We're back with another Strip Walk! This was written almost a week ago and this time around you'll get Mike's comments but a few of my own sprinkled in - I was in Vegas for one night last week and took some of my own photos as well.
As always, the photos are here: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/stripwalk
Commentary after the jump...
This column is supposedly something that happens every few weeks, time permitting, and it wouldn't be much of a column if every one went "This tower's getting taller! That tower is getting taller still!" So since I mostly covered the big projects in town last time, this time we'll take a look at some of the projects under the radar. Let's start downtown, since I don't go there very much.
Golden Nugget: The west corner of the Nugget's Fremont-facing side is torn up, I'm guessing for the nightclub. I went in there and checked out some of the things I haven't bothered to see since most of last year's renovations opened up. The sports book here might not be as big as the Plaza's but it's nice with the hardwood flooring, big comfy seats, etc. If you're downtown and want to see a game, it's not a bad choice except the horses seemed to dominate the screens. Maybe it was because it was still early morning?
Fremont East: The opening party was held a couple days ago. For those who haven't been paying attention, Fremont East is an attempt by the city government to re-energize a block or so of Fremont St just east of Las Vegas Blvd. The location includes a dive bar or two, a tattoo parlor, a closed corner location, and some apparently successful indie rock hipster clubs like the Beauty Bar. In fact, it's probably as close to a kind of local 'scene' as Las Vegas has, as the city has less indie street cred than it does rainfall. The City Council has been highly supportive of the new businesses popping up here, and while they've mostly stayed in business there were still quite a few undesirables around so the Fremont East name and decoration are there to try and draw in the right crowd and draw away the wrong one. It's easily the second most visible result of Mayor Goodman's cheerleading act for downtown (the first being World Market Center.)
I didn't actually walk over there but I probably will soon (there's a concert going down there next month I'll likely attend.) However, I did see quite a few people even in this rather dreary post-rainfall morning head across the street to the area. At first I thought they were waiting for the Deuce bus to the strip, and then realized they were crossing and waiting for the light to change. Will this succeed? Hopefully so. Any attempt to draw people in means first drawing them out of the canopy and past the dead zone that is Neonopolis, but all the people who visit Fremont or stay in it's hotels and take the Deuce buses to the Strip have to go to a station directly facing it, so there's a chance downtown tourists going out for the night will head to the bus stop, then change their minds and keep going east instead.
Echelon: Still just a pile of dirt. It looks weird and multicolored in photos, but that's because we had a lot of rainfall last night. There's at least some tractors pushing dirt around now. Similar to the CVS drugstore that refused to budge for CityCenter, the little McDonald's that used to have the Stardust on one side and the Ho on the other will find itself surrounded by Echelon. The franchise owner has already put up signs announcing intentions to tear the place down and build a fancier one.
[Hunter]: My understanding was that they had an arrangement with Boyd to move it to a different spot - anyone have more details?
Wynn Las Vegas/Enore: Blush is un-walled. Workers were all over the place painting, fixing, adjusting, furnishing, etc, and a flock of nearby suits intimidated me from taking any pictures. I'm not familiar with Lure, so let me just say that the space is fairly large, has funny light fixtures coming out of the a ceiling that's somewhat flowery shaped and appropriate for the Wynn. There's a back patio out the other side, or at least a window facing towards Palazzo. The biggest chance is the entranceway, which now features two large windows allowing casino patrons to easily look inside where there was once solid walls with big "Lure" logos. The thinking here is not hard to read: Wynn is betting that the more you can see inside the place from outside, the more likely it is you'll want to go in there. Now whether all the people inside feel comfortable with all the lookey-loos doing their window shopping is something for which we'll have to wait and see.
[Hunter]: When I was walking through the walls were still up around Blush but I think adding the windows is a great idea. The people inside won't mind at all - part of the nightclub vibe is to see and be seen anyway. We had a great lunch at the Country Club and a good walk around the property. I took some shots that are up with Mike's.
Mirage: Changes are happening in the Mirage shopping promenade. The watch shop next to Caribe Cafe is renovating. A shopping area immediately behind Revolution is also walled up with ads promoting a new salon and spa. I guess it's going in this space? Honestly, I can't remember where the old salon & spa at Mirage was so it could have also been in this space for all I know. I'm not sure how old this news is, but Japonais is now open for lunch.
[Hunter]: The spa is on the way to the pool, past Revolution and isn't changing locations but is indeed being re-done. It opens in November and in the interim, guests can go to the spa at Bellagio or TI for wet services or get in-room massages.
Bellagio: Another older piece of Bellagio is going under MGM's renovations. This time it's Tutto, the original tower's 24-hour sundry shop just outside the elevator core. About half of the store is still open, with most the inventory moved over there for a crowded little store. At least the construction walls are appropriately fancy, decorated with merchandise hanging off hooks and mirrors, etc, to make it seem like it's not a temporary construction wall. However, outside in one of the windows of the closed section they've put up some sort of far-too-contemporary ad for 'The Stores at Bellagio' with a picture of a woman holding a bazillion bags and a guy paying the bill or something, with some catchy heading like "think of it as quality time with the husband." The greens and whites and fonts and just the whole appearance of this big sign look appropriate for "T.I.", but not for Bellagio.
Another thing that should be mentioned AGAIN is that the carpeting in Via Bellagio needs replacing IMMEDIATELY. Go see the photo section if you want to see why. I know the sunlight bakes the color out of it, and I know the shadows sometimes make it look dirtier than it really is. But a camera flash reveals that it's actually really, REALLY dirty. If you want to see what a nice piece of Bellagio carpeting looks like, head down the bathroom hallway and up to the employee's door at the end of the hall. This carpet is clean and colorful and rather healthy, probably since few tourists are digging their heels into it. Now go out and look at the main shopping strip's carpeting again. That's terrible! There's one circular piece around a giant potted plant that has stains in it! Why did they go around replacing the color scheme of the perfectly decent casino chair backs but can't get to this?
Planet Hollywood: I took a walk in here not so much for the casino but to once again try the Miracle Mile mall. I'm convinced it's a decent mall for most budgets as far as malls on the Strip go, and it's more intelligently laid out than the Forum Shoppes, both in pathway and in what seems to be a deliberate effort to focus clothing stores on the north/center side of the mall and all other types of merchandise on the south end. There's still the occasional middle eastern building sticking out like a sore thumb amongst the stores closest to the main entrance, then by the time you reach Gap it turns into full-on arabian nights mode again, so there's still plenty more to do. Information girls in their red and white ensemble riding segways are obviously meant to tie in with the whole modern feel, but when they ride through the Bagdad marketplace it's a little unsettling. It really can't be helped though, they'll get around to the other portions eventually. Also, the area in front of the main Theater is being renovated, with a big fancy new chandelier and new paint.
NY-NY: Looks like a bar (the name escapes me) will be going up in that former table area, former do-nothing space, and former gunman's nest just outside Coyote Ugly upstairs. Construction in the arcade continues. Among so many arcade games and the never-used bumper car and laser tag rooms, one of the victims is the Nathan's and ice cream shop that used to live on the arcade level. This explains the Haagen-Dazs opening up just down the way from Schrafft's, I guess. The windows that used to look into the food court reveal a construction zone with the ceiling gone and air conditioning piping visible.
Excalibur: It just keeps getting uglier. There's now a tall Dick's ad affixed to one of the pillars of the castle just below the Dick's guy in the balcony. The new sign points out the outdoor patio because the restaurant goes all the way through from the casino to outdoors, where there's another bar for outdoor patrons. The thing is, this outdoor patio is in a little armpit of the castle and the only thing nearby it is taxis running up the driveway. How scenic.
Luxor: First, a vodka skytag is being affixed to the pyramid for the time being. Second, the hallway to the left of the main casino entrance is equipped with about 16 plasma sets displaying promotional photos of whatever at LAX is going to be happening soon. The club itself has been un-walled, and there was already a large group of attractive fit young people outside the gates. It was 2PM, so I'm not sure why they're there. I suspected they were answering some sort of employment call, because they all looked young and decent enough to work at a trendy nightclub, but then some suits appeared and started talking to them and they dispersed. With a guard hanging around just to make sure that the suits saw he was around, I snapped a quiet no-flash photo of the entrance and moved away.
I ate at MORE the other day, and the only thing that has changed so far is the name of the establishment receipt. It's still the same Luxor buffet you either love or hate (or, if you're like me, don't have a strong dislike for but feel is overpriced.) There are some construction walls on either side of the entrance so it's possible we'll at least see some new signage on an old buffet soon. And speaking of signage, there's one last single Pharaoh's Pheast sign just outside the escalator entrance, for you old schoolers. The entire upper-restaurant entrance is walled off and there's a huge curtain and lots of ceiling renovation going on back there. All the curtains and walls have left the dealers with very cramped quarters to hold their games so don't expect an enjoyable time at Luxor if you're a tables player.
Despite claims made here the other week that it's scrapped, there's still Aspen 702 ads on the center construction wall, for whatever it's worth. There's also ads for something called CatHouse on the construction walls, a lounge/restaurant of some kind that's deliberately inspired by the finest bordellos. I'm getting tired, so you commenters will have to provide your own Wynn Las Vegas interior punchline here.
And that's the end.
[Hunter]: Well, not quite. I have a little bit to add:
City Center: Really coming along now - I took a ton of shots and I can say it is looking great. I love the curtain wall on the hotel building - it's gonna be quite pretty.
Palazzo: Another joint I took a lot of shots of - I still will be surprised if they have anything beyond the softest of openings this year - lots lots lots to do. I am very glad to see that corner almost ready to start humming - it will make such a big difference for walk-ins at Wynn LV and TI, I'm sure.
Lastly, for those that listen to Five Hundy By Midnight, you will have heard a little bit about us hanging out when we were there - Tim posted some of his audio of me screaming like a drunken maniac. Now, I know you all hold me in the highest esteem and will be shocked to learn that I did indeed have a few cocktails, resulting in me cursing out a video poker machine. I still think that 'all reds' should pay but that's just me. I have some audio from that session as well that I will be posting soon - I need to edit it a little cause it's just too long for anyone but the most sadistic. It was a great time and I look forward to having a more formal 'meet up' with readers next time I'm there for more than 20 hours.