Same-sex marriage welcomed by Strip resorts, tourism officials

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At the Aria’s wedding chapel, spouses-to-be can choose from two lounges in which to prepare themselves for the big ceremony: one for grooms and another for brides.

Their layouts evoke traditional gender expectations, with the guys getting a pool table and the larger bride’s lounge boasting plenty of mirrors.

Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Nevada, the lounge layout might give pause in how to separate the spouses. But Colleen Kestel-Raidmae, the chapel’s director, has had some experience with this — her chapel has been offering same-sex commitment ceremonies since it opened last year.

“We leave it up to the couple,” she said about which partner gets which room. “Whichever one prefers to play pool over having a larger mirror, we let them decide that among themselves. Sometimes — and this goes for all wedding couples — they’ll choose to both be in the larger room because they’re okay with seeing each other before the wedding.”

A federal appellate court ruling allowing same-sex marriages in Nevada is ushering in some changes at the Aria chapel, however. Kestel-Raidmae said she’s trying to organize chapels across MGM Resorts International’s properties on the Strip to receive training from the Gay Wedding Institute to help them better cater to same-sex customers.

In the meantime, the Aria chapel is introducing same-sex wedding promotions, making paperwork gender neutral and including photos of same-sex couples on marketing materials.

“It’s actually a fairly extensive process to make all of the changes,” Kestel-Raidmae said. “But I think everyone’s very excited. It’s something that Nevada should have done years ago.”

Since Nevada’s ban on same-sex unions was lifted last week, about one in 10 calls about reserving the Aria chapel has been from same-sex couples, Kestel-Raidmae said. To attract more, the Aria chapel is offering 20 percent off any wedding package and 10 percent off food and beverage packages to same-sex couples who book before the end of the year.

One package that includes a limo from the marriage license bureau to the hotel, 90 minutes of chapel time, the officiant, live Internet broadcasting of the ceremony and one night’s stay, regularly goes for $3,300 on a Saturday.

Similarly, Caesars Entertainment announced that same-sex couples can receive 15 percent off wedding ceremonies or vow renewals at any of its chapels through March 1. MGM and Caesars hosted same-sex weddings on Saturday, at Mandalay Bay and the Flamingo, respectively.

The embrace of legal same-sex marriage by these and other casino-resorts in Las Vegas fits into the industry’s generally strong track record of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Caesars, MGM, Wynn Resorts and the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas — companies which, taken together, account for most of the Strip resorts — have all scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. It is based on a survey that companies complete measuring their policies and practices relevant to LGBT employees.

Additionally, when the Nevada Senate considered a constitutional amendment last year to legalize same-sex unions, representatives from Caesars and MGM spoke in support.

What’s in it for them? Aside from cashing in on a chunk of the millions of dollars that same-sex marriage will bring to Nevada, they see it as a way to improve their relationships with customers.

Gwen Migita, vice president of sustainability and corporate citizenship for Caesars, said legalizing same-sex marriage makes a “significant difference” to guests and employees by making their Las Vegas experiences more “whole and fair.”

Phyllis James, executive vice president and chief diversity officer at MGM, said her company tries to create a welcoming atmosphere for LGBT guests.

“There’s a distinct difference in an environment that treats you on an equal footing with other customers who are not like you, and having a staff that is going to be comfortable and respectful in the way they interact with you, having a comfortable environment to walk around in which people are not … acting like you’re strange because you’re a same-sex couple and you’re walking down the hall holding hands,” she said.

Las Vegas regularly ranks among the top LGBT travel destinations as surveyed by Community Marketing Inc. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has been marketing to the LGBT demographic for years, famously this year with a commercial called “The Check In.”

As a whole, the Las Vegas tourism market may have even better luck attracting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender tourists as same-sex marriages become legal in every state, said Mya Reyes, president of the Las Vegas Gay Visitors Bureau.

Until then, some couples will face the prospect of not having their marriage recognized when they return home.

“Once same-sex marriage is legalized nationally, that will change the entire scenario,” Reyes said. Still, she stressed that when it comes to the current ruling, “Undoubtedly, it will have a positive effect. I’m certain of that.”

Like the resorts, Reyes’ company is wasting no time trying to attract same-sex wedding tourism. The gay visitors bureau is revamping its website to accommodate wedding services, she said, and it’s encouraging guests to tie the knot when they come for Evolve Vegas NYE, a gay New Year’s event produced by the bureau.

SOURCE: VegasInc.com

Reyes expanding Las Vegas’ gay tourism market

Sitting in her modest office at The Lakes, it occurs to Mya Reyes that her career path has led her to one of the boldest tourism initiatives the city has ever seen — a massive three-day New Year’s Eve celebration for gay men from 30 countries in mainstream resorts on the Strip.

Reyes’ new year’s event, called Evolve Vegas NYE, is 20 months in the planning and has been about all her four-person staff has worked on since the doors of the Las Vegas Gay Visitors Bureau opened in mid-2013.

“I feel that everything I’ve done in my life has brought me here, all the international travel I’ve done and the languages I have,” said Reyes, president of the bureau and founder of Evolve Vegas NYE. She is fluent in English, Spanish and French and speaks some Italian.

Reyes fully expects that the 700 Evolve packages will be sold for the inaugural event, which includes three days of shows, receptions, parties, dining experiences and shopping tours planned Dec. 30 through Jan. 1.

It’s being hosted at the MGM Grand and the highlight of the event will be a New Year’s Eve celebration at the Havana nightclub at the Tropicana.

Reyes has been a long-time advocate for gay tourism in Southern Nevada, so she didn’t need a sales pitch to convince her that the gay market is a lucrative one.

San Francisco-based Community Market Inc. has years of research explaining why the market is so robust: For gay men and women, the average household income is $81,500, about 80 percent higher than the average American household income.

About 40 percent of gay men have household incomes in excess of $100,000.

An estimated 83 percent of gay men and women have a passport compared with 34 percent of the adult U.S. population.

Gay men and women travel more widely than their mainstream counterparts, domestically and internationally, especially for leisure purposes.

Las Vegas is consistently one of the top markets for gay travel, usually No. 2 behind New York City.

Reyes has always known that the gay market has been and will be good for Las Vegas, but the difference maker for Evolve is the international component.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has made the attraction of international guests a priority. The organization that markets Las Vegas to the world and McCarran International Airport have recruited airlines to provide nonstop intercontinental flights to the city.

Reyes believes the combination is a can’t-miss opportunity.

Reyes got her first taste of the international scene while studying French at UNLV. She received a degree in 1978 and got an opportunity to study abroad in a program at Paris-Sorbonne University.

She loved it.

“When I was about to leave, on my last day in Paris, I saw a sign recruiting for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization,” she said. “I had heard that foreigners could work there relatively easily and that it wasn’t too hard to get a work card to be there.”

She ended up getting hired as a liaison between UNESCO and its member nations, and she worked directly with people from African countries.

When in Europe, she met her future husband, Bill Collins, a professional basketball player that had been drafted by the Boston Celtics and who opted to pursue a professional career in Italy. She spent her early career living in France, Spain and Italy.

She recalled once being transported to a hospital in a boat while living in Venice when she gave birth to one of her children.

Wanting to be a stay-at-home mother, she published a parenting magazine for 12 years and eventually moved back to Las Vegas.

But one thing Reyes continued to do in her last years abroad was to keep in touch with her international contacts. It was a move that would prove invaluable to her future.

Back in Las Vegas, MGM Resorts was completing a merger with Mirage Resorts International, and the new company announced its commitment to diversity.

When then-CEO Terry Lanni announced the program, Reyes was hired as director of supplier diversity. It turned out to be a golden opportunity to get in on the ground floor of MGM’s award-winning diversity program and work with Lanni.

“It was primarily about ethnic diversity and women and really didn’t encompass anything for the LGBT market,” she said.

But that came later.

She left MGM and went to work for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority as it began exploring the prospect of marketing directly to the gay market.

“I had talked with the LVCVA about being a part of that and decided that I wanted to become better educated about the market,” she said.

As a part of the agency, she became active in the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, serving two terms on its board of directors. With members in 83 countries, Reyes was able to re-establish international contacts and make new ones.

“It was a great opportunity to expose our destination to various markets all over the world,” she said. “And, as it turned out, they were all really great people, and not only were we business partners but great personal friends.”

When Reyes retired from the LVCVA, she knew she wanted to continue to work in the industry, so she formed the Gay Visitors Bureau and went to work developing Evolve.

She hired Donovan Kaneshiro as creative strategies manager, Matt Engh as creative design manager and Fabrice Tasendo to assist with global outreach.

The bureau has travel agency contacts in 30 countries, including 500 American Express agencies in Mexico, and the Evolve website is available in Spanish, German, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Chinese as well as English.

The inaugural Evolve will include a reception with performers from Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity” as a preview to the show. Following the show will be an opening reception at the Strip’s first gay nightclub, Liaison, at Bally’s.

The second day offers an assortment of Southern Nevada day trips and shopping excursions and the final day includes a performance by Frank Marino followed by the New Year’s Eve celebration at the Havana club.

Packages also include an optional two-day trip to West Hollywood, Calif.

Reyes said the side trip is particularly important for international visitors who like to expand their itineraries when making a trip to the United States.

Marino, whose Strip Divas are presenting their 25,000th show this year, is excited about performing for an all-gay audience.

“This will be the first time in my 30-year Las Vegas career that I will be performing for an all-gay audience,” Marino said. “Finally, I can do pop-culture jokes that everyone will get.”

Britney Spears Extends Las Vegas Residency to 2017

Britney Spears
Kevin Mazur, Getty Images

by Thomas Chau September 28, 2014 4:03 PM

Good news for Britney Spears fans who are hoping to catch her Las Vegas show at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Spears has renewed her ‘Piece of Me’ residency for another two years, which means she will be performing in Sin City well into the year 2017. Her original contract was to have ended in 2015.

The pop star confirmed to Good Morning Britain (quotes via Digital Spy) that she has enjoyed her Vegas stay and likes being grounded, saying, “The way I used to travel all around the world and do a different show every night, I’m like, ‘How did I do it?!”

“Promotion is a different story, and going to a different city every day, like what I’m doing now, it’s really hard,” she continues. “But being based in Vegas and having one show that you just keep going back to, the consistency of that is really grounding and really cool.”

Meanwhile, Spears has also revealed that she is hard at work on a new studio album.

SOURCE: PopCrush.com

Get Ready To Dance: There’s Two Ellen Slots Coming To Casino Floors

There’s usually a huge buzz before the annual G2E (Global Gaming Expo) with big names being attached to new games. It’s been relatively quiet this year aside from the confirmed Friends, Mad Men and Wonder Woman slot machines we told you about last week. Things hit a new high yesterday, though, when IGT announced they’ll have not one, but two Ellen slots.

These won’t just be machines featuring comedienne Ellen DeGeneres. Rather, they will be based on her hit daytime talk show. The games will be known as The Ellen DeGeneres Show™ Featuring Ellen’s Dance Party Video Slots and The Ellen DeGeneres Show™ Featuring 12 Days of Giveaways Video Slots.

The slot machines will put players in the middle of their favorite “Ellen” moments and will come with the exceptional sound and huge screens (in this case, 42″ vertical touchscreens) that all new games do, these days.

Just as any Ellen fan would expect, The Ellen DeGeneres Show™ Featuring Ellen’s Dance Party Video Slots will have players chair-dancing while the 12 Days of Giveaways Video Slots will be holiday-themed, just like on the show. Fans will also recognize the “Know or Go” and “Wheel of Riches” bonus rounds, too. There’s no definite timeline as to when the machines will start popping up on gaming floors, but keep an eye on VegasChatter so you’ll know before you go.

“I’m so excited to have my very own line of slot machines. People are gonna have the chance to play really fun games, have their own mini dance parties and win actual cold, hard cash. I mean, honestly, what more do you want from me?”

–Ellen DeGeneres

[Photo: IGT]
SOURCE: VegasChatter.com

LAVERNE COX ON HER VEGAS NIGHTCLUB GIG, NETFLIX STARDOM AND MORE

Orange Is the New Black actress Laverne Cox hosts Liaison’s Grand Opening Celebration this weekend.

You’re hosting a grand opening on the Las Vegas Strip this weekend, joining the likes of Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. Now that Orange Is the New Black is a huge hit, are you being hired frequently for celebrity appearances at events like Saturday night’s at Liaison? This is my first time hosting an event like this. I am very excited about the historic nature of the first LGBT club in a casino in Vegas.

Do you find subtle, if not overt, ways to educate those types of audiences on the transgender rights movement and community, like you do with your speaking engagements? Or is a party not the place for that? Well depending on the context, sometimes just my presence, living openly, is enough.

The transgender community experienced a couple of mainstream media milestones this year when you appeared on the cover of Time and were nominated for an acting-related Emmy award, both firsts for a transgender person. How important is it for us to see the transgender community in the mainstream media? I think when people get to know people as human beings, that goes a long way to change hearts and minds about people who are different. I think it also inspires trans people to believe that their dreams are also possible.

When you’re out in public and fans of the show stop you to talk, are they respectful with their language and questions? Our fans are amazing. They love the show and show me so much love. They are amazingly respectful.

Have you been to Vegas before? Any crazy or fun stories to share from past visits? I have been to Vegas twice, both times with my mother. We ate at buffets, saw shows—theJubilee show was a kiki. The crazy stuff I can’t talk about, ’cause what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

How long are you in town? What are you excited to see and do while in town this weekend? I am only in town for a day. I think I will just get to present at [the] iHeartRadio [Festival] and host at Liaison. But I might be able to squeeze in more fun. It’s Vegas after all.

What’s your go-to cocktail? What will we see in your hand at Liaison Saturday night? I am not a big drinker. I might have a glass of champagne. As a true Sex and the City fan I love a good Cosmo as well.

One of my favorite Orange Is the New Black episodes is the mock job interview episode (you looked fabulous!). Any idea of what you’ll be “showing off your assets” in Saturday night? I am not sure what I will be wearing yet. But my stylist Christina Pacelli is excited about pulling looks for me. I can’t wait to see the options.

Are you still filming Season 3 of Orange Is the New Black? Can you divulge any details at all for fans of the show? I am still shooting season 3 of Orange. Nope I can’t divulge anything. NEXT! LOL

I saw you were tweeting about your upcoming role on MTV’s Faking It. Aside from Season 3 of Orange Is the New Black, what other projects are you working on right now? I also have a guest spot on the new Bravo show Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce. I am executive producing a documentary for MTV called Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word. I am also hard at work on my memoir which will be out in the fall of 2015.

LIAISON GRAND OPENING WITH LAVERNE COX September 20, doors at 10 p.m., $20. Liaison, 702-737-5225.

SOURCE: Las Vegas Weekly.com

Seven striking things at the SLS Las Vegas

Vegas hotels are like babies. Although easy to conceive, they are hard to deliver. And each arrival is greeted by clamoring crowds, all eager to check out the newborn on the block.

Well, there’s been a recent birth at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip: SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.

The resort debuted with a bang last Friday night. Not only was there an eye-popping fireworks display, but the grand opening celebration was a visual treat as well. Celebs were spotted at the event. Food and drinks flowed copiously and tasted every bit as good as it looked. And a backdrop of pulsating lights and music fed the nonstop party atmosphere.

This extravagant evening was a long time in the making. Sam Nazarian, CEO of the nightlife and hospitality empire SBE, purchased the historic yet rundown Sahara Hotel & Casino in 2007. Since then, he’s hung on tight to his vision – through an economic downturn and top-to-bottom renovations – of giving the property new life.

So was the SLS Las Vegas worth the wait and all the fanfare? We think so. And here’s what we love about it.

Monkeys at SLS Las Vegas

The monkeys

That’s right, the monkeys. Everybody loves monkeys. Tall monkeys. Small monkeys. Dinner jacket-wearing monkeys. Monkeys are just fun.

You’ll see four simians scampering about with a fork, a mirror and two goblets in the SLS logo. You’ll see them around the property – in a chandelier, in artwork that hangs above the casino floor and on the resort’s white sedans. And you’ll see them at the Monkey Bar, across from the registration desk. Framed black-and-white photos of monkeys in suits line its back wall.

The bottom line: Monkeys set the perfect tone – because the SLS Las Vegas, though stylish, is far from being stuffy and conventional.

Digital effects at SLS Las Vegas

The digital art installations

Don’t go looking for an erupting volcano, dancing fountains or a Lake of Dreams at SLS Las Vegas. This resort hasn’t got them. Instead there are seven different digital art installations created by KT Corporation from Korea. At the main entrance, you’ll walk across LED color-changing floor tiles that are triggered by your feet. A digital “cloud” hovers over the Center Bar. You’ll discover the north side of the parking garage forms a canvas for 3-D video mapping at Foxtail Pool Club. (This one is sure to blow you away.) There are also striking digital screens behind the front desk and near the valet entrance off Paradise Road. And captivating LED installments also come to life in LiFE nightclub.

Décor at SLS Las Vegas

The décor

Except for the bones of the building, the former Sahara has been completely made over. But in a nod to the past, Nazarian has had custom carpets created from photographs of the legendary property at its prime. On other carpets you may catch sight of iconic images – like Sean Connery as James Bond – by British photographer Terry O’Neill.

There are oversized brass birdcages for dancers at the Foxtail lounge, and the walls bear the lettering of French graffiti artist Tarek Benaoum. No stencils were used. He did all of this freehand.

Inside restaurants such as Katsuya by Starck, a pair of giant eyes reminds you that it’s all about seeing and being seen at SLS Las Vegas.

Bazaar Meat and The Griddle Cafe

The food

All of the dining venues at SLS Las Vegas are standouts – from the Mediterranean delights at Cleo and the dumplings at Ku Noodle to the scrumptious spread at The SLS Buffet. But The Griddle Café and Bazaar Meat belong on your must-visit-ASAP list.

SLS Las Vegas is the only place outside of Hollywood where you’ll find The Griddle Café. Breakfast is served all day here – including pancakes, French toast and waffles loaded with goodness. Red Velvet panCAKEs, anyone? They’re topped with cream cheese icing. Once you’ve tasted The Griddle Café’s sweet fare, you’ll want more and more and more. Ah, what a heavenly sugar high.

Then there’s Bazaar Meat. As its name suggests, this carnivorous restaurant is a cut above traditional steakhouses. Decorative red glass is suspended from a white domed ceiling over the bar, much like falling drops of blood. There’s a display of scary-looking handmade knives (you can actually purchase them) outside the entrance. And a butcher shop-esque arrangement of exotic, top-quality meats is on exhibit inside. Created by culinary innovator José Andrés, you’ll enjoy watching your meal prepared to perfection in Bazaar Meat’s open kitchens on wood-burning grills, in charcoal ovens and on rotisseries. If you’re a meat lover, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

Nightlife at SLS Las Vegas

The nightlife

Nazarian and his team are kingpins in the nightclub industry. So it’s a safe bet the club scene at SLS Las Vegas will be ranked among the best in Sin City.

Hollywood favorite The Sayers Club opened its second location at the resort. This small live music room is a cool place to grab a drink on any given night. But what’s better is that you never know who might show up to perform. At the grand opening party, Lenny Kravitz became the first artist to take the stage. Swedish pop star Tove Lo will appear on Aug. 28. Who else will be there? Bruno Mars? Stevie Wonder? John Mayer? You’ll just have to stop by to find out.

While The Sayers Club is intimate, the multilevel LiFE nightclub is enormous. Surrounded by LED installations and HD projections along the walls and DJ booth, it will feel like you’ve entered a sensory playground – especially when aerialists descend from the 60-foot-high ceiling. In addition to VIP balconies and the artists’ green room on the second floor, the open-air Beach LiFE pool is located on the third floor.

Unami Burger, Beer Garden and Sports Book

The beer garden

It’s common knowledge that a good burger will enhance any sports viewing experience. And a burger always tastes better when it’s accompanied by a cold beer. So combining all three on an outdoor patio would be the best of all worlds. Drumroll, please, for Unami Burger, Beer Garden and Sports Book. It stretches alongside Las Vegas Boulevard near Sahara Avenue. The people watching here is already great fun and it’s only going to get better, thanks to developments on the other side of the street, like Rock in Rio (arriving in 2015) and Resorts World Las Vegas (debuting in 2016).

Fred Segal shopping experiences at SLS Las Vegas

Fred Segal

Hermès. Check. Louis Vuitton. Check. Chanel. Check. You’ll find all of these big brands at resorts on the Strip. What you couldn’t get – until now – was Fred Segal.

Established in the ’60s, this iconic retailer from Southern California has made his first foray into Sin City. Segal has created and is curating a shopping experience that spans more than 10,000 square feet at SLS Las Vegas. His seven boutiques offer a broad range merchandise including jeans, jewelry and bathing suits.

“This retail experience is really interesting and different. It’s an authentic experience and not a version of anything else that’s been brought here,” said Segal at a press conference held last week. “I think it’s a truly individual experience for Las Vegas.”

And we think SLS Las Vegas – where luxury meets playfulness, and high-tech wonders meet a vibe of relaxed simplicity  – is a truly unique addition for the city too.

SOURCE: Blog.Vegas.com

A Weekend in Downtown Vegas

BY NEAL BROVERMAN

Ten miles from the Strip lies a much-different Las Vegas, with parks, performance spaces, and even history.

I love Vegas: the messy drunks, ersatz cityscapes, cigarette smoke, even the douchey bros and packs of shrieking sorority girls are strangely familiar and reassuring. All of it just means I’m near blackjack, fancy meals, gay pool parties, and Cirque de Soleil. But it’s easy to forget that people power this adult Disneyland; that a real city exists beyond the neon and plastic.

Maybe that’s why Downtown Vegas fascinates me, since it’s the closest thing to a real city that Las Vegas, home to 2 million souls, can claim. I’m not the only one interested in this once-thriving, long-derelict, now-back-from-the-dead collection of densely-packed casinos, high-rises, and restaurants. Led by Zappos’ young CEO Tony Hsieh, which relocated his shoe empire to the city center, the area is now seeing new investment, development, and young residents. A nascent art scene is headquartered in a downtown hospital-turned-JCPenney-turned-coffeehouse/art gallery. A mini-Coachella debuted in downtown last year, winning praise for its organization and street art. A cultural district is establishing itself around the gorgeous Smith Center, which in September debuts the first performance of Kinky Boots outside Broadway.

My boyfriend is not a Vegas fan. He doesn’t gamble, barely drinks, and house music gives him migraines. So, I lured him to downtown with a promise of a different Vegas experience, complete with a Book of Mormon matinee at the Smith. We stayed at the cabana suites of the 73-year-old El Cortez, the city’s longest operating casino. Recently renovated to look like a Miami Beach resort, the cabana suites are across the street from the actual El Cortez, with its mix of seniors and hipsters (more of the former for now) playing poker and slots. A room key is required to enter the lobby of the suites, which is staffed by a 24-hour attendant and filled with a mega-TV, plush coaches, and constantly-rotating bowls of fruit and candy. Decorated in black, white, and turquoise, the actual rooms are imminently comfortable, with a huge bed we had trouble getting out of every morning. Our view over Ogden Avenue provided a clear view of the curious, but mostly sad, gamblers making their way into the El Cortez; we couldn’t help but guess at their stories.

We didn’t spend much time in the room, with the lights and music beckoning. Unlike the half-mile of crowds and elevated sidewalks separating Strip hotels from Las Vegas Boulevard, downtown’s pleasures are always easily accessible. We made a habit of stopping at The Beat coffeehouse, which occupies the ground-floor of the aforementioned former hospital, now known as the Emergency Arts Center. The coffeehouse is surrounded by a record shop and performance space, while a tiny burlesque museum sits across the agave and soy milk. Above, several floors of galleries and shops occupy old examination rooms, and the whole space holds some of that antiseptic hospital odor.
Passing meticulous murals of zombies and lost souls on nearly every downtown building, we ambled to the city’s container park. Guarded by a praying mantis that spits fire (a remnant of the Life is Beautiful music festival), dozens of giant storage containers are now filled with burlesque boutiques, barber shops, and a BBQ place described by fans as the best in the west. Climb to the third floor for dramatic views of the Las Vegas valley and desert mountains, and peer down at the giant playground or watch the live music that’s a regular feature. A dark tunnel connecting two sides of the park is a perfect makeout spot.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is a bit removed from the action on Ogden and Fremont. We planned on walking to the show, but the heat and a chronic inability to be on time to anything forced us to drive. After nearly locking the keys in the car, we started to race for the front door, but a Smith Center golf cart picked us up so we wouldn’t have to break a sweat. There was enough time to take in the two-year-old arts center, which holds a jazz club and two theaters. Architect David Schwarz designed the Smith to recreate elements of the nearby Hoover Dam, creating an homage to 1920s Art Deco that’s stunning, not schmaltzy. The grounds are pristine, the lobby massive and the show packed. Robbie and I took pictures in front of The Smith’s winged god, which decorates a stairwell landing and mimics the Dam’s angelic guardians. Inside, the main theater is as grandiose as Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, where the Oscars are staged.

It was almost time to gamble (my favorite past time anywhere), but Robbie’s hunger couldn’t wait, so we settled into a table at the Triple George Grill, a favorite pre- and post-show stop that serves San Francisco-flavored fare. Filled will well-dressed locals and in-the-know visitors, the Triple George is very old-school Vegas, with lots of steaks, martinis, and dark wood. Robbie questioned my decision to order salmon in the desert, but it was just as good as anything in North Beach. The TGG’s happy hour is worth checking out, as is their sidewalk dining when the sun isn’t punishing. 

We had a short streak at theDowntown Granduntil someone spilled a drink on the blackjack table. We headed to Fremont Street, a long pedestrian promenade in the heart of downtown. Cheap but legendary casinos like the Golden Nugget dot its sides, and kiosks and live music surround you at every turn. It’s hard to not feel awestruck by the stimuli; next to you is a moving mass of humanity, in front is flashing neon, and above zip-liners cut through the air. Even if the crowd is not as polished as the privileged masses populating the Strip, they’re more entertaining. We danced and held hands as a raggae band played.

We won, we lost, we won, we lost, we came back. We thought we’d pick up something quick to eat on the walk home, but couldn’t resist the temptation of Insert Coin(s), a video arcade/bar that occupies a prime spot in the small, but busy, Fremont East District. After kicking ass on “Terminator 2” — is there a better bonding experience than shooting robots with your boyfriend? — we headed to Nacho Daddy, another local favorite, just off Fremont. Daddy’s barbeque chicken nachos effectively soak up a liquor-filled gut, and my vegan nachos were just as satisfying.

Scarred by the traffic getting to Vegas (a seven-hour+ trip, of which it’s usually four), we decided to leave the next day after brunch. Being no newbie to downtown, I knew I had to take Robbie to Eat. Another walkable spot, Eat has the best brunch, and people-watching, in the city. Musts: cinnamon buiscuits with warm strawberry compote; truffled egg sandwich; shrimp po boy. We drank too much of their mothership roastwork coffee, even if we managed to make it back to L.A. in just under four hours.

I won’t lie. We did slip away from downtown for just a bit. It being summer in Vegas, we had to hit one of the city’s two amazing gay pool parties (we made it to Temptation Sundays this time, but hope to hit Xposed!before the summer’s out). While we never felt singled out as being a gay couple while in Vegas, there is something wonderful about being around other gays and getting affectionate without judgmental eyes. So, when downtown gets its own LGBT pool fiesta (just wait), it may just lure us away from the Strip for good.

See more images of downtown on the following pages. Photos by Robbie X Pierce.

Outside the container park

The Smith Center

Grounds of the Smith

 

GOODBYE KRAVE, HELLO EQUALIBRIUM

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Only months away from what would be Krave’s 10 year anniversary, we received confirmation that on July 27th, 2014 Krave’s doors closed once again at what was to be their temporary home located at the Tommy Wind Theatre. This comes shortly after their previous downtown location slated as “Krave Massive” became what you could call a massive failure after a whirlwind of bad press due to the previous owner Kelly Murphy’s past of indiscretions which included financial impropriety and prison time. August 1994 in San Antonio, TX,  Murphy pleaded guilty to bank fraud  when he got caught using his 7-year-old son’s Social Security number to obtain a total amount of $73,500 on three different bank loans.  Murphy was released from jail in December 1995.

On October 2nd, in an unusual hearing at the Las Vegas City Council Kelly Murphy’s two liquor  licenses were denied and the publicly broadcast meeting ended Murphy’s nightclub career in  Las Vegas and any chance of receiving further city funding. A gentlemen stating his name was Matthew Greppin known to everyone else in Las Vegas as Kelly Murphy’s longtime employee “Tyler Caiden or DJ Tyler Caiden” tried to convince the city council that he had just purchased drink and drag a day before the hearing. Later, the original owner of Krave, Sia Amiri, claimed that he had purchased the Krave Massive liquor licence. All claims were denied and in an immediate response Sia Amiri moved Krave into the old Empire Ballroom space to try and revitalize the name that Kelly Murphy had so badly tarnished with his questionable business practices such as the billboard above Piranha Nightclub, his office space across their street and his constant attacks on Las Vegas Pride with his own “Official Pride Events”.

Who will be Vegas’ next gay megaclub on the strip? The answer is club EQUALibrium.This 21,000  square foot family operated  mega club that is actually located on the strip and not inside a casino, is the newest and largest gay nightclub to be introduced to Las Vegas. Following a multi million dollar renovation Arlene Riccardo says she was eager to launch EQUALibrium.Arlene, a beautiful blonde italian woman from New York, states “It’s always been one of my dreams to have my own gay club. People always say that I am a gay man trapped in a womans body, and its true. I love my gay friends and drag queens and I’m all about equality for everyone. That’s what inspired the name EQUALibrium, equal rights for everyone.” Arlene made it very clear that Club EQUALibrium is in no way shape or form involved with Krave, Kelly Murphy or Sia Amiri.

Club EQUALibrium
has started operating Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays opening nightly at 10pm. The club features the only 18 and over event in Las Vegas every Sunday. Aerialist performers “The Sky Boys” bring exciting entertainment to the nightclub along withthemed nights, drag performances, special guest celebrity performers, cash prizes,  travel giveaways and more every weekend. The venue has absolutely everything. The two level nightclub features a massive theater stage for shows and concerts, a gorgeous balcony terrace with a view of the strip, over 40 VIP booths, 4 huge bars, a brand new state of the art sound and lighting system, confetti launchers, snow machines, and unique visualization shows. When asked about the locals, Arlene stated that “locals will always have an option for free entry on most nights. We love our locals, they are who we cater to more than anything, and they are who nevada needs to give equal rights to, marriage is for everyone, by the way.” The nightclub features the hottest male and female Go-Go’s on the strip, affordable drink prices such as $5 long islands on Saturdays and all you can drink liquor busts. The venue is located at 3765 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Las Vegas, NV 89109 across from the Monte Carlo in between Walgreens and Fatburger. For VIP reservations call 702-763-7077 and for more information visit:equalvegas.com

Knowing Vegas: What’s the most expensive drink on the Strip?

Las Vegas is full of mysteries, even if you’ve lived here your entire life. That said, we want to solve them, so we asked what questions about Las Vegas you’ve always wanted answered. We’ll tackle them one by one in Knowing Vegas.

This week’s question concerns alcohol. What is the most expensive drink served on the Strip?

Well, in a town all about excess, this first one is quite fitting.

The cocktail includes $500 Charles Heidsieck 1981 Champagne Charlie, Rémy Martin Louis XVIII Black Pearl cognac, Sence Rose Nectar, aprioct puree and orange juice.

“The drink was designed with men and women in mind, so the Ono also comes with a set of cufflinks and a gold, diamond and pearl necklace,” XS General Manager Yannick Mugnier told eater.com.

For a limited time only, this drink is a blend of Louis XIII Rare Cask 42.6, Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23-year, Martini Gran Lusso 150th Anniversary Vermouth, D.O.M. Benedictine “Black Monk” 500th Anniversary Edition, Peychaud’s Bitters, Angostura Bitters and garnished with flamed orange oils.

“The Five Star, priced at $5,000, is in celebration of the venue’s five year anniversary. The drink will only be available in 2014 in honor of the landmark celebration,” Tamara Sewell of XS public relations said.

This cocktail is a mix of Cristal Rose champagne, Hennessey Ellipse and 150-year-old Grand Marnier.

“Served with 23-karat gold flakes and liquid gold syrup,” Wynn social writes.

  • High Limit Kir Royale, MGM’s Teatro Euro Bar, $2,200

This drink consists of Louis Roedererr Cristal Rose champagne, Hardy Perfection cognac, Grand Marnier Cent Cinquantenaire and raspberries.

“This $2,200 libation is only available at The Teatro Euro Bar,” Mrs. Glitterati writes.

This is a pricey, “super rare” single malt whisky.

52-year-old rich citrus lemon with peat smoke and hints of spice and wood,” the Wisky Exchange writes.

The cheapest drink on the list is a mix of a rare Johnnie Walker 1800, Sweet Vermouth, Whisky Barrel Aged Bitters and a Maraschino cherry according to Business Insider.

SOURCE: The Review Journal

10 must-visit lobby bars in Las Vegas

It might be hard to believe that some of the best places to spend an evening in Las Vegas are just steps away from your hotel’s front desk. Unlike other cities, the lobby bars here are not necessarily reserved for quiet conversation…nor are they always the precursors to other more hyped bars and nightclubs. Boasting stylish décor, Sin City’s lobby bars are hip spots in their own right. For cool cocktails and a good time, these are 10 of the best.

Art Bar at Downtown Grand

Art Bar at Downtown Grand is appropriately named because its ceiling is filled with paintings done by local artists. Snag yourself a seat on one of the long couches or upholstered chairs and order a cocktail, which will be a masterpiece too. Among your choices are the Van Gogh Espresso Martini, the Guggenheim Manhattan and the Mona Lisa, which is made with Southern Comfort, Smirnoff vodka, crème de menthe and hot chocolate.

With its classy gold and black color palette, Bound by Salvatore at The Cromwell is a dark, clubby bar with the chicest cocktails around. Salvatore Calabrese, one of the world’s leading mixologists, has created a menu of drinks using unusual ingredients in a way that both pays tribute to and defies tradition. For example, the gin-based Breakfast Martini contains orange marmalade. Other standouts include the espresso cocktails, like the Never Say Goodnight, and the well-crafted Cromwell Fizz, which is topped with Moët & Chandon Impérial Champagne.

Petrossian Bar at Bellagio

The elegant Petrossian Bar at Bellagio certainly lives up to the resort’s high standards with its refined seating, sophisticated cocktails and flawless service. In addition to a vodka sampler tray, you can enjoy afternoon English tea service ­– complete with freshly baked scones, Baxters jam and clotted cream. Plus, live musicians (including David Osborne, Norman Vito, Shelly Taylor, Whitney Phoenix, Joey Singer and others) perform on the bar’s one-of-a-kind Steinway grand piano in the mid morning, late afternoon and evening hours.

Vesper Bar at The Cosmpolitan

When you enter Vesper Bar at The Cosmopolitanbe sure to look up. The ceiling is covered with a metal mesh that’s meant to resemble a cloud. Your eyes will also be captivated by mirrors and shimmering silver accents, all of which create a décor that mixes swanky with glitzy glamour. The menu features many classic cocktails with modern interpretations – but by all means, you should try the James Bond-inspired Vesper.

A great gathering spot, the Lobby Bar at Caesars Palace recently reopened after undergoing a major renovation. Blending gold accents with contemporary Roman art, you’ll feel like a god or goddess while you sit back and relax with one of the classic libations. Perhaps a Hemingway Daiquiri or The Chairman’s Manhattan? The signature Cleopatra’s Smile contains Ketel One Citroen vodka, Aperol Apertivo, Pavan liqueur, fresh-squeezed grapefruit and lemon juices, and clover honey syrup. Along with beers and wines, you’ll also discover plenty of fine spirits including gins, vodkas, American and Canadian whiskies, bourbons, ryes, tequilas, rums and brandies from around the world.

Bar Vdara at Vdara

With its light-enhancing sculptural screens and a curved reflecting pool, Bar Vdara at Vdara looks like a cross between a funky gallery and a charming patio. The bartenders have perfected the art of the cocktail here, skillfully crafting drinks with a “modern twist” – like the Maple Manhattan, which is made with Crown Royal Whiskey, dry vermouth, house maple syrup and a cherry garnish. Health-conscious patrons will appreciate the Green Dream and Watermelon Smash, two fresh juice cocktails.

The Lobby Bar at Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa offers an exquisite setting for a drink. Hovering above is a splendid 32-foot-long chandelier formed from cascading pieces of crystal. Drop by the bar for the weekly Wined Up Thursdays event from 5 – 7 p.m. For only $25, you can indulge in bottomless wine and several savory appetizers.

An intimate spot near the front desk, Rojo Lounge at Palms Place is sure to put you in the mood for liaisons (whether dangerous or not), thanks to the sexy red-lit bar and black vinyl sofas. Also contributing to the romance-filled atmosphere is a menu of outstanding cocktails like the Range Rover, Chasing the Dragon, Pushing Daisies and O Captain! My Captain!

Arabesque Lounge at The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa

The Moroccan-themed Arabesque Lounge at The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa is exotic without being ostentatious. Boasting indoor and outdoor seating, it serves up tempting cocktails – such as the Ali Baba, Le Sahara, Agave Margarita and signature Casablanca – with an incomparable visual treat: the sparkling waters of Lake Las Vegas.

Something of a neighborhood pub-style bar, you’ll feel right at home in Sully’s at Bally’s. Situated between the front desk and the casino floor, it offers thirsty visitors a convivial welcome to Las Vegas. Amid wood-paneled columns, you’ll spot TV screens playing all the day’s big games. And with an extensive draft beer selection, there’s no better place to while away a few hours before, after or instead of hitting the town.

In the near future, expect to see two new lobby bars debut on the Strip. On Aug. 23, 2013, you’ll be able to chill out with a drink in the living room-style Monkey Bar at SLS Las Vegas. And in early September, Delano Las Vegas will unveil Franklin, a lounge with a sleek atmosphere. Featuring a hanging art installation that resembles fireflies in the evening sky, Franklin will pour craft cocktails and dish out small plates. In the late-night hours, it will also have club-like elements such as DJ-spun music.

SOURCE: Blog.Vegas.com