Category Archives: Nightclubs

10 Surprising Things About Las Vegas Nightclubs We Learned Cramming for a Radio Interview

We love being a guest on KNPR, the Las Vegas public radio station. We love it because
it makes us feel important, because it’s always great conversation and because we
always learn something.

Our most recent KNPR invitation was for a segment about Las Vegas nightclubs. While
we are not an avid club-goer, we are most definitely an avid club-observer, and not
knowing a lot about a subject has never impeded our ability to form opinions about
it.

Tao nightclub

Tao Nightclub’s name was inspired by a Chinese concept meaning “path,” “route” or “means to making a metric ass-ton of money.”

In the days leading up to our interview, we prepped intensively by doing our own
interviews with Las Vegas nightlife insiders. Many of the things we learned didn’t
make it on-air, but we figure you’ve got some time to kill, so here are some tidbits we found intriguing.

1. Clubs Sometimes Bus in Pretty People from L.A.

Las Vegas nightlife is a mysterious creature. For example, when a club isn’t filling
up with enough pretty people, it may actually bus in attractive people from Los
Angeles. Which is in an entirely different state than Las Vegas. More pretty people
creates more buzz, more buzz creates more business and more business creates more
revenue. Crazy, but true.

Tryst nightclub

Related: Suck it, diversity. See also #9 on our list.

2. Street Promoters Who Ask for Money Are Scam Artists

Club promoters on the Las Vegas Strip fall into two neat categories. There are those
working with clubs whose job it is to fill up the club with attractive people,
typically women. Others are scam artists, plain and simple. They create fake IDs and
often sell fake nightclub passes. How do you tell them apart? If they ask for money,
or a tip, they’re a scammer. Legitimate promoters aren’t selling anything. If you
encounter the other kind, flee.

3. “Bottle Rats” Are a Thing

There’s an entire subculture inside Las Vegas nightclubs industry insiders refer to
as “bottle rats.” These are women who roam the club looking for men with tables and
bottle service. They flirt until they’re invited into one of these exclusive,
expensive areas, and they mooch drinks. They’re not technically prostitutes, but the
practice is sort of the same business model, except without the sex. Usually.

4. Hosts Sometimes Ask for Photos Before Giving Comps

One of the realities of Las Vegas nightclubs is attractive, young women rule. Hosts
are highly-motivated to bring in that demographic, and will often give groups of
attractive women comps of bottle service. In one case, a Hakkasan host was outed as
calling guests “whales” and “hippos,” and all hell broke loose. The latest practice
is for some nightclub hosts to request photos of guests before approving their comp.
Wrong, sexist and superficial, yes, but also reality.

SLS Life Nightclub

Not every nightclub is a sure-fire money-maker. Life at SLS had high hopes but closed quickly and will soon be replaced with a live music venue.

5. It’s Not the Club, It’s the Management

Club-goers unfamiliar with Las Vegas often assume hotels own and operate their
nightclubs. Not the case. Hotels hire management companies to run their clubs, so
your experience is more a reflection of the management company than the resort
itself. There are just a few of these companies in Las Vegas, with the most popular
clubs being managed by just a couple of big players. Some companies get a reputation
for having less-desirable clubs. Before Light Group was bought by Hakkasan Group, its
clubs (1 OAK at Mirage, Light at Mandalay Bay, Bank at Bellagio) were considered to
be less cool, have shadier practices and less overall cache. The cult of management
companies is real.

Light Nightclub

Behind-the-scenes drama means Light Nightclub at Mandalay Bay won’t be Light might longer.

6. Hosts Are a Nightclub’s Sales Force

Nightclub hosts are what make Sin City’s nightclub business one of the most
remarkable success stories in the history of the city. Hosts, usually men, are the
hustlers who network and schmooze and pull in customers who are going to spend.
Nightclub hosts make a commission on what they sell, and they make tips on top of
that lucrative source of income. (It’s not uncommon for clubbers to spend $5,000-
$10,000 on bottle service during the course of an evening.) Interestingly, hosts pool
their tips.

7. Seventy Percent of a Club’s Revenue is Bottle Service

Bottle service is the engine that drives the massive profits of Las Vegas nightclubs.
A host’s job is to try and get customer’s to commit to a minimum they’re going to
spend before they ever step foot into the club, and to get them to spend more once
they’re inside. We’re of the opinion they shouldn’t call it “bottle service,” but
rather “celebrity service.” Because when you get bottle service, you’re a really big
deal, even if only for a night.

Lavo casino Las Vegas

Nightclubs make big bucks from cover charges and liquor sales. Lavo at Venetian recently added a new revenue stream, table games.

8. Nightclubs Have a Zero Tolerance Policy About Illegal Activity

Back in the day, hosts and other nightclub staffers would regularly supply customers
with drugs and prostitutes. The prime directive was to keep the customer happy, no
matter how outlandish the request. Now, however, the prime directive is, “WTF were we
thinking?” Clubs had their cages rattled by law enforcement to the point where now,
if you ask someone on staff at a nightclub for something illegal, you’ll be reported
to security and removed from the club. Staying open and making money are paramount,
and clubs no longer tolerate illegal activity of any kind. Sure, it happens, but the
nodding and winking by club staff and management is a thing of the past.

Update (11/20/15): Despite efforts to self-regulate, the Nevada Gaming Commission has made it clear nightclubs need to do a better job of monitoring potentially illegal activity. Read more.

Foundation Room

In 2014, the Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay was fined $500,000 for narcotics and prostitution violations. Pocket change for a nightclub, but the venue’s legal and PR nightmare reverberates even today.

9. The Customer Mix at a Club is a Thing

The make-up of a club’s clientele is of critical importance to the success of a Las Vegas nightclub. Nightclub managers explicitly tell their hosts who they want, and hosts deliver. This includes not only the gender mix but also the racial mix. Having too much of an “urban” clientele is nearly as dangerous as being considered a “sausage factory” (a club with too many men). Clubs generally claim to prefer a 2-to-1 ratio of women to men, but the truth is the ultimate mix for a nightclub would be 99% young attractive women and 1% wealthy guys who like to spend money to meet and impress them.

10. Nearly All the World’s Most Successful Clubs Are in Las Vegas

According to the experts, a full seven of the top 10 most financially successful nightclubs in
the entire world are in Las Vegas: XS (#1), Hakkasan (#2), Marquee (#3), Tao (#4),
Surrender (#6), Hyde (#9) and Lavo (#10). Both XS and Hakkasan each rake in more than
$100 million a year. Las Vegas has got this down cold.

Nightclubs in Las Vegas continue to thrive, and lots of nightlife newness is in the
works.

The new Omnia at Caesars Palace, formerly Pure, is crushing it in a world-class way.

Pure nightclub

Even when you’re big in Vegas, you can always be bigger. Pure is now Omnia.

Tryst at Wynn recently closed after a decade, with a new concept, Intrigue, in the works.

Intrigue Nightclub Las Vegas

Intrigue promises to move away from what it calls the “DJ phenomenon.” The rest of us refer to is as “You paid them WHAT?!”

Nightlife impresario Jesse Waits, formerly of XS and Tryst, has moved over
to the $4 billion Alon resort project.

There’s never a dull moment in the world of Las Vegas nightclubs, and only the strong survive.

If you’re hungry for more about Las Vegas nightclubs, you can check out our appearance on KNPR radio, along with Greg Costello, director of customer development for Hyde at Bellagio.

We’d love to hear your Las Vegas nightclub insights and experiences. We hate learning new things, but in this case, we’ll make an exception.

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Riviera Slot Machines Get Second Life at The D Las Vegas as Vintage Vegas Floor Goes Ticket-In, Ticket Out

If you’re missing the now-closed Riviera, you’re in luck. The D Las Vegas has integrated dozens of Riviera slot machines into its Vintage Vegas floor, while phasing out its coin machines.

The D Las Vegas

The Vintage Vegas floor at The D is also the Vue Bar floor, or as we like to call it, our home away from home.

Ever since The D purchased more than 850 Riviera slot machines back in June, the downtown casino (formerly Fitzgerald’s) has been swapping out 15-20 per week with existing machines on its second floor, a floor devoted to classic machines.

Now, the only coin-operated slot machine at The D is the popular Sigma Derby.

Sigma Derby

When you play Sigma Derby, you don’t just win money, you win lifelong friends. Which we should totally trademark.

The move to TITO (ticket-in, ticket-out) means The D’s second floor cage will be dismantled, and coin redemption from Sigma Derby will be handled in the casino’s main cage, downstairs.

The D Las Vegas

It’s curtains for The D’s second floor cage.

The integration of the Riviera’s machines means a greater variety of games for players, and far fewer headaches for The D.

There’s a long list of reasons most Las Vegas casinos don’t offer coin-operated machines. Some of the reasons are obvious, others are a little more technical.

The owner of The D Las Vegas, Derek Stevens, says, “The games from the Riv had some advantages over the machines we previously had on the second floor. For example, many of the games at The D previously wouldn’t accept the new $5 or $20 bill. There wasn’t any ability to fix this problem, as the bill validator manufacturer for those machines had long since gone out of business, and those slot machines couldn’t run without that specific type of bill validator. It forced us to keep ‘old’ bills in our cages and slot techs with wallets of old bills to swap out for new bills from customers.”

The technical term in casino parlance is “huge pain in the ass.”

The D

We have personally found those Wheel of Fortune machines on the right to be very loose. Especially after a couple of cocktails.

Stevens comments, “I decided to keep the Vintage Vegas theme, but just change the games out so all the games have TITO and bill validators that not only work but also have the ability to detect counterfeits, something that has become epidemic over the last 3-4 months. In some cases, we replaced old machines with older machines, but with the necessary TITO and bill validators.”

It goes without saying the cost of maintaining a coin-operated slot floor is far more expensive than having non-coin machines. Although we just said it, so perhaps it doesn’t go without saying after all.

While there’s a certain charm to grime-covered hands and the “clink” of coins falling into a “hopper,” it can get old. There are still a few spots in Las Vegas where you can play coins, but the demand for such machines is fading fast.

Derek Stevens says he’s seen the demand for coin-operated slots dwindling, especially within the last five years.

The D Las Vegas

“We don’t need your validation!” scream the bills. Um, wrong.

Overall, about 200 slot machines from the Riviera have been placed on the casino floor at The D and its sister casino, Golden Gate.

The second floor of The D is a great place to get intimate with the history of Las Vegas. If your hands are feeling too clean, bust open some rolls of quarters and bet on your favorite Sigma Derby horse. Otherwise, give a former Riviera slot machine a try.

And before you do any of that, rub the casino’s Blarney Stone. Long story.

Full disclosure: The D Las Vegas is a member of the Fremont Street Experience family of casinos. We work at Fremont Street Experience. Our opinions remain our own.

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Downtown’s Insert Coins Closes, Owner Says It’s Temporary, Don’t Hold Your Breath

Insert Coins, a unique combination of video arcade and nightclub, has closed on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas.

DTLV.com first reported the news, quoting owner Christopher LaPorte as saying the closure is temporary, but from what we can tell, this one has wishful thinking written all over it.

Insert Coins

Hopes were high for the Insert Coins brand. An expansion to Minneapolis lasted about a year before the operation was sold.

LaPorte says the closure is due to “a rapidly changing DTLV business environment.” Which is odd, since the business environment in downtown Las Vegas appears to be thriving, with a slate of new restaurants and bars opening just in the last few months.

But the boom in downtown watering holes could be part of the reason Insert Coins closed. Could this be a sign Fremont East has hit a saturation point for bars and restaurants? And is the trouble limited to bars? We hear downtown boutique Coterie, across from Insert Coins, recently closed, too.

LaPorte has said publicly business has been challenging due to “the concentration of bars along Fremont Street.” He’s also said, “Market share has definitely been cut to pieces. There are not enough people to split among all of us. There’s very little residential. Parking isn’t as easy here.”

LaPorte also mentions Insert Coins encountered “financial challenges over the past year that we cannot currently sustain.”

Insert Coins Las Vegas

Insert Coins opened in 2011 and boasted not only DJs, but also a sizeable collection of classic arcade machines and game consoles.

We’d heard no rumblings Insert Coins was in trouble, but we do know one thing for certain: Financially successful establishments in Las Vegas don’t close, unless it’s to expand. This definitely isn’t that.

Here’s the full statement from Insert Coins, including the requisite obfuscations and annoying parenthetical affectation: “Due to a rapidly changing DTLV business environment, Insert Coin(s) will be temporarily closing its doors. We are immensely proud of our four and a half years being a landmark for Downtown Las Vegas and our numerous philanthropic contributions made to the Vegas community at large. Being a part of the transformation of Downtown Vegas and enduring the highs and lows of these changes, we thank you for allowing us to present the Insert Coin(s) brand as the unique combination of videogame and nightlife entertainment that we never lost belief in. Unfortunately, that commitment to the brand and the DTLV economic environment have resulted in financial challenges over the past year that we cannot currently sustain. We will continue to work to bring back to the community the Insert Coin(s) brand that you loved and we thank you again for your patronage and support as your favorite videogame and music venue.”

It’s been reported “a notice was attached to the business’ front door signifying an eviction.” Also, “The notice states a landlord complaint was made, though, details were not specified.” Matter, meet crux. This is the part where you should probably ignore the official statement. We almost always do.

Notice? Naturally, we stopped by for a pic.

Insert Coins eviction

Insert Coins’ sticker of shame.

Insert Coins was a refreshing twist on the typical nightclub or lounge, and seemed a good fit for the booming Fremont East district, so we’re sorry to see it go.

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Caesars Palace Now Has 40% Less T&A: Shadow Bar, Pussycat Dolls Party Pit Close

Woe is us. The one-time bacchanalian paradise known as Caesars Palace has lost approximately 40% of its T&A in recent weeks. Is nothing sacred in Las Vegas?

First came news Shadow Bar has closed at the Strip hotel-casino. At this longtime bastion of T&A, women danced provocatively behind back-lit screens, their silhouettes tempting customers with just enough tease to titillate, but without any actual nudity.

Caesars Palace Shadow Bar

Gone are the pulsations, the undulations, the palpitations and several other words we would not have been able to spell without the assistance of the Internet.

Shadow Bar was the last remaining shadow dancer experience in Las Vegas.

Sin City regulars will perhaps remember a similar shadow-based effect, albeit the result of projection machines rather than live dancers, at the former O’Sheas.

O'Sheas shadow dancers

When they pulled the plug on the shadow dancers at O’Sheas, we wept harder than someone forced to listen to an isolated Mariah Carey vocal track.

As if the closure of Shadow Bar weren’t dismaying enough, another T&A stronghold has fallen victim to the ongoing changes at Caesars Palace. The Pussycat Dolls party pit, complete with its sassy go-go dancers and sexy paramilitary uniform-clad dealers, has vanished.

Pussycat Dolls casino

The Pussycat Dolls broke up in 2009. Which might explain why, toward the end, the Pussycat Dolls party pit felt more like a stalker than a sex kitten.

Thanks to our friends at the Five Hundy by Midnight podcast for alerting us to this vexing news.

The closure of both Shadow Bar and the Pussycat Dolls Casino are related to a renovation of the hotel’s nightclub, Pure. The defunct Pure will reopen as Omnia Nightclub on March 12, 2015, and Shadow Bar is expected to reopen as a new night spot operated by Hakkasan Group, the nightlife and restaurant empire charged with running Omnia. The Pussycat Dolls party pit was taking up prime real estate near the nightclub, so its nine lives were all used up.

Word that Shadow Bar and the Pussycat Dolls pit have closed is insult-to-injury for T&A fans still reeling from the departure of Angel Perrino from “Absinthe” (photo below) a year ago for her high maintenance behavior.

Angel Porrino Absinthe

There was a giant balloon, tap dancing and pasties. And, yes, we realize that sentence could only ever makes sense in the context of Las Vegas.

Here’s hoping Caesars Palace will soon regain its standing as a hotbed of hedonism. Which we’re thinking would make a pretty good band name.

While we wait, we’ll have to make due with what little T&A is left at Caesars Palace.

Venus statue

Don’t lie. Venus has piqued your quarry-osity.

Find the Venus outside at one of the approximately 14 pools at Caesars Palace. Where, come to think of it, there may be an untapped supply of T&A. It’s Vegas, so feel free to tap that.

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Today’s Security Breach at Paris Las Vegas

We never met a construction wall in Las Vegas we didn’t like!

There’s a little work going on outside Paris Las Vegas, on the north side of Sugar Factory.

Paris construction

Construction walls are the ultimate Las Vegas tease.

A peek over the wall shows some work-in-progress. Small-scale Vegas newness on the way.

Paris construction

Climbing the stairway to bottle service.

It appears there’s a new staircase going up to Chateau Nightclub, specifically, to The Deck. The Deck is the outside (terrace) part of Chateau Nightclub. Read more.

Not the most earth-shattering Las Vegas news, but if we don’t breach security every so often, we start experiencing withdrawal symptoms including nausea, dizziness and vomiting. So, sort of like being in a nightclub.

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SLS Las Vegas: A Look Inside the Strip’s Newest Resort

When the Sahara closed, we felt like we’d lost an old friend. Thankfully, we’re getting a new one: SLS Las Vegas. The Strip’s newest resort opens August 23, 2014 (or more accurately, the evening of August 22, at midnight, complete with fireworks), and we can’t wait to put SLS through her paces. Yes, SLS is a her. Because we said so.

We’ve got a look inside this much-anticipated resort, including a slew of restaurants, nightlife venues and other shiny Vegas newness.

SLS Las Vegas

Just inside the main entrance of SLS. It’s enough to make a Las Vegas blog’s heart sing. Which is weird, given hearts don’t tend to have vocal cords or even mouths.

Here’s the entrance you come through to see that view of the casino.

SLS Las Vegas

Wave “goodbye” to the outdoors. You’re in Las Vegas!

Where should we begin? If you read this blog on a regular basis, you already know that’s a rhetorical question. To the bar!

Before we hit the bar, however, we have to check out the fancy new felt on the table games.

SLS Las Vegas

We would like to roll around naked here, although a pit boss might have an issue with that.

Who cares about how a new car smells? We love us the smell of a new craps table.

Sorry, roulette, we didn’t mean to neglect you.

SLS roulette

The tables aren’t really tilted like this. All the chips would slide off.

Onward to Center Bar, located in the (wait for it) center of the casino.

There are a few video poker machines, but the real eye-popper (not literally, that would be cause for legal action) is the video display over the bar. A still photo really doesn’t do it justice, but we are a blog, not a videographer.

SLS Center Bar

This will be a convenient place to meet friends. Saying, “Meet you at the bar with the big-ass video screen over it” should do the trick.

The casino isn’t sprawling (about 60,000-square-feet), so there’s no risk of getting lost.

Fans of Sahara will feel right at home, as the casino is laid out roughly as it was back in the day.

SLS Las Vegas

This is what our den would look like if we were a computer hacker and we all lived in “The Matrix.”

There are quirky surprises throughout the casino, and the entire hotel, really. Many of them involve monkeys. In other cases, there’s just interesting art.

SLS Las Vegas

This artwork looks like someone took a photo of a firefly using a really long exposure time. By the way, people who grew up in Las Vegas have no idea whatsoever what a firefly is.

We’re not going to leave you in suspense. Here are some of the aforementioned monkeys.

SLS monkeys

Our first SLS progressive awaits.

Easily one of the sexiest parts of the casino is the high limit salon. It’s so pretty, in fact, we’re thinking of learning a marketable skill so we can afford to play there.

SLS Las Vegas

Wait. Marketable skill? That sounds hard. A wealthy relative keeling over sounds much more appealing at this juncture.

But a resort does not live by its casino alone. SLS Las Vegas boasts no fewer than nine dining options. Many small towns in North America do not boast nine dining options. “Let’s take a peek at a couple, already,” you nagged in that certain way you have sometimes.

First up is Cleo.

SLS Las Vegas

We know two things about Cleo. First, it serves Mediterranean food. Second, the woman in that Cleopatra artwork is the supermodel girlfriend of one of the casino’s owners, Sam Nazarian.

We don’t mean to sling restaurant jargon around, but Cleo is distinctive in that is has a big stone thingy. Oh, just look at the photo.

SLS

The cool thing about the restaurants at SLS Las Vegas is they’ve all been successes in other cities, thus avoiding this blog being a guinea pig.

Katsuya is a Japanese restaurant. “Katsuya” in Japanese means, “We are very happy there are things on the menu other than sushi because we are definitely not a sushi person.”

SLS

Katsuya has a bar. And Wagyu beef. So, we’re good.

No time to dawdle.

Next up, there’s an 800 Degrees Pizza. There’s already one at Monte Carlo Las Vegas, but you can never have too many pizza places if you ask us.

SLS Las Vegas

We predict this place is going to make a ton of dough.

There’s also a bigtime steakhouse at SLS, Bazaar Meat. This restaurant is brought to us by José Andrés, a chef so famous, he was given two accent marks in his name, possibly by a Spanish monarch.

SLS

Yes, these adorn Bazaar Meat. We’re 91% sure this kind of meat is not served there.

There’s also Ku Noodle, which we’re fairly sure is a play on the word “canoodle,” but whenever we ask people at the hotel if that’s true, they look at us like we’re nuts.

SLS

We saw a guy practicing noodle-making, old school. Just like at Beijing Noodle No. 9 at Caesars Palace, we’re putting that in the “free entertainment” category.

There are a number of other restaurants, but our hands are starting to cramp up from all this typing, so we’re going to skip to the SLS buffet.

SLS Las Vegas

It feels like a mountain lodge, but with much more belt-loosening.

Rounding out the dining are Umami Burger, the Griddle Cafe and The Perq.

All this exploring is making us parched. Let’s hit the Monkey Bar.

SLS

We’ve heard the name of this bar for weeks now, and only this second remembered “monkey bars” are also a playground thing. Clearly, we should not blog while drunk. Or possibly ever, hand crampwise.

This leads us, somewhat ineptly, to a major component of what is expected to be a major draw for SLS Las Vegas: Nightlife.

SLS

Get your back up off the wall, or whatever people say in nightclubs these days.

SLS Las Vegas has several nightlife venues, including its main Life nightclub (pictured above), Foxtail (sort of another nightclub), the Foxtail Pool Club (more of a daylife thing, but we’re not sure that’s a word, so we’re sticking with nightlife) and Sayers Club (with a focus on live music).

Foxtail

Oh, great. A pool club. Now, we have no choice but to do a sit-up.

Life is a huge nightclub that occupies the space where the Sahara showroom used to be. This is one of three bars inside this new Las Vegas nightlife party spot.

SLS

Tip: The bartenders won’t be able to hear your order, so we recommend learning how to say “rum and Coke” in sign language.

We’re sure there are things we’re forgetting. While not a huge resort, there’s plenty of ground to cover when you visit.

The hotel rooms pretty much look exactly like the renderings, so that’s handled.

In case you wondered, SLS doesn’t have a bingo room, poker room or keno parlor. Those are typically not big money-makers for casinos, and SLS had to try and do a lot with relatively little space.

And, never fear, there are plenty of nods to the Sahara throughout SLS. That’s a class move in our book.

SLS Las Vegas

Gone but not forgotten.

Another item we can’t share until SLS opens is the Philippe Starck-designed statue in the hotel’s valet area. We guarantee this will get people talking, and we look forward to hearing what you think when it’s unveiled.

SLS Las Vegas

No, it’s not being fumigated. It’s called building suspense!

Oh, crap, we almost forgot the scratch-and-sniff wall.

SLS

It’s more of a sniff thing than a scratch thing, but do what you need to do.

Special thanks to the folks at SLS Las Vegas for their hospitality and patience with all our photo-taking, especially our significant other who personally gave us our tour (she does the social media for SLS) and only sighed 12-15 times when we kept asking if the liquor guns at the hotel bars were operating yet.

SLS Las Vegas is shaking things up at the north end of The Strip, and is a great beginning to what is shaping up to be a true revitalization of the area. Coming up are a City of Rock open-air concert venue (2015), the Asian-themed Resorts World hotel (2016) and another project slated for the former site of the Frontier (2018).

SLS

SLS stands for “Style, Luxury and Service.” In reality, though, Sam Nazarian saw a Mercedes Benz SLS and just liked how the SLS looked.

Find out more about SLS Las Vegas at its official site.

Enjoy a few more photos in our exclusive gallery, and come back and share your thoughts if you check out SLS Las Vegas. You’ll find us at the bar with the big-ass video screen over it. Told you that would end up being a thing.

Inside SLS Las Vegas

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