Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas
This is it. The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is finally closing.
It’s funny that a casino that I’ve rarely visited in the past five years stirred up so much emotion. The Hard Rock opened in 1995 and became one of my favorite casinos for about 10 years.
I didn’t start visiting Las Vegas until a few years after it opened. The Hard Rock (and/or Palms) was a destination casino for my friends and I. We rarely left the Vegas Strip but a visit of a couple of hours to the Hard Rock was almost always in the cards.
The atmosphere at the Hard Rock used to be amazing. The casino was full of LA rockers visiting for the weekend or people that just saw a concert at The Joint. The music was always loud and rocking and there was just so much energy in the small casino. As you’d imagine, the property was quiet on an afternoon just before closing.
On my last visit to the Hard Rock, I compared the vibe to an environment similar to a warm-up concert for an arena band. Before big arena tours, popular rock bands would play a handful of intimate shows in small venues. The energy of bands playing in front of a couple of thousand people instead of 20,000 or more people is unlike any other concert experience.
The Hard Rock was similar and there was so much energy and excitement that there were few casinos that could match the fun.
A few weeks ago I shared a brief story about my first time ever playing craps at the Hard Rock. Looking back, this was the epitome of a trip to the Hard Rock. We visited for a few hours. Played a bunch of blackjack, drank way too much, and just had an amazing time.
Like most trips with a group of people, the crew would go separate ways and find something more interesting. After circling the craps table I dove in for a 20-30 minute session that felt like it lasted for hours. The table was roaring. Lady luck was on the other side of the table and had an epic roll right towards my chips.
Hooked On Craps!
My passive play led to a relatively small win of a couple hundred dollars. Meanwhile, most of the table colored up with green and black chips. I was hooked on craps!
Not every trip to gamble and hang out at the Hard Rock was the same but it was always a fun time. Sadly, those days ended way before the casino closed its doors.
The size and popularity of the Hard Rock was both a major selling point and eventually its downfall. The Hard Rock was sold and in 2006 and a massive expansion was finished by 2010. The 16-story HRH tower and the 18-story Paradise Tower joined the existing 11-story Casino Tower. This expansion also brought an additional casino, restaurants, and bars.
This was also the end of the Hard Rock as many of us knew it.
Taking the small room energy and spreading it out over a much larger footprint destroyed the atmosphere in the casino. Even with the nice rooms, nightclub, restaurants, and bars the new section never became popular at all.
Ironically, the Rehab dayclub became more popular than ever around this time. The Hard Rock was trying to become a casino with mass appeal beyond just the rockers that visited so often.
The music was one of the ways the Hard Rock was unique. Then it was a generic mix of pop-rock. Once the property lost is rock n soul, it lost most of its original customers. These were people that would visit to eat, drink, gamble, and/or see shows. The new guests had no idea what an SRV is – even though his name is above the entrance. GASP!
The Center Bar
The Hard Rock was officially dead to me when they renovated the casino floor and created a new larger, closed off center bar. This destroyed everything that made the old Hard Rock casino great.
The open center bar was the hub of all the action in the casino. It was a few steps above the casino and everyone could easily be seen and heard. The casino was in a pit between the walkway to restaurants and hotel rooms and the center bar.
The center bar at the Hard Rock was a place to be seen in Las Vegas. The concept was somewhat groundbreaking. Casinos have copied the design concept, but the experience has never replicated.
The new center bar never had a chance to work. Everyone and everything that made the original center bar so popular never returned.
During my last visit, I saw a casino just days away from closing. It was sad. The lights were dim, the Hard Rock store was open but only had Pink Taco magnets. The center screen in the sports book looked like it was blown out and nobody cared to fix it. Few people were gambling and there was just no energy at the property.
Mr. Lucky’s – Hard Rock Las Vegas
My last meal was at Mr. Lucky’s 24/7 cafe. The home of the off-menu $7.77 Gamblers Special of steak, shrimp, potato, and salad was a shell of its former self. It was one of two restaurants open for lunch and maybe ¼ full mostly with people just arriving for a conference.
The last days of the Hard Rock were similar to the last days of the Sahara. The difference this time is that I cared about the dumpy casino closing. I never visited the Sahara during its hay day and never had a connection like this.
I’ve been done with the Hard Rock for years so the closing isn’t sad – even though it’s emotional. The closure brings back so many great hazy memories. Even though emotions are stirring about the Hard Rock closing, I’m stoked for the future of the property.
The Future is Bright
The future for this property looks good. I’m looking forward to fresh ideas coming to Las Vegas. By all accounts, Virgin looks like a great hotel operator. Mohegan Gaming will bring a new casino operator to Las Vegas.
I’ll likely visit Virgin to work since it should have a great lounge with free wifi. Hopefully, Mohegan will bring the good casino gaming rules they have at other properties so I can stay and gamble.
The Hard Rock was groundbreaking in many ways with Rehab and an amazing Center Bar experience. Sadly, it’s been time to move on for at least five years. Thanks for the memories, Hard Rock!
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