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Making a disused hotel roof a striking Las Vegas pool club

26 March 2014

By Howard Stutz

LAS VEGAS -- Nightclub operator Victor Drai considered the roof of the former Barbary Coast and Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon untapped potential.

Drai, 66, a Los Angeles-based nightlife mogul, operated Drai’s After Hours in the basement of the small Strip casino. On New Year’s Eve he would venture to the roof of the 11-story property to watch the annual fireworks show.

“It was the best view from here looking up and down the Strip,” Drai said of the property at the northeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road.

“I knew this for years. I always had a vision in my head,” Drai said.

Now, that vision is taking shape.

A Memorial Day weekend opening is planned for Drai’s Beachclub and Nightclub a 65,000-square-foot rooftop nightclub, day club and pool deck — designed by Drai — that sits atop The Cromwell, after a $185 million remodeling of the building.

Drai spent Friday afternoon touring the site, which overlooks the Strip. The spacious nightclub adds three floors to the hotel-casino and opens up onto the pool area, which also has a dance stage set aside for a DJ.

At first, Drai was only able to present renderings of the project. He initially brought a ladder to roof and had Caesars Entertainment Corp. executives and property officials to see what the view would be from a platform.

Now, with the pool area and adjoining spas taking shape, along with 24 private cabanas and an upper-level for “European-style sun bathing” deck, Drai said the space is even more spectacular that he originally visioned.

“I think it’s the most beautiful space and I hope it will be the best location we have ever built,” Drai said.

A group representing Billboard Magazine toured the space with Drai last week. They were treated to an afternoon performance by the Bellagio Fountains, which take on a much different perspective when the water spectacular is viewed from above.

Billboard, Drai said, is considering the pool deck and nightclub for a private event.

Cromwell General Manager Karie Hall said the day-club and nightclub will be a central attraction of the renovated hotel-casino, which opens May 21, a week before the rooftop space.

“We feel as if you are closer to the fountains from here than if you are actually staying at (Bellagio),” Hall said. “The special events highlight the space.”

Until a few years ago, Drai could only dream about a rooftop facility. Power lines above the building prohibited adding new floors atop the tower.

However, when Caesars — which acquired the property in a 2006 asset swap with Boyd Gaming Corp. — decided to take the power lines underground and renovate Bill’s, Drai approached the company with the idea.

“I’ve been looking at this place with enthusiasm for such a long time,” Drai said. “I have high expectations for what I do.”

Construction of the rooftop facility required Caesars to add a support building between The Cromwell tower and neighboring Flamingo for additional bracing for the club facility, elevators and an emergency stairwell.

Hall said the walls of the structure “will be used for a yet-to-be revealed experience” that will entertain guests.

Despite constant construction, Drai enjoys showing off the rooftop space to guests. It’s the centerpiece for The Cromwell, which will also feature a second-floor restaurant operated by television cooking personality Giada De Laurentiis that offers Strip views, 188 remodeled hotel rooms and suites, a renovated 40,000-square-foot casino, a lobby bar and casino lounge.

Drai’s After Hours, which moved across Flamingo Road to Bally’s Las Vegas when Bill’s closed for remodeling, will move back into its original basement location in May.

“Customers are ready,” Drai said. “We’re lucky lots of people are already looking at this place.”


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Howard Stutz
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