Back in 1999 I was a sophomore in high school, 15 years old and enjoying my golden year (I had my first real kiss) and Vegas was too. In 1999 Las Vegas became the world’s most visited place, with 37 million tourists a year, hosted its highest grossing concert ever, Barbara Streisand’s New Year’s Eve show at the MGM Grand, and welcomed three new casinos to the Strip – the Venetian, Paris and Mandalay Bay. Together with the Bellagio (opened in ’98) the properties marked the onset of a new era: post-mafia, non-kitsch and not-for-kids.
Also in ’99, AJ’s Steakhouse, modeled after the classic 1960s Vegas steakhouses, opened in the Hard Rock. On December 13th of this year, at midnight, the restaurant will close its doors for good.
In 2008 the trend of recent years continues: vaster, sleeker, sexier. A couple of years ago, Morgans Hotel Group bought the Hard Rock, and next year they plan to renovate and expand, adding towers, meeting spaces, restaurants and a new music venue that will adopt the name the Joint. Where A.J.’s has stood for nearly a decade, a new steakhouse will welcome carnivores, Rare 120 Steakhouse. As an A.J.’s hostess explained, it will be like the rest of Morgans’ projects: classy, modern and chic – in other words, a total departure from the current look.
So it’s time to get nostalgic for ’99, although it doesn’t seem like all that long ago. As a farewell, AJ’s is inviting guests to “Dine Like It’s 1999” with menu items priced similarly to when the restaurant first opened. The New York strip steak, for example, costs $44 in 2008, but when A.J.’s first set up shop it was only $33. A.J.’s will also bring back the trademark grand piano every Friday and Saturday night from 9 p.m. to close with local pianist, Peter Radd playing 1960s favorites. So, take the opportunity for a discounted steak, an atmospheric date and a chance to say goodbye to the old Hard Rock and ruminate on the inevitable progression of time and Las Vegas construction.