One of the best gets better: The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino shows off property improvements

Change is in the air at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The resort recently unveiled the results of a series of lavish renovations. Several new dining and entertainment venues are also under construction during the summer 2012 season.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino continually reinvents itself based both on current trends and guests’ requests. In 1995, when it opened on the corner of Harmon Avenue and Paradise Road, the property was pulsating with a rock ’n’ roll-infused vigor. A mecca for the young and hip, it quickly became known for hosting the hottest artists and bands in the music industry – and that still holds true today. But now, 17 years later, a minor makeover of sorts is underway inside the older Casino Tower. It will not only enhance the retail experience and improve service standards, but also introduce new dining, gaming, nightlife and music offerings.

The Hard Rock Store

The Hard Rock Store has a new look – as well as lots of Hard Rock-branded gear – for guests to enjoy.

To begin with, The Hard Rock Store was moved from its original location in April. Formerly 3,300 square feet, the gift shop has decreased in size significantly – to 1,100 square feet. It boasts a chic new look that includes hardwood floors, granite countertops and metal accents. In addition to a large collection of logo souvenirs, books and photos, The Hard Rock Store stocks a variety of designer swimwear and apparel.

“We carry Love This Planet,” said Kerri Matherly, the director of retail operations, while pointing out a fashionable canvas tote. Encompassing all things green, the trendy lifestyle label is the epitome of conscious couture. “We’re the only place in Las Vegas where you can get this brand.”

Other refurbishments are visible at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino as well. For example, guests now get a fabulous first impression of the resort the minute they check in.

“One of the things we’re really proud of is the new front desk,” said Travis Long, the vice president of hotel operations.

Basically, the whole registration area has been remodeled. The focal point is a panoramic video display wall made up of 24 high-definition digital monitors. They span a total of 55 feet. Not only are the screens eye-catching, but they are also moveable – meaning each one can slide out to create a 3-D effect.

“We can put advertising and concert footage up on the screens, and they can also do a variety of fun interactive things,” explained Long. “If you’ve arrived for a special occasion, like a birthday or a bachelor party, there’s going to be a keyboard where the agent can type that in. Then a message will pop up on the screen – maybe The Beatles will appear singing ‘They say it’s your birthday.’ Also, if we have any groups arriving, we can section off some of the screens and display a company logo.”

The Registration area at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

The remodeled registration area at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino captivates guests with stunning landscapes and other media presentations on a 24-screen video display wall.

The registration area features remodeled concierge and bell desks as well as brand new kiosks for members of Backstage Pass, the resort’s innovative gaming club. These facilities are all colorfully labeled in purple and pink neon and feature dark granite countertops.

“We’re not as large as some of the Strip resorts, so if you need to get information from the concierge or want to register for a players card, it’s not a hike,” said Long. “Everything is accessible here. We’re a one-stop shop experience.”

Big spenders at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino are being catered to in the Peacock high-limit gaming area. Located on an elevated platform off the main floor, the name refers to Jimi Hendrix’s peacock vest, which was among the memorabilia once housed here. Now you’ll find gold and white drapes as well as a dimly lit bar in the stylish circular room.

“The slot machines will come out in a few weeks and be moved to a high-limit slot area in the casino,” said Javier De La Rosa, the vice president of casino marketing.

Currently, six games – including blackjack and roulette – are positioned in a round-table fashion. There will be a total of nine tables when the project is completed. The Peacock features a private back room, where any game a guest requests can be set up. There’s also a food menu, so players can eat while gambling.

“Minimums usually range from $100 to $500,” added De La Rosa, who also noted that the Peacock has its own cashier cage.

On the opposite side of the casino, another high-limit pit is in the works targeted exclusively to the resort’s Asian clientele. It will have baccarat and pai gow tables, along with a lounge that serves tea and food.

The patio-style seating at Mr. Lucky's Cafe

As part of a modern transformation, Mr. Lucky's Café has gotten patio-style seating and expanded its fare.

Speaking of eating and drinking, several developments are occurring on those fronts too. Just completed is the remodeling of the beloved 24-hour Mr. Lucky’s Café. In addition to a new patio-style seating area with a view of the casino action, the restaurant has gotten chic furnishings and décor enhancements, such as metallic pendant lighting. A display of high-definition TVs is situated above the now-exposed kitchen.

“We’ve had quite a rebirth,” said Kurtess Mortensen, the resort’s executive chef. “It meant freshening up Mr. Lucky’s Café and giving it a new look for a new generation. This wasn’t just about the walls and paint, as we’ve introduced a bunch of new food items.”

Indeed, the menu has been expanded to feature Italian fare and pizzas. Alcoholic milkshakes (imagine flavors like vanilla caramel and orange Sprite!) have been introduced and are already popular. A selection of mini desserts – everything from tiramisu to apple pie – is available. Plus, the signature diner cuisine remains. Although not on the menu, you can still order the unbeatable $7.77 steak special at Mr. Lucky’s Café.

Among the notable foodie launches is Culinary Dropout. It will open on Aug. 21. The eatery with a rebellious attitude was created by restaurateur Sam Fox and comes from Scottsdale, Ariz. Guests are sure to relish the funky hangout’s relaxed ambiance where the staff is uniform-free. There will be creative libations from the bar, a Sunday brunch and live music on the weekends. The indoor/outdoor space, which is adjacent to the pool, has seating for up to 320 people.

“We take foods that are familiar and give them modern preparations,” said Frank Giacomini, the regional director of operations for Culinary Dropout. “The restaurant is very chef-driven and very culinary-intensive.”

The site of Culinary Dropout

This is the site of Culinary Dropout, a hip gastropub with innovative cocktails that will open on Aug. 21.

Following on the heels of Culinary Dropout, The Ainsworth will kick off operations over Labor Day weekend. Similar to the original location in New York City, this venue intends to combine high-end cocktails with sports viewing.

“Basically what we do is create a nightclub vibe for Sunday football. We’ll really take sporting events to the next level,” said Matt Shendell, the president of Paige Management, which owns and runs The Ainsworth.

The upscale bar will foster the duality of being a sports/nightlife venue by covering all of the televisions with two-way mirrors. Utilizing sophisticated antique finishes, guests won’t see the TVs unless a game is being broadcast.

The Ainsworth will also have a limited menu of about 10 items (things like tuna tartare tacos and pulled pork sliders) during sporting events. Signature cocktails from New York City will be dispensed – including the Big Ginger, the Pine and the Antique.

Last but definitely not least, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will debut a concert venue called Vinyl. Located near Rocks the Jewelers and Pink Taco, it will cultivate a more intimate feel with a seating capacity of 650 people (compared to 4,000 people at The Joint). The atmosphere will be reminiscent of a blues club in Chicago. Expect an industrial look with brick walls, wood floors and an exposed ceiling.

A rendering of the Vinyl music venue

A rendering of the new live entertainment venue Vinyl, which is scheduled to debut in late summer.

“Vinyl will primarily be a live music venue, not a nightclub,” said Paul Davis, the vice president of entertainment. “We will have a very broad demographic of bands booked in here. There will be indie groups and local acts. We’ll do late-night comedy and possibly late-night burlesque and sports viewing.”

Programming will be very similar to what you would find at The Viper Room in West Hollywood or The Roxy in London. A multifunctional room, Vinyl will allow bands to get up-close-and-personal with their loyal supporters while capturing the interest of new fans.

“This will be a place for local acts to grow and build their careers, and it will be an incubator for baby bands on the rise…so that hopefully, a year or two later, they’ll be selling out The Joint,” said Davis.

Recharged. Refreshed. Ready to serve a new generation. When it comes to renovations, a tradition of trendiness continues at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Although it looks and sounds like a lot of work, when everything’s said and done, visitors to Las Vegas are sure to appreciate the effort!



I’m a Las Vegas native. By profession, I write at Mostly about the city’s hotels, but on other topics – gaming and transportation – too. I really love staying at hotels. And the ones here are among the biggest and best in the world. Some key things I’ve learned: Resort fees are inescapable (frustrating but true), a friendly attitude at the front desk may score you a great view and over-the-top room amenities – bath butlers, Japanese tea service, menus with “intimate” items – do exist. What else should you know about me? Well, I’m comfortable at a blackjack table. And I like eating late-night pancakes in hotel coffee shops. A lot. Follow Renee on Google+.