In shedding Gold Spike, The Siegel Group reminds that anything’s for sale

Bartender J.C. Kelley pours a couple of colas about an hour before the doors closed for the final time April 14, 2012, at Gold Spike casino in downtown Las Vegas. The Gold Spike is reopening Monday, May 6, 2012, as a bar and restaurant.
Photo: John Katsilometes

Last call at Gold Spike

Siegel Group exec Steven Siegel and Michael Crandell pose at an about-to-be-decommissioned cashiers cage at Gold Spike.

Gold Spike customer Jack Whitworth, who has been a frequenter of the hotel-casino since the late-1950s, takes up his usual spot on the corner seat at the bar.

The entrance of Golden Grill on the final day of operations at Gold Spike.

Michael Crandall orders a bottle of water from the waiter at Golden Grill at Gold Spike hotel-casino.

“Sorry, we’re out of bottled water,” he is told.

“OK, just a regular ice water,” Crandall says.

Crandall is then asked why his company, The Siegel Group, has sold Gold Spike.

“We were made a great offer,” he says. “Everything has a price. This shirt I’m wearing, it has a price.”

OK, what about $40?

Crandall says, “Sure,” and starts to pull off his green, V-neck T-shirt.

OK, stop. We get the point.

Owned by The Siegel Group for about five years, Gold Spike has been sold and closed. Last call was Sunday afternoon, as hotel guests were offered food and drink specials and commemorative hats, T-shirts and plastic cups bearing the now-antiquated Gold Spike logo.

The Gold Spike’s buyer is Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project, and the terms of how and when the hotel would close were made by Hsieh. The total purchase price of the hotel-casino, which includes the 57-room Oasis at Gold Spike, is a reported $27 million.

The Siegel Group, which in August contracted Fifth Street Gaming to run Gold Spike’s gaming operations, originally paid a total of $26 million for the property ($21 million for Gold Spike and $5 million for the old Travel Inn Motel). So Siegel’s company did turn a profit in its five-year run as owner of Gold Spike.

Siegel calls his company’s first foray into hotel-casino ownership “a learning experience” and remembers the grand reopening of Gold Spike three years ago, when customers poured into the resort at the ribbon-cutting — and quickly began snuffing out cigarette butts on the new carpet.

“I saw that and went, ‘No! Not the new carpet,’ ” says Siegel, who added that even after just three years of post-renovation operations, Gold Spike was again due for a good cleansing.

But the casino was in relatively good repair as guests hung out at the last party, which was similar to the closing of many Las Vegas resorts. Guests were apt to take anything that wasn’t literally bolted to the floor — one patron with an eye for expedient home decor hauled a fake plant through the casino’s main entrance.

A few longtime Gold Spike customers tore up Gold Spike fliers near the casino bar and flung them airborne as a kind of impromptu, if bittersweet, celebration. A sole diner at Golden Grill just upped and walked out of the cafe without paying her tab 90 minutes before the doors closed.

There was the requisite, widespread grousing, of course. Displeasure was evident throughout the hotel as the clock inched toward the scheduled 3 p.m. closing time, though the hotel did remain in operation for about an hour later.

A gentleman seated at the corner of the bar sat next to a flat draft beer, his face fixed in either a smirk or a grimace.

He’s Jack Whitworth, a regular customer at Gold Spike for 30 years, when resort pioneer Jackie Gaughan owned the hotel-casino. As is the case for many yearning for the days when such mavericks as Gaughan lorded over downtown Vegas, Whitworth’s memory is tinged with nostalgia.

“They don’t treat the customers like they used to, that’s the biggest difference,” said Whitworth, long retired from his job working for Clark County’s IT department. “You used to see Jackie around here all the time. But everything is so corporate now, bottom line. I used to see (Stephen) Siegel around here a lot after he took over, but even that has changed.”

Whitworth spent time every day on his perch at the corner bar. “I’ll be at El Cortez now. Jackie’s still around,” Whitworth says. “Or the old Fitzgerald’s (the D Las Vegas) or the Fremont. I’ll be somewhere downtown, and I’ll be at a place where you don’t need to spend $5 on a hot dog or $6 for a pack of cigarettes.”

The future of Gold Spike in downtown Las Vegas will not be as a hotel-casino. The likely outcome is for Hsieh’s group to turn the property over in 30 days, remaking the building as a bar and restaurant. The Siegel Group holds the license to the name “Gold Spike,” but the new owners are allowed to use that name for up to two years if they choose.

One outgoing employee, bartender J.C. Kelley, has been working at Gold Spike throughout The Siegel Group’s reign over the hotel-casino. He’ll continue working private VIP events for Siegel. About 40 of the 65 employees hired by Siegel will be reassigned to one of the company’s hotels. Many are taking part in a job fair scheduled Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. at Downtown Cocktail Lounge.

“I hope I can work for Tony Hsieh,” he said while pouring one of the final rounds of drinks at the hotel. “But this has been lotsa fun, brother. There has never been a dull moment at the Gold Spike.”

The Siegel Group is not finished with its deal-making in Las Vegas. It is possible Siegel will shed his other boutique properties — Rumor, Artisan and the Resort at Mount Charleston — and hard-focus his energy on a single downtown resort. A classic Vegas property, something where the company’s entire hotel interests are under a single roof.

The company might even ditch plans to fully renovate Atrium Suites on Paradise Road, which it purchased in January 2012.

The company has received overtures to purchase Atrium Suites, which is the old Crowne Plaza property, ever since it took over that project and continues to listen to potential buyers. Whether they’re offered enough to shed their shirts remains to be seen.

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