A 70-year-old Englishman, who had spent most of the pandemic on a private Caribbean island, arrived in Las Vegas to take a 15-minute breath and to sprinkle champagne on the Nevada governor.
He got away with it because he was Richard Branson, the star of the night.
“It’s a shame to waste a good bottle of champagne,” said the billionaire in white basketball shorts, a black T-shirt and red Nikes, before popping the cork and shaking the alcohol on a crowd of the media, VIPs and business people let go of the gathered watch him speak at the Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas.
The arrival of Branson, founder of the Virgin brand, marked the start of a grand opening party that would last all weekend. Dubbed the “Unstoppable Weekend,” it began with an event directed by Christina Aguilera at The Theater at Virgin Hotels on Thursday and continues through Sunday with other events, openings and performances.
The property officially opened its doors on March 25th with a teaser party on March 25th, with resort executives planning to throw a second, larger party if they deemed it safe.
“Between the (vaccination) program and all the other initiatives the Governor and the State of Nevada have taken to help this great community, we are now ready to be unstoppable,” said Richard “Boz” Bosworth, President and CEO the resort’s owning group, JC Hospitality, said Thursday.
At a media event on Thursday to preview the weekend, Branson, resort manager and the VIPs in attendance gathered at the Élia Beach Club, which opens in earnest on Friday, and spent 15 minutes meditating through deep breaths. Branson later thanked Governor Steve Sisolak for viewing construction as an essential business during the pandemic-triggered shutdown last spring.
“We wouldn’t be open for another 18 months if you didn’t have the initiative to keep us going, so thanks for that,” he said. The champagne shower followed shortly afterwards.
Sisolak called Virgin Hotels Las Vegas a gateway to the Las Vegas Convention Center.
“This hotel will be the first place people see and hopefully stop and enjoy,” Sisolak told the crowd on Thursday. “When it was Hard Rock, it had a good story. It’s going to be even more great story under the Virgin brand. “
Branson’s visit was his first visit to the property since it was converted from the former Hard Rock Hotel to the Virgin Hotel. Branson said he spent the pandemic getting in shape and spending time with his family and grandchildren on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands.
“If you get stuck in COVID anywhere, the British Virgin Islands will be the most beautiful place in the world,” he said, adding, with a smile, “next to Las Vegas.”
The business tycoon is known for making an appearance at his public appearances or performing some form of daring stunts. Branson opted against one for his Thursday event, in part due to an earlier visit to Las Vegas.
“I almost killed myself jumping off the roof of the Palms building on a windy day in Vegas,” he joked, referring to a 2007 stunt in which he did just that. “So my ass certainly remembers Vegas because I hit the side of the building at 100 mph.”
Branson begged people to get the COVID-19 vaccine so they could protect themselves and have fun in Las Vegas.
Relaxing, invigorating atmosphere
The property is almost complete, Bosworth said last week.
Kassi Beach House, one of the newest amenities, Italian restaurant and nightlife options, opened to the public on Memorial Day weekend.
The Mediterranean-style lia Beach Club in the resort’s pool complex is one of the facilities that will open for the first time during the weekend party. The beach club has cabanas for rent, live music and a relaxed but invigorating atmosphere, according to Jason “JRoc” Craig, managing partner of the club.
At the beginning of each shift, employees participate in breath-based vinyasa yoga to “put them in a space of calm” and promote a relaxing environment, said Craig.
“Everyone has things in front of them in their lives. Everyone probably needs a little health and wellness, ”he said. We could all do that. “
He said the thatched roofs, the sandy beach by the pool and the warm coastal decor evoke the atmosphere of Mykonos. The club’s staff wore beige bikinis, white polos, and brightly colored cabana shorts as they added the finishing touches to the property on Thursday.
Guests are looking for an experience, Craig said, especially since travel has still been canceled after the days leading up to the pandemic.
His goal, he said, is “to be able to bring some of this culture here to Las Vegas and get people to come in and have that feeling”.
By the end of the weekend party, all but one of the estate’s upcoming food facilities will be up and running, Bosworth said.
Sports, restaurant, betting and entertainment venue Money, Baby! will open Friday night and host a UFC viewing event on Saturday night, he said.
Afters Ice Cream is open on Thursday. Todd English’s Olives restaurant is expected to open in late June.
The property’s sports betting offer, which is operated by British Betfred, is not expected to open “at the earliest” before the fall, a spokeswoman said.
Flo Rida and DJ Mix Master Mike will help Aguilera start Thursday’s weekend party. Sisolak is also expected to attend a media event before the party.
Executives had waited for the social distancing and capacity restrictions of COVID-19 to be lifted before holding a second, larger opening, Bosworth said.
“We wanted liveliness. We wanted a party and we wanted it to be safe, ”he said last week. “And we felt it was irresponsible to have a party at this level when you had to have a social distance of 3 to 6 feet, or 75 percent capacity, or no dancing, or some of the all-natural restrictions that were needed (um ) to keep our community healthy and safe. “
The resort’s doors opened for the first time in 415 days at the event in March. The former Hard Rock Hotel debuted with a new owner, casino operator and appearance.
The public got their first glimpse of the property after a 40-minute opening ceremony at the hotel’s East Porte-Cochere, which saw a quartet of bagpipers, a contingent of the Vegas Golden Knights Drumbot Drumline, and a red double-decker bus making its way down the resort corridor and was part of Virginia’s pre-opening advertising campaign.
Costumed and painted actors strode across the casino floor on massive stilts, posed as living statues on a heart sculpture in the lobby and danced near the restaurants.
Most of Virgin’s 1,600 employees are ex-Hard Rock employees, and at the casino half of the 600 slot machines on the casino floor are holdovers from the Hard Rock days and the other half are new additions to the property.
The off-strip resort is part of the Curio Collection by Hilton and combines a passion for food and drink with music and culture with three hotel towers, the 60,000 square meter casino, a five hectare desert pool oasis with a multifunctional event lawn, a live one -Music and entertainment theater with 4,500 seats and 24 Oxford, a showroom for 650 guests.
The restaurant mix includes 12 eateries including Olives, Money, Baby !, Kris Yenbamroong’s Night + Market, Nobu, Michael and David Mortons One Steakhouse, Kassi Beach House from restaurateur Nick Mathers and Casa Calavera from global hospitality company Hakkasan Group.
Other dining options include Afters Ice Cream, Ferraro Family Pizza Forte, and signature Virgin Hotels restaurants and bars, including The Kitchen at Commons Club, The Bar at Commons Club, The Shag Room, and Funny Library Coffee Shop.
Contact Mike Shoro at [email protected] or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.