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As lounges fade from Las Vegas, here are some that we miss the most

Updated May 24, 2022 - 1:16 pm

As anyone who has followed out exploits over the years knows, the lounge scene is our babbling brook.

The lounge is where we first met Earl Turner, Lon Bronson’s Band, Frankie Moreno, Zowie Bowie, Skye Dee Miles, and the first version of David Perrico and the Raiders House Band. The lounge is where we first felt “The Healing” from Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns, too.

But the lounges are vanishing from the VegasVille landscape. This has been going on for years, unabated. Lounges are not profit centers. But they are entertainment centers, important amenities for tourists, conventioneers and Vegas residents seeking a great time at low or no cost.

Like Joe Bob Briggs caterwauling about the collapse of drive-in movies, we bemoan the closing of these classic showrooms.

The nostalgia warmed over us on Saturday night at Trago Lounge at the Tropicana.Trago is a lounge only by name, actually a small nightclub. It’s a polished place where DJs and karaoke carry the entertainment, otherwise completely devoid of personality. The place looks kind of like a big bird cage, actually. They should give out shots to anyone wearing a feathered boa.

By the time we left the Trop, we had a mental lineup of Vegas lounges we miss. These rooms were set up in hotel-casinos that are still standing. So, you won’t see (for instance) Le Bistro at the Riviera, Starlight Lounge at Desert Inn, or the other Starlight Lounge at Stardust. But we miss them, too.

Ovation Showroom, Green Valley Ranch

Bronson played there for years, joined on onstage by such celebs as Joe Walsh, Drew Carey and David Cassidy. Brody Dolyniuk rocked with Yellow Brick Road and also showcased his rock ‘n’ roll impressions show there more than a decade ago. Berlin, Michael Grimm and Damn Yankees also played Ovation, built specifically for live music. It’s Green Valley’s bingo center now.

Ovation was usually a regular stop, especially on weekend nights. But I’ve been in there just once since November 2012, to call a celebrity bingo tournament.

“This is a nice place,” I said to the players. “It would make a great live-entertainment venue.”

Lounge at the Palms

The new ownership is enforcing live entertainment across the property. Too bad the very chic Lounge was taken down in 2015. It was once the home of Santa Fe, Perrico’s band, Matt Goss and also the Playboy Comedy Club. The space was partially overtaken by the High Limit room, which is fun to look at from a distance. Under San Manuel ownership and steered by GM Cynthia Kiser Murphey, the Palms is admirably moving live entertainment around to several platforms, among them Unknown bar, Mabel’s, and the new William Hill sports book. The hotel could really use a killer room like the Lounge, which was made for that vibe.

Cleopatra’s Barge

A look at the shuttered Cleopatra's Barge at Caesars Palace in September 2020. (David Perrico)
A look at the shuttered Cleopatra's Barge at Caesars Palace in September 2020. (David Perrico)

An aftermarket concept, twice over, at Caesars Palace. The company took a latent nightclub and molded into a hybrid open lounge/ticketed showroom (Zowie Bowie and Reckless in Vegas actually played a few dates there, before Perrico’s band). Soon, the Barge it was closed off with glass and curtains, its watery moat was drained. Goss moved to the Strip, and Wayne Newton and Dionne Warwick also later headlined ticketed shows, Perrico was blowing it up late nights on Fridays and Saturdays, with Paul Shaffer, Cee Lo Green and Blues Traveler playing limited engagements. It was a smooth sail until the room went dark for COVID, then was closed officially a year ago. Caesars, home to the great Circus Maximus showroom, Nero Nook, Olympic Lounge and the Barge, now has no such entertainment venue.

Le Cabaret

A smokin’ little club draped in crimson that opened to the Paris casino floor, Le Cabaret is also a casualty of Caesars’ draw-down of live venues. This is where Pop Rebels, Generation Band, Lisa Marie Smith’s LMS band, Perrico’s Pop 40, the R&B bands, In-A-Fect, 4Front and multi-lingual vocalist Angelina Alexon performed in rotation. Salt-N-Pepa played a pop-up show in 2018, ahead of their “I Love the ’90s” residency at Paris Theater. Le Cabaret is now shut down for live music, but still a pretty place, all cleaned up with nowhere to go.

Plaza Lounge

I saw the legendary Treniers there more than a decade ago, and also a disco-boogie band a few months back. But the venue has since been halted for live music. We are excited about the Sand Dollar Downtown, which just opened. That will satisfy our lounge-like needs, and also pizza needs (Pop Up Pizza serves in the venue).

Tropicana Lounge

See above. We met the fiery Skye 5 band at the Tropicana Lounge, celebrated two birthdays at the venue, and once grooved it up with members of “Folies Bergere” near the end of that show’s run. So great, and would be an apt post-show hang for “Legends,” “MJ Live” and Purple Reign in the main theater. But that’s just me, being a consumer …

Casbar Lounge

Sahara has since opened an upgraded Casbar Lounge just off the casino floor. Very chic spot. But its legendary Casbar venue, was still hopping when the hotel was shut down in 2012, later overhauled as SLS. Up to its final night, Casbar percolated with Vegas history. The lounge’s stars dating to the 1950s included Don Rickles; Freddie Bell; and Louie Prima and Keely Smith with Sam Butera and the Witnesses.

We often hung with The Checkmates in the original Casbar and some all-women, heavy metal tribute acts that were pretty wild. One night, Marvin “Sweet Louie” Smith introduced a dignitary, who was purportedly watching from the back of the room.“We have the former heavyweight champion of the world here! An Olympic gold medalist! Leon Spinks!” Then the singer stopped and said, “Oh! I wait! That’s not Leon! I apologize, Ma’am! I couldn’t see you in the dark!” Classic lounge shtick, and try the veal.

Cool Hang Alert(s)

The Vegas lounge tradition survives in these locales:

Station Casinos: Lumping into the same listing Rocks Lounge at Red Rock, Chrome Showroom at Santa Fe Station and Club Madrid at Sunset Station. Station Casinos Entertainment Director Candace Davis-Martin is impressively plugged into the Vegas entertainment community, and the quality of these shows is as high as a Chris Phillips leg kick.

Rhythm & Riffs: Mandalay Bay’s no-cover venue has evolved from its Mizuya Lounge days, confusingly named for the adjacent sushi restaurant. Rhythm & Riffs snares the walk-out crowd from Michelob Ultra Arena, and the walk-in crowd to Light Nightclub. The action runs from 10 p.m.-2 a.m., bunch of great cover bands and artists, and a dance floor (or, if you will Groove Deck).

Grandview Lounge: South Point’s small venue is alive with piano master and showman Wes Winters and the “Dirty at 12:30” comedy showcase. You sort of happen upon this space, but it’s sticky. Which is to mean, you hang longer than planned. Clapping emojis to South Point Entertainment Director Michael Libonati for carrying owner Michael Gaughan’s vision to stage value for locals and his loyal gaming customers.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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