Friday, January 27, 2012
Could an Ace Hotel Make it in Vegas?
Just over a decade ago, Downtown Los Angeles was a wasteland. When The Staples Center opened and brought The Lakers and Kings Downtown, things began to change, and just over ten years later, DTLA is on its way to becoming the hippest part of Los Angeles, with interesting new bars and restaurants opening there seemingly every weekend (if you haven't had the burger at Lazy Ox Canteen or an Old Fashioned mixed at Seven Grand yet, you're missing out). AEG is close to completing their evil master plan of building an NFL Stadium in Downtown, which will (in addition to downgrading Sunday traffic on the 110 from "pretty-rough" to "an endlessly horrific Lynchian/ Kafkaesque waking nightmare state from which the only escape is death or madness") bring even more people flooding to the area. A less publicized but equally important sign that the hood is becoming the hippest segment of Los Angeles is the fact The Ace Hotel chain have chosen the old United Artists building in Downtown as the site of their first Los Angeles location. The LA Ace will undoubtedly draw in hipsters by the droves looking to check out the cool bars, trendy restaurants, top DJs, eclectic films playing in the restored movie palace, and coke fueled hotel room parties that will inevitably be part and parcel of its raison d'etre.
For those not in the know, the first Ace Hotel opened in Seattle in 1999 in a converted halfway house and was designed to appeal to "the creative class" (sound familiar to anyone?). The quirky original hotel became a runaway success with Seattle's proto-hipsters in the early 00's, and now there are locations in Portland, New York, and Palm Springs (which seems like a strange location for a hipster-bait hotel until you realize its proximity to Indio makes it the number one choice for concert goers looking for a place to party and crash during The Coachella music Festival). The various Ace locations feature diners that serve organic foods and locally sourced Coffees while you eat at communal tables, lobbies that play indie rock and obscure classic cuts as background music, bars that serve Craft Beers and labor-intensive Cocktails, Hotel Rooms with bunk beds and animal murals, Green-friendly design, Spas that feature natural and organic treatments, "Swim Clubs" where you can enjoy DJ sets, concerts from hip indie bands, Yoga classes, and "impromptu dance parties," and a vibe that is just generally (and self consciously) cooler than any other hotel you've ever been to.
There is something inherently ridiculous about The Ace Hotels' calculated obsession with coolness, a ridiculousness exploited to perfect effect in a hilarious sketch from the first season of Portlandia. But there is also something irresistibly awesome and fun about them, as the hotels generally pull off their goal of being the heppest place to stay and play in every town in which they're located. I've had amazing experiences on the weekends I've partied at an Ace Hotel, which has led me to contemplate the question at the heart of this very blog post: could an Ace Hotel thrive in Las Vegas?
The obvious place to put the Las Vegas Ace would be in Downtown, preferably on or as close to Fremont Street as possible. Downtown has clearly become the center of Hipster-Vegas culture, as its the location of The First Fridays art walks as well as hipster approved watering holes like The Griffin and Beauty Bar. It's also a perfect location for an the chain since all of the previous (and future) Aces are located in refurbished hotels that build the classic style of the previous occupant into their design. Surely, there is an aging Casino that could be converted and face-lifted into an ultra-cool Ace location somewhere on Fremont Street?
Obviously, no other Ace Hotel has a Casino on its premises. The Ace Vegas could be a non-gaming boutique, but I actually think that if they teamed up with someone who knew how to manage a casino, they could do well... especially if they put more thought into their gaming floor than the owners of The Cosmo have. And if the Casino had an interesting theme, a cool vibe, minimum bets that were as low as the rest of the places in Downtown, and cute cocktail waitresses passing out free PBRs, you might end up seeing plenty of mustachioed gentlemen and glasses sporting women sitting around gaming tables and losing their money to The House.
The real question is if The Ace opened in Downtown, would people come? I certainly don't think an Ace Hotel that cost $2 billion to build and was the size of a Strip mega-resort would survive in Vegas. But if the owners of the chain could find a smaller old hotel to renovate in Downtown, they could do very well. If the theoretical Ace Las Vegas played its cards right, it could become the cultural center of the young and artsy, throwing First Friday after-parties with cool DJs spinning deep cuts, hosting up and coming bands that might not play in Vegas otherwise, showcasing alt-comedians who wouldn't feel at home sharing a stage with burlesque dancers, pouring the best craft brews and mixing the most creative cocktails in town, displaying interesting work from local artists, hosting indie film festivals, and becoming the hotel equivalent of The Double Down Saloon. Hipsters are everywhere, even in Las Vegas. Isn't it time they got their own hotel in Sin City?