MGM Resorts, Westgate Announce Measures To Protect The Community


or “When Big Corporations Do Positive Things”

I’m not going to pretend that it’s been easy to continue this blog since the pandemic struck. Things are pretty bleak out there, and a never-ending flow of bad news tends to take its toll. Combine that with the fact that my freelance work has dried up….in other words “no income or unemployment”…and a positive outlook has been tough to maintain. But like so many in this position, I soldier forward with the hope that better days are ahead.

f650d259-e55c-4683-955f-ec8420394b52-large16x9_200503_ap_battered_tourism_industry_AP20114698255056

As I was about to post my most recent piece (Station Casino closures and Miracle Mile Shops landlord demands), it was a pleasure to find upbeat news in my in-box. So I hit “publish” on that dour article and sailed straight into this one. I hope you can appreciate a little good news as much as I did.

First up is a surprise from MGM Resorts in the form of a letter to its associates:

95666671_10158518058131340_7529181998938587136_n

In contrast to the devastating termination letter that was sent out to thousands of Station Casino associates, this one offers a shred of long-term hope. MGM Resorts promises to provide health care coverage to furloughed employees through the end of August. In addition, the company is issuing grants to cover their living expenses by way of an $13 million Employee Emergency Grant Fund.

image

                                                                                 Photo: New Break/LV Review-Journal

The notification is optimistic yet filled with realistic limitations and apparently a great deal of transparency. Given the notorious and massive profit-driven layoffs this company has instituted in the past few years (including four hotel presidents) and more on the way, it’s nice to know that MGM Resorts is finally having a heart for their employees. What a shocker.

106470005-1585745195659gettyimages-1216100400

                                                                                                                               Photo: CNBC

While MGM Resorts is usually at the front of the line when it comes to games of “Follow The Vegas Leader”, it was Wynn/Encore that apparently set this precedent. As Baily Schulz of Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on March 17th:

Wynn Resorts Ltd. has guaranteed all Wynn and Encore employees payroll coverage for the next 30 days. The company’s two Las Vegas properties are set to start a two-week shutdown at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and its Massachusetts property was ordered to close by Sunday afternoon.

Wynn had previously stated that all full-time Las Vegas employees would continue to be paid during the shutdown. But a letter sent to employees Tuesday from CEO Matt Maddox shows that coverage has been expanded to include all current employees. The letter, obtained by the Review-Journal, was addressed to employees at Wynn Las Vegas, Encore Boston Harbor and Wynn Design and Development.

Tipped employees will receive an average tip compliance rate, or “distributed tips/tokes since the beginning of the year,” according to the memo.

“I need you to focus and work on a singular task: stay home and keep your family healthy and safe,” Maddox said in the letter. “In the coming days, our Company will be paying all Wynn and Encore employees to do the work of staying home and eliminating all non-essential external social contact for you and your family. I know it will not be easy to do, which is why we will pay you to do so.”

images (3)

                                                                                                                           Photo: KVII

Las Vegas Sands (Venetian/Palazzo) put forth similar measures and they’ve continued to pay associates, at least for now. From USATODAY.COM on 4/23/20:

Casino magnate and billionaire Sheldon Adelson is extending COVID-19 shutdown pay for Las Vegas Sands employees until at least May 17, according to a letter obtained by the Reno Gazette Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network.

“This pandemic is unlike anything I have seen in my business career,” Adelson wrote in the April 23 letter. “That said, we will get through it. … Until that time arrives, this company is firmly focused on the health and safety of our Team Members and supporting each of our host communities in Macao, Singapore and Las Vegas.”

While it remains unclear when the Strip will be able to re-open, Las Vegas Sands, which owns The Venetian, will continue to pay 9,300 employees through the shutdown.

92828128_2999613250134533_4144522885202968576_o

We are always incredibly grateful for healthcare workers, but especially during this time. Our resort is lit blue to honor all of the essential workers currently out there working hard to serve their communities. – Westgate Las Vegas

Westgate Resorts, which owns and operates two Las Vegas properties, has been another contributor to the “good news” department. Unlike the big three, Westgate is a very “human” company that puts their faces, personalities, strengths, and flaws out there for everyone to see. When they have problems, they strive harder. When things succeed, they share their triumphs with all who contributed.

         A personal message from President/General Manager Cami Christensen

My history with Westgate reaches back several years. Things started awkwardly when they were still a new name in town. A less-than-ideal stay turned into an open dialog of “We didn’t live up to your expectations. Can you give us a second chance?”. Since then, the historic casino/hotel on Paradise Road has become my home away from home. And their team feels very much like a family…all because they reached out and committed to striving harder.

When the pandemic situation was just starting to take hold, Westgate proactively began ramping up their sanitation procedures. They then took the bold step of shutting down some of their locations on the east coast, even before it was mandated.

Since our highest priority has always been the health and safety of our owners, guests and team members, we moved quickly to do everything possible to help flatten the curve. Before COVID-19 even reached any of the destinations where we operate, we implemented a detailed action plan to boost community safety, based on the recommendations and directives from the CDC, as well as federal, state and local health agencies.

We immediately enhanced our sanitization protocols at all our resorts, including daily deep cleaning of all public areas and back of house team member touch points. We greatly increased the number of hand-sanitizing stations at touch points for our guests and team members. We even made the difficult decision to proactively close resorts through the end of May out of an abundance of caution.

David Siegel
Founder, CEO & President

Now Westgate is extending its reach beyond resort guests and employees…to their counterparts in the hospitality industry. Westgate CARES is a new program spurred by the pandemic crisis. The initiative consists of protocols created to protect guests and associates from COVID-19…and of course, any other contaminants of concern.

In an open letter, Chief Operating Officer Mark Waltrip laid out the program, which will enable their resorts to operate smoothly and safely.

On behalf of the entire Westgate Family of Resorts & Team Members, we want you to know that when you are ready to celebrate life again, we are fully prepared to provide you a safe and enjoyable experience. From the very beginning of this crisis, we organized a dedicated team of professionals to rapidly develop and implement comprehensive procedures to protect our resort guests and Team Members.

These include advanced cleaning procedures, strict personal hygiene protocols and a long list of operating procedures necessary to mitigate the risk of this virus as much as possible. Every decision we made was based on one simple premise: do whatever it takes to protect our Team Members, guests and our local community, regardless of the impact to our business. – Mark Waltrip, COO

Image

The Westgate CARES initiative goes into a great amount of detail, broken down into categories. Common spaces, guest rooms, restrooms, pool/spa areas, offices, shuttle buses, and administrative areas are all addressed. Methods of disinfection are elaborated on, including the use of safe ultra-low-volume disinfectant foggers and sanitizing solutions.

Changes to common operations such as check-in/check-out, housekeeping, vendor screening, repairs/maintenance, laundry, bell service/bag storage, child play areas, and food/beverage service are all spelled out within individual documents. Every procedure is posted in its entirety and can be examined/downloaded by clicking here.

ei (2)

All major resorts have been ramping up their safety protocols in recent weeks, so why am I focusing on Westgate? Simply because the company has freely shared its investment and research with every colleague, counterpart and competitor in the hospitality industry. It’s a move that’s indicative of their many programs that honor patrons and the public in general.

While Westgate is fortunate to have the resources to navigate this challenge, we also recognize that our local communities are only as strong as the weakest link in our chain. There are thousands of small businesses in our community who may not have the know-how and resources to put together a plan that helps them successfully and safely operate their business as the country emerges from this pandemic.

Therefore, in the spirit of helping our communities, we are sharing in its entirety, all of our plans, procedures, and protocols that outline exactly how we intend to keep our Team Members, guests and communities safe, including the procedures for our resorts, hotels, restaurants, spas, fitness centers, water parks, call centers, and offices.

These documents…represent hundreds of man-hours of research and intellectual capital from some of the hospitality industry’s most skilled leaders, and we hope that local businesses find them a helpful resource. – Mark Waltrip, COO

It’s also worth noting that the primary Vegas location on Paradise Road is one of twenty-nine destinations in the Westgate family, yet their only one with a casino. When the resort reopens on June 18th, it will follow Westgate CARES protocols in addition to stringent casino-specific guidelines as mandated by Nevada Gaming Control Board. You can learn more about those requirements by heading here.

ei (1)

In last week’s column, I described devastating corporate decisions during this crisis that will define their role in Sin City’s future. MGM‘s choice to extend employee benefits won’t undo the heartache they’ve unleashed in recent years, but it’s a start.

As for Westgate, offering their COVID-19 program for free exemplifies the company’s history of goodwill. You’re free to spend your discretionary income wherever you choose, but I know who’ll be getting my money going forward.

As a valued guest in the Westgate Resorts family, I want to thank you for your patience, understanding and loyalty during this difficult time. We look forward to the day that all our communities can return to good health, and we can welcome you back home to a refreshed Westgate Resorts that’s even better than before. – David Siegel, Founder, CEO & President

Do you know of any positive actions being taken by Vegas-centric corporations related to the pandemic shutdown? Feel free to tell us about it in the “COMMENTS” section or drop me an email – Sam@VegasUnfiltered.blog. Be safe. Be smart. Be strong – Sam Novak

Sabotaging Sin City’s Return


Miracle Mile Shops and Stations Casinos deliver crushing blows to the local economy amidst relaunch efforts…

Our entire nation continues to endure a seemingly endless pandemic lockdown. Weeks have turned into months, and quarantine extensions get added as our bank accounts dwindle. The world will be a very different place when all of this has passed. Only the strong, smart, and very lucky may come out of it relatively unscathed.

download

The economy of Las Vegas seems to be most in jeopardy of total collapse. No other city depends so greatly on a daily influx of tourists. Our locals form a giant hospitality team, ready to host, serve, and entertain the world. If and how that will happen again has become an aggressively-debated subject, as a cringe-inducing exchange between Anderson Cooper and Mayor Carolyn Goodman recently demonstrated. So while casino execs and politicians huddle over their laptops, hashing out plans through virtual meeting apps, it’s the “little guys” who are about to suffer the most.

94671103_10222769231125079_5626489522347835392_n

This week, a series of letters was sent out to business owners and employees that will put thousands of Vegas residents permanently out of work. Those dedicated staffers and smaller-scale entrepreneurs are being erased from the chalkboard with the flick of a wrist. It’s a crushing blow delivered at time when people couldn’t possibly be more vulnerable, an ugly tactic we should remember with our wallets long after the doors to Las Vegas have been unlocked.

landing_page_header

Letter number one comes from Robert Buchanan, Vice President/General Manager of Miracle Mile Shops. Sent to tenants of the busy Planet Hollywood-based mall, the letter requires an agreement to pay the full amount of rent accrued during shutdown. Business owners must sign off on this legal agreement prior to reopening, despite the fact that their businesses have been unable to generate a single dollar of income since mid-March.

o (3)

The multi-page document, of which I have a copy, offers the option to defer payment of rent and spread it out over twelve months (without interest or penalties). Failure to pay the rent would result in a monetary default of lease terms. Recipients have been instructed to keep the terms confidential and not to discuss the matter with other occupants of the mall or any third parties (oops…too late).

While an interest-free rent deferral might sound generous on paper, the amounts in question can literally be hundreds of thousands of dollars per tenant. These are staggering sums that will more than likely cripple and/or close a significant percentage of Miracle Mile‘s shops and restaurants.

o (2)

The tenant that contacted me about this situation explained that rental rates are based on a monthly average of the mall’s total annual foot traffic. Nevertheless, no adjustments have been made to reflect a period of ZERO customers. No pro-rating, no discounts, no rent forgiveness, no exceptions. The store owner, who asked to remain anonymous, noted that his business was already struggling to break a profit.

Hard to share too much without giving away _____ (name of business) but I’d been trying to talk to them since this (the pandemic) started. No response, vague replies to emails. I kept asking a week leading into it. No guidance, no direction.

Finally we were given 24 hours to vacate. To get access we now have to schedule a meeting with a Miracle Mile security guy to walk us there. Total lockdown. They still want full rent. So ironic.

At Miracle Mile Shops, as in many other malls, a tenant’s rent is only one part of their financial responsibilities. They also have to pay their share of marketing, insurance, trash, water, security, facilities maintenance, and much more.

o (1)

In other cities, landlords have taken pro-active steps to offer assistance. They are so concerned about losing valued tenants that they’re asking what can be done to assure that shops will reopen. But in corporate-run Vegas, nothing matters except for pleasing the stockholders.

How is this legal? It’s insane! It will take Vegas at least a year to recover from this so how can the landlord do this to its tenants? Multiple tenantss are grouping together and with one voice seeking legal assistance to fight this greed.

It just simply breaks your gears when you’ve worked so hard for something and been paying big dollars to this landlord for them to rip out our hearts during a crisis like this.

I’ve already mentioned Mayor Goodman, whose “Open up Vegas and see what happens” stance has garnered an enormous amount of ridicule. At the opposite end is Governor Steve Sisolak, who put the statewide shutdown in place. Sisolak supports a slow and organized approach to restoring our daily lives, which has received its own share of protests and demonstrations.

Protesters-call-for-end-of-Nevada-shutdown-recall-of-Governor-Sisolak

I’m not interested in delving into political arguments here, as I see logic in both approaches. The reason I bring it up is to emphasize that everyone has a stake in the decisions. Nobody has a perfect list of answers, so we wait, sacrifice, obey the rules (or protest) and watch those bank accounts dwindle down to nothing.

90069848_10158466501033291_4304844239017082880_o

In the meantime, everyone seems to be asking the same question: when will MGM Resorts open? The same with Caesars Entertainment properties and Sands Corp. (Venetian/Palazzo). And while we focused our gaze on the big three, a lesser-known chain called Station Casinos swooped in and drove a dagger through the hearts of thousands of its own employees.

Vegas-based Station, which operates ten local establishments including Sante Fe Station and Palace Station, has gotten pretty powerful in recent years. Bolstered by the success of Red Rock Hotel and Green Valley Ranch, Station plunked down a cool billion to buy and renovate the once-popular Palms Casino Resort. An undeniable failure, the “new” Palms bled massive amounts of money, mostly through the catastrophic disaster known as KAOS Nightclub.

Station Casinos rested their billion-dollar Palms investment on the shoulders of a vulgar rapper-felon…and a grown man dressed as a marshmallow…

On May 1st, Station Casinos sent out letters to full-time Palms employees, announcing their terminations…effective 5/16/20. Similar letters were mailed to employees of Fiesta Henderson and Texas Station, both operated by Station Casinos. What makes this letter particularly ruthless is that they’re referring to the shuttering of the three hotels as a “temporary closure”, which in actuality took place two months ago. What this means is that when Palms, Fiesta Henderson and Texas Station reopen (if ever), they will be treated as new entities.

web1_TRAVEL-VEGAS-CLOSINGS-1

              Palms Casino is the latest tombstone monument dedicated to overreaching ambition…

In the meantime, Station is off the hook for protecting their own employees. The company will grant certain benefits through September, then the labor force is on its own. The letter also stated that their will be “no bumping rights”, meaning that terminated individuals would have to reapply for their previous jobs, forfeiting any earned seniority if they return. This also means zero opportunities to transfer to other Station locations to maintain that seniority.

skynews-virginia-coronavirus_4971470

           Photo: Sky News

Some people out there may be inclined to say “Corporations have to do whatever is necessary in order to survive”. But what about right now? Unleashing a bloodbath in the current economy is simply catastrophic. I’d rather see a company dig in for the moment and take its chances later. Much later.

93659791_10158391673622074_2161049632916897792_n

So what is a struggling employee or business person to do in the current climate? We certainly can’t rely on the government to help. Very few people have had success in collecting unemployment benefits, judging by the daily posts I read on social media. Sadly, numerous businesses have announced that they won’t be coming back, either. Friends of mine from every walk of life are considering moving away and some have already begun the process.

74453468_2730403870315096_7578756822161424384_o

Performer Andrew Hill, who entertains audiences at Station Casinos, shared these hard words regarding the closure of Fiesta Henderson on Facebook:

Well looks like our contract at the Fiesta is done and dusted ! Yep, for all the clueless fools sprouting Vegas is gonna bounce back!! ….Can you all Please stfu!

If anyone quotes the most idiotic destructive statement of “Vegas always reinvents itself” or “ we’ll be bouncing back in no time” …. can you please punch them very hard in the face!

When ever the wonderful PR word “ reinvent” is used …. it is code for cost cutting, slashing entertainment and figuring out how to screw people to make more money…

For those who stick it out and hope for a successful recovery, things look bleaker every day. Think back to the long-term effects that 9/11 had on the airline industry. In order to offset dwindling profits, nearly all airlines began charging mandatory fees for checked suitcases and eventually, carry-on bags. Yet once air travel rebounded, those fees remained. They now generate more profit than actual ticket sales.

Las Vegas Hotels closed own to COVID-19 Virus.

As you read this, Las Vegas is virtually a ghost town. Every action taken by those in power during the days ahead will undoubtedly become a new standard. If the events of this week are any indication, the citizens of this city are in for for years of serious trouble.

Many of us have been hoping that Vegas will use the shutdown as an opportunity to undo damaging decisions of the past decade. Former Vegas Mayor Jan Jones Blackhurst is among them. We’ve urged the Big Three to toss out resort fees, eliminate paid parking, send “celebrity chefs” packing, dump those $20 cocktails down the drain and make Las Vegas appealing to the masses once more.

26147884-8129667-The_doors_of_the_Four_Queens_hotel_casino_are_chained_after_Siso-a-60_1584614932118

Las Vegas may be your playground. But it’s also our home. The future of this city depends on it being recognized as a community of flesh-and-blood people. But nobody seems to be listening.

Banner Photo: Palms Casino via Facebook


90108958_10220137410241947_77220157612621824_o

Click here for the article’s companion piece “Vegas Goes Dark – The Beginning of the End…or a new Beginning?”

rantsheader

Click here for my related article “Is Sin City Determined to Drive You Away?”

 

 

 

THE JETS BRING NOSTALGIC ‘80’S AND ‘90’S FUN TO V THEATER


The unforgettable 80’s family band brings their own top hits and many more to PHo’s V Theater…

Click HERE to read this article and purchase tickets through the awesome BestOfVegas site.

BestOfVegas

UPDATE 6/9/20 – I’ve received word from band member Vannessa Naeta that The JETS are planning to return in July, possibly August of this year. Follow Vegas Unfiltered Blog on Facebook for updates. 

No matter what era you grew up in, chances are that you’re a fan of 80’s and 90’s music. Even today’s teens know how great the era was, thanks to the lasting influences of Tina Turner, Queen, Elton John, and boy bands like NKOTB. Now you can groove, funk and jive through the greatest years of pop music with the breakout band that made it real…The Jets.

JETS THROWBACK PIC 2

Now playing at Miracle Mile’s V Theater, THE JETS – The 80’s & 90’s Experience is a fast-paced jukebox of the songs you know and love. Original members LeRoy, Haini and Rudy Wolfgramm are joined by sister Etivise Haunga, cousin Vannessa Naeata, LeRoy’s 18-year-old son Evan and keyboardist Mychael Pollard.

The Jets were originally comprised of the eight eldest of seventeen siblings from the Wolfgramm family. They were the first breakthrough entertainers from the island kingdom of Tonga. Gifted with natural talent and great looks, their incredible family dynamic shines through every set. The group pumps out memorable covers of dance, rock, pop and that unmistakable Minneapolis funk made famous by Prince and Morris Day.

Jets Vtheater pic13

The 80’s and 90’s Experience opens with a lengthy medley of The Jets‘ own favorites and those made famous by C + C Music Factory, Grammy winner Jody Watley and Madonna. Barely pausing to catch a breath, they dance through the material of Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, TLC, Fugees, Will Smith, Destiny’s Child…even Vanilla Ice.

Jets Vtheater pic38

Of course, the show truly shines when The Jets revisit their own smash singles. With eight top-ten hits and three certified Gold and Platinum albums, the music of The Jets seemed to be everywhere at their peak. They appeared in the soundtracks for movies like Beverly Hills Cop II, Karate Kid Part 3 and Whoopi Goldberg’s Burglar, and their songs continue in rotation on many Adult Contemporary stations today.

It’ll be hard to believe that three decades have passed when The Jets deliver such classics as “Cross My Broken Heart”, “You Got It All”, “Make It Real” and of course “I’ve Got A Crush On You”. Decked out in colorful outfits that evoke the 80’s, they provide their own musical accompaniment, playing drums, guitar and keyboards while dancing across the stage and up and down the aisles.

83002379_10221639210395267_3562852324684595200_n

The boundless enthusiasm The Jets maintain during their performances is absolutely contagious. If there really is a fountain of youth, it exists back on those Polynesian islands of the Wolfgramm family tree. And you’ll feel like a teenager, too, when you see The Jets – The 80’s and 90’s Experience. It’s a soaring time capsule you’ll want to open again and again.

78873631_883935715336349_1983605455674408960_o

The Jets perform Tuesday through Saturday at 7pm. Save up to $50 on tickets now with Best of Vegas.

Photos: Sam Novak, The Jets

NEW FLIGHTS RESTAURANT EVOKES THE HEYDAY OF AIR TRAVEL


Aviation-themed eatery comes in for a landing at Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops….

In recent years, it seem like the chasm between affordable dining and high-end cuisine has gotten wider and deeper. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Las Vegas Strip. Thank goodness FLIGHTS has made a successful on-time arrival at Miracle Mile Shops of Planet Hollywood Resort. Dazzling, affordable and absolutely exquisite, FLIGHTS just may be the most memorable meal you’ll have on your visit.

Created by professional hockey player Alex Hult and wife Sarah, FLIGHTS was inspired by the popularity beer and wine “flights”. Those smaller-sized presentations seem to go hand-in-hand with tapas, small plates and family-style dining. Why not bring everything together into an airline-themed restaurant and pub?

20190711_160534

FLIGHTS is a fully-realized experience that begins the moment you arrive at the “gate”. Costumed reservation agents will check you in, issue a boarding pass and escort you inside. Passengers are given the option to check in on social media to receive a free glass of champagne. Once seated, you’ll be greeted by flight attendants (servers) in retro-style outfits, many of whom remain in character throughout your trip.

20190711_160825

Prior to take-off, you may wish to choose a Craft Cocktail or spirit/beer flight from the impressive beverage menu. Signature Cocktail Flights run $19 and offer exciting combinations of Mojito (watermelon/strawberry/classic), Cosmopolitan (cranberry/grapefruit/orange), Daiquiri (mango/lime/strawberry) and many more. Each flight will tickle your taste buds with a trio of fresh and exciting flavors.

The collection of Craft Cocktails offers something for every mood. From the light, bubbly Aviation (gin, creme de violette, luxard – $12) and Frequent Flier (Tito’s vodka, St. Germain liqueur, champagne – $12) to the smokey sultriness of Red Baron (mezcal, tequila, demerara syrup – $13), you’ll want to try them all. Fortunately, the flight attendant can be summoned at the touch of your own personal call button.

An absolute must-try is the Triple Threat ($22), the stunning union of a 22-oz. Prickly Pear Margarita, 7-oz. bottle of Corona Light and a vial of Patron Silver tequila. Served in a massive goblet, this party-in-a-glass should last you until the landing gear touches down. Amazingly, the Triple Threat (and all of the other flights and cocktails) are available for $10 daily from opening until 5 p.m.. This Happy Hour deal makes FLIGHTS one of the most outstanding bargains on the Las Vegas Strip.

But of course, cocktails are only one part of your in-flight service. A wonderful selection of small plates, entrees and desserts have been created in the galley by Chef Kyle Kingrey (M Resort, Palazzo’s LAVO). His beautiful and wonderfully-seasoned comfort food is presented family-style, so you’ll want to dig into several dishes.

20190711_163426

Colorful APPETIZER FLIGHTS like Ceviche (shrimp/ahi/salmon – $16), Ahi Tuna (sashimi/tataki/poke – $19) and Stix (thai chicken/chimichurri beef/ancho shrimp skewers – $18) will compete for your attention with shareable BITES like Korean “Buffalo” Chicken ($12), House Made Meatballs ($14) and Steak Street Tacos ($13).

20190711_163401

Entrees come in shareable portions on the dinner menu, too. Smoked Paprika-Dusted Salmon ($23), Crispy Chicken Breast ($22), Ancho BBQ Shrimp ($24) and Prime NY Steak ($32) are served on platters with a variety of sauces and garnishes. Vegan and vegetarian Sides like Roasted Mushrooms (with nori furkake and a miso ginger glaze – $7) and Mac & 4 Cheeses ($9) are so satisfying that two or three make a hearty stand-alone meal.

20190711_163410

There are several individual salads and dishes offered on lunchtime flights. Outlandish sandwiches like the Chicken and Waffle (with maple syrup, red hot butter and house slaw – $16) and Beef Bahn Mi Sliders (with pickled veg slaw and miso mayo – $6 each) play nice with traditional entree-sized Radicchio-Romaine Caesar, Caprese or Mediterranean Salads ($11, add chicken/ahi/salmon/thai shrimp for an additional charge).

Even the most exclusive airlines often neglect dessert…but FLIGHTS has you covered. Reversed Cheesecake Flight ($11) includes three styles of the popular treat (strawberry/Oreo/mango) within glass jars topped and topped with crumbled crust. An authentic New Orleans-style Beignet Flight ($11) delivers a bowl of sugar-dusted pastries, served warm with vanilla creme anglais, chocolate and strawberry coulis dipping sauces.

Chocolate Dive Bomber ($12) fills a goblet with molten lava cake, vanilla ice cream and two different sauces. Even though it’s listed as a “shareable”, this writer recommends one Dive Bomber for each passenger…just to avoid the potential for any mid-air incidents.

Click HERE to continue reading via BestOfVegas.

67410658_1613320912135653_6120284665442992128_n

Photos: Sam Novak, FLIGHTS, FLO Advertising

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Aussie Heat’ Fires Up the Strip


The “other” Down-Under male revue is faster/hotter/better than you’d ever expect…

In the world of sexy productions, male revues get very little respect. Audiences unfamiliar with these productions may have had their perceptions tarnished by cheesy appearances on 90’s daytime talk shows. But today’s male revues are polished, contemporary and well-mounted stage productions. And they’re enjoyable by all adult audiences, not just breathless bachelorette parties.

39928667_561234787643107_2303685436687515648_n

Naturally, their are noticeable differences in what they have to offer. Chippendales remains the gold standard with a cast of towering, beefy clean-cut hardbodies. Magic Mike Live wraps their slim young pretty-boys in a ribbon of female-empowerment with the unusual addition of a female host. Black Magic Live offers an African-American cast direct from Lifetime Television Network. Then there’s Thunder From Down Under, the long-running production at Excalibur packed with sweaty wild boys from “Oz”.

screenshot-2018-08-03-at-9-02-34-pm.png

If you’re wondering why Sin City would need another Australia-based male revue, then you haven’t seen Aussie Heat.  Two minutes into this daring production and you’ll know that it’s completely different from anything else in the city. You owe it to yourself and your friends to head over to V Theater inside Planet Hollywood Miracle Mile Shops and experience this stunning show right away.

While other male revues tend to recruit guys based on their looks/physique then teach them how to groove, the Aussie Heat hunks are established dancers and acrobats. Break dancing, flips, pop-lock moves and sensual grinds were already in their blood long before joining the troupe. It’s just so happens that their athletic bodies and handsome faces match their amazing abilities. It’s a surefire combination delivering thrills that can’t be topped anywhere. 

When not raising temperatures onstage, the Aussie Heat cast is actively involved in a number of charitable causes. The guys conduct dance classes and an annual fundraising show at Opportunity Village, a local organization dedicated to enriching the lives of disabled adults. They actively support the American Cancer Society via an ongoing “Real Men Wear Pink” fundraiser and participate at numerous events like AFAN‘s annual AIDS Walk and Black and White Parties.

Aussie Heat also carries the distinction of welcoming men to participate in their show. They promote equality for everyone and actively invite members of the LGBTQ community in their advertisements. They’re regulars at Pride events and have partnered with a variety of gay and gay-friendly organizations like QLife, a Vegas-based media firm now in its 41st year.

1019182357-1.jpg

Another thing that sets Aussie Heat apart from their comrades-in-bulging-arms is audience interaction. Billed as “The Most Hands-On Show In Vegas”, Aussie Heat is far from a “stand and model” production. Audience members vie for prizes via body-shot competitions and blindfolded lap dances inside the intimate showroom.

33066109_475555566211030_7319739799944822784_n.jpg

Click HERE to continue reading…

 

 

Hidden Vegas: Aladdin’s Desert Passage Shops


Looking skyward for curiosities that make up “Hidden Vegas”…

Finding remnants from the bygone days of Vegas is always a treat. I’ve been scouring the mezzanines, peering under tarps and poking my camera through keyholes to find curiosities that sail under the radar for most people.

Last night while meeting friends for drinks and a show, I looked to the skies…from the inside of Miracle Mile Shops of Planet Hollywood. There I found remains of the formerly Arabian-themed Desert Passage Shops.

Desert Passage

I started coming to Las Vegas in 2005, and had only been through the Aladdin Resort once or twice. At that time, the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain was in deep trouble with closures taking place around the country.

Desert Passage

The announcement that Aladdin would be re-branded as Planet Hollywood Hotel Casino seemed very foolhardy. Sure, the movement to de-theme Strip resorts was in full swing and Middle-eastern-flavored places like Aladdin and Sahara had fallen out of fashion in a post-9/11 world. But Planet Hollywood??? That decision seemed as out-of-touch as renaming it after dying restaurant chains like Chi-Chi’s or Kenny Roger’s Roasters.

Shows how much I knew, as Planet Hollywood Hotel is now a hip, popular middle-tier destination, with stars like Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull frequently on the marquee. Of course their biggest draw is Britney Spears, so there’s still plenty of dried-up cheese on the Planet Hollywood menu.

Desert Passage

The existing hotel is the second Aladdin to be built on this part of the Strip. The original opened in 1966 and was imploded in 1998. A new Aladdin was rebuilt from the ground up and opened its doors in 2000. Seven years later it officially became Planet Hollywood Resort.

Desert Passage

The Arabian motif was gradually stripped from both the hotel and adjoining Desert Passage Shops, which received a new frontage and glossy modern exterior. Inside, the corridors got a top-to-bottom makeover. Most of the ceiling was painted into a matte-gray finish, discouraging shoppers from gazing upward at the former faux skies.

However, not everything was taken away. There are two distinct areas within the mall where the original decor survives. One surrounds the V Theater complex and fountain show.

Desert Passage

Desert Passage

Desert Passage

The other is nestled under the indoor rainstorm.

Desert Passage

Desert Passage

Desert Passage

Desert Passage

Perhaps it’s telling that the domes, citadels and faux village structures that comprise the Desert Passage remnants exist where other attractions demand your attention…and offer a convenient distraction. You’ll find be hard-pressed to find any mention of them on the glitzy, contemporary Miracle Mile website.

Desert Passage

The Arabian architecture of Desert Passage is clearly…and hilariously…out-of-sync with the rest of the Mile.

Desert Passage

Until very recently, the south-facing exterior of the mall along Harmon Avenue still carried the Aladdin facade. The removal of Krave nightclub and opening of Buffalo Wild Wings and another Nacho Daddy finally jump-started the finishing of that section.

Hidden Vegas

Desert Passage

It’s uncertain if the remaining Arabic interior will eventually get stripped out and de-themed. But for the time being, it’s another chapter in our book of Vegas curiosities.

This article previously appeared in a different form on another website.

Images: Sammasseur with additional stills from Miracle Mile Shops via Facebook, wishuwerehere.com and Greg C.