When Virgin Hotels reflags the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel
& Casino next year, the resulting product will continue to be atypical by
Las Vegas standards.
Virgin Hotels, which debuted with its Chicago hotel in early
2015 as part of Richard Branson's umbrella of Virgin brands, will make the
property's revamped pool areas a focus, will redesign guestrooms into
two-section "chambers" and will include lots of splashes of its
signature red throughout.
While most of its food and beverage plans are yet to be
determined, the hotel, as in Chicago, will include a Commons Club, which is a
rather low-key restaurant during the day and a nightclub after hours.
"We just liked the layout," Virgin Hotels CEO Raul
Leal said of the Hard Rock. "The pools are really the focal point of the
resort. We were really looking to create a destination-resort feel."
Virgin Hotels, along with Juniper Capital Partners and
Fengate Real Estate Investments, acquired the Hard Rock from Brookfield late
last month and said "hundreds of millions" of dollars would be spent
on upgrades, though the company didn't disclose the acquisition price.
The Hard Rock, which will remain open during the renovation,
opened on Paradise Road about a mile east of the Las Vegas Strip in 1995 with
Pamela Anderson, Tommy Lee, Jack Nicholson and George Clooney in attendance.
With Weezer, Duran Duran, Melissa Etheridge, Sheryl Crow, B.B. King, Billy Idol
and Seal playing musical sets at the event, the hotel put much of its focus on
the rock 'n' roll memorabilia that's long been synonymous with the brand and on
to the pool scene.
With 1,504 rooms and a 60,000-square-foot casino, the hotel
is also smaller than many of the hotels found on the Strip.
For Virgin, the acquisition and rebranding represents by far
its most aggressive plans since opening its Chicago hotel three years ago.
Among that hotel's amenities, its rooms were divided by a sliding door into one
section for sleeping and another that includes the bathroom and a
The Chicago hotel also notably offered goods in its minibars
at prices that were similar to those in nearby convenience stores instead of
marking them up substantially, as most other hotels do.
Still, Virgin has not opened any properties since then,
though it is adding a hotel in San Francisco later this year and, simultaneous
with the Las Vegas opening, will be debuting hotels in Dallas and Nashville in
Leal said Virgin will bring in an experienced casino
operator to oversee the gambling operations. He added that the hotel will
feature "lots of high-profile food and beverage operators," though he
declined to offer details.
Regardless, the hotel's relatively (by Las Vegas standards)
small size and off-Strip location makes sense for a brand looking to create a
presence on its own terms, said Jeffrey DalPoggetto, a travel agent with
Travelwize, which is part of Virtuoso.
"Some people go to Vegas and they're not looking to be
right on the Strip" said DalPoggetto, who has booked clients at the Virgin
Chicago. "They just want to be a little removed, where you don't have a
million people in three blocks. I think it's a brilliant move on their part."