The One Group
Friday, June 22, 2012 | 5 p.m.
Jonathan Segal is a man with an active imagination, and at this point he asks you to use yours.
This big, circular floor strewn with concrete dust and power cables will soon be a rocking restaurant and nightclub. The space out back, where booths are protected by plastic and workers are carving a pool and building a soundstage, is to be a vast outdoor party park where live music will be performed for as many as 3,000 fans.
But the blue sign facing Tropicana Avenue and MGM Grand across the street -- that is real: Bagatelle. It indicates what will be in place by the end of August as the One Group takes over the eastern parcel of the Tropicana, moving into a spot where Club Nikki and Nikki Beach, and later RPM Nightclub, once conducted business.
It’s all happening at a quick clip for Segal, who thinks quickly, talks fast and is in a big heapin’ hurry to open what will be his third (and counting) resort partnership in Las Vegas. The One Group operates STK at the Cosmopolitan and is planning the sports-themed restaurant Heraea at the Palms by late November. Expect another deal at the Palms to be announced soon for a venue operated by One Group on the casino level. The oft-speculated One Group interest in the Crazy Horse Paris space at MGM Grand is now a dead deal.
However, the partnership at Trop might well bloom into something more significant, though when asked about a much-speculated One Group takeover of a Trop hotel wing, Segal says, “Down the line, who knows what will happen?”
He is immersed, at the moment, in Bagatelle.
“I’ve done deals all over the world, and I have not worked with anyone more accommodating than the Tropicana,” Segal says during a walk-around of the restaurant/club space and the pool parcel. “This all came together incredibly fast. They have given me everything I’ve asked for. They say, ‘Yes. What is the question?’ ”
Less than two weeks elapsed from the first phone call to Segal in New York from Tropicana executive Tom Recine to the formal signing of the contract bringing in the One Group. Within a week of that initial call, Segal flew here to meet with Tropicana CEO Alex Yemenidjian, whom he describes as having “a commanding presence when expressing his vision.” A day after returning to New York, Segal was sent a contract detailing the partnership.
It was Contract Lite. Segal read the original contract of just 32 pages -- he typically reviews 140 pages of contract language for such projects -- and sent back five revisions.
“Two of them were typos,” he says, chuckling.
Crucial to the agreement was that Bagatelle, even as it cuts into the Tropicana structure, is an entity unto itself. The port-cochere facing Tropicana Avenue, originally constructed as part of the Nikki Beach build-out, is designed to funnel guests of the property to Bagatelle. A new valet entrance also is planned for Bagatelle Beach farther east, between the Trop and Hooters, meaning those entering the pool from that point won’t even see the casino floor.
As Segal says, the Bagatelle piece of the Trop could well stand alone. The extensive construction activity reminds of the original improvements made on the property a couple of years ago in the run-up to the opening of Nikki Beach. The second pool and a stage are designed to feature live acts similar to how Cosmopolitan has lured top artists to Boulevard Pool.
Inside, the old club space will be refashioned to more of a restaurant layout. A glass-enclosed private dining area is being added, as are additional two- and four-top banquettes in a space that can seat 260. Taken out is the multileveled feel of the original Club Nikki design; what is planned now is a single seating level leading to the dance floor, over which will hang a 12-by-12 foot chandelier. A DJ will play “open-format” music, and the best Segal can say is the sounds emanating from Bagatelle will not be bass-thundering dance music that makes your Sprite shake.
The idea is to keep the crowd at the venue, always a challenge in Las Vegas.
“STK gives up its audience after dinner,” he says. “STK is one stop. Bagatelle will be the stop.” Which is not to say STK is anything but a success. Its business in 2012 is up 24 percent over a year ago and in May recorded its first $2 million month in a space that seats 220 for dinner.
But what Bagatelle offers is an array of options. The restaurant and club are just one component of the operation.
Outside the restaurant, covered decks are being renovated to serve food near the rim of the original Tropicana pool, and table games are being moved to the pool bar. The deck outside the club still leads to the cafe inside the hotel. The 10 teepees that were a Nikki Beach trademark sit in a landing area off to the side of the construction area. What’s to become of them?
“We’re sending them to Kevin Costner,” Segal says, laughing. “He wants them. Five are being sent to him in Santa Barbara and five to Aspen. It’s the whole ‘Dances With Wolves’ design he likes. So they won’t be wasted.”
The Bagatelle upgrade was originally to be finished by Memorial Day weekend. Now Segal is targeting Aug. 1, which still seems a highly optimistic time frame given all the construction that still needs to be finished. A late-summer opening is not ideal for a Las Vegas beach club, but for Jonathan Segal, one sentiment overrides the need for speed.
“You only have one chance at opening,” he says. “We have to do it right.”