SLS Las Vegas Makes its Mark on the Strip

Fireworks and a concert by rocker Lenny Kravitz heralded the opening of the SLS Las Vegas at midnight Aug. 22, signaling the entry of the stylish SLS Hotels brand—SLS stands for Style, Luxury and Service—popular in South Beach Miami, Los Angeles and New York into the Las Vegas market.

“The opening of SLS Las Vegas is a major milestone, not only for the expansion of the SLS Hotels brand, but for the future of Las Vegas,” Sam Nazarian, founder, chairman and CEO of sbe, said in a news release the day of the property’s opening.

The “lifestyle-driven” property, built by sbe, a global hospitality leader, is the result of a $415 million renovation of the legendary Sahara Hotel into the Strip’s newest hotspot. It’s fitting that this swanky boutique hotel was once the playground of the Rat Pack, Louis Prima, Elvis and, for one shining night in 1964, The Beatles, who stayed there while they played two concerts at the nearby Las Vegas Convention Center.

While featuring a hip, modern vibe and design, the SLS still manages to rekindle that spark of old Las Vegas, with the casino still the center of the action, cool bars and nightlife and restaurant concepts.

“We are very proud of the Sahara legacy,” Sam Bakhshandehpour, president of sbe, said in press materials released for the opening. “The Sahara was an iconic property and those who have studied the history know everyone from the Rat Pack to Elvis to The Beatles stayed here. The legacy of the Sahara was really important to us because … once upon a time it was the epicenter of entertainment, and it had a surprise element where you didn’t know what to expect when you came to the Sahara other than it was the most relevant spot on the planet when it came to entertainment.”

The new hotel sits atop the old footprint of the original hotel, Bakhshandehpour said, while noting the hotel developers did an “adaptive reuse to make it feel like a new property.” The three original hotel towers still are intact, although they were gutted to offer new a new look and presentation.

Instead of the megaresorts omnipresent on the Strip, “we’re taking a position where ‘smaller, accessible, higher energy’ is kind of where the future lies,” Rob Oseland, president and chief operating officer of the SLS Las Vegas, said in an interview with Casino Enterprise Management. “We think the north end of the Las Vegas Strip is the future of Las Vegas.”

The SLS Las Vegas builds on the SLS Hotels’ reputation with an approachable setting featuring elevated style, intriguing design and an impressive collection of award-winning dining and nightlife concepts. The vision has always been that the SLS Las Vegas is “a kind of a lifestyle resort that we feel fits into some what we call white space that sits kind of below luxury but above the middle market,” Oseland said.

The property was created through the combined vision of Nazarian, James Beard award-winning chef José Andrés as the property’s culinary director and design icon Philippe Starck consulting through Gensler, the release said. Every element of SLS Las Vegas’ guest rooms, multi-concept restaurants and social atmospheres was conceptualized by Starck and Gensler. Featuring more than 1,600 rooms in three distinctive towers—World, Story and Lux—each space was designed with elegance and sophistication. An exclusive collection of high-end suites was designed by rocker Kravitz and Kravitz Design Inc.

SLS Las Vegas offers a range of dining experiences, including Andrés’ Bazaar Meat, a carnivorous reinvention of his famed restaurant The Bazaar; a Mediterranean restaurant called Cleo; Katsuya by Starck; 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria; The Griddle Café; and Umami Burger, Beer Garden & Sports Book, featuring an outdoor patio and a sports book operated by William Hill.

The SLS also offers a variety of entertainment options, including LiFE, a 20,000-square-foot mega club featuring a rooftop pool and emerging DJ talent; Foxtail, a sophisticated, edgy nighttime atmosphere highlighted by open format music and celebrity appearances; and the second location of The Sayers Club, a popular Los Angeles live music venue.

Along with dining and nightlife, SLS Las Vegas offers a 60,000-square-foot casino floor featuring nearly 800 slot machines and 80 table games; a 10,000-square-foot Fred Segal shopping experience; and the Ciel Spa.

Oseland said the SLS Las Vegas is cognizant of the shift toward nongaming amenities to woo younger adults. This is especially important to Las Vegas, where the average visitor’s age has skewed four years younger than it was just five years ago.

It’s also a chance for SLS to offer a point of differentiation. “There’s a lot of gambling competition around us, and we really believe that with the nongaming amenities there’s a larger audience to attract,” Oseland said. That’s why at SLS Las Vegas the casino is a throwback to the time when casinos were much smaller and offered a much more intimate experience than the sprawling gaming floors of so many large casino-resorts.

“The casino was the heartbeat, the center of activity,” he said. Later with the megaresorts, “they became these big boxes that lost synergy as people traveled through them. We lost that connection and connectivity with all the other environments. Here we’re really integrating the casino back into the resort so it’s really an extension of the overall experience versus a path through.”

The SLS Las Vegas offered a great opportunity to address the changing player tastes, he said. “I think the business evolved and you’ve got to evolve with it. And we’re moving into that next chapter. I think that having the opportunity to kind of start over and reset is really invigorating.”

Others are seeing the promise of the north Strip as well, including the Genting Group’s Resorts World Las Vegas project slated for land across the Las Vegas Strip from SLS. “It’s all about filling in the neighborhood. That’s a $4 billion project with 4,000 rooms. Those are natural consumers that are going to be able to walk to us as opposed to get into a car and drive. It’ll continually create momentum for us,” he said. “When things were good, that’s when people were building in the north. We’re also now reminded that, hey, there are a lot of people who are interested in coming to Las Vegas and building in Las Vegas rather than buying places; they’re looking to reimagine and reinterpret.”