Sunday, Aug. 16, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
One side says it is David versus Goliath, a creative upstart that a multibillion-dollar corporation is trying to squash.
But the little guy is armed with a crane and a dinner platform instead of a slingshot, and so far, he also has the support of local officials.
Whether or not his high-hanging gastronomical business can move to the Strip, however, will be determined Wednesday by the Clark County Commission.
Who is David and who is Goliath?
Goliath is Wynn Resorts, whose Wynn and Encore properties anchor the near-north end of the Las Vegas Strip. David is Michael Hinden and his Dinner in the Sky operation.
And what, exactly, is that?
“We are one of the few businesses that is exactly what our title says we are,” Hinden said.
Twenty-two Formula One race car seats with five-point harnesses are affixed to the perimeter of a 17-foot-by-30-foot platform. Diners take their seats and a “sky chef” and three “sky waiters,” who assist in the final preparation and serving of dishes such as “Sky-High Chicken” or “Over-the-Top Filet,” stand in the middle of the platform.
They prepare and serve the food 150 feet in the air. Diners have no floor beneath them, though they have foot rests. They can also turn their seats 180 degrees, so if Hinden sets up shop on the Strip his diners will to get what Hinden calls an exhilarating, unobstructed view of the Strip and the valley surrounding it.
How’s the thing get in the air?
With the help of a 250-ton, hydraulic, telescoping crane that reaches 183 feet into the air. The platform and seats weigh 7 tons, are held by eight cables and need a really strong wind to make it more scary than exhilarating. Hinden said the entire apparatus is rated to be safe in winds up to 35 mph. “This is smoother than an elevator,” Hinden said.
Has this been done anywhere else?
Hinden said it is being done in Canada, China, Belgium (where the idea was put together) and more than a dozen other countries around the world. Though he wants to expand to other U.S. cities, Las Vegas is his first place of business. The wedding caterer and event planner who has lived in Las Vegas 12 years has had a Dinner in the Sky at 2800 West Sahara Ave. on weekends since March. His plan is to operate six days a week from 3 p.m. to midnight on the Strip.
Is it expensive?
When he spoke to the Clark County Planning Commission, Hinden said Dinner in the Sky would cost from $200 to $500 per person. It would be costlier if, for instance, diners wanted to take their “flight” — his term for going for a sky-high dinner — during sunset.
Why does Wynn Resorts dislike the idea?
Hinden wants to put his business in the burned-out remains of the Trump building sales office across the street from the Wynn properties, just north of Fashion Show Mall. Terry Murphy, who spoke on behalf of Wynn Resorts at the July 21 Planning Commission meeting, said “this is just not acceptable in terms of what the Wynn is asking for in their neighborhood.” Wynn Resorts complained that Dinner in the Sky is a “carnival-like attraction.”
The owner of Dinner in the Sky chuckled at the “carnival” characterization.
“This is far from a carnival ride,” he countered. “This is a five-star dining experience.”
The Planning Commission liked his idea and approved it, which is why it is going to the County Commission on Wednesday.
What did the Planning Commission like about it?
Charley Johnson, longtime Planning Commission member, said he finds the idea “unique, and I think Vegas is built on unique things ... I don’t know why Steve Wynn is against it, because he’s asked for a lot of unique things and things that were controversial in his day.”
Any word from county commissioners, who will have the final say?
The area is represented by Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, and she supports it.
“It’s kind of a jazzy, innovative way of bringing something to Vegas,” she said. “It’s not cheap, it’s not cheesy. It’s respected internationally. It’s new business.”
Hinden said that if he can move to the Strip, he expects the number of Dinner in the Sky employees to increase from 15 now to about 80 by the end of the year.
He also says Steve Wynn will be pleasantly surprised once he sees it up and running.
“We’ll have patrons who will pay $200 to $500 per person, and those are the kind of people you’d think he would want to visit his hotel across the street,” Hinden said.