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THE MOVABLE BUFFET

New clubs for a new year

January 06, 2008|Richard Abowitz | Special to The Times

THERE are many ways to open a nightclub or restaurant in Las Vegas, but for almost all of them this is the most popular time of year to do so. Most of the clubs are trying to reach the same young, affluent audience of tourists, the young and beautiful locals (who bring the tourists), celebrities (who bring tourists), L.A.'s nightclub elite (who generate buzz), and, of course, all the people who work at the other clubs.

Over New Year's weekend I checked out some of the latest hot spots -- all of them packed to the rafters -- and this is a report from the field:

Prive (Planet Hollywood): Based on the famous Miami watering hole, Planet Hollywood finally has an offering that measures up with the top clubs in Vegas. Some of the lifts and tricks were not yet in place for the Dec. 28 opening, but managing director Greg Jarmolowich said opening by New Year's was too crucial to delay for small details. "All the integral parts are open, but there are a couple of surprises down the road that we could not get finished in time. But the most important thing, our staff is ready."

How ready? Every night, stylists from a local salon arrive to do the hair and make-up for more than 20 female servers and bartenders. "We are really conscious of fashion and image for the club. It assures that everyone has the look that we want them to have and it is well balanced."

The club features a look that embraces both high and low -- offering a massive black lacquered lamp, screens showing scenes from vintage kung fu movies and a variety of hand-beaded chandeliers.

Another thing that stands out is a sound system that focuses the volume on the dance floor while allowing some drop-off to permit conversations at the tables.

CatHouse (Luxor): According to partner/creative director Douglas Leferovich: "We did our grand opening on Dec. 29 because it was the obvious choice for us. New Year's Eve is a big night all on its own. But we wanted to do our big party on New Year's weekend with so many people in town."

CatHouse mixes the two latest crazes in Vegas -- offering both a celebrity chef (Kerry Simon) restaurant and a nightclub. CatHouse mimics the look of a 19th century bordello with women in lingerie sitting in brightly lighted display cases, primping and preening. The light is so bright in the cases that the models cannot see the customers watching them.

The interior offers low ceilings, vintage pinup photos and a maze of nooks and spaces. And, should food and dancing not be enough, CatHouse also sells its own line of lingerie.

The Bank (Bellagio): The Bank occupies the location that was once Light. Light set the standard for nightclubs in Vegas six years ago when it opened, and brought bottle service to Vegas. The Bank (also owned by the Light Group) brings Light up to date with places like LAX, Pure and Tao that have all since joined the explosive Strip nightclub scene that Light helped birth.

Just like at Light, an escalator leads from the entrance to the action inside the Bank. But otherwise it is amazing that 14 weeks after closing Light, such a transformation could have been made to the basic rectangular space.

The Bank has three tiers created by digging under Light about eight feet to put the bathrooms below the club, and also by moving the DJ booth up. The result feels more spacious and allows for a few more of those VIP tables that bring the nightclub scene such profits.

In the days before New Year's weekend the club started soft by throwing open its doors with very little fanfare. The big celebrity grand opening is set for later this year.

The extra time, manager Jodi Myers told me, will allow the club to generate buzz while fixing any kinks before the publicity of a big grand opening.

According to Myers, "The reason it is such a good time to kick off a new club now is that you are rolling into the convention season. Pretty much from New Year's Eve until June, there is something going on every weekend. It was very important to open now, because so many people are in town for the holiday and they can experience the Bank."

40/40 (Palazzo): No practice runs for Jay-Z's 40/40, which held its opening and its grand opening simultaneously on Dec. 30. Because of Jay-Z's (and fiancee Beyonce's) involvement, 40/40 offered the most anticipated opening over the weekend.

The red carpet came with a diverse range of celebrities including Kanye West, LeBron James, Charles Barkley, Pauly Shore, Cindy Margolis and even the Rev. Al Sharpton.

40/40 (named for the home runs/stolen bases baseball feat) mixes a nightclub and sports bar; but what few of the celebrities who arrived realized was how close the actual opening came to being postponed because of all the inspections required by county regulators. In fact, the host casino, Palazzo, barely managed its soft opening a mere couple of hours before 40/40 held its grand opening.

It all went off as if some sort of brilliant plan had been executed. But, Jay-Z acknowledged, there was also an element of chance. Jay-Z actually wanted to open 40/40 weeks ago, but he compromised on the New Year's weekend date.

In the end Jay-Z was pleased how everything worked out. "Things go like they go in a natural progression."

One doesn't see a lot of ministers on glitzy Vegas red carpets; asked if he was in Vegas for the gambling or the drinking, Sharpton demurred: "I don't gamble at all. I don't drink at all. But I came by tonight because Jay-Z and I are friends. I admire his entrepreneurship."

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For more of what's happening on and off the Strip, see latimes.com/movablebuffet.

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