The Nevada Gaming Control Board recently recommended for approval the sale of the Palms to Red Rock Resorts, aka Station Casinos, which means the Gaming Commission will sign off on September 22, which means Stations will very soon be operating the West Flamingo Road property just off the Strip.
You remember the Palms, right? If you lived in or frequently visited Vegas in the early aughts, you definitely remember the Palms. George Maloof opened it in 2001 and, thanks to his youth-oriented, party-ready vision, fun venues from the Nine Group and an infamous season of The Real World, it became one of Vegas’ coolest hangs, an unlikely hybrid of neighborhood casino by day and celebrity hot spot by night. Its heyday was very much a product of those times—similar to the Cosmopolitan’s buzz-generating arrival in 2010—so it’s a safe bet those same vibes won’t be returning, ever.
But the Palms can and should be cool again. Stations can make it happen, and I’m here to help. Here’s the course I would chart to reinvent what is still one the Valley’s most recognizable resorts.
STAYCATION CENTRAL When locals wanna play tourist, get a hotel room, eat, drink, swim and relax, Station’s Red Rock and Green Valley Ranch resorts are the places to go. The Palms maintains some lovely assets—pools, restaurants, movie theater—that could place it in that category. Offer some legit discounts for locals during slow times and we’ll be there.
GET GRAND The buffet has become an optional amenity in Vegas casinos. It works well for Stations out in the ’burbs, but the Palms’ central location makes the traditional, value-oriented buffet unnecessary. Stations’ Grand Cafe concept, however, is a proven winner all over the Valley and could thrive in Palms’ current Bistro Buffet space.
POLISH THE PEARL The Palms’ Pearl Theater has always been one of the best concert halls in the city, even as many other venues have come online in recent years. But the Baby Boomer-aimed acts that play there—generally appealing to the same demographic as Station Casinos’ live entertainment offerings—just aren’t enough. The Pearl deserves more shows, and artists that appeal to a younger crowd. Don’t go for the millennials; everyone else is doing that. Younger Gen Xers are the sweet spot, people (like me) who partied at the Palms in the past and would love to revisit those glory days.
WILDER NIGHTS Similarly, the Palms’ under-programmed nightlife venues could also get a boost from a certain demo of locals and tourists without trying to compete with the major clubs on the Strip. The common assumption is that Stations isn’t inclined to invest in nightlife, but if you know your history, you know Green Valley Ranch introduced the hip Whiskey Sky when it opened the same year as the Palms. Grab a veteran local programmer (like DJ88 or Warren Peace or some of Downtown’s current noisemakers) and let ’em do their thing at Ghostbar. It could become a favorite again for locals and industry types.
FOOD FIRST In most neighborhoods around the Valley, the best restaurants can be found in Station Casinos. With its high profile and Strip proximity—and aggressive moves from a stellar Stations F&B team—the Palms could be a true foodie destination. I don’t know what to do with that giant Hooters, but I do know that a Stations steakhouse concept (they’re so good) will absolutely kill it in the elevated perch where Nove Italiano currently resides. Turn the failed Chinese restaurant Lao Sze Chuan—now called China House—into a Thai spot, because Las Vegans love Thai food and few casinos offer it. Do sushi with a scene in the still-cool N9NE Steakhouse space. And please, leave Alizé as it is; this fine French jewel is ideal destination dining that will become even more important when big brother Andre’s closes at the Monte Carlo next month.
MAKE IT RAIN What to do with the massive special-event space that used to be the incredibly influential Rain nightclub? It probably won’t make dollars or sense to turn this place back on as a club, but it’s a very versatile spot. The occasional ticketed concert would be nice, or it could be headquarters for seasonal weekend music festivals along the lines of the Matador at 21 fest in 2010 or the Hard Rock Hotel’s recent Psycho metal extravaganza.