Renovations Are Underway at SLS Las Vegas

The new owner of SLS Las Vegas, Alex Meruelo, has started what he says will be $100 million in upgrades and renovations to the north Strip resort.

Changes as SLS are already underway, including in the casino, as evidenced by a large portion of the floor being walled off.

SLS Las Vegas renovations

You go, SLS. We love that new casino smell.

It doesn’t appear the current renovations have had any impact on the restaurants, including one of our favorite in town, Cleo.

It’s anticipated most, if not all, of the current SLS dining offerings will be swapped out with new concepts as the resort overhaul proceeds. Restaurants like Katsuya, Umami Burger, Cleo and 800 Degrees Pizza are licensed from SBE Entertainment Group, a previous co-owner of the hotel.

We have heard Bazaar Meat will survive the transition, though, and even expand.

Sadly, the walled-off section of the casino floor does encompass the former party pit, just outside the Sayers Club.

SLS renovations

When you’re in this spot, look up. You’ll see a glorious chandelier made from door handles salvaged from the Sahara.

The renovations brush up against the popular center bar’s video screen.

A couple of signs on the construction wall give a glimpse into what’s to come for the SLS casino floor.

SLS Las Vegas

The casino at SLS never looked finished. Clearly, now it will.

Upgrades in the casino will include changes to the ceiling, carpeting and lighting.

Here’s another peek through the time portal into the future of SLS. Or something.

SLS renovations

Adios, exposed air conditioning ducts. And random monkeys.

By the time the renovations are done at SLS, it’s likely the resort won’t bear that name anymore. The most likely candidate is Grand Sahara, a throwback to the casino’s original name while integrating a brand owned by Alex Meuelo in Reno, the Grand Sierra Resort.

Oh, all right, nerd. The Sahara’s original name was Club Bingo. Just play along!

Beyond the casino, renovations to the resort will involve hotel room upgrades, the pool and entertainment venues. It’s all fairly amazing given the resort only opened as SLS four years
ago, on Aug. 23, 2014.

As far as we know, SLS hasn’t had a profitable month since it opened, and the hope is Alex Meruelo and his team can turn things around.

SLS renovations

The good news: SLS is one of the few remaining casinos on The Strip with free parking.

Meruelo’s team has already made dramatic moves to cut costs at the resort, including terminating a lease of a nearby employee parking lot that was rumored to be costing the company $40,000 a month.

A big change at the resort took place when W Las Vegas was shown the door in August 2018. Details of that deal are murky, but it brought back operation of the hotel’s Lux Tower (now called the Grand Tower) after the boutique “hotel within a hotel” concept opened in Dec. 2016.

Some of the changes haven’t been received warmly by employees (don’t get them started about the employee dining room), but in recent weeks we’ve found them to be in better spirits, and play in the casino seems to have picked up a bit.

Generous food comps and free play offers seem to be flowing freely, and that’s a great way to keep us coming back.

We’re looking forward to seeing how SLS Las Vegas revamps its casino. One change we’d love to see is a loosening up of the slots, as they clamped down tight a few months after SLS opened, presumably as a way to increase revenue when the anticipated crowds of cool kids from L.A. never materialized.

We’ve always liked SLS a lot. The restaurant mix is appealing, and we tend to prefer our casinos less crowded and rowdy. SLS qualifies.

The success of SLS Las Vegas could hinge on increased development on the north end of The Strip. If projects like Resorts World, The Drew, All Net Resort and Arena (don’t laugh, we hear there’s new funding) and the Las Vegas Convention Center expansion come online, there’s hope. And who knows, Lucky Dragon might re-open again in some form after its sale (Alex Meruelo was in the mix as a potential buyer at one point).

There’s also a rebrand in the works at The Strat, and much more activity at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds (site of the forgettable Rock in Rio music festival fiasco), just across the street from SLS.

In the meantime, eat as much of the Chicken Tagine at Cleo and take lots of selfies with the goofy statue in the hotel’s porte-cochere, while you still can.

SLS casino chip

This fake chip will soon be a collectible!

We’d love to hear your thoughts about what’s in store for SLS Las Vegas.

18 thoughts on “Renovations Are Underway at SLS Las Vegas

  1. Jude

    I’d love it if they focused more on Locals, with a nice cheap cafe open 24 hours and, like you said, looser slots.

    I’d also love it, if they did use Sahara in the name, to use the old Sahara font or some type of the Sahara theme in the design somewhere.

    Reply
    1. Sherri

      My worst fear was that they were going to close Cleo is the best Happy Hour in town in the most delicious lamb Shawarma you ever had I will really miss that and I’m probably won’t be going back to SLS because that’s the reason I go there

      Reply
  2. tim

    I think the tipping point has finally come with the liberalization of gambling laws in the U.S. Here in the midwest, everyone has casino gaming within an hour or two drive. Plus, as our liquor laws have never been looser, strip joints can be easily found for those who are into that, and even bars and clubs are practically gambling dens, Vegas has lost most of its uniqueness for me and many others. The Las Vegas strip is one of a kind and should be on everyone’s bucket list, but what else makes it a must see destination? Is it even still the entertainment capital?
    I wish SLS, and others, well in their efforts to attract customers, but from here it looks like rearranging the deck chairs. I don’t know the answer. Cheap rooms, cheap eats, super loose slots, and exceptional service might move Vegas up on my vacation list, but the old, fun, naughty town I loved is not coming back and probably not worth a cross country airfare.

    Reply
    1. Al

      I hope they bring back a themed look. Casinos with a theme seem to do way better that the ones that look like every other McDonald’s or Starbucks around the county.

      Reply
    2. Paul

      My thoughts exactly. I live on the east coast and used to fly into Vegas 3-4 times a year. I’ve been once this year and it’s already November. I know I’ll lose money there, but I’d rather it be by gambling than the nickle and dime-ing of every single thing. The beginning of the end for me was when I had to pay the resort fee for a comp’ed room.

      Reply
  3. George

    I like the look they are heading toward – more Cosmo, less industrial hipster vibe

    I’ve stayed at SLS once several months after their original opening – I had fun, but it was DEAD

    Between this investment and other construction in their “neighborhood” hopefully the SLS (Sahara Grand?) can become a vibrant and important part of the Vegas community. It’s on some special soil!

    Reply
  4. Jessie Currie

    I think there should be more local specials like free play and discounts since we send alot of people to your property.I refer lots of people and hour cafe with specials for us locals.

    Reply
  5. Housefunker

    I’m bored with the place. Oh good, they’ll finally erase the stench of SLS and dump a lot of money into making it all look and feel different. Oh boy, that’s exciting.

    Same crappy location. Pass.

    Reply
  6. Howard

    Loose slots and free flowing liquor, that will get me there……………..That’s what got me there some 30 years ago!!!

    Reply
  7. Jeff in OKC

    I don’t think it is “Old Man Thinking” to feel that Sahara has been declining since Johnny Carson left for Caesars in the 1970s. The Paul Lowden/Archon ownership from 1982-95 got by on minimal maintenance and CAPEX. Bill Bennett bought it in 1995 after being run out of Circus-Circus as a revenge move, was probably the true savior of the property. He over invested for the market and location during his seven years of control, but I think he was the one who bought the land to the east and west that made it a smart real estate play for his family after his death in 2002. They sold to Nazarian around 2006, and he did the “down to the bones” renovation that made it viable again.

    Say what we want about SLS, but I think the buildings now are mechanically sound enough to work well for 30 years plus. I’d venture that the HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc. are newer and more energy efficient than Westgate, Bally’s, Harrah’s, Linq, Tropicana, Flamingo, and on and on. The right operator can do well there.

    Reply
  8. happyhour101

    I live in the neighborhood and several months ago, the Westgate sent mailers offering an automatic upgrade to club platinum status which includes 25% off all rooms, food, beverages and shows plus pool access and free valet parking. You still have to battle the timeshare salespeople once inside but I’ve found myself spending more time there–same for some of my neighbors. Would really hope the SLS management tries something similar for locals.

    Reply
  9. FYMYAWF

    Scott mentioned it in the story, it’s not rocket science and it’s obvious to anyone with business sense that this was good timing and a good deal for Meruelo.

    He got a historic property at a discount that will need minimal upgrades. Upgrdes which will be completed well before the huge convention space buildout happens. Almost automatically once that space comes online you’ll have huge added demand for north strip rooms. He can afford to lose money for a year or so while the convention space builds out and when it does you have an almost guaranteed massive uptick in bookings.

    It’s why I think despite all the turmoil at Wynn, they will push forward with the planned new hotel across the street. It only makes long term fiscal sense, barring another 2008.

    Reply
  10. DISCO FOREVER

    I’m a regular there…late nite at Northside for the off-the-menu grilled cheese sandwich.
    They kinda lost their way when the Nazarian plan for making it the LA Crowd hangout fizzled.
    Somebody with deep enough pockets to hang out until the Fountainbleau / arena project(s) gets finished will reap rewards.(imo) BTW…I gotta think the floor personnel will be more than happy to rid of the hideous ape-themed vests they were made to wear.Monkeys: NEVER a good visual.

    Reply

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