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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
September 24, 2012
It's been almost three months since I made the announcement that I was going to be taking a break to deal with a cancer diagnosis. During that three months, the support I have received from Vegas4Visitors readers, fans, and friends has been overwhelming. I can't tell you how much I have appreciated the e-mails, notes, and well-wishes.
To recap, I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and had to undergo a partial esophagectomy, where they remove a portion of my esophagus and a portion of my stomach and then hook everything back up again. That was five weeks ago and it has been a hard road, to be honest. There were complications after the first surgery that required a second, emergency one and I was in the hospital for two weeks. I've been recovering, slowly, at home since then and although I'm nowhere near ready to run a marathon, I am feeling better every day.
And the very good news is that the surgery appears to have been a success. I am cancer free and incredibly grateful to the doctors, nurses, and other health-care professionals who helped me get here.
I'm not able to get out and about in Vegas yet, but I am ready to get back to talking about the city and what's going on, so for this week's return of the Vegas4Visitors Weekly Column, we're going to talk about all the stuff that has happened in the last couple of months in hotels, restaurants, shows, attractions, nightlife, and more.
One bit of shameless self-promotion that I'd like to mention is that my latest Las Vegas guide book has been published - Las Vegas Day by Day is a handy, pocket-sized guide with big maps, walking tours, itinerary suggestions, and much more. You can get it on Amazon now.
Thank you again for your support.
The big news in the hotel world is the long-awaited announcement of the new name for Imperial Palace. Despite my confidence that they would turn it into a Horseshoe, they are going with the significantly less interesting moniker of The Quad. No, I don't know what it means either, although their press release suggests that it is evocative in some indefinable way. Whatever.
The truly important part of all of it is what they are going to do to the property. I'll have a deeper dive in next week's column, but the short version is that they are going to remodel the casino, expand it out to the Strip (where the valet and the nightclub were), move the lobby, revamp the casino lounge, and make some changes to the exterior. The rest of the property will not get remodeled and that includes the rooms, which is too bad because they could use some attention.
The name change should be in effect by the end of the year and the remodeling work will go into 2013.
Another name change is in store for THEhotel, the all-suite tower at Mandalay Bay. It is going to become a Delano Hotel, a sister to the swank, celebrity favorite Delano in Miami Beach. The entire property will get a makeover, from the ground floor lobby through the rooms up to the tippy top restaurants and lounges. All of this is expected to be complete by December of 2013.
Speaking of room remodeling, there is quite a bit of it underway at various hotels around town. Bellagio just finished redoing all of the rooms in their main tower and is now moving on to the Spa Tower with its nearly 1,000 rooms getting the same, more modern design.
The Golden Gate in Downtown Las Vegas is celebrating the completion of their first major remodeling and expansion in more than 50 years. The project added 16 new suites, a new lobby, a revised porte cochere, new landscaping, and a new deli for selling their famous $1.99 shrimp cocktail.
And finally, LVH (formerly known as the Las Vegas Hilton) has been picked up out of bankruptcy by Wall Street bigwigs Goldman Sachs, the company that owned most of the debt on the property. It is unclear what they intend to do with it, but most analysts believe their ownership of a Las Vegas hotel/casino is most likely a temporary move until they can sell it to someone who has more experience in the marketplace.
I hope you're hungry because there is a lot happening in the dining rooms around Vegas.
Let's start with places that you can't eat at anymore (or won't be able to soon). Beso, the steakhouse partnership between "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria and celebrity chef Todd English at Crystals at CityCenter, has closed and is being remodeled and rebranded. SHe is the new (ridiculous IMHO) name for the steakhouse that will be managed by the famed Morton's restaurant group.
Meanwhile down the street at Mandalay Bay, no fewer than three restaurants have been slated for closure in November. China Grill, Red Square, and Red, White & Blue will all shut their doors as the hotel's deal with the company that manages all three eateries ends. There is no word what will replace them.
But as old restaurants close, new ones open and there are several serving up dishes as we speak. The Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace has nine live cooking stations and a fancy design (and price) that aim to put it on par with the Bellagio and Wynn Buffets; Public House at Luxor is a casual American restaurant with a big beer list (not associated with the Public House gastropub at Venetian); Culinary Dropout is a gastropub concept at Hard Rock from chef Sam Fox; and Pinkberry has finally made its way to the Vegas Strip with a new location at Crystals at CityCenter.
Future restaurants worth knowing about include the Downtown Denny's, a Vegas themed branch of the popular chain that will go into Neonopolis later this year and include its own wedding chapel; an expansion of the food court at Excalibur; and a return of the much beloved Rosemary's restaurant, a version of which will go into the new Shakespeare Company's permanent theater near Downtown Las Vegas in 2013.
The big news in the Vegas showrooms is all about the upcoming mini-residency for country superstars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill at The Venetian. The husband-wife duo will take the stage in the former Phantom theater for about 40 concerts between December of 2012 and April of 2013, with an option of more in the future.
Of course their shows in the Phantom theater mean that Phantom is no more. It closed in early September.
Speaking of Bally's, shock comic/magician The Amazing Jonathan has moved into the showroom there. I've lost track of how many different hotels this guy has done his act in, but it's a lot.
An upcoming closure will affect Crazy Horse Paris at the MGM Grand, which will put it pasties away permanently on October 1.
Speaking of pasties (I love segues), Holly Madison is leaving Peepshow at Planet Hollywood. There is no official word on who will replace her by but Carmen Electra and Jenny McCarthy have been rumored.
And lastly, just to end on a slightly classier note, the Las Vegas Shakespeare Company has announced plans for their first permanent theater. The $45 million, 499-seat theater will go into the Reed Whipple Center across the street from the Las Vegas Natural History Museum and Neon Boneyard, just a few blocks north of Fremont Street. If everything goes as planned, the state's first professional resident theater company should be up and running by early 2014.
After years of development, the Neon Museum has finally set an official opening date of October 27, 2012. The facility will be located at 770 Las Vegas Boulevard North, just a couple of blocks north of Fremont Street. It will feature a welcome center fashioned out of the shell-shaped La Concha motel lobby plus tours of the Neon Boneyard to view the historic works of art that Vegas is so famous for.
And now for something completely different, Eli Roth's Goretorium is scheduled to open this week, September 27 to be specific. Located in the shopping complex at the corner of The Strip and Harmon next to Planet Hollywood, it will feature a haunted house style attraction, a horror movie memorabilia exhibit, a lounge, and more.
Speaking of different, how about a museum for shoes? The ShoeZeum at Neonopolis in Downtown Las Vegas boasts the largest collection of sneakers in the world. Why? Why not?
The two big attractions that are under construction - Linq, an entertainment complex and world's tallest observation wheel at The Flamingo; and SkyVue, another giant observation wheel near Mandalay Bay - are still both under construction but there are rumors that their opening may be delayed from 2013 to 2014. Stay tuned.
The nightclub and bar scene continues to grow at an astounding pace.
On The Strip, the replacement for Studio 54 at MGM Grand, Hakkasan, is continuing construction on what will be one of the biggest clubs in town. The opening was supposed to be by the end of the year but now will probably be early 2013.
In the bigger is better category, Krave Massive will be the largest gay bar in the world when complete. The 80,000 square foot facility at Neonopolis in Downtown Las Vegas will have multiple dance rooms, a comedy club, a screening room, a pool, and more. Krave on The Strip at Planet Hollywood will close.
Other anticipated openings include a Cirque du Soleil themed nightclub, which is due at Mandalay Bay probably by the end of the year, and The Act, a cabaret style nightclub due to open at Palazzo in late October or early November. The latter features "shocking" vaudeville style acts and is patterned after the notorious The Box nightclub in New York City.
One more opening and one more closure to report... Vinyl is a new live-music venue at The Hard Rock and the nightclub at the Crown Theater at The Rio has shut down. Shows and other entertainment continue at the latter.