Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Neil Sedaka, naughty nurses and Tropicana

I really didn't envision using my blog as a vehicle to comment on Vegas podcasts, but I had a few thoughts about topics inspired by the latest episode of the Vital Vegas Podcast.

The host gushes over Neil Sedaka, who he interviewed. I'm not that much younger than the host, but young enough not to remember how big of a presence Sedaka had in the world of popular music. I know the name, I know he's a big deal, but I don't know much about his music, his career or anything else.

I learned a bit thanks to the podcast, and it was entertaining to listen to the host's interview.

I don't consume any Vegas podcast religiously, but there are a few I listen to with great regularity, and what sets the VVP apart is that the host includes interviews periodically. The interviews are with entertainers, like Sedaka, and Vegas movers and shakers, some of whom are otherwise anonymous to tourists like me. Most of the interviews have been worth the time to listen, even if I didn't think it was a person I was interested in hearing from. I'm not that interested in learning about Sedaka or his career, but I gave it a listen earlier tonight and was entertained.

Kudos to the host for giving me something unique, and highly valuable, via the podcast.

The host also discussed the awkward circumstances surrounding the short-lived existence of a Heart Attack Grill on the Vegas strip. I'll assume you know HAG is a gimmicky, high-calorie burger restaurant downtown. For less than two months it opened a second location on the strip, in a sports bar that once bore the name of Pete Rose.

The host had an explanation for why the HAG was gone within two months. Allegedly the lease was on a month-to-month basis, leaving the building's ownership the ability to sell off the property the restaurant is a part of -- and swiftly kick out its tenants -- for redevelopment by an eager buyer.

That's plausible. And allegedly the HAG ownership wanted to invest more into its leased space, but was unwilling to do so without some sort of lease that extended beyond one month. That makes sense.

What didn't make sense to me, and wasn't addressed by the host, was why HAG moved into the space in the first place.

If you are serious about a restaurant on the strip, and you want to invest in the space you're going to lease, then you don't move in without negotiating a lease agreement prior to occupancy. The former Pete Rose sports bar was already equipped to run a bar/restaurant, so it was probably easier to open HAG there than it would have been in other places. But it's hard to believe a restaurant proprietor would take over such a space on a whim, hoping to get what s/he wants after the fact.

I don't doubt the ownership wanted to invest in the property, and the ownership wanted a longer lease term than 30 days, but I'm skeptical that the lack of a long-term lease was the reason HAG pulled out in less than 60 days.

I suspect the real reason was that, by most online reports, HAG had a tepid reception on the strip. If an established business was failing to drive a lot of traffic through its new doors upon its arrival, (even if it was relying upon word of mouth for advertising,) it was easier to pull out quickly, given its investment into the space was likely minimal by most restaurant standards.

I'm quite certain that if HAG was doing gangbuster business in its first six weeks, the month-to-month lease wouldn't have been enough of an issue to quickly shutter the breastaurant.

Choose to believe what you will. I continue to believe it was a cheap, easy way to try to duplicate the downtown HAG success on the strip, and with early returns as soft as they were, the ownership cut its losses.

One might only have needed to look at how lackluster the Pete Rose experiment was to guess that naughty nurses serving mediocre food wasn't going to set the strip on fire.

Lastly, the host talked about a variety of new show offerings coming to Tropicana, a casino with a great location on the south end of the strip, but one that seems to enjoy "also ran" status.

I was contemplating this today during a discussion thread online about how the big two, Caesars and MGM, are monopolizing the strip and stifling the concept of competition. It's not quite that simple, but that's the general overview of the strip casinos these days.

Tropicana is not part of a strip conglomerate, but it is part of some sort of hotel group. Being the only strip casino in the corporation's portfolio, Tropicana should be operated like a loose cannon. Decisions don't need to be weighed in relation to several properties, and with plenty of people continuing to express dissatisfaction with the big two and their bloodsucking ways, the Tropicana should be selling its old school vibe and offering many of the things Vegas gamblers love about Vegas of yesteryear.

Old school sells downtown, and using that approach, while positioning the property as the only one of that kind on the south end of the strip, certainly couldn't hurt the Trop's bottom line. There's a real appetite for vintage Vegas on the strip, and it's pretty hard to find these days.

It's unlikely that formula would result in record profits for Tropicana, but I suspect it would be well received.