We're back with part three of Jeff Simpson's 'Advice for The Strip' column here at Simpson on Vegas. In this episode, it's the other side of the Center Strip.
Continue after the jump...
Once again I'm continuing with my consulting trip down Las Vegas Boulevard. In this column, the third in a series, I'm taking a look at the southern end of the Center Strip, from the Imperial Palace south to the Caesars Palace and Bill's.
I really enjoyed chuckmonster's trip review of the IP over on VegasTripping, and he captured the essence of what the Imperial Palace is and whom it should appeal to. The IP is a solid budget property that offers frugal visitors -- the young, the less affluent, the hard-core gamblers and the partiers who want to save most of their money for the tables, machines or drinks (or some combination) an almost-decent place to crash that, without pretense, has most of the elements a Vegas visitor needs. It will be interesting to see what Caesars Entertainment will do with the property as part of its half-billion-dollar Linq project. The company has already said they are dumping the Imperial Palace name, totally reworking the property's Stripfront and exterior design and improving the design to allow more flow-through from Harrah's and the Flamingo. Those changes all make good sense. The O'Sheas-type experience, although maybe not its name, will be re-created somewhere on the new property's casino floor, an element that should be popular with younger guests. Cheap drinks, low minimum bets on table games and the supposedly popular beer pong (I don't get it, but OK) will undoubtedly be included. I like adding an O'Shea's-type party area to the casino as well.
Dr. Dave Schwartz says Caesars executives told him they don't plan to do any room refurbishing, at least in Linq's first phase, but I'd recommend they strongly consider it as soon as possible, especially if the company decides to pin its valuable Horseshoe brand on the property. As for other changes, I'd start with the parking garage, a hellhole with crazy posts, dead-ends, weird indoor garage doors and parking spaces tighter than (insert your own joke here). The auto museum never really tied in to the Imperial Palace theme and I guess there's no reason it couldn't be kept if it actually draws visitors. (I've never seen it and neither have any of my out-of-town friends and relatives.) If it doesn't draw, of course, it should be replaced. The dining options outside of Hash House A Go Go seem like relics of the '60s. There's no reason they can't be modernized, decor and menus alike. Of course the Linq restaurant options, which will be right next to the property, will be a big plus. The hotel needs a nice, modern pool. The Linq will take care of the IP's weird Stripfront bar set-up, separating the casino from the street and its exceptionally down-market porte cochere (if it can even be called that). That bar has always seemed to me like one of the lamest property Stripfronts, more off-putting than even those at the Tropicana, Circus Circus and Bally's. (Well, maybe not Bally's) The retail offerings are relics of the past but somehow fit the property. They should be updated but keep price-points that fir the renamed and improved hotel. And, finally, spend some money to make sure the escalators, elevators (thanks, Chuck) and HVAC systems work well.
Project Linq is slated to eliminate O'Sheas at its current location and may kill its name forever. But as long as it exists O'Sheas should continue to target young drunks (I'm sorry, I mean value-conscious partiers). My only advice for the property that seems to know its customers: Make sure you don't let the impending closure allow custodians to run out of Dry-Sweep.
Renovate the non-Go hotel rooms. Swap out the retail with more modern offerings. Except for the UPS Store, which admittedly is strange in a Las Vegas resort (I want a Flamingo mailbox address) but I like it. Linq will undoubtedly energize the now dormant north side of the property, but the pool and the animal sanctuary should be preserved and, hopefully, improved. The Flamingo has a crappy garage and hopefully Linq will provide some relief on the parking front, not add more cars to an already short supply of spaces. While I'm on the subject, clean up the garage, especially its elevators. And quit giving the best spaces to car rental companies. The casino could use some live music and a little more energy. Get rid of the time-share hucksters (this applies to all Caesars properties -- the most egregious violators -- and, in fact, all casinos that allow them to bother customers. That is terrible customer service). The Margaritaville Casino planned for the new northern Stripfront seems like it will be a decent attraction for mid-market customers. I hope Caesars doesn't spoil it with lousy table game odds and exceptionally tight slots.
Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon
This place used to be a two-fisted gambling joint when Michael Gaughan owned it. It no longer is. I don't know what it is about the Bill's nightclub, Drai's, but its clientele seems like the most obnoxious and irritating in the city. If the long-discussed plan to convert the property into a Drai's boutique hotel is true and if its customers are the same it will be the most annoying property on the Strip. My advice for the forseeable future is to fix up the rooms and casino, go back to Michael Gaughan-style restaurant offerings and offer a great-value, high-quality cafe as well as an excellent fine-dining joint to reward your comped gamblers. Bring back loose slots and table payouts and be generous with the comps (I know that's not the Total Rewards style, but this little place needs to have its own character). The garage is tiny but space constraints make improvement unlikely. Maybe Linq can help out there as well. Whatever Caesars Entertainment does with Bill's in the short run the property's premiere location justifies an eventual redevelopment, perhaps as part of an eventual Flamingo redevelopment.
The biggest problem with Caesars can't really be fixed: Its crazy-quilt, patched-together layout. The property needs more close-in parking (go higher) and more garage elevators. Caesars has done a great job with its Forum, Augustus and (presumably) Octavius towers and the Nobu addition will remove an old tower and should replace it with an excellent one. The remaining old rooms should be renovated or removed and replaced as soon as possible. In general I like the Roman theme (columns, statues, etc.) but I also like the modern hotel towers and big rooms. The property could probably use another nightclub and a changeover of Pure. While the Forum Shops are great the in-hotel retail is sort of stale and could be updated (See: Cosmopolitan, Bellagio, Encore or Wynn Las Vegas).