Now, many of the things you love about Vegas are back. The bartender banter, the quads and royal flushes, the hook-ups with similarly negative-testing guests, the steady supply of comped drinks when you gamble, all back.
Bars are reopening with the standard safety protocols in place, naturally, including mandatory masks.
The guidelines include social distancing and a 50 percent capacity limit.
Whatever we need to do, we’re ready. Ditto, our liver.
It’s time to get reacquainted with some old Vegas friends.
It’s been an extraordinarily tough time for a lot of bars, many of which rely on gambling revenue to survive. A legal challenge by more than 60 bar owners to the closure order failed.
We prefer to focus on the positive news rather than the cavalcade of WTF (great band name there), and we’re just thrilled to be betting video poker bars back.
There are some questions about when Virgin Hotels Las Vegas might open following a major overhaul from its Hard Rock days, but when it does, the place will be teeming with food and hooch options.
Virgin’s eclectic mix of restaurants, some familiar to longtime Hard Rock fans, should satisfy a wide range of appetites. Let’s dive headlong into what’s coming up when Virgin Hotels Las Vegas opens its doors.
Night + Market
Night + Market features what’s described as “Thai drinking food.” Virgin already has our attention. Night + Market is an import from L.A., the brain child of chef and owner Kris Yenbamroong. The restaurant’s mission is “to make the most delicious and authentic Thai food to facilitate drinking and fun-having amongst friends.” (Or, in Thai, “Aharn glam lao.”) Learn more.
Fun fact: The restaurant’s owner and chef has a film degree from New York University. Related: Las Vegas needs good Thai food more than it needs “Batman” remakes.
Nobu’s back and will be getting an update, including fresh decor and an expanded bar area, which is never a bad thing. Pretty much everyone’s familiar with chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, or “Nobu” for short, because he had a role in “Austin Powers in Goldmember.” Oh, and he’s also a bigtime restaurateur who pals around with Robert De Niro.
Kassi Beach Club
Kassi Beach Club comes from Nick Mathers, creator of Elephante in Santa Monica and L.A.’s Kassi Club. This “European-style restaurant and ultra-lounge will combine coastal Italian flavors with the spirit of the Mediterranean.” We can only hope “European-style” means topless, but that was sadly not confirmed in the news release.
We’re already a huge fan of Kassi Club. You’ll never guess why.
Then again, you may have guessed.
Good eye! Here’s to living like a 17th-century Welsh privateer.
Hakkasan Group created this new cantina concept for Virgin Hotel Las Vegas. Casa Calavera fills the gap left by Pink Taco.
“Calavera” means “skull” in Spanish, so the logo wasn’t a huge leap.
MB Steak is sticking around for the unveiling of Virgin Las Vegas, from David Morton and Michael Morton. The restaurant will sport a new look, including an expansion. This well-liked, old-school restaurant should benefit from renewed interest in this resort, and we look forward to trying it for the first time.
This never felt especially inviting, so we’ll say that’s the reason we never tried it out.
Money, Baby will be the Virgin sportsbook, a spot for watching and betting on sports, along with interactive games, food and cocktails. Money, Baby will have indoor and outdoor patios, with easy access to the resort’s pool complex. No rendering, but you know what a sportsbook looks like.
Afters Ice Cream
This is the first location of Afters Ice Cream outside Southern California. We like ice cream a lot, and the venue’s signature Milky Bun doughnut ice cream sandwich (ice cream stuffed into doughnuts, of course) sounds right up our alley.
These give us feelings.
Another returning offering, Pizza Forte is one of Sin City’s longest-running family-owned and operated Italian restaurants.
Chef Todd English returns to Las Vegas with Olives, featuring Mediterranean cuisine.
Don’t get us started about Todd English.
Next up, a collection of venues Virgin refers to as its Commons Club.
The Shag Room
Best. Name. Ever. The Shag Room will serve as a lounge and private event space. It looks awesome, including some sweet-looking and possibly alien stools.
Props for calling a space Shag Room at a hotel named Virgin.
The Kitchen at Commons Club
This restaurant is described as “a contemporary American eatery laced with British Brasserie sensibility.” It’s the hotel’s 24/7 cafe.
Maybe not too much British influence on the menu, all due respect.
The Bar at Commons Club
You can never have too many bars at a Las Vegas casino. The Bar at Common’s Club will have multiple gathering spaces and live entertainment, assuming we get to have that again someday.
We’re getting a little Mos Eisley cantina vibe, but that’s probably just us.
Funny Library Coffee Shop
The Funny Library Coffee Shop is a communal workspace, with coffee, pastry and other snacks. The coffee shop will serve Laughing Man, the coffee brand co-founded by actor Hugh Jackman, best known for his performance in “Real Steel.” Let’s fact it, most people are skimming right now and will never know that film credit we gave for Hugh Jackman.
This is not your grandpa’s Las Vegas.
Virgin’s got a something-for-everyone line-up of restaurants and bars in store, and we accept the challenge of trying every single one to let you know what to look for during your first visit to Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
As mentioned, an opening date for Virgin Vegas hasn’t been finalized due to challenges posed by the pandemic. More details about a reopening timeline should be available in mid-September.
Hear more from the CEO of JC Hospitality (owners of Virgin Hotels Las Vegas), Richard Bosworth, on our podcast.
We can’t wait to eat, drink and carouse our way through all the offerings at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. Vegas could really use some new and shiny and delicious and potentially topless right about now.
Now, the casino has shared plans for five bars and lounges, just what we needed to help get us through all the pandemic-related WTF currently trying to create a buzzkill in Las Vegas.
Behold, our future home away from home.
Circa Las Vegas will have two opening dates: The first five floors (including the casino) open Oct. 28, 2020. The hotel opens Dec. 28, 2020.
How much did Circa cost? While it’s never been officially announced or confirmed, our sources say Circa cost $1.156 billion. We have really good sources.
Here’s a look at the new bars planned for Circa, as well as what inspired them. In addition to hooch. That’s sort of a given.
She’s back! Circa’s lobby cocktail lounge will be named after a vintage Vegas sign, Vegas Vickie. Vickie once sat atop the Glitter Gulch strip club, now part of the Circa footprint (along with the former Mermaid’s and the Las Vegas Club).
How many homes away from home is someone allowed to have? Asking for a friend.
We’re so excited for Vegas Vickie to make her return to Fremont Street. We got a little weepy when she was taken down back in 2017.
No, you grow up.
Vickie’s been fully renovated by YESCO Signs, and Vickie will be reunited with her “husband” (yes, they were married), Vegas Vic, when Circa opens in October 2020.
We’ve heard exclusively Vickie’s leg will kick again!
Another exclusive: Vegas Vickie’s boot will feature the signature of the sign’s designer, Charles Barnard.
How do you top the longest bar in Las Vegas (Longbar at The D, same owners as Circa and Golden Gate)? You build a Mega Bar.
Mega Bar looks to be Longbar, amplified.
We suggested Leviathan Supersize Elephantine Bar, but apparently that was already being used.
The bar will set another record for its size (165 feet, Longbar is 100 feet-ish), and will have the only acceptable flair bartenders in Las Vegas. Flair slows down the drinks, but the Longbar guys make up for it with their charm and long pours.
Mega Bar will sport the requisite 40 double-stacked TVs and 120 beer taps.
Remember, it’s not just the length, it’s the mirth. You can totally steal that for your advertising, Circa.
Overhang is pretty much going to be a sports lover’s dream, overlooking Circa’s sports book, complete with a 78 million pixel video screen.
The cleverly-named Overhang, pronounced “hangover” when intoxicated, will have video poker machines, which will almost make all the sports tolerable.
We need sports back or everyone at Overhang will be watching “Love Connection” reruns.
The outdoor bars at The D and Golden Gate are pretty much paying for Circa, so it’s no surprise there will be an epic outdoor bar at Circa itself.
Circa Bar will be in the thick of the circus that is Fremont Street Experience, with 24 frozen cocktail flavors and dancing bartenders. The bar top will be fashioned from recycled Skyy Vodka bottles.
Circa Bar is 118 feet long.
The most popular slushy flavors on Fremont Street are strawberry, pina colada and margarita.
While the previous four bars will open, Oct. 28, 2020, guests will have to wait until December 2020 for Legacy Club.
We long for a time when everyone can mingle again.
The bar is said to be inspired by Las Vegas’ founding fathers, and will have one of the best views in town from Circa’s 35th floor. Metal busts will line the hall of Legacy Club, so we’re thinking along the line of the Crazy Girls butts. We didn’t read the news release all that closely.
Downtown’s about to get a metric shit-ton of fancy.
Legacy Club will boast a 10-foot display of 1,000 ounces of gold, pretty much guaranteed to be a must-see photo op after one hits up Vegas Vickie.
Circa is the tallest structure downtown (if you don’t count Strat), so the view is guaranteed to be spectacular.
We’re thrilled about the promising collection of bars and lounges at Circa.
They even threw in a bonus beverage offering, Jack Pots, a coffee shop. This coffee stand comes from one of our favorite new Circa partners, the “sandwich legend” behind Michigan’s Zingerman’s Deli, Paul Saginaw.
Saginaw will also oversee Circa’s Saginaw’s Delicatessen, a 24-hour cafe. Expect the cafe to serve a shrimp cocktail using the same sauce recipe that made Golden Gate a thing.
Sorry, Jack Pots, this blog has never had coffee. All due respect.
When we first heard about plans for a massive karaoke bar at Palazzo, Kamu Ultra Karaoke, we didn’t pay much attention.
For starters, we aren’t exactly a karaoke person, and it also felt like the wrong time to open an ambitious, sprawling new venue.
Well, we’re an idiot.
From the moment you walk in, Kamu is like a thrill ride for your eyes.
Kamu Ultra Karaoke isn’t just another karaoke bar, it’s precisely the kind of eye-popping, over-the-top, high-tech, let-it-all-go escape from reality Vegas and the world could use right now.
Kamu Ultra Karaoke does everything right. It brings people together (with 40 private rooms), but keeps them safely distanced. It offers high-end, nightclub-inspired VIP experiences, but also
caters to family-friendly fun (adults only after 8:00 p.m.).
The food and drink is far better than it has to be, and perhaps the best part: Karaoke is optional.
Hey, you don’t need to play golf to love Top Golf, and straight guys have fun at Chippendales.
Kamu’s rooms are sound insulated so you only have to listen to the terrible singing you choose to listen to.
Let’s start at the beginning. Kamu is Korean in origin, a mixture of “ka,” meaning “song,” and “mu,” meaning “dance.”
Kamu Ultra Karaoke is the manifested dream of a dude you’ll want to party with, Jeff “Kemo” Kim. This isn’t Kim’s first karaoke rodeo (we should probably trademark that term), as he’s had a successful karaoke lounge in Korea Town in L.A. for more than a decade.
Jeff Kim says he’s been working on Kamu for more than two years. Nailed it.
We had a lot of preconceived notions about what karaoke is, but Kim’s Kamu Ultra Karaoke turned all that on its head.
Kamu isn’t a big room with an audience enduring strangers singing. It’s 40 rooms, each with a custom design, where groups of friends can eat and drink and party. And, yes, if they insist, sing.
The rooms start at $50 an hour, typically, but there are lots of upgrades and a number of rooms that look more like luxury suites at Vegas resorts. There’s also bottle service, because somebody needs to pay for this colossal, 17,000-square-foot space.
Each karaoke room is cushier than the last, and each has a distinctive theme. One is adorned with glorious neon signage. You’ll never guess which room we chose.
This was the precise moment we became a karaoke fan.
As this review is an unqualified rave, we reserve the right to poke fun at Kamu just once!
Do not get us started on these dice pips! Let’s just call them Easter eggs for hardcore Vegas fans.
The singers will be happy to hear there’s a massive selection of songs. Guests also have the option to play the music from their iPhone (or YouTube) on the impressive sound system.
Each room is also equipped with sound-activated lighting. Guests can completely control their experience, from the volume of the music (thankfully) to the light displays and just about every other element of the space, including the room temperature.
There’s a call button for servers, too.
And speaking of servers. Boom. Behold our new favorite cocktail, the Lychee Love.
Please don’t tell Captain Morgan. He’s sensitive.
The Lychee Love features Roku gin, Pomp & Whimsy gin liqueur, Nagomi lychee syrup, fresh lemon juice and San Pellegrino Limonata.
We adored the Lychee Love and the hits just kept on coming.
A close second was the Kamu Cooler, with 21 Seeds Cucumber Jalapeno tequila, Aperol aperitif, watermelon juice, lime/mint sour and Fever Tree ginger beer.
We don’t care for ginger beer, but Kamu has a way of making us love even the things we think we hate. Including singing. Unless it’s the Bee Gees. We’ll spare you the video.
A dozen Kamu Coolers and you’ll think you’re Celine.
The drinks are just the beginning at Kamu.
That’s because the venue has a secret weapon, kick-ass executive chef Marty Lopez. Lopez and his team have put together a winning menu, many dishes intended for sharing, most with an Asian flair, familiar but new.
Lopez has an arm-long list of Vegas restaurant credentials, including 35 Steaks + Martinis at Hard Rock, Alize at Palms, Andre’s at Monte Carlo, Delmonico at Venetian, as well as stints at Bacchanal Buffet and Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars.
We dove headlong into the Caviar and Chips to start.
Chips, but fancy.
The top dish of the evening was the Korean Fried Chicken. These wings had a kick, and while we don’t tend to like spicy, Kamu once again made us a believer.
The dry-aged tomahawk was prepared to perfection, and the parmesan truffle fries were simple but irresistible.
A highlight was the Honey Toast, which we didn’t even realize was a thing until our visit to Kamu. We couldn’t put this dish (with buttered sugar toast, Dulce de Leche ice cream, and honey whipped cream) into our face fast enough.
We quite enjoyed learning about Korean culture through the medium of ice cream.
Whether one enjoys karaoke or not, the food and drink, combined with private spaces, is an
undeniable draw. Kamu is ideal for office parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, divorce parties, the list goes on and on.
While there are some temporary procedures and protocols in place, they aren’t intrusive.
Upon entry, guests get a temperature check and walk through a sanitizing unit.
We don’t know if it does anything, but you feel disinfected.
Inside the karaoke rooms, the mics have disposable covers.
Always a good idea in Vegas, if you know what we mean.
Here’s a free hack.
Put the mic cover over your camera lens.
Don’t laugh until you see the finished product!
It’s a great way to get a soft, dreamy effect. Are you not entertained?
Kamu has no idea they’re giving away valuable camera lens filters!
The bottom line is we love Kamu Ultra Karaoke and can’t wait to go back.
On the way in, make sure to check out a sweet digital water curtain designed by Aqua Reign. The display has programmable patterns, the water droplets acting as pixels. We’d have captured some video, but we were busy learning about the nuances of lychee, if you get our drift.
We were pleased Kamu is easily accessible via Palazzo’s self-parking garage. Grand Canal Shoppes can be challenging to navigate, but Kamu is within a few feet of the elevator, near the popular Sushi Samba restaurant.
Free parking is a great perk.
Sorry, but you sort of can’t not sing this song. It’s the law.
Another perk is the front lounge at Kamu, one of the big draws in the early weeks of the venue’s debut. Many guests just do drinks after taking a tour of all the karaoke rooms.
Thanks to Kamu Ultra Karaoke for hosting our visit and for far surpassing all our misguided expectations.
Kamu Ultra Karaoke is a must-do Vegas experience. It’s the karaoke place for people who may not even like karoke. And for the people who do, it’s a wannabe pop star’s wet dream.
For the moment, Kamu Ultra Karaoke is open seven days a week from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. Adults only after 8:00 p.m.
Big props to the team at Kamu for opening during a surreal time in Las Vegas. If anything can succeed despite the obstacles, Kamu can.
Get more details from the official Kamu Ultra Karaoke site, and enjoy more pics from the first of what we expect will be many visits to this awesome new Vegas party destination.
A popular sports bar and restaurant, Lagasse’s Stadium at Palazzo, has confirmed it has closed permanently.
The venue never reopened after it was shut down, along with the rest of Las Vegas, in mid-March 2020, due to the COVID-19 crisis.
You remember COVID-19. Mother Nature’s biggest wet blanket, possibly ever.
Lagasse’s Stadium had 100 HD TVs, about five more than the typical Las Vegas sports bar. Photo courtesy of The Venetian.
Lagasse’s Stadium opened at Palazzo in 2009. It was one of the few venues in Las Vegas we can’t recall ever having visited, probably due to the risk of being high-fived against our will.
Lagasse’s Stadium was recognized as one of the best sports bars in Las Vegas, but chances are the rent was just too damned high given the uncertainty around the COVID crisis.
It’s also challenging to do a massive sports venue at the moment when there aren’t many actual, you know, sports happening. No, golf isn’t a sport. Ditto UFC.
Licensing deals with celebrity chefs is popular in Las Vegas, but those fees can take a chunk out of the profit for a casino resort.
Vegas is one third less Emeril.
For example, Gordon Ramsay’s deal with Caesars Entertainment gives the “Hell’s Kitchen” star five percent of gross sales of his restaurants, up to $10 million. Sales in the $10-15 million range earn 5.5%, and sales of more than $15 million result in a 6% cut. Emeril’s deal with Las Vegas Sands (owner of Venetian) is probably similar.
There’s no word yet on what might replace Lagasse’s Stadium, or when.
This will win you a bar bet: That’s the Rialto Bridge.
Lagasse’s Stadium was one of three Emeril Lagasse-branded restaurants on The Strip. The others are Delmonico Steakhouse at the Venetian and Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House at MGM Grand. They don’t appear to be jeopardy.
If we could be done with all the bad news, that’d be great.
Governor Steve Sisolak has announced bars, pubs, taverns, distilleries, breweries, and wineries in Las Vegas that don’t serve food must close effective 11:59 p.m. on July 10, 2020.
Because we haven’t been through enough suck, already, apparently.
While these establishments have to close, they can offer curbside pick-up or home delivery where allowed.
The directive mandates “bar tops and bar areas within restaurants and food establishments must also close.”
Talk about putting the “boo” in “booze.”
Seven Nevada counties are affected by the new directive, including Clark County, wherein sit most Las Vegas casinos.
Everything is ruined, again.
The Governor’s statement said, “Local health experts and federal partners have advised that if Nevada does not take swift policy action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout our state, we will likely soon be in a precarious condition where hospitals are overwhelmed with patients.”
As has happened fairly frequently during the COVID-19 crisis, the new directive has left many Las Vegas businesses, including casinos, scrambling to understand how their operations will be affected by the directive.
For many taverns (restaurants with bartops with video poker machines), the decision must now be made as to whether remaining open is financially viable at all.
Naturally, we’re most concerned with casino bars and video poker at bars in pubs and taverns. They’re done for the moment.
Can we please move on from “Vegas bars closing” news to “shiny new Vegas bars” news? Thanks.
While such moves are brutal for businesses and their employees, these steps are being taken due to concerns about what’s described as “a continuous upward trend of new daily cases and an upward trend in our confirmed and suspected hospitalizations for COVID-19.”
The fact is many Las Vegas venues aren’t doing a great job of enforcing mandatory mask and social distancing guidelines.
While casinos snapped to attention when it was clear the Governor might shut them down again due to lax enforcement, other businesses still aren’t meeting expectations. Only about half of the bars inspected by officials were found to be in compliance with the mandatory mask directive.
State officials will continue to monitor three main criteria for when bars can reopen: Average number of tests per day, case rate and test positivity.
On the bright side, Nevada’s effective reproduction number has dropped to 1.09.
For taking away some of our favorite things, screw you, Mother Nature.
While casino bars may close, there will still be ample hooch flowing. Tip your cocktail server early and often!
In restaurants, you can still drink, of course, you just can’t order it (or sit) at the bar. For now, you’re going to have to hook up online like everyone else.
Everyone has to decide whether this version of Las Vegas is one they can still enjoy. We love video poker, so we’ll just move on to machines on the casino floor and let cocktail servers do their thing. The current rules, like requiring masks everywhere, are annoying, but they don’t really disrupt the fun all that much.
Our heart goes out to all the folks who were just getting back to work, only to be given another kick to the loins by this surreal, confounding pandemic.
Update (7/10/20): We got our hands on an internal document from Station Casinos. The company will pay its employees affected by the bar closures.
Some casinos have gotten very good at hitting a moving target.