Category Archives: Las Vegas WTF

Fremont Street Gains White Castle Restaurant, Loses Classic Trader Bill’s Sign

There’s been a lot of great buzz about a new White Castle coming to Fremont Street. We should know, we started it.

Recent developments at the site of the new White Castle, however, have been more buzzkill than buzz.

They involve a classic sign for Trader Bill’s.

Trader Bill's sign

Spoiler alert: Now would be a great time to start not getting emotionally attached to things.

For comparison purposes, here’s a look at the Trader Bill’s sign during the day, in other words, without its make-up.

Trader Bill's sign

That’s not old and faded. That’s character.

The first sign, ahem, of trouble came when we noticed the arrow on the Trader Bill’s sign being painted blue. All of the sign’s bulbs and neon were removed. (From what we can tell, the bulbs will be back.)

Trader Bill's

The journey of a thousand WTFs begins with one coat of paint.

The next day, workers began covering up the gloriously distressed sign.

Trader Bill's sign

The Trader Bill’s sign, redacted.

Within just a few days, the Trader Bill’s sign transformed into a White Castle sign, and everything was ruined.

White Castle Fremont sign

White Castle has but one location in Las Vegas, at Casino Royale. When it opened, the restaurant had to temporarily shut down due to overwhelming demand.

The conversion of the Trader Bill’s sign to a White Castle sign probably wouldn’t have been as jarring were it not for where the sign sits. For many who frequent downtown, the sign’s location is what amounts to the “entrance” to the Fremont Street Experience (where we work in digital marketing as our day job).

Once lit up, the White Castle sign is likely to be an eye-catching focal point for anyone looking down, or taking photos of, Fremont Street and what’s billed as the world’s largest video screen.

That’s great news for White Castle, but we’re not convinced it’s great news for our street. Yes, it’s ours, but we let millions of people borrow it each year.

For many, White Castle will now be the first impression visitors get of what the street is all about. Not the circus-like atmosphere of the Fremont district. Not the casinos and their neon facades. Not the history of “Glitter Gulch.”

Rather, a fast food restaurant.

White Castle Fremont Street

We’re going to need a lot of sliders to get us through this period of adjustment. It’s expected Fremont’s White Castle will open at the end of August or in early September.

This latest loss of a distinctive downtown sign follows on the heels of the removal of Vegas Vickie on the other end of Fremont Street. She’ll soon be followed by demolition of the Golden Goose, the Glitter Gulch sign and the baseball player statue atop the former Las Vegas Club.

On the bright side, Vegas Vickie is likely to return. That’s not in the cards for the Trader Bill’s sign.

In searching for some background about Trader Bill’s (it began operating at the corner of Fremont and 4th Street in the early 1930s), we came across an intriguing quote from an article written in 1997.

At the time, Trader Bill’s was transitioning from being a souvenir store to a jewelry store, and the then President of Fremont Street Experience, Mark Paris, is quoted as saying, “The thing that’s important to us is the streetscape—how it looks—and the owners of Trader Bill’s have maintained the neon and lights that we feel are in keeping with the spirit of Fremont Street.”

While a White Castle restaurant fits the “spirit” of Fremont Street perfectly, we can’t say the same for the White Castle sign.

We’ve said often in this blog that the only constant in Las Vegas is change. That doesn’t mean we have to like it.

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Fontainebleau Las Vegas Finally Gets a Wrap

The abandoned Fontainebleau Las Vegas is a pig that’s finally getting some lipstick.

After years of prodding by Las Vegas officials, the bajillionaire owner of Fontainebleau, Carl Icahn, has dispached crews to install a wrap intended to make the second tallest building in Las Vegas less of an eyesore.

Fontainebleau wrap

Our apologies to pigs.

While “Fontainebleau” is a French word (the name was inspired by a French castle), pronounced “fonten-blo,” the brand is pronounced “fountain blue” in America.

Fontainebleau Las Vegas sits across Las Vegas Boulevard from Circus Circus. You sort of can’t miss it.

The site was formerly home to the El Rancho casino, and before that the Thunderbird and Silverbird. Ever since Fontainebleau’s plug was pulled in 2009 due to bankruptcy, you might say it’s been giving us all the bird.

The structure looms large on The Strip, and was to have 3,875 hotel rooms and condo units, as well as a whopping 24 restaurants and lounges.

The mind reels at what might have been.

Fontainebleau Las Vegas wrap

Fun fact: You can get a taste of what might have been at downtown’s Plaza hotel. Plaza acquired much of the furnishings in its rooms as Fontainebleau was selling off its assets.

Fontainebleau was about 70 percent complete when construction was halted, and it’s estimated $2 billion was sunk into the building.

Carl Icahn swooped in to buy the Fontainebleau in November 2010.

While there have been repeated rumors about potential buyers for Fontainebleau Las Vegas, nothing concrete has materialized. Rumors of a sale have intensified lately, mainly because we’ve been intensifying them. Word has it there’s renewed interest in Fontainebleau thanks to signs of progress at the nearby Resorts World.

Fontainebleau wrap

Fontainebleau was going to have 48 elevators, several of which may have even worked. It’s Las Vegas.

From what we hear, finding a buyer for Fontainebleau hasn’t been the crux of the problem. The real issue is the buyer must not only have the assets to acquire the project, but must also have the resources to finish it.

In June 2016, the asking price for Fontainebleau was $650 million.

It’s been estimated completing the Fontainebleau project (or whatever the new owners would call it) would run in the ballpark of $1.2 billion.

In the meantime, Las Vegas officials (Clark County officials, technically) have badgered Carl Icahn into spending about $500,000 to wrap some of the exposed sections on the west and south sides of Fontainebleau.

Installation of the wrap commenced on July 25, 2017. We’ll keep an eye on the place as the installation progresses.

This isn’t the first time a Las Vegas hotel has used a wrap to disguise unfinished construction. Most Las Vegas visitors breeze right by the stalled St. Regis Residences at the Venetian. Take a look.

St. Regis Residences at Venetian

This wrap at Venetian disguising unfinished construction illustrates things in Sin City aren’t always as they appear. Just ask Frank Marino.

It’s great to see Fontainebleau Las Vegas gussied up a bit, and not just because we’re a fan of gussying. Seriously, when was the last time you gussied something? We blame it on Millennials. Or possibly social media. Or possibly immigrants, who, we don’t have to tell you, are taking all our good gussying.

While wrapping the lower part of Fontainebleau is a welcome revulsion abatement strategy, we’re hoping rumors of an impending sale turn out to be based in fact.

Like the fact the Fontainebleau would’ve had 6,012 parking spaces, or about 2.5 times the number planned for the 65,000-seat Raiders stadium coming to Las Vegas.

Don’t get us started.

Update (7/26/17): Overnight, additional panels were added to the west side of Fontainebleau.

Fontainebleau wrap

You’d think we have better things to do than monitor Fontainebleau’s wrap. You’d think.

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No Resort Fees Rally Tops List of 10 Regrettable Las Vegas Mistakes

Las Vegas gets a lot right. When it screws up, it does it in a big way.

The anniversary of a “No Resort Fees” rally by Caesars Entertainment reminded us Las Vegas isn’t perfect, so here are some of our favorite all-time Las Vegas fails.

1. No Resort Fees Rally

On July 21, 2011, Caesars Entertainment hosted a massive rally on The Strip to promote the company’s “No Resort Fees” policy. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Not long after, though, economic pressure forced the company to reverse its policy. The awkwardness lingers to this day.

No resort fees rally

The “No Resort Fees” rally featured a bevy of “angry showgirls.” Showgirls always travel in bevies.

2. Harmon Tower

In Las Vegas, it’s go big or go home. Few Las Vegas gaffes were as big as the construction, and deconstruction, of the Harmon tower at CityCenter. The building went up in 2008, and was supposed to be 47 stories tall. Construction defects caused the building to be capped at 26, and eventually the whole building was taken down, floor by agonizing floor, at the cost of millions. See the whole demolition of Harmon Tower, beginning to humiliating end.

Harmon tower

What goes up, in the case of Harmon tower, came right back down.

3. Skyvue Observation Wheel

Las Vegas was built on big dreams, but not all those dreams come true. Construction on the 476-foot Skyvue observation wheel, which was to be located across from Mandalay Bay, began in 2012, but the project was soon abandoned due to a lack of financing. To this day, two concrete towers serve to memorialize this Sin City folly.

SkyVue Ferris wheel

A Las Vegas monument to sad.

4. Lion Entrance at MGM Grand

Las Vegas mistakes are anything but a recent phenomenon. MGM Grand originally welcomed guests through the mouth of a massive lion. Only after the resort had been operating awhile did the owners realize Asian gamblers considered the entrance bad luck. The original lion’s head was removed and replaced with a lion statue.

MGM Grand lion

MGM Grand’s lion stands 45 feet tall and is the biggest bronze statue in the country. It’s also a reminder of one of the biggest Las Vegas facepalms, ever.

5. Imperial Palace Becomes The Quad

Speaking of ticking off Asian gamblers, the law of unintended consequences was in full view with Imperial Palace was renamed The Quad. The name was meant to evoke the fun, youthful spirit of a college social space. “Quad,” though, also represents “four,” considered an unlucky number by Asian gamblers. In 2013, we were the first to share The Quad would be renamed, at substantial cost, to The Linq.

The Quad

The paint barely had time to dry before The Quad was renamed The Linq.

6. Bill’s Nearly Named Gansevoort

When Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon closed for a major renovation, it was supposed to re-open as Gansevoort. The casino owner, Caesars Entertainment, had to make a serious course correction when it was discovered by gaming regulators that a Gansevoort investor was connected to Russian organized crime. The renovated boutique hotel opened as The Cromwell in 2014.

Gansevoort

Gansevoort always sounded like the noise resulting from an intestinal disorder, so it all worked out for the best.

7. Sam Nazarian Abandons Ship

SBE Entertainment CEO Sam Nazarian had dreams of running a Las Vegas casino and seemed ready to do just that when the Sahara transformed into SLS Las Vegas. Nazarian ran into trouble when he applied for a gaming license, though. The Nevada Gaming Control Board dug into Nazarian’s past and what they found wasn’t pretty. Nazarian ended up selling his 10% stake in SLS and bailed on his fleeting plans to become a Las Vegas casino mogul. Side note: Nazarian recently announced SBE would merge with Hakkasan. We’ve heard that deal has fallen apart, so Sam Nazarian’s run of bad luck in Las Vegas appears to be ongoing.

Sam Nazarian

Fail: Gaming license. Win: Supermodel wife.

8. Stardust Imploded for Echelon Place

It’s a chapter in Las Vegas history many would like to forget, but one of our favorite Strip resorts, Stardust, closed on Nov. 1, 2006 and was imploded on Mar. 13, 2007, to make way for a $4 billion resort, Echelon Place. The economic downturn caused that ambitious project to be abandoned. On the bright side, the bones of the Echelon project will serve as the foundation for a new Las Vegas resort, Resorts World. Fingers crossed, anyway.

Resorts World crane

There’s a lone crane at the former Echelon site, so hope reigns.

9. Fontainebleau Resort Las Vegas

The unfinished Fontainebleau Resort is easily the most visible sign of an epic mistake in all of Las Vegas. That’s because while Fontainebleau never opened, it’s still the second tallest structure in Las Vegas. In an all-too-familiar scenario, construction of Fontainebleau was halted in 2009 when the project went into bankruptcy. Rumors persist a new owner has taken interest in Fontainebleau, but we’ll believe it when we see it.

Fontainebleau Las Vegas

Las Vegas is always throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. Sometimes, it’s really, really expensive spaghetti.

10. Skill-Based Slot Machines and eSports

The final entry on our list of Las Vegas mistakes remains a work-in-progress. Casinos, in a desperate attempt to remain relevant to younger gamblers (especially those pesky Millennials), are betting on skill-based slot machines and eSports to save the day. This miscalculation has resulted in skill-based slots nobody’s playing and a disaster-in-the-making; Luxor recently announced its closed LAX nightclub will be turned into an eSports arena. Let’s just say we’re going to need more faces and more palms.

eSports Arena Las Vegas

Downtown’s Neonopolis already has an eSports arena, pictured above, and Downtown Grand has an eSports lounge in its former Commissary restaurant space. Unjustified optimism is utterly adorable.

If you love Las Vegas, you also have to embrace it glorious blunders past, present and future.

Have a favorite Las Vegas mistake that didn’t make our list? Please share!

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PBR Rock Bar Creates Inspired, Awkward Photo Op With Bedazzled Bull Testicles

We’ll say it right up front: We never imagined we’d type those words in that order, ever.

Nevertheless, PBR Rock Bar at Planet Hollywood has created a must-see photo op by decorating a bull statue in an audaciously eye-catching way.

PBR Rock Bar bull balls

PBR Rock Bar at Planet Hollywood has managed to turn one of the worst views in Las Vegas into one of the most brilliant.

We’ve written about offbeat Las Vegas photo ops in the past, and shared stories about the city’s phallic objects, but this bold decorative touch stands out for its sheer originality and undeniable flair.

Simply put, nothing says Las Vegas like a bull with disco bull.

PBR Rock Bar

In case you’ve ever wondered what makes this blog special. And your impertinence is duly noted.

Hello, Pulitzer Prize.

PBR Rock Bar, of course, is home to a variety of bulls, including a mechanical one.

We trust mirrors were added to the bull’s “boys” as a reflection of the restaurant’s irreverent and fun-loving atmosphere.

You never know what surprises await in Las Vegas!

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Zombie Apocalypse Store Closes, Converts to Bitcoin Store

It came in with an “Aaargh!” and went out with barely a whimper.

The Zombie Apocalypse Store, a quirky Las Vegas retail store and attraction, has closed.

Zombie Apocalypse Store

Ah, the memories. The Zombie Apocalypse Store is currently pushing up daisies.

The store called it quits with zero fanfare or news coverage in May 2017 after a liquidation process where fans could purchase zombie and doomsday-inspired tchotchkes at garage sale prices.

Here’s a look back at the Zombie Apocalypse Store.

We’re saddened to learn of the passing of the Zombie Apocalypse Store, an undeniably memorable destination for “biter” fans and hardcore survivalists.

Zombie Apocalypse Store

Here’s a photo from 2013, long before the Zombie Apocalypse Store apocalypse.

The store housed a wide variety of zombie-related merchandise like emergency water filtration systems and food supplies, ammo, stun guns and roamer-killing weaponry.

Zombie Apocalypse Store

Not gonna lie, it got a little awkward.

The Zombie Apocalypse most recently hosted a 3-D zombie photo studio and zombie shooting gallery. See more.

After a little more than five years of operation (the store opened in November 2011), the once-brisk zombie business began to decay, so the store’s owners decided to pivot to the booming Bitcoin business.

That’s right, the Zombie Apocalypse Store has risen from the dead, becoming Bitcoin Central Las Vegas.

Bitcoin, of course, is what’s known as an alternative currency, or digital currency. Bitcoin got its start in 2009 as the first decentralized cryptocurrency. There’s been a lot of buzz about Bitcoin recently as the digital currency’s value has skyrocketed.

As with so many things in Las Vegas, we didn’t realize how attached we’d become to the Zombie Apocalypse Store until we learned it was gone.

Zombie Apocalypse Store

Part tongue-in-cheek, part deadly serious, the Zombie Apocalypse Store was a singular Las Vegas attraction.

Zombies in Las Vegas aren’t going down without a fight, however.

There’s the Zombie Apocalypse Experience at Adventure Combat Ops, a Zombie Hunt package at Range 702, an upcoming zombie attraction called Fear the Walking Dead: Survival at Fremont Street Experience (where we work in digital marketing) and the well-reviewed Zombie Burlesque show at V Theater inside the Miracle Mile Shops.

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