Inside Rob Oseland

Hard Hat Touring The SLS Las Vegas

Posted by RateVegas

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It's a lot of fun to see a place before it opens. It's also a lot of fun to talk to operators. With the good ones, their excitement can be intoxicating. I felt that here too.

Despite so much work to be done, the spaces all pretty much seemed to be up. The restaurants often had some of their finishes already in place, plus the kitchens and back-of-house looked more or less ready to go.

It's really neat to be inside and see a property come to life.

However, I've done this a few times now so I've learned to try not to let the 'fun factor' of a pre-opening tour disconnect me from from reality. I toured CityCenter and Cosmopolitan before opening and in retrospect, feel that I may have succumbed to the hoopla. You can't let yourself get swept away in the excitement of construction. There are still some serious questions to answer, particularly for SLS.

How they're going to get people inside? How they're going to deal with the hulking blue monster that is Fontainebleau? How they're going to avoid the database trap that The Cosmopolitan and their great location fell into? What lessons can be learned from other properties?

On location, SLS holds a mixed bag of obstacle and opportunity. They're positioned at the corner of a very busy intersection and are hard set to siphon off traffic. The neighborhood is full of casino-hotels that are on the lower end of the spectrum - they see an opportunity to be the 'nice place' that Circus and Riviera customers visit - and they're pricing food items with that in mind, vs. just going after the super-high-end. Also, the neighborhood is slated to improve quite a bit over the next few years.

On Fontainebleau, it doesn't sound like there's much love lost between SLS and its abandoned neighbor. Like many I speak to, SLS would love to see it taken down. Notably, even as interest in the North Strip improves, the chatter is about all the parcels *except* Fontainebleau. Carl Icahn may not be able to unload it as easily as he may have once imagined. The construction crane recently was removed so perhaps we'll get our collective wish and the place will be sold for scrap.

On the the lack of customer database, sbe firmly believes that their foothold in Los Angeles and other SLS markets gives them a leg up vs. a place like Cosmopolitan who had NO marketing database when they opened. As they'll say, the sbe F&B outlets they've got in L.A. are proven (at least in a moneymaking sense). Of course, they have the old Sahara database as well, though I wonder how well it aligns with the customers they're shooting for. Interestingly, my question to Oseland about cross-marketing with Hyde Lounge at Bellagio came back with a strange-to-me answer about SLS and Hyde serving 'different audiences,' leading me to wonder if this is a contractual stipulation to refrain from cross-marketing within MGM properties.

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Comments & Discussion

I wonder if being on the strip yet still somewhat remote would force them to, at least in the beginning, offer up an honest game of jack and some decent VP pay tables. If so, I could see having breakfast at the Peppermill and making SLS an early morning gambling event...after I use the bathroom at Wynn of course. Thanks for the article.

Unvarnished reviews, analysis, and a dash of humor are why I come back to this site over and over. Thanks for your thoughts on SBE/SLS.

This answered some questions (how SLS can draw traffic; what is their business model; how well will the old structures handle new hotel trends and needs; will this be tacky or classy)

... and raises some more (why name it SLS and not sbe; how nimble will SLS be as tastes and trends change; who is making the decisions)

I look forward to seeing the finished product, both online and in person. I imagine I'll still be more interested in spending my hipster hours at Cosmo and Cromwell (and my bankroll at Bellagio), but it's nice to have more options and shiny things to explore.

Thanks, Hunter. I look forward to checking the place out. I'm still a bit confounded at the choice to not use one of the most iconic names in Las Vegas history to build a new brand upon, ie: "SLS at Sahara." C'est la Stardust.

A very enjoyable read. I'm excited that they did get the funding to revamp the property. Unfortunately nothing out of your review changes my mind that they are likely to struggle. While I am intrigued that they are saying they are going to try and strike a price point that is higher end then Riviera and CC, but less then high end mid strip, I just don't see anything that says they will be able to manage the 600lb gorilla in the room.

While I know M resort is (literally) miles away in comparison, I'm not sure it's so different for SLS, and add in they aren't likely to attract many locals (outside of the club ladies but only if their nightlife becomes the 'it' place).

1 mile or 30 miles away from the center of the action, is still away from the center of the action. I wish them luck and I'll be visiting the place and if they are looking for mid tier gamblers I'll even likely stay at the place, but I'm not sure the masses are going to turn out in numbers that matter or are sustainable.

I also had a chance to tour the model rooms - and yes, I agree they've worked a small miracle with a 300 sqft footprint. I thought placing the bed in the center of the room was clever, although if it was me sleeping there I would miss the nightstand. The slide-away shower and toilet compartments were interesting - they brought to mind the kind of space optimizing you would see in one of those micro hotels, or an airport nap room or some such.

So kudos in turning the lemon into lemonade. My fear is that ultimately, size does matter. Vegas just isn't a 300 sqft hotel room town anymore. If I'm deciding where to stay and judging the relative merits of SLS, Cosmo, Wynn, etc., I'm going to remember that oh yeah, SLS is the tiny-room hotel. Monte Carlo had a similar problem when converting their smallish room footprint into a Hotel 32 product. The standard Hotel 32 room is simply too small to command prices comparable to other suites, (which is why it's all comped players up there). Maybe SLS's best play is to comp guests into the tiny rooms, and sell the larger ones for cash?

I'm still bearish overall on SLS, despite really liking the design, the F&B, and having a soft spot for Sahara. The location is just too deadly. Think of how you guys have been blaming Downtown Grand's empty casino on its location - the fact that you have to turn your head 90 degrees from the Fremont canopy and walk for 45 seconds. If that's the definition of a bad location, then SLS is screwed.

Great feature, thanks. Never thought I'd be interested in it but might have to make a monorail trip up this fall to check it out. Also great to have the non-scripted comments from management. Next up in the series: the Loveman Love-in, and Murren on Murren

Having the final stop on the monorail is also nice. I've stayed at the LVH previously and I would consider SLS if it has a place to eat open past 9 p.m.

But my ultimate hope is the SLS will be forced to treat guests like, well, guests. Great deals, great gambling and the like.

Have to give Sam credit...they did pull this off...and as the newest property on the Strip, for the first year, they''ll get traffic as far as people just wanting to see the place...

But if they are looking for their L-A club kids to hop on board, are they going to tell them where this place actually IS in relation to the rest of the Strip?

''WTF'' may be the most Tweeted three letters from there for a while...once people find out that the Monorail is their $5 a pop..

Some of the food choices will have me there just to check the place out...surprised they will also have a buffet option...

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