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Richard Branson wants to visit Virgin Hotels Las Vegas ‘soon’

Richard “Boz” Bosworth resorted to shouting on Thursday night during a VIP party at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. The president and CEO of resort ownership group JC Hospitality competed with something we hadn’t heard for months in VegasVille.

A din.

“I haven’t worked a room in 416 days!” Bosworth called out over live entertainment on a nearby stage during the Mohegan Sun welcome party. “Now, there are more people in the room!”

“The room” at the moment was actually the old Rehab pool deck, which has been filled to host live events. Thursday’s was the first, a party hosted by Mohegan Tribe officials to mark the opening of Virgin’s Mohegan Casino. The casino floor is among many business partnerships between hotel’s investment team and independent operators.

Despite murmurs he would make a surprise appearance, we did not see the hotel’s international brand ambassador, Sir Richard Branson, herald the new resort. But we will.

“As long as everyone healthy and safe, I know that Sir Richard wants to get here as soon as possible,” Bosworth said of Virgin’s founder. “I think you will see him here, as soon as he can travel. Unfortunately, he is not able to do that now, of course, but I think as soon a couple of months, you will see Sir Richard here. This is very, very important to him.”

Branson posted a message on Twitter welcoming visitors. “I’m sure you will create everlasting memories in this hotel, filled with magical surprises and delightful moments.”

Even before COVID, the 70-year-old Branson was wary of spreading germs. We met in March 2018 at the formal announcement of the hotel’s sale and rebranding as Virgin. Rather than grabbing my hand, the entrepreneur prophetically said, “Sorry, I’ve gotta knock,” and offered a forearm bump. “I’ve been sick and don’t want you to catch anything.”

During that event Branson recalled some of his previous stunts in Vegas, including the 2007 event when he rappelled down the side of The Palms to promote the inaugural Virgin America flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas. He surveyed the surroundings on the corner of Paradise Road and Harmon Avenue and said, “Virgin Atlantic flies here, there are some flat roofs up there, we’ll have a massive sign, it’s the first thing people flying in will see … anyway, we’ll come up with some ideas.”

But Bosworth says he’s not privy to those ideas, at least not yet.

“I have not had any conversations with him or his team about that,” Bosworth said. “Everyone has been taking such a cautious approach with COVID.” Would Bosworth consider climbing down the side of the building himself? The exec laughed and said, “I don’t think anybody would be interested in seeing that.”

Around the horn

Bosworth was clearly happy that the former Hard Rock Hotel was bubbling on its return to action. Guests filed into such revamped venues as One steakhouse, Nobu, Hakkasan Group’s Casa Calavera, The Kitchen at Commons Club and the hideaway The Shag Room.

Ample opening opportunities are on the horizon, too, with Kassi Beach Club coming in two weeks, followed in order by Afters Ice Cream, Todd English’s Olives and the vaunted outdoor day club.

I especially enjoyed my visit to The Shag Room, decked out in plush burgundy with a series of curtained-off VIP booths around the perimeter. This hideaway is off to the right from the main entrance through an artificial portal.

A tip: If you spot a phone booth inside a Las Vegas resort, it’s not really a phone booth.

Who was here

“Extra” host Mario Lopez conducted the ceremonial first-dice toss at the hotel. He was also spotted later with UFC President Dana White at the One Steakhouse’s inaugural dinner seating. Around the horn, others who waded into Michael and David Morton’s new restaurant included Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden, “Real Housewives of New Jersey’” co-star Melissa Gorga, Resorts World Las Vegas President Scott Sibella, and members of hospitality hierarchy Linda and Beverly Hilton of Curio Collection by Hilton.

The restaurant exuded a sense of family with Michael Morton’s wife, Jenna Morton, arriving with the couple’s three kids. David and Michael’s mom, Zorine Morton, chatted up visitors in the Morton tradition made famous by her late husband and family patriarch, Arnie Morton.

Spotted elsewhere in the casino and at the Mohegan Sun event were Chrisell Stause of “Selling Sunset” and “Dancing with the Stars”; and “The Toms” of “Vanderpump Rules,” Tom Sandoval and Tom Schwartz.

I had a chance meeting with four-time Mr. Olympia titlist Jay Cutler at Nobu. As we chatted, guitar great DJ Ashba (Sixx: A.M., Guns N’ Roses) showed up. Different careers, but rock stars both.

Our takeaway

Niggling notes from a first-night’s stay: No water glasses or directives on how to reach different hotel departments in the guest room. Some kind of token that this was the first night would have been cool, maybe a casino chip or face cover or headband or tube socks, anything to note the demarcation of time.

And, from here, the hotel’s many interlocking partnerships were evident at every turn (Mohegan running the casino, Hilton the hotel, AEG the Theater, and the restaurants are all outside partners). Virgin Hotels is not a monolithic property, but a series of venues independently operated by third-party companies under a single roof. That’s fine for business, we anticipate. But it’s not a model that lends itself to cohesion.

Of course, many Las Vegas resorts establish multiple partnerships (Circa being the best, recent example). But Virgin Hotels has different operators in every aspect of the property.

The challenge for Bosworth and his team will be to make sure guests don’t detect the separation of operators between its many restaurants, clubs and service amenities. Example, if a guest asks a restaurant host or a registration-desk staffer how to find Betfred Sports Book or the Ruby Tower elevators, they have to have the answer as if they work for the same boss. “That’s not us” is not an option.

You might be surprised how important is such attention to customer service. But this staff gets it, and fortunately, the man at the top has built a career — and redesigned a hotel — having mastered such details.

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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