Krave Entertainment headed for downtown Las Vegas

A Strip nightclub is ditching its digs at Planet Hollywood Resort for a new home downtown.

Krave Entertainment on Wednesday announced plans to take over the former Galaxy 11 movie theater on the Neonopolis’ third floor. The company, which also owns the Drink and Drag bowling alley and drag queen-themed bar on the complex’s second floor, will transform the 80,000-square-foot space with 14 theaters into the world’s largest gay nightclub, owner Kelly Murphy said.

"My goal is to knock New York out of the No. 1 spot for gays and lesbians in the United States," Murphy said.

The cardboard cutouts from "Ice Age" and Dolby Digital signs will be removed. Six or seven walls separating the screens will be knocked down.

The long-vacant space will be transformed into Krave Massive, with five themed dance rooms (hip-hop, country, Latin), three bars, a VIP lounge, comedy club, performance art space and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, movie theater. The huge undertaking will cost about $1.5 million. Murphy said the club will open in stages, with at least one of the themed rooms and the martini lounge in what is now the theater lobby open by the end of the year.

The announcement brings Krave Entertainment’s total space in Neonopolis to 128,000 square feet, or more than half of the 250,000-square-foot development. That space will include Krave Massive, Drink and Drag and the swimming pool. Yes, the swimming pool.

There is no pool at Neonopolis yet, but Murphy plans a 20,000-square-foot third-floor addition at a cost of $750,000. The pool and cabanas will fill out the space to the right of the third-floor elevators, where now there’s only air.

Neonopolis developer Rohit Joshi said the pool will shade the second floor, making it more attractive to retailers and restaurants.

Joshi said he knew the former theater would never again be home to a multiplex.

"Movies don’t work in downtown urban developments," Joshi said, unless there’s a concentrated residential market. "Downtown residential won’t happen for a long time, and tourists don’t come here to see movies."

Krave had been in talks with the Neonopolis for three and a half years, but the recession dampened the club’s relocation plans. With the economic downturn easing and the success of Drink and Drag, which opened in May, Krave is ready to leave its Planet Hollywood Resort home of the last eight years and head downtown.

Neonopolis has a checkered past, and Wednesday’s announcement inspired the requisite air-conditioning jokes, which Joshi took in stride. (A dispute between Neonopolis’ landlords and its air conditioning provider led to a cooling shut-off in 2009. But, for those who rarely venture down to the retail complex, yes, the Neonopolis’ air-conditioning now works and is on full-blast.)

A tattoo parlor will open this year, and the first Denny’s supper club concept in the United States is under construction at the Fremont Street-facing entrance. Joshi said the restaurant will open in November.

The Neonopolis’ revival is good news for the Fremont Street Experience and its members, businesses and casinos under the canopy.

"Having dark businesses is not helpful to anybody," Fremont Street Experience President Jeff Victor said.

Fremont Street businesses have created a close-knit community, Victor said.

Krave will fit right in. Krave Massive will be partnering with the nearby Downtown Grand (formerly the Lady Luck) for cross-marketing, special rates, packages "focused on bringing that out-of-town gay tourist to Las Vegas to stay at our hotel, enjoy our fantastic amenities and dance the night away at Krave," Fifth Street Gaming CEO Seth Schorr said.

Murphy said he expects Krave Massive to bring in 12,000 people per week. Krave at Planet Hollywood Resort draws 4,500 gays and lesbians each week, and Drink and Drag brings in 4,100 people. Krave has a massive database of 154,000 active email addresses and 60,000 phone numbers. The club texts 1 million numbers per month.

Murphy said his marketing efforts are geared toward gays and lesbians, but 35 percent of Drink and Drag’s clientele is straight. Those percentages will likely translate to Krave Massive’s business, too, he said.

Contact reporter Caitlin McGarry at cmcgarry@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273.

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