- Virgin Hotels Las Vegas has announced an opening date of January 15, 2021 .
- The new Virgin Hotels Las Vegas location is on the site of the former Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Property.
- The Virgin Hotels Las Vegas casino will be run by Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment with Betfred USA operating the sportsbook.
January 15, 2021: that is the opening date announced by Virgin Hotels Las Vegas at a media event on Thursday afternoon. The announcement was streamed live on the property’s Instagram page:
Property President Richard “Boz” Bosworth made the announcement at the future Virgin Hotels Las Vegas site on Paradise Road and Harmon Avenue. The original plan was to open in Fall of 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic made that untenable. The decision to delay the opening to January 2021 wasn’t a surprise–in fact, the company made this scenario public in a August 21, 2020 press release updating construction progress:
“Construction of Virgin Hotels Las Vegas remains on schedule and the operations team is expected to receive the keys to the property in early November,” stated Richard “Boz” Bosworth,President and CEO of JC Hospitality, owner of Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.“However, due to current COVID-19 regulations, market conditions and recent event and convention cancellations, the ownership group is carefully evaluating the previously announced Fall 2020 opening date.The ownership group expects to have a date identified by mid-September at which time we will provide full details.”
In making the announcement Bozworth admitted that there was plenty of uncertainty about the immediate future but focused on the positive role the new property will play:
“While the future remains unclear related to COVID–specifically what COVID restrictions will be in place in the near future. When will entertainment come back to the marketplace? When will events start being rebooked? We can’t specifically answer that question. But what we do know and what crystal ball is clear is that we’re going to bring positive energy to the city of Las Vegas and Clark County for the new year as we create extraordinary memories and experiences for guests and our team members. As we stated when we closed the Hard Rock ‘lightning will strike twice at 4455 Paradise’.
BUILDING ON THE IMPACT OF THE HARD ROCK HOTEL & CASINO
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opened on March 10, 1995 not far from the former location of Howard Hughes’ ill fated Landmark Casino. It was originally opened as a joint venture between Harvey’s Lake Tahoe and Hard Rock Cafe founder Peter Morton but Morton bought out the entire project in 1997. It’s been through several ownership changes since but has always remained a vital part of the Las Vegas ecosystem. Even as it ceased to be a ‘hip new property’ it has stayed relevant due to their music venue aka The Joint, a decent sportsbook (most recently run by Cantor Gaming, now known as CG Technologies) and a solid dining lineup including one of the best 24/7 options in town (Mr. Lucky’s).
The best way to understand the significance of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s influence on Las Vegas is to look at the media coverage at the time the property opened. The predominant tone was that the property’s ownership was ‘rolling the dice’ by targeting a younger, hipper demographic. There was plenty of condescension such as a New York Daily News story with the headline “Yo! Roll Over, Wayne Newton”. The fact that Las Vegas long ago shed the image of being a bizarro world for unsophisticated geriatrics is due in large part to the influence of the HRH.
The Hard Rock Cafe opened in the 702 back in 1990 and was an instant hit. Las Vegas fixture John Katsilometes looked back at the Hard Rock Cafe’s influence in October 2015 and ran down 25 facts to commemorate their 25th anniversary including:
21. Les Paul once visited the 45-foot neon Gibson Les Paul guitar that hangs at the entrance of Hard Rock Café.
When the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino closed for remodeling in January 2020 ‘Johnny Kats’ was at it again. The headline of his article described the HRH as ‘once Las Vegas’ primary party enclave’. After a fascinating personal account of his memories of socializing at the HRH he gives some perspective on the influence of the property which he eloquently describes as an ‘epicenter of energy’:
Over the decades, resorts chipped away at Hard Rock’s dominance as the place to be seen in Las Vegas. I recall House of Blues arriving and stripping some of that vibe, especially as it plucked Santana for a residency that continues today. The Palms became the next bright-shiny object in 2001, giving way to The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. When that hotel opened in December 2010, a friend texted from Hard Rock that you could actually fire a cannon across the casino and hit only a Mick Jagger memorabilia case.
Today, massive pool attractions are common, high-tech concert venues the norm. Hard Rock’s Vanity nightclub has never been particularly unique, and hotels long ago copped Hard Rock’s emphasis on high-scale restaurants (Palms partnered with Simon himself, and Nobu branched out to Caesars Palace).
That said, I’ll miss the golden era of Hard Rock, especially the boost of energy we felt entering the hotel and hanging with friends. One night, a buddy and were at Center Bar and looked up at the planet Earth, wrapped in a series of musical notes. We were told the notes were from The Beatles’ song “Across The Universe.”
I like to think of it that way, a sweet melody to be played for Hard Rock Hotel, an epicenter of energy that brought a lot of life to mine.
No surprise that Katsilometes was covering today’s announcement:
RESTORING THE ‘MAGIC’ OF THE PROPERTY
In March 2018, the property was purchased by an investment group led by Virgin Hotels and not long after that Sir Richard Branson announced that a complete renovation in 2020 (originally planned for late 2019). Branson also announced that the property will be rebranded as Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. At the time, Branson said that his goal is to ‘put some magic back into [the] property’. The original timeline called for a Fall 2020 reopening but that was before the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic fallout.
Here’s the ‘official’ description of the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas concept from the property’s website:
Virgin Hotels Las Vegas is a reimagined and re-conceptualized casino resort, slated to open in Fall 2020. The property will be a part of the Curio Collection by Hilton™. The integrated resort will intermix a passion for food and beverage with music and culture. The resort will feature three hotel towers totaling over 1,500 Chambers and suites; a 60,000 sq. ft. Mohegan Sun Casino operated by Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment; a five-acre tropical paradise resort pool area; 117,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor meeting and events space; live music and entertainment venue operated by AEG Presents with a capacity of 4,500+; and a portfolio of 12 dining venues including the iconic Nobu and luxury steakhouse MB Steak. The property is owned by JC Hospitality, LLC, in partnership with Juniper Capital Partners, Virgin Group, LiUNA, Fengate Real Assets, Dream and Orlando Development. The off-Strip playground, located at 4455 Paradise Road, is currently closed for renovations. For more information, visit https://virginhotels.com/las-vegas/.
Here’s what Virgin Hotels CEO Raul Leal said as the HRH closed to begin the transformation:
“There’s a legacy here. I’ve been in this hotel many times and I love this hotel. I’m a little sad, but I’m glad we’re the next brand in line to keep it going and continue to make it relevant. I think we’re the right brand to follow this up because our legacy will be music and entertainment as well.”
It won’t be possible to assess whether or not Virgin Hotels Las Vegas is ‘bringing the magic back’ until it opens. That being said, they’ve definitely made some intriguing moves that will at the very least bring some much needed evolution to the ossified Nevada casino industry. Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment will operate the casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. This will be Mohegan’s first entry into Nevada and their selection is an even bigger deal as they become the first tribal casino presence in Las Vegas history. Betfred USA Sports will run the sportsbook–they’re already in Iowa, Pennsylvania and Colorado and any new blood in Nevada’s stagnant sports betting ecosystem is a welcome development. The restaurant lineup also looks solid with some familiar names (Todd English’s Olives and Nobu) and plenty of newcomers including The Kitchens at Commons Club described as a “contemporary American eatery laced with British Brasserie sensibility”. Even more promising–it’ll be open 24/7.
For more on the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas concept check out their ‘fact sheet’: