Category Archives: Las Vegas Hotels

News Release About The Drew Contains Glorious Amounts of WTF

It’s been so quiet at The Drew, formerly the Fontainebleau, we were delighted to see a news release from the resort’s owner, Witkoff Group.

Our delight didn’t last long, because we actually read the release. Cue the tsunami of WTF.

Tsunami of WTF, we should mention, was our band name in high school.

So, it seems Witkoff wanted to announce it has hired a design architect, Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Which seems dangerously close to math, but we’ll let it slide this time.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro is apparently a well-known firm, despite the fact they seem to have misplaced their comma. (Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio are two different people.)

The firm has been tasked with “realizing a fresh vision for the next integrated resort on the north Strip’s emerging luxury corridor.”

So much to unpack, and we’re one sentence in.

First, as we mentioned, The Drew is the former Fontainebleau. Fontainebleau was about 70% complete when it was abandoned in 2009 due to dipshittery.

“Fresh,” then, is a relative term here.

Fontainebleau wrap

The wrap doesn’t really help.

“Emerging luxury corridor” may be stretching it a bit. This is the north Strip. Circus Circus is the hotel’s closest neighbor, with SLS a third of a mile north. Resorts World is emerging, slowly, but that hardly qualifies as a corridor.

Given the area’s string of bad luck (Alon, Wynn West, All Net Resort), “crushing disappointment corridor” might be a more fitting label.

This is where the news release gets epic.

Charles Renfro, lead designer of the Drew, adds, “The team’s design approach was inspired by the multiple ecologies of Las Vegas itself—the dynamic and rugged beauty of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas’ early adoption of modern architecture, and the city’s enthusiastic embrace of spectacle. The Drew will weave these seemingly contradictory conditions into a new quixotic environment.”

Apparently, the Mojave Desert is teeming with peyote!

But wait, there’s more.

“We are incredibly excited about being part of the Las Vegas landscape. Robust demand drivers continue to create an imbalance of hotel inventory supply and demand. The Drew is poised to not only capitalize on this imbalance, but also offer visitors a new marquee luxury resort with a distinctive, compelling concept. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our team and our partners,” shared Steven Witkoff.

We really missed the boat by not naming our band Robust Demand Drivers.

Witkoff

We’re just sharing the logo. You’re on your own with the snark.

All due respect, but Mr. Witkoff clearly doesn’t place much value on clue-having as he seems to believe demand is outpacing hotel inventory in Las Vegas. Las Vegas visitation is down, bro.

If there’s an imbalance, it’s that there’s too much room inventory, which is likely one of the reasons The Drew’s opening has been pushed back two years.

This little gem was tucked neatly at the end of the news release: “With a confirmed opening date in the second quarter of 2022, Drew Las Vegas has also kicked off its sales efforts to group customers. The initial response to the 3,780-room resort has been overwhelmingly positive as groups look for new ideas and a fresh perspective.”

“Confirmed”! Because if you say it in a news release, it has to be true.

There’s so much off-the-wall in this announcement, it’s hard to keep track of it all.

The reality is this project doesn’t have financing in place. That’s because you can’t really get financing unless you have an architect as part of the pre-planning and budget process, and Witkoff just hired this one.

Two years after Fontainebleau was purchased.

Two years.

To hire an architect.

The first thing on a developer’s to-do list.

A story in Bloomberg says, “By delaying, Witkoff will have more certainty about his construction budget.”

Like we said, you can’t get financing unless you know what the budget is.

Fontainebleau wrap

There’s no great angle. We’ve tried.

The thing they didn’t mention in the release is it’s likely this isn’t the first architect Witkoff has hired for The Drew. We’re thinking the first firm drew up some plans, ran some numbers and they didn’t make the cut, so don’t let the door hit you on the way out, architects.

Also not in the release are the specifics of challenges related to giving a makeover to an abandoned building exposed to the elements for years.

The latest cost estimate for making The Drew a thing is $3.1 billion. With a “b.”

Never fear, though. Witkoff says Goldman Sachs Group and Deutsche Bank have been hired to raise additional capital. It’s complicated.

Remember, Las Vegas was built on optimism and whimsy! The Drew seems to have an ample supply of both.

The truth is while we’re more skeptical than ever The Drew will become a reality (we’ve heard the property may still be flipped), we’re rooting for it to succeed.

From the day we broke the story of Fontainebleau being sold, we were onboard for something, anything being done with the hulking blue eyesore.

Fontainebleau Las Vegas

We are obligated to share this fake billboard whenever we talk about this place.

There’s a chance in a few years Las Vegas visitation could warrant thousands of rooms coming online. There’s no denying Drew’s proximity to the Las Vegas Convention Center, with its $935 million expansion, could make it more desirable to investors.

We can’t wait to hear from Steven Witkoff when The Drew, with it’s unfortunate name, opens. “Suck it,” Steven Witkoff will say, and we will feel ashamed for ever having doubted him and his comma-challenged architectural firm.

For now, we’ll watch and wait and wonder at how such smart, rich people can read and approve news releases that make them seem so, well, rich.

Uno Mas is a Step in the Right Direction for SLS Las Vegas

SLS has opened a new Mexican restaurant, Uno Mas, a step in the right direction for the casino likely to be rebranded as Grand Sahara Resort.

Uno Mas

If you don’t think of “Shanghai Noon” when you hear “uno mas,” we can’t be friends.

Uno Mas takes up residence in the space formerly occupied by Ku Noodle, near the resort’s Northside Cafe.

Uno Mas has a modest menu, but the tacos hit all the right notes, despite their being a tad on the pricey side. Three for $18 isn’t outrageous, though, for The Strip.

Uno Mas menu

It must be good if we cheated on Cleo.

We had the Pork al Pastor, Carne Asada and Vegetarian tacos.

You are so gullible! We had the Crispy Pollo.

Uno Mas SLS

A trifecta of tempting, titillating tastes. Alliteration not included.

The tacos are scrumptious, at the risk of sounding like we’re writing this blog post in 1830.

The tacos are served on fresh corn tortillas and the pastor is spit-roasted.

Beyond the tacos, there’s a healthy selection of specialty cocktails ($13). We tried the El Fuego, Spanish for, “Ah, so that’s what Jalapeno tequila tastes like.”

The El Fuego has Dulce Vida Pineapple Jalapeno tequila, banana liqueur, mango and ginger beer. The garnish is a pineapple kissed with Tajin.

Uno Mas SLS cocktail

This one’s like a brisk slap to the jowl.

The menu says there’s Tajin on the rim, but no such luck. If you’d like to try and make this cocktail at home, make sure to get a Tajin rimmer, which we didn’t know was a thing until just now.

Everyone who visits Las Vegas should make sure to get a rimmer!

Yeah, we should probably work for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Uno Mas has apparently done well since it opened March 23, 2019. The official opening date is April 12.

Uno Mas SLS

Solo-friendly counter seating gives guests a view of the open kitchen.

Expect more changes in the dining options at SLS Las Vegas as the resort transitions to Grand Sahara. (The new name hasn’t officially been announced, but all signs point in that direction.)

Another SLS restaurant, Katsuya, closed in March to make way for a relocated high limit room.

It’s expected Umami Burger and Cleo may also be replaced, as they are leftovers from an earlier era when the former owners of SLS partnered with SBE Entertainment. Now, these SBE licensing deals are just cutting into potential SLS profits, so out they go.

SLS Las Vegas

SLS isn’t looking much like SLS anymore, and that’s a good thing.

Word is Bazaar Meat will survive the resort’s evolution, and will even get an expansion.

One more juicy tidbit from SLS: We hear the former Foxtail nightclub space will be split up and part will be a lounge called Casbah, a throwback to the resort’s Sahara roots.

SLS Las Vegas

We love this snazzy new SLS tagline, and we hate everything.

Uno Mas represents a solid move toward more accessible, crowd-pleasing dining options at SLS, and we look forward to tasting what’s next.

Uno Mas at SLS Las Vegas

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Hard Rock Releases Virgin Rendering and Rebrand Timeline

Hard Rock Las Vegas has provided a glimpse into its future with a rendering and a new timeline for the resort’s rebrand to Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

Yes, they’re insisting on calling it “Virgin Hotels” when it’s only one hotel. Let’s not get distracted. Rendering porn!

Virgin hotel Las Vegas

Note: The way to a blogger’s heart is through renderings.

The Virgin Las Vegas resort looks pretty slick, with a more deserty, cactusy vibe than the Hard Rock. Look, if you want actual architectural design terms, read Interior Design magazine. Yes, there are still magazines, presumably.

Judging by the rendering, the feel is “classic, cool Las Vegas, reinvented for the 21st century with contemporary, desert-modern architecture.” Oh, wait, that’s the Red Rock Resort. You get the idea.

Apparently, the folks at Hard Rock decided to pass on our suggested Virgin design featuring a massive chastity belt.

Virgin Las Vegas rebrand

Their loss.

Along with the intriguing renderings, Hard Rock also shared a revised timeline for the resort’s rebrand.

The scope of the project has been expanded, so according to the casino’s owner, “significant construction activities remain 10 months away and the property will remain open for business without any disruptions to our guests and team members through Super Bowl of 2020.”

That means renovations will begin at Hard Rock in Feb. 2020, with a full closure from April to June 2020. A grand opening of Virgin Las Vegas is expected in Nov. 2020. No way we’ll be invited due to all the smartassery, but we suspect it will make a splash.

The transition to Virgin will now include an overhaul of the resort’s entertainment venue, The Joint.

Other changes at Hard Rock include the recent introduction of Breathe Pool Lounge and the opening of Craft + Community Bar & Grill, a replacement for Culinary Dropout.

Hotel officials have estimated the rebrand to Virgin will cost $200 million. Some of that cost could be recouped if Hard Rock has a garage sale for all that music memorabilia. Yes, the memorabilia was included with the purchase of Hard Rock.

Imagine Dragons memorabilia

Dibs on this stuff or anything Duran Duran.

We’ve heard some major announcements about the resort will be made soon, related to both entertainment and the casino.

You’ll know when we do!

Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas Gets Light Show

The Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas boasts some new bling. And, yes, we’re fully cognizant of the fact people haven’t used the word “bling” since 2008. You get the idea.

The Strip resort spent about $1.7 million installing lights on its Eiffel Tower replica in honor of the casino’s 20th anniversary.

The light show was unveiled with the requisite hoopla on Feb. 27, 2019, despite the fact the resort’s anniversary isn’t until Sep. 1. Paris opened on that date in 1999. Never let facts get in the way of a perfectly good hoopla!

Paris Las Vegas Eiffel Tower light show

The half scale Eiffel Tower at Paris has about 300,000 rivets. Yes, we counted.

The new light show runs every 30 minutes, from sunset to midnight.

The lighting system features “300 color washing Traxon ProPoint Wall Washer luminaires and more than 800 Traxon ProPoint Pixel luminaires.” In human words, that’s 300 colored lights and 800 strobes.

The lights are programmable and come in four colors (red, green, blue and white).

Check out our spectacularly slapped-together video of the new Eiffel Tower light show at Paris Las Vegas.


While the music in our video syncs with the light show, we aren’t entirely sure music accompanies the show at Paris. The best view of the light show is across the street at Bellagio, and they have their own music going to accompany the dancing fountains show.

And while we’re on the subject, it’s fairly obvious the Paris light show is meant to pull tourist eyeballs back across the street from Bellagio.

We’ve often talked about how surprising it is Bellagio’s Conservatory is still free, given trends toward casino cost-cutting, so it’s refreshing to see Paris creating a new free “attraction” for Las Vegas visitors.

The Eiffel Tower light show may not have the “wow” factor of the fountains (nothing does, really), but it’s a fun diversion and makes the most of a distinctive Las Vegas landmark.

Here’s the Latest From Resorts World

It seems Resorts World has moved on from its tiff with Wynn Resorts, and construction of the Asian-themed casino proceeds, albeit at an agonizingly slow pace.

Resorts World

Just don’t look directly into the…crap, too late.

Resorts World and Wynn Resorts got into a legal spat when the latter claimed Resorts World’s design was too similar to Wynn’s.

The parties came to a settlement, and since then Resorts World has been taking measures to ensure there’s no confusion between the hotels.

One of the noticeable changes is the horizontal bands of Resorts World, once cream-colored, are now being painted black.

Resorts World

Always bet on, well, you know.

For a minute, Resorts World tried turning its bands red, but apparently that didn’t pan out.

Resorts World

Red in mid-February 2019, black two weeks later. This is a fun game.

It seems Resorts World dodged an expensive bullet by not having to remove its bronze-colored windows.

Instead, in addition to the color change in the horizontal bands, the resort is brightening up its extremities with bright red flourishes.

Resorts World

Resorts World may be overcompensating a little.

The long-delayed Resorts World (it was supposed to open in 2016) continues to add floors.

Here’s a photo of Resorts World in Nov. 2018.

Resorts World

Returning all that glass would’ve incurred a huge restocking charge.

Here’s another from March 2018.

Resorts World

You should see the size of our monopod.

Yes, we do need to get a life.

We’re just so excited when anything happens on the north end of The Strip.

There’s lots of new stuff at Resorts World, despite our not knowing what it is.

Resorts World

Sort of praying this is the casino.

Given how visitation in Las Vegas has flattened out recently, we can’t really blame Resorts World for dragging its feet. Bringing thousands of rooms online now would be disastrous, so Resorts World is content with shooting for a 2021 opening.

The idea is by then, with the completion of Raiders Stadium and the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center, visitation will presumably grow and Resorts World will be rolling in it. Presumably.

Resorts World

Bonus points if you can pick out the reflections of Wynn and Encore.

The plan is for Resorts World to be 60 stories (Fontainebleau, now The Drew, has 63), and it already looms large over The Strip.

We’ll keep you abreast of all the progress at Resorts World, so check back often.

And we would like it duly noted we did not resort to making an “abreast” joke. Because maturity.

MGM Resorts to Replace Bartenders With Machines (No, Really)

Can we write a sensational headline, or what?

Thing is, we’re not kidding.

Several sources inside MGM Resorts have confirmed the company will soon roll out automated cocktail dispensing machines in its service bars (also called “well bars”) in Las Vegas and across the country.

That’s right. All those stories you’ve heard about humans being replaced with robots is sort of coming true, and its happening by the end of August 2019, according to our sources.

Smartender

Science meets drunken gambling benders.

MGM Resorts has quietly been testing automated cocktail machines at casinos in other markets (specifically, MGM Springfield in Massachusetts and MGM National Harbor in Maryland). Now, MGM Resorts is bringing those automated bartenders to Las Vegas.

As you may have heard, MGM Resorts is in the first phase of a massive cost-cutting initiative, MGM 2020. The goal is to save $300 million, with $100 million of that coming from savings on labor costs.

MGM 2020 is a “company-wide, business-optimization initiative aimed to leverage a more centralized organization to maximize profitability and, through key investments in technology, lay the groundwork for the company’s digital transformation to drive revenue growth.”

There’s nothing sexier than leveraging, if you ask us.

Dozens of top level MGM Resorts executives are expected to take “voluntary resignation” packages, saving the company millions.

Also in the crosshairs are jobs that can be done through automation and technology.

Lago cocktail

Insert gratuitous cocktail photo (a machine can’t make) here.

While everyone involved with the roll-out of drink dispensing machines have been sworn to secrecy (suck it, NDAs), we’ve heard from several employees they’re bracing for what could be the first wave of machines replacing jobs traditionally done by humans.

It’s no wonder Las Vegas unions dug their heels in during the recent contract negotiations. One of the sticking points: Automation.

It’s clear the union knew changes were coming and did their best to ensure employees losing their jobs would at least be treated fairly. Union leaders and members have said publicly they are “legitimately worried” about touchscreen beverage ordering systems.

It turns out they had good reason to be worried.

While we haven’t been able to confirm who’s making the beverage system coming to MGM Resorts casinos in Las Vegas (a reliable source says it’s a company called Easybar), we found one that illustrates what these machines can do, from a company called Smartender.

Take a look.

Brilliant, really.

Is it wrong we sort of want one for our house?

Basically, a server will put ice in a glass, hit a button, add a garnish and deliver the drink, all without the involvement of a bartender.

Here’s the Easybar teminal.

Easybar

We hear the Easybar cocktail station costs about $30,000, or roughly half what a human union bartender costs.

Here are some of the selling points of the Easybar self-service cocktail station.

Easybar

Seriously, get us one for our birthday.

To be fair, given all the benefits to a business, it would be hard to fault MGM Resorts for making this move.

Among the benefits of these machines: They reduce “overpours” and waste, they’re accurate within 1/20th of an ounce, drinks are recorded in a database and there’s “total accountability” because a company knows precisely who served what and how often.

Also, the company will assert, these machines provide guests a consistent experience across all venues. (At least that’s what they said when we caught them reducing their standard pour size back in 2016.)

MGM Resorts statement

Proof we’ve been annoying MGM Resorts since at least 2016.

So, how much should we freak out?

Unless we’re a service bartender, probably not much. (Actually, the way seniority works, service bartenders are pretty far up the food chain, bartenderwise. So, as they get displaced, they’ll bump others from their positions, and so on, down the line.)

These machines aren’t likely to replace your favorite casino bartender, though. These machines will be used in service bars, bars behind the scenes churning out thousands of drinks for players on the casino floor.

We should mention there are service bars in restaurants, too, and our sources say those bartenders will be phased out as well.

If you tend to freak out about technology in general, well, that autonomous ship has already sailed.

Any number of casino and hotel jobs have already been affected by technology. Gone are the days when casino employees lugged around massive bags of coins, thanks to TITO (ticket in, ticket out) technology.

Recently, hotels have made hotel check-in available through smartphones and kiosks, slashing the number of front desk agents. (Example: Staffing at the front desk of Park MGM has gone from about 15 agents to three following the implementation of check-in kiosks.)

In Vegas, robot room service is a thing. Robots have also taken some concierge jobs.

Tipsy Robot Las Vegas

Robot bartenders at Tipsy Robot inside Planet Hollywood. They’re a hoot.

We hear, as part of MGM 2020, restaurant cashiers are likely to be a thing of the past at MGM Resorts casinos, too.

Some in the business estimate thousands of MGM Resorts employees will ultimately be affected by the MGM 2020 initiative.

Leveraging and optimizing come at a cost, of course.

You can bet MGM Resorts is looking at what’s happening at Caesars Entertainment and is highly motivated to avoid a similar scenario. (It’s looking more and more like Caesars Entertainment will be sold, or broken up and sold off in pieces.)

If you’re bored, watch us drop this scoop on KLAS, Channel 8 in Las Vegas.

There’s much more to come.

Update (3/6/19): Our story has been confirmed.