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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
April 22, 2013
New York-New York/Monte Carlo Mega-Development
A major redevelopment effort is about to get underway at New York-New York and Monte Carlo that will transform the area in front of and between those hotels into a new urban space with stores, restaurants, nightlife, a park, and more. It's all a part of a massive 63-acre project that will transform the unused space around the two hotels and include a 20,000-seat arena.
The front facades of New York-New York and Monte Carlo will be transformed into an outdoor plaza experience featuring a series of casual bars, eateries, and retail outlets. New York-New York will modify its skyline and Brooklyn Bridge to provide greater access to the additions, which will include the Hershey's Chocolate World flagship store, a two-story interactive attraction and retail store. Additionally, the hotel's Irish pub, Nine Fine Irishmen, will be expanded with an outdoor patio.
At Monte Carlo, the current formal European-style exterior features will be removed to make way for new partners, including Double Barrel, a casual roadhouse restaurant and bar concept; Sambalatte, a local coffee favorite; and 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria, serving build-your-own personal pizzas prepared to each guest's liking and baked in around a minute in an 800-degree wood-burning oven. Mexican favorite Diablo's will be incorporated into the new design.
Between the two properties and leading back to the new arena will be a park environment featuring dining pavilions and performance spaces complemented by areas for quiet relaxation. At the gateway to the park will be Shake Shack, a modern day "roadside" burger stand known for its all-natural burgers, flat-top dogs, frozen custard, beer, wine, and more.
Additional partners and details surrounding both properties and the park will be announced in the coming months.
Construction will begin on the Strip facing pieces of the project in the coming weeks, with anticipated completion in early 2014. The rest of it, including the arena, will be up and running by 2016.
Special Edition: Bar & Club Crawl
There are exactly 9,425,642 bars, nightclubs, dance clubs, ultralounges, gay bars, country bars, karaoke bars, video poker bars, dive bars, speakeasies, pubs, taverns, strip clubs, beer gardens, drinkeries, lounges, saloons, and watering holes in Las Vegas. Okay, maybe not EXACTLY that many but it sure feels like there is. You are rarely ever more than a few feet away from a drink in Vegas and the options you have for the surroundings in which you want to consume that drink are endless.
The Nightlife section of Vegas4Visitors.com has reviews of nearly 80 of the best, worst, and somewhere-in-between places to grab a cocktail in Las Vegas, including almost a dozen brand new reviews written after two solid nights of a nearly epic bar and club crawl. And when I say crawl, I'm talking mainly out of exhaustion from hitting that many of Vegas' hot spots in that short of a time. I'm in my forties - I don't need booze to make me want to fall down at the end of a long night anymore.
I dread this part of my job because I usually go to these places out of a sense of obligation. When the latest, hottest, hippest nightclub of the moment is drawing massive crowds and long lines, it's something I need to cover even though I am far from the latest, hottest, and hippest type of person that usually goes to such places. Remember this after I have gotten a chance to go to Hakkasan and Light, the two mega-clubs opening later this week.
But something really interesting happened this time: I had a blast! I "discovered" some really interesting bars and clubs - from a hidden speakeasy to an in-your-face rock club to a artsy hangout to a crowd favorite and all the way to a high-energy nightclub so completely odd and offbeat and different from the rest of the pack that it instantly became my favorite in town.
What follows are the best of the bunch that I visited - a little something for almost every taste. Cheers!
Nightclub Review: The Act
The hands-down winner of most original nightclub goes to The Act at Venetian/Palazzo, a sister to the acclaimed The Box in New York City. The layout, the decor, and the entertainment set it apart from your average trendy club experience but are definitely not for everyone.
You enter via a twisty, narrow hallway that is designed to disorient you and establish an off-kilter mood. The main room is done as a multi-level theater space with a dance floor facing a proper stage, surrounded by VIP seating on two floors. Everything in the place is an artifact from someplace else - woodwork, lighting fixtures, furnishings, floors, and even the wallpaper comes from old European cathedrals, an Italian opera house, Grand Central Station in New York, and elsewhere. It gives the place a decidedly funky vibe, like an old-time burlesque house.
Periodically through the evening, burlesque acts take the stage and spill out into the club, turning the space into an immersive performance art space. The shows are purposely provocative and decidedly adult in nature. The one I saw involved a man dressed vaguely like Jesus (crown of thorns, robe), who stripped to show a tattoo covered body as he sang and danced with a bevy of beautiful women. This led to a vignette between two topless women that involved (simulated) smoking, drinking, drugs, sex, and water sports (and I'm not talking about wakeboarding). It was odd but compelling and certainly unlike anything I've ever seen in a Vegas nightclub before.
Downsides include the typical club downsides - wall-to-wall people with a lack of personal space, nowhere to sit unless you buy bottle service, music played at bone-rattling volumes, high cover and drink prices, and a crowd of mostly young and pretty people who mostly want to party with other young and pretty people, which is great if you are one but not so much if you aren't. In these ways it is pretty much like every other club in town but the extras create a unique environment that sets it apart and above in my opinion.
Bar Review: The Lady Silvia
The concept of a speakeasy sprang up during prohibition, with secret, hidden bars serving illegal alcohol to people who were willing to pay for the illicit privelege. Often mob run, the proliferation of these establishments helped end prohibition since it became a losing battle to try to quash them.
The speakeasy concept is getting a rebirth these days across the country with either hidden rooms inside established bars or bars that are difficult to find unless you know where to find them.
Such is the case with The Lady Silvia, a small craft-cocktail lounge in the Arts District of Downtown Las Vegas that has no exterior signage and little evidence that it even exists. I knew where I was going and it still took me two tries and a trip online to figure it out.
The bar is located on the ground floor of a residential apartment building along with several other businesses. The trick here is that despite the building's address, 900 Las Vegas Boulevard South, the entrance to The Lady Silvia is actually off of the side street, Hoover Avenue. Look for the apartment building lobby and the unmarked glass door about 30 feet to the right of it (away from Las Vegas Blvd.) is where you want to go.
Inside a small hallway is a security guard who will check your ID and then you continue down to another unmarked door and go inside.
The bar itself is a charming slip of a place, done as an English library complete with bookshelves, a half-dozen cozy seating groupings, a black and white checkerboard floor, chandeliers, a fireplace, and a decent sized bar. There is no formal dance floor but there is plenty of room to groove if the DJ is playing your favorite tunes.
Craft cocktails are the specialty here with almost scientific construction going into both custom and classic drinks. I sampled a couple and the flavors were bright and fresh, a welcome change of pace from the assembly line drinks you get at most bars in Vegas.
The crowd varies with young business people dominating at happy hour and early evening and a laid-back everyone is welcome group later on. Events include art gallery shows, live music performances, guest DJs, and more.
The whole thing sounds pretentious but isn't at all. Well, okay, the hidden speakeasy thing is a bit annoying especially when you are stumbling around looking for the place in 30 degree weather as I was, but once you're inside the warmth and honest vibe of the place charms.
The Lady Silvia Downtown Las Vegas 900 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Las Vegas, NV 89109 702-300-1007 website Open: Daily 4pm-Close Type: Bar Vegas4Visitors Grade: A-
Bar Review: Artifice
The arts scene in Las Vegas is booming these days with the epicenter being the 18b Arts District between The Strip and Downtown. This is where you'll find a number of galleries, boutiques, and art-focused businesses including this, a bar/nightclub devoted to all things creative.
The space is art-gallery spare, with a big bar dominating the main lounge areas, which in turn spill out into a utilitarian dance floor that doubles as a performance space. Or maybe it's a performance space that doubles as a dance floor depending on your outlook. The walls feature gallery-style showings of works from artists that rotate in and out and there are frequent live bands, guest DJs, and other events all with a decidedly artsy bent. A DJ tribute to David Bowie? Yes, please!
The crowd varies depending on the event, the night, or the moon perhaps but you can usually expect a younger, hipster (in a good way) audience especially on weekend nights when the dance floor gets packed and the bar is booming.
Despite its name, which implies trickery or guile, Artifice feels authentic. The art world can be filled with pretentious attitude but I didn't feel any of it when I visited, nor did I feel terribly out of place despite the fact that I was old enough to be the father of most of the people in the club. The friendly, laid-back, non-judgemental, all-are-welcome vibe is a pleasant change of pace from the usual Las Vegas bar scene.
Artifice Downtown Las Vegas 1025 First St. Las Vegas, NV 89109 702-489-6339 website Open: Daily 4pm-1:30am Type: Bar Vegas4Visitors Grade: A-
Bar Review: The Commonwealth
Although not as much of a true speakeasy as The Lady Silvia, this speakeasy themed bar has made quite a splash in the Fremont East Entertainment District since its 2013 opening. Located within steps of other fantastic bars like Insert Coin(s), the Vanguard Lounge, and The Griffin (to name a few), The Commonwealth secures the revitalized neighborhood's reputation as the coolest place in Vegas for those in the know.
The prohibition era decor gives the place a classically upscale vibe even though the reality is a much more egalitarian one. Exposed wood timbers, brick walls, wrought iron detailing, chadeliers, and polished wood floors make a lasting impression. On the main level is a big bar, lots of area to stand, a some seating but not enough to handle the crowds that often pack the jonit. Most of the time that'll be fine because you'll probably want to be up and moving around to the DJ provided music anyway.
Upstairs is an outdoor patio overlooking Fremont Street with another full bar, some casual seating, and a nice under-the-stars feeling on nice nights. When I visited it was about 30 degrees and windy so not so much.
Back downstairs there is actually a third bar - a true, hidden speakeasy called The Laundry Room. It is only available by advance reservation, you can't take pictures, and you can only stay for two hours. It's a cute idea but totally unnecessary for the average visitor.
The crowds vary wildly depending on the time of day and day of the week. Early evenings get a post-business crowd of young professionals while later in the night it gets more party-centric. Weekend nights there may be a long line to get in and precious little personal space once you do.
Drink prices are higher than one usually associates with Downtown bars but still significantly cheaper than what you'd pay on The Strip. There is rarely a cover charge unless they are having a special event.
Add The Commonwealth to your Downtown bar hopping must-list.
The Commonwealth Fremont East Entertainment District 525 Fremont St. Las Vegas, NV 89101 702-798-7000 website Open: Daily 8pm-3am Type: Bar/Pub Vegas4Visitors Grade:B+
Bar Review: Backstage Bar & Billiards
This rocking bar in the Fremont East Entertainment District certainly comes with an impressive pedigree. Co-owned by "Big Daddy" Carlos Adley of the famed Velvet Margarita in Hollywood, DJ Lethal of Limp Bizkit and House of Pain, and DJ Scotty Boy of Las Vegas, the club is designed to look like (and act as) a "backstage" to the adjacent Fremont Country Club concert venue.
The place has a cool, "inside the music industry" vibe. The bar and stools are fashioned out of the kind of cases that roadies transport music equipment in, a huge library of vinyl records dominates the wall behind the DJ booth, and rock memorabilia is scattered around the room. Billiards, a small stage for frequent concerts from local and touring bands, and a private VIP room complete the package.
Prices are reasonable especially when compared to The Strip. A cover charge will only apply on special events/concerts and drinks won't break your bank.
The crowd here will vary depending the event and the night but will often trend toward the tattoo and piercing set and their appreciators. There's no reason for that to intimidate you but if it does, stay at your hotel lounge and have a mojito.
This is yet another great Downtown Las Vegas destination that should be on your list of bar hopping spots.
Backstage Bar & Billiards Downtown Las Vegas 601 Fremont St. Las Vegas, NV 89101 702-382-2227 website Open: Daily 7pm-Close Type: Bar Vegas4Visitors Grade: B+