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November 1, 2014

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Palms punts as Heraea fails to move the chains

Image

Sam Morris

Palms President Joe Magliarditi is seen in Heraea, a new restaurant that replaced Garduno’s, on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.

Chef Doug Bell at Heraea

Chef Doug Bell poses in the Heraea restaurant in the Palms Monday, Aug. 12, 2013. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

Jonathan Segal, shown outside STK at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, his company's first Las Vegas venue.

To apply some football parlance: Facing fourth-and-long, Heraea called an audible, then heaved a Hail Mary.

The pass landed incomplete.

Ballgame.

The sports bar/restaurant/nightclub designed and built by the One Group in a partnership with the Palms closed this week. Hotel and One Group reps confirmed Wednesday what had been spilling across social media late Monday night and early Tuesday morning — that the haven of sports, entertainment, music and cuisine was finished, effective immediately. A scheduled appearance set for tonight by ex-NFL great Dwight Clark has been … spiked.

The partnership between the One Group and the Palms seems to be operating under a running clock, and the home team is out of timeouts. In its statement about Heraea’s closing, the Palms said it was taking over management of the space — similar to how the Tropicana wrested control of Bagatelle from the One Group in July — and that it wishes the One Group “the best of luck.”

That sounds like the firing of the final gun. However, there is still a question about the status of Xishi, which also is a One Group-Palms partnership. Palms officials declined to comment about the future of Xishi, which was scheduled to open this year in the former Little Buddha space. One Group CEO Jonathan Segal, famous for his magnanimity (especially when trumpeting the success of STK at the Cosmopolitan), has not responded to calls or texts about the future of the One Group at the Palms. He’s only said that, “At the appropriate time, all will become apparent.”

What is apparent in the aftermath of Heraea’s closing is the final drive to save the club was helmed by an unlikely quarterback: Chris Phillips of Zowie Bowie. Heraea suffered from a persistent problem of drawing a nighttime audience to its nightclub throughout its seven-month run. Zowie Bowie is a popular act among locals in Las Vegas, it was reasoned. Why not lure them to the club for weekly Saturday performances?

But there was a plan even more ingenious than putting Z.B. onstage and having the band perform popular dance songs. The upscale Las Vegas social organization PurrfectLV, which is for “sophisticated couples, both married and single, who have open minds,” as owner Iman Aubrey says, bought into the idea of holding its weekly Saturday-night mixers at Heraea.

Fittingly, these events were dubbed "Zowie Bowie's Playground."

And Heraea drew a healthy, vibrant crowd during the three Saturdays that Zowie Bowie played the club. This adult playground seemed a great deal of fun, as the group populating the club was uncommonly extroverted, but the showcase was not exactly a long-term solution. The club was not set up too well for live music (especially the sort of immersive show Z.B. favors), with its stage built behind the bar, a screen pass away from the patrons. And the PurrfectLV crowd, while impressive for its numbers and its contagious ebullience, was still a niche audience.

More disconcerting for Heraea was that the restaurant/sports bar was less than half full on the opening Monday night of the NFL season, when the locally popular San Diego Chargers hosted the Houston Texans in a suspenseful, come-from-behind victory for the Texans. The club’s design was called into question by repeat customers; it didn’t seem to make sense that the space was almost totally closed to the casino floor, its washed-white wall looking more like a barrier than a club entrance. The restaurant’s food was high quality, but the staff was gaining an irreversible reputation for lackluster service. Diners even groused that the name “Heraea” itself was confusing and difficult to pronounce.

Most damaging: Women didn’t seem to care too much for a sports-themed dining spot that was marketed primarily to females.

As we look at the prospects for Xishi — if there are any — we consider this moment the 2-minute warning, and about time to go back to the playbook.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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