Last-minute Deals and Tips for New Year’s Eve


You still have options galore but don’t wait one minute more…

Very few cities aside from New York can match the outlandish excitement of a New Year’s Eve in Sin City. With all of the dining, entertainment and nightclub options, there is something to appeal to every taste.

Be aware, though, that restaurants fill up quickly and most require reservations. Same goes for hotels, and the closer to the actual date, the more prices will skyrocket. Many resorts prohibit checking in on December 31st and require a minimum two-night stay. So if you haven’t reserved your lodging yet, prepare for quite a bit of sticker shock. Prices will fluctuate frequently, often several times within a single day, so this article is only meant as a guideline. Check prices often and lock them in if something meets your budget.

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When it comes to searching for hotel deals, this writer is partial to Kayak.com. Entering dates for a stay from December 30th through January 1st, you’ll see that the best deal out there (at the time this article was written) is at Downtown’s El Cortez. Priced at a non-refundable rate of $126.00 per night (plus taxes and fees) for a double suite, the El Cortez is a great last-minute option. It also puts you within walking distance of the wild street party held under the Fremont Street Experience canopy.

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If you’d like to take in the Strip’s beautiful fireworks shows at midnight but want to avoid the insane crowds on Las Vegas Boulevard, consider two nights at Gold Coast Hotel Casino. Situated across from PALMS on Flamingo Road, Gold Coast has an assortment of wonderful restaurants and recently-updated rooms. Parking is free and you can easily walk to a number of nightclubs…even Voodoo Rooftop Nightclub at RIO for an unbeatable view.

Priceline.com is currently listing several room options at Gold Coast from $202 to $212 per night (plus taxes/fees) and free cancellation if you find a better deal elsewhere.

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For those who absolutely must stay on the Strip to chime in 2019, the best price going right now is at LUXOR for $207, You’ll notice the inclusion of Westgate Hotel Casino in the photo above. Even though it’s not technically on the Strip, having its own dedicated monorail stop makes Westgate an absurdly convenient option to get around with ease.

Speaking of the Las Vegas Monorail, it’s truly the best way to traverse the city during this holiday. The monorail runs continuously from 7 am on December 31, 2018 through 2 am on January 2, 2019. Single rides are $5 and a 24-hour pass is $13. The track runs from MGM Grand on the south end to SLS Las Vegas on the north. Stations are in the rear of casinos and automated ticketing kiosks accept credit cards, cash and Google Pay. Click here for a guide to monorail resort stops.

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Luxury hotels are available at press time and still not priced as outrageously as in previous years. Amoma.com is listing rooms at Wynn Las Vegas starting at $679 per night. With all of the nightclubs at the Wynn/Encore complex, this is certainly one worth considering for a high-end celebration.

Remember that the entire Las Vegas Strip is closed to all vehicles on New Year’s Eve starting at around 4 pm. Traffic is a nightmare and cars, buses and taxis will be squeezing onto the smaller back roads to get around town. So it’s highly advisable that you stay near where you plan to play, get situated early in the evening and have a plan to get around and back. You might also want to carry a fully-charged phone, a back-up battery and choose a meet-up point in case you get separated from your companions or have some kind of emergency.

Even though Vegas is in the desert, this is still winter. Plan on the possibility of cold weather and dress accordingly. You’ll also want to remember that crowded events pose issues of personal security. Keep your valuables as secure as you can, men should keep wallets in their front pockets, don’t accept drinks or food from strangers, etc. A little common sense will go a long way…and be especially careful of letting your guard down once the bubbly starts flowing.

There will be a significant increase in police presence on New Year’s Eve. Strollers, coolers, luggage, over-sized purses and backpacks will be prohibited on the Strip. Downtown’s Fremont Street Party is a ticketed event ($35 until Christmas Day, $45 after) and only those 21 and older are permitted. Click here for tickets to Fremont’s “America’s Party Downtown”.

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Expect security to be aggressive at nightclubs, too…along with hefty cover charges. Voodoo Nightclub at RIO has a $100 admission but includes open bar from 9 pm through 11 pm. Marquee Nightclub‘s admission at Cosmopolitan is $75 for women and $150 for men (say what?). Price includes hors d’oeuvres and open bar starting at 9 pm and a complimentary champagne toast at midnight.

Over at Caesars Palace, overhyped DJ Calvin Harris will be the hot draw for OMNIA Nightclub. Tickets cost $150 for women, $225 for men and include….absolutely nothing. Your dollars will go much farther at Aria‘s JEWEL, where admission is $52/$104 and gets you two hours of open bar and music by Tyga. You can add a four-course dinner at Herringbone for $175 per person, good from 7 pm through 11 pm.

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For the best view in all of Las Vegas, consider the Skyline Spectacular NYE Party at Stratosphere. For $250 per person you get the works:

Party in the Sky for a New Year’s Eve you won’t forget! Enjoy 3-hours of unlimited premium brand open bars, specialty drinks, martini luges and award-winning chef’s specialty food stations from around the world as you celebrate New Year’s Eve 800 feet above Las Vegas Boulevard in our iconic Tower’s indoor Observation Deck. Take in the spectacular Las Vegas New Year’s Eve Firework Show at Midnight with our signature champagne toast. Mingle and dance to live DJs and go-go dancers, and ring in 2019 in style.

Click here for tickets to Stratosphere’s Party in the Sky.

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Yours truly will be spending his first NYE as a Las Vegas resident in a somewhat conservative style. Just like last year, I’ll be enjoying great food, music and cocktails inside the cavernous ballroom of Westgate Las Vegas. Last year’s SUNDAY NIGHT FEVER costume party was a 70’s theme. This time they’ve jumped a decade ahead:

REVENGE OF THE 80s NYE PARTY: Pop your collar and jam out to music from the Spazmatics, celebrating the decade that gave us puzzle cubes, 8-bit obsessions, synth rock, shoulder pads, and other unforgettable fashions. You’re welcome to wear your sunglasses at night as you moonwalk your way out of 2018! $150 includes 3-course seated dinner and open bar.

The Westgate Revenge of the 80s party begins at 6 pm and is framed around an east-coast time zone ball drop (their home offices are in Florida). So you’ll have the opportunity to ring in 2019 at 9 pm…then do it all over again three hours later. Click here for tickets. Here’s a sample from last year’s entertainment:

There are a number of other inclusive events that’ll give you significant bang for your buck. For instance, Sugar Factory/Chocolate Lounge at Fashion Show Mall has a package deal for $99 via Groupon which in my opinion is the best NYE deal in the city. Here’s what you get:

  • General admission
  • What’s included: guest’s first goblet, free unlimited signature cocktails, unlimited champagne toast, buffet-style dinner, party with a DJ in the Chocolate Lounge, fireworks show at midnight, 20% discount off any retail purchase.
  • Bottomless signature cocktails to choose from: Peace, Love, Harmonie, Grape Crush, Lemon Drop, Watermelon Burst.
  • Buffet style dinner: chicken fingers, mini-burgers, fries, bruschetta, Caesar salad, mixed green salad, scalloped potatoes, green beans, chicken satay, grilled shrimp skewers, rigatoni marinara, meatballs, sandwiches, mini-cheesecake, chocolate cake, red velvet cake, assorted sundaes, brownies, cookies.
  • Time: 10 p.m.

While you won’t get the elevated views that Stratosphere or Voodoo Nightclub offer, it’s still a scenic and pretty sweet venue. The price on one Goblet Signature Cocktail by itself is upwards of $35 on a typical afternoon, so wrap your mind around the savings here.

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Neighborhood bars are a great way to drink in the Sin City vibe without feeling like your wallet has been stolen. Personal favorite The Golden Tiki on Spring Mountain Rd. will be featuring YouTube sensation Marc Rebillit with one of his offbeat musical performances. There’s no cover, complimentary hats/noisemakers and a free champagne toast at midnight.

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For the LGBTQ crowd, The Garage on E. Flamingo Road makes the perfect locals’ NYE spot for guys who like guys. There’s a masculine auto-service theme, never an admission charge and the cheapest top-shelf drink prices in the city.

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Across the street and down one block from The Garage, Hamburger Mary’s is offering $50 open bar from 9 pm-midnight (well&draft), Champagne Bottles $25, Skyy $75 and Absolut for $100. Entertainment from7 pm-Midnight and a countdown with entertainer Kenneth Blake. Complimentary champagne toast while watching the fireworks on their Strip-view patio.

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The most unusual NYE party for this season has gotta be the one at Spiegelworld’s hit show at ABSINTHE at Caesars Palace:

For an all-inclusive celebration, The Gazillionaire has a huge package for you. Arrive from 8.30pm for a complimentary glass of champagne in the Absinthe forecourt. Then enjoy a performance of ABSINTHE from 9.30pm to 11.00pm. After the show, you will have exclusive access to a private outdoor party in the Absinthe forecourt, on Stripside at Caesars Palace, which includes an open bar, light hors d’oeuvres, DJ and one of the best views of the fireworks. The party will conclude at 1am.

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The all-inclusive Show & Party ticket prices are $599 for VIP seating, $499 for Category A seats and $299 for Category B seating, which is one hell of a deal for a Sin City party and show. Click here to reserve your tickets and party admission.

Be sure to stay safe this holiday and don’t drive while impaired. LYFT rideshare service is offering a NYE discount to get you there and back. “Whether you are celebrating on the Strip, bar hopping, or partying at a friends house, we want everyone to get home safe on New Year’s Eve and other holidays throughout the year”, says Yacob Girma, Lyft Nevada’s general manager.

The Las Vegas Coalition for Zero Fatalities has donated $200,000 in ride credits to LYFT. Access your discount by using code “LASNYE10”. Have a wonderful time and a spectacular 2019.

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Photos: Sam Novak, Stratosphere, Fremont Street Experience, ABSINTHE, Westgate Hotel Casino, The Golden Tiki, The Garage LV

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Hamburger Mary’s FINALLY Unleashes The Beef


Unique food and entertainment destination’s long-delayed debut is here…

It’s been more than a year since Hamburger Mary’s Las Vegas missed its projected opening date. There have actually been more delays and postponements than a Mariah Carey or Madonna concert. Some social-media skeptics have questioned whether the fun, quirky venue will EVER actually open.

But I’ve just returned from the official first hour of business and can say without a doubt: Hamburger Mary’s is going to be fabulous!

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                       My original announcement as it appeared last summer…

No doubt you’ve seen my original piece that announced Mary’s return to the scene. It’s been one of my most heavily-read, suggesting that the Vegas community is really behind the venture.

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So despite the low-key and quiet opening today (to allow for server training and fine-tuning operations), eager diners were lined up well before the doors unlocked. They were braving the heat for a first taste of Mary’s meat.

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Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Amid opening jitters and lots of excitement, partners Luigi Placencia and James Healey and General Manager Eleneki “Ernie” Yuen welcomed their first guests to the bright and campy restaurant and cabaret.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

With everything that I saw today, Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas should be a big hit with the local community. It remains to be seen if the lucrative tourist trade can be made aware of its existence, but plans are in the works to draw fun-seekers from the Strip as well.

The large space at 1700 E. Flamingo Road is a true gem with ample free parking. Two dining rooms, two bars and two stages will allow for multi-purpose entertainment. An outdoor patio will be completed soon, adding to the mix.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Club Mary’s will take over one section of the venue on weekend nights beginning at 11pm. Food service is available from opening til 11pm on weekdays and until 4am for those party nights of Friday and Saturday.

 

A limited menu is in effect for the soft opening, which should run until the first week of September. Then comes the Grand Opening gala with everything Hamburger Mary’s is known for. Prepare yourself for outrageous drag shows, sexy male dancers…and perhaps a certain gathering of hunks that I’ve been working on for awhile.

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Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

                Yes, your bill will come to you in a high heel shoe…

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

         Gender-neutral restrooms – Mary’s progressive all-welcome philosophy…

As Ernie Yuen posted on Facebook today, the challenges to plan out Mary’s return to the city will be worth it in the long run:

It’s been 17 months since Luigi Placencia and I met. I was doing a in-house call for our Las Vegas PRIDE Magazine. Lou wanted to be an advertising partner with Las Vegas PRIDE to promote his nightclub (FLAIR). We were sitting in this empty space, a very large room with 3 walls and a bar connected to a room that looked like a kitchen.

Luigi Placencia and I clicked, both of us with potty mouths and crazy personalities. We instantly became friends. This all started with one question an honest answer and a promise.

The Question- What are you going to do with this amazing space?

The Answer- I wanted to build a home for our Las Vegas LGBT Community

The Promise- If you build a Hamburger Mary’s I promise to come and work for you and be your GM.

Today- excited, happy, nervous- we open our doors at 11:00am- It’s finally here. Let the fun begin!

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

             Myself with partners James Healey (left) and Luigi Placencia…

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

   With FLO Advertising’s Mike Foland aka “Money Mike” of Men of the Strip…

Based on what I saw today, Hamburger Mary’s Las Vegas should be a big hit with the local community. It remains to be seen if the lucrative tourist trade can be made aware of its existence. No doubt plans are in the works to draw fun-seekers from the Strip as well.

Good luck to everyone and I’ll be seeing you. A lot.

Hamburger Mary’s is located at 1700 East Flamingo Road. Hours are from 11am to 11pm weekdays, Friday and Saturday until 4am.

Photos: Sammasseur, David Vincent via Facebook

 

Hamburger Mary’s Is Ready To Serve Up Some Prime Beef…and Quirky Charm


Category-defying burger spot plans grand return to the Vegas scene…

Vegas is big on burgers. Every major resort has at least one gourmet hamburger restaurant. Even celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay and Gordon Ramsay have gotten in on the act. Then there are the bargain places like In-N-Out and Checkers that almost always seem to be busy.

Yet one burger palace that Sin City conspicuously lacks is a Hamburger Mary’s. The freewheeling, no-holds-barred fun spot that celebrates quirky culture in so many progressive cities has been absent from Las Vegas for quite some time (2006 to be exact). But now Mary is set to make a grand return to the valley in a new location.

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                         The former Hamburger Mary’s on Harmon Avenue…

Once situated on the corner of Harmon Avenue and Paradise Road, the new Hamburger Mary’s is currently under construction on East Flamingo Avenue, not far from UNLV and the Atomic Testing Museum. A planned summer 2017 opening was heavily delayed due to permit and construction issues, but the current target date of early August 2018 now seems likely.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

                Owner Lou Placencia is excited to bring Mary back to Las Vegas…

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

The eatery, whose slogan of “an open-air bar and grill for open-minded people” understandably draws a strong LGBTQ clientele. Hamburger Mary’s will occupy a building currently home to Flair Nightclub, a large gay-themed dance club. The two should compliment each other nicely. And since they share the same owner (Lou Placencia) Flair and Mary’s together can offer a complete night out.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

This writer has long been a fan of Hamburger Mary’s. When living in Fort Lauderdale, there was one within walking distance on Wilton Drive (the gay mecca of South Florida). It was THE place to see and be seen. Eventually the location decided against renewing their franchise agreement, which resulted in the renaming of the restaurant (it’s now called Rosie’s Bar and Grill), but the food and good times remain generally the same. I visited just a few weeks ago and it was still a blast.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

During the same trip to the east coast, I hit up a Hamburger Mary’s in downtown Orlando. It was absolutely freezing on that Saturday night…but inside, the crowd was standing-room-only for an outrageous drag show that entertained gay and straight diners alike. It was nice to see the mixed crowd having such a great time.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Depending on when you visit Mary, you might encounter a Broadway revue, trivia night or even some twisted variation on bingo. Being an adult-skewing establishment with a full bar and occasionally risque entertainment, you aren’t likely to see children here at night (or at least you shouldn’t). But Mary’s “Little Lambs” are gladly welcomed during the daytime hours with their own menu.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

It was a special treat to visit Vancouver BC a few years back and discover a Hamburger Mary’s a few blocks from my hotel. Being the first guests upon opening gave the place an entirely different feel…but allowed me to savor the delicious food without the distraction of constant eye candy.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Each location is franchised and the owners are encouraged to develop a character reflective of its home city. So expect larger-than-life sights and sounds when Mary comes to Vegas. You can be sure that the menu, quality of ingredients and service will be superlative. There will be outdoor seating and the restaurant and bar are totally nonsmoking.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

The spirit of Hamburger Mary’s extends beyond food and fun. Their dedication to local communities by way of fundraisers, charity functions and sponsorship of the arts and sports leagues is a tradition. More recently, franchisees have made strident efforts to address environmental concerns by moving towards energy and water efficiency, using recycled paper products and starting programs for composting and recycling waste.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

One thing that won’t be wasted is the food on your plate. Everything I’ve ever selected through the years has been absolutely wonderful, from fresh salads to towering turkey burgers, sumptuous soups to mouth-watering meatloaf. Each location has a unique menu and daily food and drink specials, so have fun finding your own favorites.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

One reason Hamburger Mary’s Las Vegas is already dear to my heart is that they’ve extended an invitation for me to host a certain gathering that I wrote about last month. That celebration for hunky show performers and award recipients was denied by an uptight public relations exec for Cafe 6 at Palms Place in December. Well, their loss is Mary’s gain.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Be sure to look for me…enjoying some grade A beef (and some prime beefcake) when Hamburger Mary’s opens at the end of next month. “Eat, Drink and Be Mary”.

Hamburger Mary’s/Flair Nightclub will be located at 1700 E Flamingo Rd, Las Vegas. Flair is currently closed due to construction. You can keep tabs on their opening date by clicking here. 

Photos: Sammasseur, Hamburger Mary’s Las Vegas/Orlando, CBS Daytime via YouTube

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Too Sexy For My…Burger?


Award-winning hunks turned away from Palms poolside cafe…

UPDATE 12/16/17: After sitting down with Cafe 6 management yesterday and numerous emails and back-and-forth phone calls to Stations Casinos marketing, public relations and members of Palms food and beverage dept., my private lunch gathering for Hot Hunks of Vegas has been turned away by the rarely busy Cafe 6 at Palms Place for a second time. This is despite my agreeing to their initial concessions and getting as far as them discussing a final date and time. Make no mistake. Corporations by and large have NO CONCEPT of “Sin City” frivolity whatsoever. The “What Happens In Vegas” slogan is outright bullshit. 

Sin City. The name alone suggests wild, outrageous parties, outlandish behavior and sex galore. In most cases, the city delivers on that promise. Mobile billboards offer “Ladies Direct To Your Room”. Puppetry of the Penis is a runaway hit at Erotic Heritage Museum. Porno conventions take over entire resorts. But shirtless guys eating burgers at a poolside cafe? That’s apparently too graphic for one Las Vegas restaurant.

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You may be scratching your head and wondering “How could this even be an issue?”. That’s a legitimate question, but don’t get bogged down by the specifics. I’ll elaborate on the details in a moment. Instead, allow yourself to digest this fact: A private luncheon for shirtless Vegas celebs is considered “unacceptable” by Station Casinos…specifically Palms Place.

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If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’ve written many columns saluting the Hot Guys of Vegas. Performers, bartenders, a popular celebrity publicist…even a well-known lawyer. Respected, hard-working gentlemen, one and all. They are great sports and have had plenty of fun with my columns.

Out of gratitude, I thought it would be a wacky idea…and make another great article…if I gathered a few past and future recipients of that series for lunch. My group included performers from the likes of Absinthe, WOW – World of Wonder, DIVAS, Men of the Strip, Jubilee and Men of Sapphire. The idea was to allow them to network with one another, take some photographs and share an “only in Vegas” experience with you, the readers.

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I invited several guys to revel in gratuitous shirtlessness. They’d arrive sans tops and remain that way for a meal, drinks and laughs….a positive social experiment. Every invited guest agreed to join in on the fun and yours truly would pay the bill. The location would be my favorite casual-dining spot in the city: Cafe 6 at Palms Place.

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This awesome, secluded burger joint on the sixth floor of the Palms Place tower is serviced by a dedicated elevator (directly from the parking lot to the cafe entrance). It sits next to a lovely pool and hot tub with only walls of glass separating the swimmers and the diners. The effect is that of eating at the pool deck while remaining indoors.

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 Entrance to rarely-used private dining room…                

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Private dining room sat empty on the day I requested to use it…                 

Another reason for choosing Cafe 6 is that they have a private meeting room immediately to the left of the entrance. My guests would be able to arrive discreetly with only an infinitesimal chance of being spotted by patrons in the main dining area. Nobody who could be potentially offended would be affected. Perfect, right?

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I then chose a weekday afternoon in the middle of December, historically the slowest week of the year in Vegas. It’s so slow that many shows shut down and restaurants send their staff on vacation. So you’d think that any restaurant would welcome hundreds of dollars of guaranteed business during those days.

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 “Lunch rush” on 12/15/17, the day after my proposed event…               

With a plan in place, I emailed a known contact at Palms Casino Resort who is involved in food and beverage operations there. I described our gathering, the number of people in our party, our willingness to order from the regular menu and other assorted details along with a few possible dates. For the sake of anonymity, I won’t specifically name anyone involved here.

It never crossed my mind that our lunch party would be denied. After all, Palms was until recently home to the “World’s Largest Hooters”. Because, you know, female breasts sell chicken wings…

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Anyway, the person I wrote to copied another individual on their team when replying back. They informed me that they would discuss my request, then they passed it on to a third person in their public relations department for final disposition.

It should be noted that in the follow-up correspondence, our group promised to be respectful and behave discreetly. I even suggested the name of a particular server who is very outgoing and enjoys male eye-candy. Nevertheless, our party was refused with a curt denial:

“Hi Sam, thanks for considering us, at this time we are going to politely pass on the opportunity.”

That was it. No questions, no offer of alternate conditions., no mention of potential code violations..and most importantly, no explanation of any kind. While it’s safe to assume that bare chiseled torsos were the deciding issue here, how can we know for sure? And WHY is a sexy guy forbidden to show his abs in a poolside cafe?

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View from inside the main dining room of Cafe 6…                   

As you might imagine, I found this response to be quite ludicrous. Cafe 6, as I mentioned earlier, is my favorite lunch place in town. I gave it a stellar review in a previous column, chose Cafe 6 as my “Best Vegas Bargain of 2016” and even hosted my most recent birthday party there. So what gives? And should I have even bothered to describe our reason for gathering in the first place?

Luckily, Dave Wahlen, General Manager of Flair Nightclub and the soon-to-open Hamburger Mary’s on Flamingo Avenue, caught wind of this absurd situation and welcomed us with open arms…and shirts.

Sam, I’d love to have them…anytime you want! The city gave us the final approved plans a week ago Tuesday. We have been balls to the walls. We have a night and a day crew working on the kitchen. It has taken nearly 8 months to get this done. Come see us as we love these guys at Mary’s. I miss seeing you buddy. I hope you’re doing well!

And that, dear readers, is how you do good business and promote healthy public relations. I understand that Cafe 6 and Palms Place are undergoing a transition of ownership and management. But their response to a simple request has successfully alienated an entire group of Vegas influentials…and one beef-loving blogger.

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Thanks for being such a soggy pile of wet blankets, Palms. Let us know when you’ve removed that stick from up your _____. As for me and my guys, it’s “Next stop…Hamburger Mary’s”!

Photos: Sammasseur, CBS Daytime, KTNV.com, Hamburger Mary’s