If Stephen Siegel has his way, the term "boutique chic retreats" will soon be added to the tourism lexicon.
His Los Angeles-based company, the Siegel Group, is giving an extreme makeover to five properties whose best days, he hopes, are in front of them. More than $10 million has been pumped into the Artisan (blocks from the Strip), Gold Spike hotel-casino and Oasis at Gold Spike (downtown), Rumor (across from the Hard Rock Hotel) and the Resort on Mount Charleston (30 minutes away).
The company's approach to Las Vegas has been to turn timeworn properties into boutique hotels, emphasizing personalized customer service and a Strip-quality experience for downtown prices. From acquisition to renovation, the Siegel Group has spent more than $30 million.
Michael Crandall, Siegel spokesman and director of business affairs, said the company's Vegas properties offer a number of unique attributes.
"The Artisan, there's nothing like it in Las Vegas, even before it had its problems," Crandall said. "With Rumor, we want to make it completely unique, like the Roosevelt in Los Angeles or the Viceroy in Palm Springs. The Oasis at Gold Spike has one of the only pools downtown.
"There are lots of small properties in this town that have been mismanaged. We see them as diamonds in the rough."
The portfolio gives the company a presence in almost every local gaming market except the Boulder Strip, Henderson and North Las Vegas. Not bad for a company mostly known for rehabbing downtrodden, money-losing apartment complexes and weekly motels.
"Las Vegas is not thought of as a boutique hotel city like New York, Miami or San Francisco," Siegel said in a press statement. "We want to create an experience that feels exclusive, comfortable, relaxed and has great value. Each of our hotels provides a reprieve from the grind and grandiose associated with Las Vegas."
The Artisan struggled under mismanagement and eventually entered bankruptcy protection last year, a sad denouement for the property, popularized on TV shows like "Criss Angel: Mindfreak."
Hidden from view off a back street amid lush landscaping, the 64-room, nongaming Artisan features an art-bedecked lobby, distinctive rooms, full-service lounge and restaurant, wedding chapel and pool. All the place needed was some TLC, Crandall said. "The people are coming back."
At the Gold Spike hotel-casino, the 15,000-square-foot casino was gutted and replaced with 200 new slot machines and four table games.
Also new: the restaurants (including a grill), the bar and sports book. Each of the 170 rooms received new desks; dressers; iPod/MP3 decking stations; 32-inch, flat-screen TVs; a retro-beach color motif (black, white and teal); and photos from the Neon Boneyard, the final resting place for vintage Vegas signage.
Presidential suites on the seventh floor received new furniture. The penthouse suites, spanning two rooms, got pool tables or stripper poles to go along with wraparound balconies perfect for parties and people-watching.
A new Oasis
What was a debilitated Travel Inn has become intimate and, well, fun. The downtown hotel located on Las Vegas Boulevard, the 50-room Oasis at Gold Spike now has a look and feel more befitting the famed street. A new walkway connects the Gold Spike to the Oasis, whose pool has been renovated for parties and other events and whose rooms underwent a Miami Beach-like makeover with new carpeting, furniture and remodeled bathrooms. The exterior's mid-20th century design remains intact.
Thirty minutes from the Strip, in the mountains of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, sits the Resort on Mount Charleston.
"The Resort on Mount Charleston is unique for our company because it's not in the city; it's more like a majestic mountain retreat," Crandall said.
Multimillion-dollar renovations yielded new rooms, a pool and a distinctive, suspended, wedding-ceremony deck. The pet-friendly resort is ideal for adventurers and outdoorsy types. Nearby are hiking and mountain bike trails; camping and picnic areas; and skiing and snowboarding (at the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort).
Rumor has it
Large signs hang on an exterior fence on what will be the Siegel Group's flagship property. Rumor, on Harmon Avenue in the building that formerly housed the St. Tropez hotel, opens this month after a $3.5 million makeover.
The hotel's 150 suites will be a study in muted elegance, Crandall said. Swathed in purple and gray, many have private balconies. The lobby is being redone to seamlessly merge with the large pool and courtyard, where Crandall envisions parties, fashion shows, weddings, concerts, free yoga lessons, fundraisers, corporate retreats and more.
"For our other properties, we're catering to people who want exceptional value; they want a boutique experience where employees know your name and are willing to go the extra mile," Crandall said.
"For Rumor, we're a bit more discerning. We want a more discerning customer: big-city travelers who want a special experience; musicians who perform elsewhere but want an intimate, Strip-quality hideaway; affluent customers who don't want to park in valet and walk 15 minutes to their rooms. We've got plans for things on the customer service side that aren't being done in Las Vegas. We want Rumor to be a brand unto itself."
The same can be said of the Siegel Group's long-term strategy, according to the CEO. "We have created a new niche product not available in Las Vegas," Siegel added in a press statement. "When Steve Wynn built the Mirage, people said it would be too big. When he opened Bellagio, they said that it would be too luxurious. Countless naysayers predicted Peter Morton's Hard Rock Hotel would fail. No one thought George Maloof's plan to launch [the Palms Casino Resort] with an MTV reality show ["The Real World: Las Vegas"] would work, but it did."
This report appeared in the June 14 issue of Travel Weekly.