Weekly Column by Rick Garman

Want to know what's happening in Las Vegas? You've come to the right place.

Each week you can come here to get the latest news, the juiciest gossip, and the best reviews for the most fabulous city in the world, Las Vegas. Hey... it says "fabulous" right on the welcome sign!

The latest weekly column will always be on this page, but you can go back through the archives (all the way back to 1999!) or take a look ahead and what's coming up next for Vegas by using the navigation on the left hand sidebar.

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Plan to Remodel, Rename, and Reopen Sahara Moves Forward

The company that owns the shuttered Sahara hotel on the north end of The Strip has moved several steps closer to their dream of remodeling the hotel and reopening it under a new name - 300 million steps, to be specific.

SBE, the company headed by nightlife and hotel impresario Sam Nazarian, has announced that they have secured $300 million in financing that will allow them to start the process of turning the Sahara into the SLS Las Vegas. When complete in 2014, the SLS will aim to be a "boutique" resort that focuses on luxury but will remain accessible to all audiences.

The plan is to gut the bulk of the property and redo it. Two of the existing hotel towers will be stripped down to the concrete and will get all new interiors and exteriors. A third tower will be rehabbed on the inside and a fourth, low-rise building will be torn down. The SLS will have about 1,600 rooms when it is complete, several hundred fewer than when it was the Sahara.

The rest of the building will get a similar extreme makeover. The roller coaster and NASCAR related attractions are gone and the casino, lobby, pool, and other public areas will be completely redone not only with new decor but with a revised layout.

New nightclubs, lounges, and restaurants will be added with the latter being overseen by Jose Andres, the James Beard Award winning chef whose China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan has garnered major attention. The specifics about what types of restaurants and clubs will be included have not been announced yet but will may include Vegas versions of SBE's popular restaurants in other cities including Bazaar, a Spanish restaurant in Beverly Hills from Andres; the famed Gladstones seafood restaurant located on the beach near Malibu; Katsuya, which is a Japanese/sushi restaurant with eight locations in California, Texas, and Florida; and Mercato di Vetro, an Italian restaurant in West Hollywood.

The SLS Vegas will be a sister to the SLS hotels in Beverly Hills and in South Beach Miami, the latter of which will be opening this month. If they are any indication of what the Vegas hotel will be like, expect lots of clean, sleek, modern lines with retro-mod furnishings and luxurious appointments.

Those looking for a blast-from-the-past version of the Sahara will most likely be disappointed. There is virtually nothing left of the old hotel except the walls. Everything else was sold at auction after the hotel closed in 2011 after nearly 60 years in business.

The project is being designed by Gensler Architects, who oversaw the design of CityCenter.

If everything goes as planned, construction should start in earnest by summer 2012 and should be ready for its first customers by mid-2014.

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SLS Las Vegas


SLS Beverly Hills


Riviera Remodeling

Speaking of old hotels getting a new lease on life, the owners of the Riviera have announced plans to spend $20-$30 million on renovating one of the last remaining "classic" hotels on The Strip.

Opened in 1955, the Riviera was among the highest of high-class luxury resorts in Las Vegas for much of its life but financial difficulties (multiple bankruptcies and multiple owners) have turned it into a bit of a dump.

The renovations will be limited to the public areas of the hotel including new decor and machines in the casino, a new lobby, and upgrades to some of the convention facilities. This goes along with some changes that have already been including the addition of a bingo hall (the only one on The Strip), an updated sports book, and some new gaming spaces.

Nothing will be done for the rooms right now, which is too bad. The bulk of them were redone in 2007 but five years ago is a lifetime in Vegas terms and they could definitely use a freshening.

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It's About Time


Monday Movies at The Cosmo

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is bringing back its Monday Movie series this summer, with free showings of classic movies on their outdoor pool deck overlooking The Strip.

The season kicks off May 14 with the James Bond classic "Goldfinger" and will continue every Monday through September 24th with films like "Stand By Me," "Forrest Gump," "Casablanca," "Spiderman," "Batman," "My Best Friend's Wedding," "Wizard of Oz," and "Sixteen Candles."

Admission is free and they serve snacks (for a cost of course). Doors open 7pm and the movies start at 8pm. For a full list and more information visit the hotel's website, which you can get to through the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas page.

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Now Playing


Linq Construction Causing Disruptions on The Strip

Now that O'Sheas casino has closed and the parking garage behind it has been imploded, construction has started in earnest on the $500 million Linq project and it is having a major impact on accessibility to the hotels in the area.

Linq is the entertainment complex that will be going into what is now an alley between The Flamingo and Imperial Palace. It will include bars, restaurants, shopping, a new (smaller) version of O'Sheas casino, and the High Roller, which is being billed as the world's tallest observation wheel.

Imperial Palace is the most affected right now, which is not surprising considering the fact that as part of the project the hotel will be remodeled and renamed (to what is still a secret). Vehicles can no longer enter the hotel from The Strip - if you're driving in you need to enter from the rear of the hotel off of Audrie Lane. Pedestrian access has also been limited to an entrance off of Carnaval Court at Harrah's on the north side of Imperial Palace.

The tennis courts at The Flamingo and part of the Imperial Palace have already been demolished and more changes are expected for everything from the south side of Harrah's down through the north end of The Flamingo where Margaritaville is located.

There have already been complaints showing up on some message boards about construction noise from guests staying at the three hotels. If you're planning on visiting, you should be sure to ask for a room on the north side of Harrah's or Imperial Palace and the south side of The Flamingo to avoid as much of it as possible.

Linq is expected to be open by summer of 2013.

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Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards

The Hunka Hunka Burning Love Award of the Week goes to American Storm, the male strip show, which is moving into its third Las Vegas venue this week. It started at The Riviera and has been playing at Planet Hollywood for several years but will start May 10th in the showroom at The Plaza in Downtown Las Vegas. Shows are Thursday through Sunday at 10:30pm.

The Dude Looks Like a Lady Award of the Week goes to Drink and Drag, the new drag queen staffed bar, nightclub, and bowling alley at Neonopolis in Downtown Las Vegas, which had its grand opening Friday, May 4th. They bill themselves as having the biggest staff of drag queens in the world.

The There's No Business Like Show Business Award of the Week goes to the new Planet Hollywood restaurant in Las Vegas, which has its grand opening Tuesday, May 8th. Despite what you may expect it is not at the Planet Hollywood hotel, but rather still in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. They moved from the main level to the top floor toward The Strip in the space once occupied by Boa steakhouse.

The Tony Award Winning Award of the Week goes to The Venetian and Palazzo, which are rumored to be bringing in two big Broadway musicals to fill their soon-to-be-empty showrooms. "Book of Mormon," by "South Park" writers Trey Stone and Matt Parker, won the Tony Award for Best Musical last year and "Rock of Ages," a 80s music extravaganza, is being turned into a movie this summer starring Tom Cruise. These are just rumors so far so no opening date is set but expect before the end of the year.

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Broadway Bound?


Lucky 7: Best Off the Beaten Track Nightlife

Over the last few weeks I've been running a series of the Best Off the Beaten Track Experiences in Las Vegas. We started with the Best Hotels then moved on to the Best Restaurants and then took a look at the Best Attractions. This week it's time to raise your glass to the Best Off the Beaten Track Nightlife experiences in Vegas:

Air Bar
Located nearly 1,000 feet above the Las Vegas skyline, this casual ultra lounge has the best views in the entire city. Read the full review here.

Double Down Saloon
Famous for its slogan "You Puke, You Clean It Up" and a drink that involves them pouring whatever is in the rubber mat at the drink station into a shot glass, this ultra-dive bar is not for the faint of heart but a Vegas classic nevertheless. Read the full review here.

The Griffin
The bar itself isn't all that much to get excited about but there's something about the vibe, the patrons, and the undeniably laid-back energy that makes this a fun place to go have a drink. Read the full review here.

Insert Coin(s)
Part nightclub part video game lounge, this Downtown Las Vegas venue has become a must-visit stop for anyone who ever tried to get the high score on Ms. Pac Man or on Halo. Read the full review here.

Mizuya Lounge
One of the questions I get asked all the time is this: "I want to go out dancing but don't fit in at the typical Vegas nightclubs so where do I go?" My answer is usually this casual lounge at Mandalay Bay, which has great cover bands, low or no cover charges, and a crowd that doesn't care how old you are or what you are wearing. Read the full review here.

The city's newest gay nightclub is undeniably its best, mixing a high-energy dance floor downstairs with a sexy, laid-back ultra lounge upstairs for an irresistible package. Read the full review here.

Vanguard Lounge
Even if you're the type that is usually content with well drinks and domestic beer, you'll be amazed at the fresh, funky, and flavorful craft cocktails they make here. The fact that they are more affordable than basic drinks on The Strip is almost a bonus. Read the full review here.

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Insert Coin(s)




Vanguard Lounge