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Derek Stevens’ ‘V’ theory put to the test as the D reopens

Wearing a partial tuxedo and a full smile, Derek Stevens showed he was ready for a return to hospitality on Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s been awhile, 80 days, since we’ve been open,” Stevens said during a chat at BarCanada, the hotel’s latest sports-bar annex, which opened just before the March 18 COVID-19 shutdown. “The past couple of weeks have been really interesting. Our staff has been coming back on property, everybody is going through new procedures, and in the past week inside of the casino and hotel I’ve felt the electricity.

“People are tired of being cooped up and want to get back to work.”

Ahead of the 12:01 a.m. Wednesday night/Thursday morning opening, Stevens has again dusted off his vintage Sigma Derby horse-racing game and returned a happy stream to “Manneken Pis.” The owner placed a mask over the cherubic statue during the shutdown. That mask was snapped away in eight hours.

Stevens, a bow tie short of a complete tux, said the demand to return to Vegas has been great. His campaign to give away 1,000 free, one-way flights grew to 2,000 in six hours. He says he could have booked 14,000 flights. The D’s hotel tower is not sold out tonight, but might be by Saturday.

“I think what we’ve seen in room bookings, it’s going to come back a little bit quicker than we thought,” Stevens said. “I know there is a broad range of expectations, but I’m more in the V crowd, a big dip and then we come back pretty quickly. I think we’re starting to see that.”

The hotel is ready. The property is certainly cleaner than it’s ever been — those who remember the days of Fitzgeralds will marvel at the casino’s spit-shined look. A series of ribbon cuttings has been planned for midnight opening, with guests receiving several snipped-away “I Was There” sections.

The new prop at the D Las Vegas is a replica Stanley Cup, placed under BarCanada’s sign. Stevens loves hockey. He loves sports betting in general. And he loves communal activity at his Longbar, even if he’s masked up at arm’s length.

“Tonight is the culmination of a lot of planning, a lot of waiting, a lot of anticipation,” the owner said, straightening his cummerbund. “This is a tuxedo night for me.”

Saxe back

Reports about David Saxe recently moving equipment out of Saxe Theater at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood were right. But he was not, as some surmised, bugging out of his primary venue over the past decade. The longtime Vegas producer was moving some of his equipment to clean and prep the venue so “Vegas! The Show,” “Nathan Burton Comedy Magic” and “The BeatlesShow Las Vegas” can return.

Saxe has also extended his agreement at Saxe Theater with Miracle Mile Shops. That deal was set to expire this week. No terms announced, but Saxe has put together a profitable operation since moving into the vacated Steve Wyrick Theater in 2010.

The Saxe Theater annex is separate from Saxe’s V Theater collection just down the mall hall, across from Blondie’s. Saxe was the last producer to send a show onstage before the COVID-19 shutdown, with “Vegas! The Show” and “Zombie Burlesque” running the night of March 17.

Saxe is eager to be the first producer back, too. I wouldn’t bet against it.

An Aussie August

Veteran Strip headliners and adept groove combo Human Nature is pulling plans for its June 16 return to Sands Showroom at The Venetian. Instead, the familiar lineup of Andrew and Mike Tierney, Phil Burton and Toby Allen have pushed their return to Aug. 26. The quartet also postponed a tour of their native Australia scheduled for July and August. The pause is to gauge business, and safety measures, in Strip shows in the COVID-19 reopening era.

Man up

An interesting subtext to the COVID-19 shutdown/relaunch is the status of Vegas’s triumvirate of male revues. “Magic Mike Live” has pushed its reopening at Sahara Las Vegas to 2021. Both the show and hotel have reiterated their mutual commitment to bring the show to a new venue.

Southbound, “Thunder From Down Under” is selling tickets for July 1, which at the moment is a mere target date, at Excalibur’s Thunderland Showroom. The venue is moving forward with Hans Klok and the Australian Bee Gees.

“Chippendales” is on record with its plans to return to the Rio, in the face of some intriguing buzz that the show is seeking asylum at Omnia at Caesars Palace. Show producer Kevin Denberg lines it up thusly: “Our plan is to reopen at the Rio. Should that not be feasible, we will of course explore other options with our partners at Caesars.”

The Chipps’ production company has waded into nightclubs before. The company rolled out the fiery but fleeting coed revue”53X” at Chateau at Paris Las Vegas in the spring of 2016. As a concept, that Omnia option seems a good fit. “Chippendales” opened at Rio in 2003, and has never headlined on the Strip.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats! podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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