landlord to search for a new tenant.

Harley-Davidson Cafe Las Vegas

Harley-Davidsons are known for their choppy “potato-potato” sound, whatever that might mean.

There’s no word on who the replacement tenant will be, or when the Harley-Davidson Cafe might shutter. The venue opened in on Sep. 23, 1997.

The Harley-Davidson Cafe features quite a bit of Harley-Davidson memorabilia and also boasts an American flag made of 44,000 chain links. No, we did not count them. We are a blog, not an abacus.

The 28-foot tall Harley on the front of the building is a popular photo op, but a restaurant does not live by photo ops alone.

We’ll keep our ear to the ground for further developments, and by that we mean we’ll check in on the Harley-Davidson Cafe from time to time from the balcony at Twin Peaks. The sacrifices we make for you.

Update (10/12/16): Harley-Davidson Cafe has confirmed it will close Oct. 31, 2016. Read more.

Freedom Beat Restaurant Opens at Downtown Grand

Freedom Beat has opened at Downtown Grand, offering a shiny new menu with American favorites, live entertainment and an energetic vibe that could inject some new life
into the three-year-old resort.

Freedom Beat Downtown Grand

Freedom Beat was designed by Bunnyfish Studio, the company that also did Eat, Perch, Carson Kitchen (still no Captain Morgan, so suck it) and Nacho Daddy, among many others.

Freedom Beat replaces the casino’s original cafe, Stewart + Ogden, utilizing that restaurant’s space and more. Freedom Beat also incorporates part of another closed venue, Red Mansion.

Freedom Beat Downtown Grand

Unforgiving seats in this section for the Millennials, booths with cushioned seats for the rest of us.

Freedom Beat will operate 24/7, and the plan is to have a variety of artists perform in the space.

Music was front-and-center during our visit. We’re pretty much of the mind that the world is divided into two groups: Those who love live music in restaurants and those who don’t. We tend to be in the latter group, as we like our music as an undercard as opposed to the main event.

Yes, we made a sports analogy. Don’t freak out.

Here’s a walk-through of Freedom Beat.

We are as impressed with our videography as you are, especially since most restaurants discourage indoor droning.

But enough about us. What’s up at Freedom Beat? Well, for starters, we love the decor. It has a rock ‘n’ roll vibe, with guitar cases built into the booths and artwork fashioned from vinyl records. You remember those, right? They were a thing.

Freedom Beat Downtown Grand

A thing of beauty, but that paint is going to wreck your stereo needle.

Freedom Beat is a collaboration between Downtown Grand and 34th Floor Hospitality Group, the same folks who revamped the hotel’s Citrus pool deck with very pleasing results.

The restaurant’s menu was developed by Chef Scott Commings, a name that might sound familiar because he won season 12 of “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Here’s a look at the menu.

Freedom Beat Menu

Breakfast anytime, apps, sandwiches, salads and desserts. The prices don’t scream a locals play, but aren’t bad given there’s live music.

While you look adorable squinting, for a version of the menu you can actually read, click here.

We haven’t tried the food at Freedom Beat yet, but it looked tempting on its way to customers, and we did try a signature cocktail. You know us so well.

The Bathtub Gin Daisy is a bone fide panty-dropper. All the cocktails run $12, and we expect to try them all over time. And by “over time,” of course, we mean our next visit.

Freedom Beat cocktail

Panties, consider yourself dropped.

Freedom Beat also has regional boilermakers, craft beers and a healthy selection of wine.

Overall, Freedom Beat is a huge leap forward from the previous restaurant, and there’s a lot to like about the joint. If loud, live music isn’t your thing, just plan to dine when there’s no entertainment scheduled.

Freedom Beat bar

In music, a “bar” is a segment of time corresponding to a specific number of “beats.” Freedom Beat has thought of everything!

We’re interested to see how live music is received in the casino floor, and how much of the ambient casino noise bleeds into the performance space. We’re also curious whether Freedom Beat will cannibalize business from Triple George Grill, just across the street, as it also serves American fare.

Now that Freedom Beat is open, we understand The Commissary at Downtown Grand will be put out of its misery, although that hasn’t been announced yet.

Freedom Beat private room

We’re a big fan of this smaller, quieter dining room area. The screen door wasn’t even installed yet.

Props to Downtown Grand for changing things up and striving to attract a younger crowd (an ongoing effort exemplified by the eSports lounge on its casino floor).

Let us know what you think of Downtown Grand’s new restaurant, Freedom Beat.

Freedom Beat at Downtown Grand

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Mystery Erection in Downtown Las Vegas Explained

We love a good mystery, and this one lasted upwards of two days.

A mysterious blue structure has been erected recently, just across Las Vegas Boulevard from Stratosphere. It’s the tall, skinny one. Please try and keep up.

At first glance, the blue structure has no obvious purpose.

Blue erections

What’s your best guess? We’ll wait.

We flew into action to solve the mystery, of course, and it turns out the series of blue walls are handball, paddleball and racquetball courts.

There are presumably 18 courts, but we could only pick out 15. We smell a scandal!

The courts will host the 2016 3WallBall World Championships, Sep. 21-25, in partnership with the Stratosphere.

Here’s a view of the structures that makes their purpose clearer.

3wallball championships

The walls are 16 feet high, which makes things really awkward when you’re slow dancing with them. Or something.

Apparently, Las Vegas is sorely lacking in handball, paddleball and racquetball courts. (It does, however, have a plethora of pickleball courts.)

The 3WallBall World Championships include a kids clinic, charity events, amateur and pro competitions and a truck show. Because trucks just make everything better.

Find out more about the 3WallBall World Championships on the event’s Facebook page or official Web site. The 3WallBall World Championships will stream on ESPN.

There’s never a dull moment in Las Vegas. Although, given the feedback about our podcast, we’re no longer sure that’s true.