We’re less than a month from the opening of Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, and I’m thinking you’re not as excited as you should be. Sure, it’s been pushed back—from November to January to March 25—but that shouldn’t dampen your enthusiasm. Pandemic stuff. If it made sense to swing open the doors to that shiny new grand entrance in the fall, it would have happened. This place wants to see you really badly.
Your Virgin anticipation should be reaching near-frenzy for a variety of reasons, some of which you already know about. Plenty of info about the hotel, casino and restaurants has been released, and the dining lineup in particular should give you a tingly sensation: Hakkasan Group’s Mexican cantina Casa Calavera, LA Thai street food phenom Night + Market, the coastal Italian-themed Kassi Beach Club, the return of Todd English’s Olives, plus an evolution of the original Vegas Nobu and the Morton Brothers’ renovation and expansion of their stellar Hard Rock Hotel restaurant into One Steakhouse.
You probably already know the legendary concert hall formerly known as the Joint will get a new name (it’s currently being called the Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas) and continue to be a major space for music and entertainment events, thanks to a partnership with AEG Las Vegas. What hasn’t been completely revealed—only teased to entertainment writer folks like me—is the full entertainment picture at Virgin and the innovative, organic way its versatile venues might work together to create a very different experience for a Vegas resort.
Head honcho Richard Bosworth, president and CEO of JC Hospitality, owner of Virgin Las Vegas, dropped a lot of hints in November, just before the opening date was delayed again. The theater space will bring the big energy and set the tone, much the way the Joint colored the vibe at the Hard Rock, but many other entertainment experiences will be sprinkled throughout Virgin.
The old Vinyl room becomes 24 Oxford, named for the address of Virgin mogul Richard Branson’s first record store in London, and will have “a bit of a college bar-type of feeling where you can come in, get a little bit more comfortable, and maybe there’s an alt-rock band or a comedy show,” Bosworth says. “It’s going to be a versatile room. When I think of music venues and bars in major resorts, they don’t have that much that plays to that type of casual environment.” There are plans to highlight local musicians and performers there as well.
Commons Club replaces the old Center Bar, though it won’t quite be in the same place, since the entire casino footprint has been altered to improve the flow. It will have more prominent entertainment than the Center Bar ever did, along with different environments, from Shag Room ultralounge to a 24-hour restaurant and bar spacer.
“We’re going to have recognizable artists on any given day or night playing at the bar at Commons Club or at the Shag Room, and the goal is not to advertise or charge for it,” Bosworth says. “We’re going to mix it up, but the whole thought process is a little throwback to old Vegas, when you would walk into a lounge and you never knew who was going to get up and perform—that kind of surprise environment. We want to provide high-quality, exciting entertainment throughout the property as a normal course of business.”
Bosworth has already stated that there are no plans for a big Vegas megaclub at Virgin, but the old Body English space will be redeveloped. The Vanity club space has become Money Baby!, a combo sports bar and entertainment venue.
“We don’t need to be large to be successful, and we don’t need 100,000 or 50,000 square feet to provide that great experience,” he says. “We want to do it in smaller spaces where we can pay more attention to the customer and allow a more intimate experience with entertainment and great service.”
If you prefer a more expansive space, you’ll find it outside at the five-acre pool and entertainment complex dubbed the Backyard. Virgin’s versatile event lawn will have fire pits, birdcage seating, shrubbery and block walls that separate the space from a path winding around the pools and various restaurant patios as well as an indoor event space called the Manor.
Bosworth suggests the outdoor area will provide a Hollywood Bowl-type concert experience, and it will also be available for private events and weddings. The Hard Rock was known for its legendary Rehab pool parties, but this backyard space wasn’t originally designed for different events. Now it is, between a designated, relaxing resort pool experience and the event lawn. And in April, a separate, two-story dayclub will arrive, which Bosworth expects will compete with the biggest pool parties on the Strip.
“The exception, I think, that will take it to a different level is adding some music festival elements, something you might see at Burning Man or EDC or Coachella,” he said. “We felt that was very important, with today’s generation of outdoor festivalgoers, to not just be a pool party but give it more of a festival element.”
Are you excited now?