Is Las Vegas In The Wrong Time Zone?

We’re In The Wrong Time Zone! I’ve been saying this for almost as long as I’ve been living here, and local writer David McGrath Schwartz just wrote a great article about it: Is switching time zones a bright idea for Nevada?

In Las Vegas, it is pretty much completely dark by 5 PM for three months of the year. Once the sun goes down, even temperatures that are in the 60’s start to drop like a rock. Wouldn’t it make sense to give our visitors (especially since most of you sleep in and don’t need the crack of dawn to occur at 6 AM) an extra hour of light and warmth to enjoy strolling The Strip and perhaps enjoying some outdoor drinking or dining? And think about the summer. The sun starts to come up not long after 4 AM in June and July. Tell me why that is necessary?

Think about jet lag which would be reduced. Those of you coming from the East (a significant portion of our visitors) would feel much less jet lag. We all know that moving one or two time zones isn’t bad. But for some reason, bouncing three time zones (or more) really starts to screw with your body

For those who still see no merit in putting us on Mountain Time, here’s a fact: Las Vegas sits EAST of Boise, ID. Boise is in… Mountain Time.

For our Northern Nevada (Reno/Tahoe/Carson City) readers, don’t fret. You are west of Los Angeles and should absolutely stay on Pacific Time. Drawing the line would be simple: Use the Oregon/Idaho boarder and draw a line straight south to create the time zone divide in Nevada.


Ted Newkirk
CEO/Manging Editor
AccessVegas.com

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Las Vegas “Linqing” Up Hotels With New Shops, Dining (Say Goodbye, Imperial Palace)

Project Linq Now Official – Caesars Entertainment (the company) has announced their 1/2 billion dollar project to convert the smelly side-street (glorified alley) between The Flamingo and O’Sheas into an entertainment district anchored at the rear by a “biggest in the world” observation wheel (think London Eye) called the High Roller. Restaurants and bars will make up about 70% of the project with retail and entertainment rounding out the rest.

Project Linq Las Vegas

las vegas "high roller" ferris wheel

Like the Imperial Palace? Bummer for you. No, they are not blowing it up. But it will get a completely new look, new casino area, new name, and open up to create a passage between Carnival Court and Linq.

O’Sheas is going bye-bye. Kind-of. The present O’Sheas location will be turned into part of Project Linq (which we assume means more Strip-front dining and roof-top nightlife which has become so popular). O’Sheas itself will be integrated into the “new” Imperial Palace (which has no announced name yet). This actually makes sense. If you’ve been coming to town for a while, you’ll remember that (what is now) Rockhouse — the seperate area of the IP fronting The Strip – was once a bar and casino area. This would be a very sensible spot for the O’Sheas relocation.

The winners and losers? Obviously too early to tell. Ceasars Entertainment (CET) is noting that the prime demographic Linq is reaching out to are 21-46 year olds. The average age of the Las Vegas visitor is 49 and even CET noted that only 52% of Las Vegas visitors will fall into this category over the next few years. The Riviera is banking hard on the over-50 set and if they can hang on during their bankruptcy, they may benefit from some of the migration. As most likely downtown will. If the “new” O’Sheas is too “uppity” then they’ll see the migration of their customers to Casino Royale (who would be well-served to knock out part of their front wall to create an open-to-The-Strip atmosphere, and immediatly figure out where they can put beer pong).

My concern? Visitors tend to not walk away from The Strip. It is almost like a phobia. It is one thing to walk into a hotel, but down a side area between two hotels that takes you “off” The Strip? Will the lure of looking at the High Roller be enough to get them walking that direction? Or is part of the “bet” on this project a hope that CET will get the taxpayer support (read: special sales tax) needed to build an arena on the rest of the land they own back there? We all know that sports/event arenas do wonders for nearby restaurants, bars, and retail. I’m surprised that no one has asked about how important of a cog this is to the CET plans.

Ted Newkirk
Publisher
AccessVegas.com

Closing Of The Sahara Las Vegas – The Real Story

When I heard that The Sahara was going to make a major announcement last week, I figured one (and only one) thing: They were announcing investments and improvement in their property. It only made sense. New hotel construction is out of the question given the current saturation of Las Vegas rooms. But a number of mid-level (similar category) hotels to the Sahara have been in the process of upgrades and renovations. With Las Vegas tourism numbers on the upswing, I figured The Sahara would be jumping on that bandwagon.

OOOPS (on my part). The actual announcement was that come May 16, 2011 the hotel would be shuttered.

This simply made no sense. Other similar properties were holding their own and reinvesting despite the economy. For The Sahara to hold on through the worst of the recession and then simply shut just as things were picking up signaled a big JDLR in my book. (JDLR is a Las Vegas term used mainly by casino surveillance and stands for Just Doesn’t Look Right).

Let’s look at examples of The Sahara’s direct competitors and others in the mid-level hotel market:

* The Stratosphere – This hotel (known as Vegas World when I moved to town) just spent $20 million dollars in upgrades. Both to the casino and to the rooms. Their upgraded rooms are going for more money and we hear are quite popular. While people note that The Sahara is isolated (a possible reason for it struggling), The Strat is even more isolated.

* Palace Station – What? Ted… that is a local’s casino. Yes it is. I agree. It happens to by MY local’s casino (I can see the Palace hotel tower — and also the Strat Tower — from my front yard). But when I cruise the parking garage at Palace, you know what I see? License plates from California, Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico, and beyond. These very people exit the I-15 and instead of turning east toward The Sahara, they turn west towards Palace Station.

The entire Station casino chain has recently hired 1000 people, some of which to boost the staff at Palace. Another Sahara competitor upgrading, not cutting.

Side Note: You can tell quite about about a hotel’s occupancy and clientele simply by observing their parking garage.

* The Riviera – They have re-opened their buffet, opened the new Queen Victoria British Pub, and are re-doing their gaming tables.

* Circus Circus – Did not close anything down even during the worst of times and in fact have added Rock ‘n Ritas bar/restaurant. They still the worst buffet in town (you have that hospital food taste in your mouth after eating there). But at least they kept it open!

* The Plaza – Not in close proximity but a direct competitor in terms of class of property. The Plaza is in the middle of a top-to-bottom upgrade including all newly remodeled rooms.

* The Tropicana – Just concluding a $100 million upgrade. Incredible. The rooms are nice, the new marble and carpet in the hotel makes you feel like you are in a swanky place, the South Beach theme has been needed in Las Vegas for a long time, and one look at the new Nikki Beach and Cafe had us swooning.

In the meantime that all of the above happened, The Sahara has closed two hotel towers, closed their buffet, and severely limited both their food offerings and hours of food outlet service. (Side Note: This was a boon to local pizza companies as late-night, drunk-and-hungry hotel guests called out for pizza delivery). No wonder people were staying at Palace Station instead of on The Strip at The Sahara: Palace has numerous, nice quality, reasonably priced food options including a 24 hour cafe.

So exactly what the hell was going on with this closure? I set out to find out.

The Saturday night after the announcement, I took the arduous 2 mile drive from my front door to The Sahara. The place was mostly full and very lively (partially thanks to Spring Break and March Madness) I listened to employees talk among themselves. I listened to what appeared to be former employees who had come down (after hearing the announcement) talk with their former co-workers. I talked to employees.

I found out something interesting. I assumed that they would have it in for current Sahara owner Sam Nazarian. The ones I talked to didn’t. They instead cited the terrible management that Nazarian put in place. Not a management vs. employee beef but simply how badly the place had been run.

For the uninitiated, Nazarian is a nightclub mogul from Los Angeles who bought The Sahara 2007 with plans to completely refurbish it into a trendy, upscale property. The economic downturn put his plans on hold.

Now it all started to come together and the closing (from his standpoint) made sense:

1. He needed to clean house with the management team. Yes, they could be replaced. But if they were previously people involved in his nightclub group or that he otherwise has present business relationships with (outside of The Sahara), that can get sticky.

2. He needed to clean house regarding Sahara employees. The majority of Sahara employees are legacy employees with long tenure earning top union wages. And they are older. Las Vegas values youth and looks when hiring. If Nazarian kept the hotel open, he’d have to keep these employees which don’t fit in with his trendy vision of what he wants to do with the property. So, now he’ll get to hire fresh, young faces at significantly lower wages. (Don’t shoot the messanger here. If that bothers you, leave a comment below).

3. Summer is pending. For Las Vegas hotels, this means they have to charge some of the lowest hotel rates but pay obnoxiously high electric bills to cover the air conditioning. The prospects of making a decent profit over the next few months wasn’t promising. The heat also cuts down on the number of people staying at Strat, Riv, or Circus who will attempt the trek to The Sahara. And yes… people make the walk When the weather is not too hot or cold, you regularly see people on the sidewalk headed toward The Sahara. Remember, hotels here look a lot closer than they really are!

Hence, Nazarian pulled the plug.

Final late-breaking note: Local gossip monger Robin Leach (yes, the “Rich and Famous” guy) has teased that “The modern makeover of a legendary Strip hotel is back on the drawing board” and the executive who was holding it up had returned to Hollywood.

We looked at the scenario involving every legendary local property. They were all either remodeled (Trop and similar) or highly unlikely to see any work because of the financial condition of parent companies (Circus, Imperial Palace). Only one property is in position to go through this: The Sahara.

Plus, the makeover is being teased as a very unique concept. Which reads “trendy” and upscale. Fitting Nazarian’s original vision.

Additionally, an executive who had come in and has now returned to Hollywood fits the bill of someone associated with Nazarian. Hotel executives usually don’t otherwise come in from (nor depart to) Hollywood. Perhaps things would be different if Nazarian had hired someone from Las Vegas who knew how to run a casino. (Ed Deline comes to mind).

If the above turns out to be more than conjecture, I’m going to campaign hard that the new project retains the historic Sahara name. You can reposition a property while maintaining the name. The Tropicana did. Real Las Vegas casino people were hired to remodel and run the place. Let’s hope they indeed do the same with The Sahara. People from out-of-state who “think” they know Vegas often end up falling flat on their faces here. When it comes to the gaming and resort business, Las Vegas is its own separate beast and has very little in common with the hospitality industry in general.

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Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas $100 Million Expansion Details

The Hard Rock has completed their expansion, dramatically improving and upgrading the entire resort. They have added 320 new rooms and suites, the Rock Spa, Baby’s nightclub (a subterranean dance club that is a visual assault of purple, yellow, and metallic blue) and four new restaurants. They have also expanded and enhanced our world famous pool and Beach Club with a bar, grill and swim up casino.

Most notable are the addition of four new restaurants, including: NOBU, PINK TACO, AJ’S STEAKHOUSE and THE COUNTER. Along with the Hard Rock Hotel’s two original restaurants, MORTONI’S and MR. LUCKY’S, the hotel finally has the kind of variety offered by other major resorts. Here’s the rundown:

NOBU – Already open in New York and London, the opening of Nobu in Las Vegas represents one of the more interesting additions to Las Vegas’ ever-burgeoning culinary landscape. Nobu presents an unusual brand of Japanese cooking with Latin American influences. (Reader reviews are welcome — as noted, we aren’t much for Japanese cuisine).

PINK TACO – Combining Mexico and East L.A., this contemporary take on Mexican classics also features a Tequila Bar as well as an open-air taqueria adjacent to the exposed kitchen.

AJ’S STEAKHOUSE – Every casino has one. We prefer the Binion’s $3 steak special or Carver’s in Green Valley if you plan to break out the credit card.

This article originally appeared July 7, 1999 in the Access Vegas Insider Vibe