The other Prives

Whale-watching in Bellagio’s high-limit salon, and other private rooms

Club Prive at the Bellagio

Thursday, August 6, 9:30 p.m.

I gave the Bellagio valet my name and inquired, “How do I get to Club Privé?” His pleasant face contorted into a grimace, which I took to be for one of two reasons. Either A) He dreaded having to tell me to get back into my car and brave prime-time Las Vegas Boulevard traffic and go to Planet Hollywood because I was at the entirely wrong casino. Or B) He dreaded having to tell me that Privé Nightclub at Planet Hollywood has been closed since July 28 pending the appeal of the club’s liquor-license denial. And that I was at the entirely wrong casino.

Either way, he grimaced.

If what I’m hearing is to be believed, it seems things have been tough around Planet Hollywood since that property’s only full-scale nightclub was forcibly closed down. A source at Planet Hollywood confided that there has been a big reduction in the number of 21-to-35-year-olds passing through the casino doors on the weekends, not to mention the painful dip in locals on the midweek industry nights. As Privé’s August 18 appeal still hangs in the air along with myriad allegations, no one wants to take sides just yet; the whole casino understandably appears to be in a sort of holding pattern.

But I’m not looking for that Privé. I’m looking for the other Privé. Club Privé is the Bellagio’s high-limit gaming salon, located just off the casino floor. At the mere mention of the word gaming, the valet jerks his head like Flipper and directs me.

“It was never an issue,” says an MGM Mirage rep of the venues’ similarity in name. Technically, the Bellagio owned the name first but in a gaming context, so a Privé nightclub really steps on no toes. Personally, I’m shocked the gaming mega-corporation didn’t deploy a covert posse of ninja lawyers to cease-and-desist Opium Group into forfeiture or tears. So this coexistence is a surprising one. That is, until I saw the place.

No one will be confusing the two—except in name—any time soon. About the size of Tabu’s main room (Tabu, famous as Vegas’ first ultralounge, is also the benchmark of small, opulent places), Bellagio’s Club Privé is a luxurious brown and sable lounge with six gaming tables and a small-but-elegant bar where I now sip plaintively at my Bellagio Martini and mull over the details of the Privé affair, an occupation that requires a very stiff drink indeed.

Nope, there isn’t even overlap in clientele, save perhaps myself. The bartender, Michael, has a greater challenge keeping midwestern tourists on their barstools once they’ve seen the prices than fending off wayward club kids looking for a good time. A drink that would cost $12 at a casino bar swells to $20 just for being consumed at this bar. That’s a Vegas-specific detail that doesn’t always translate.

My high-rolling, cigar-puffing neighbor is downing $25 shots of Crown Royal XR, ostensibly blended from the only barrels that survived the devastating fire that destroyed Canada’s Waterloo Distillery. Michael pours me a little tot. So this is what being rich tastes like. Mmmm. I much prefer it to the smell of the success hovering around my neighbor. Sip. Sip. Cough.

It brings to mind another big stink, a huge rivalry between Vegas’ Tabu and a club elsewhere with the same name. Of course, you can now find Tabus in Orlando; Saugus, Massachusetts; and Ashland, Oregon, not to mention a Tabu swingers club in Catonsville, Maryland, and countless Taboos.

Club Prive at the Bellagio

Sip. Drain. Settle. Tip.

The actual word privé is French for private. Bellagio back in the beginning had another Privé, a hair salon, now closed. Salon simply means room. Therefore Risqué Nightclub’s Salon Privé is just a smaller, more intimate private room off the main club. Chef Joel Robuchon’s Salon Privé is a private dining room the chef personally reserves for his best customers, celebrity friends and über-VIPs, up to 12 at a time and for a $5,000 minimum tab. And CityCenter has been advertising bartending positions in what will soon be Vegas’ next Salon Privé, a bar at Aria Resort & Casino when it opens in December.

Really, it’s no more specific than naming a place the Living Room, or something like that. Wait, Opium Group owns that one, too.


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