The cinematic quality of the long journey to open the doors of Fontainebleau Las Vegas is not lost on Jeff Soffer, the resort’s chairman and CEO.
“It could be a really good book or movie,” Soffer says of the dramatic sequence of events surrounding one of the biggest comeback stories in hospitality history.
The Fontainebleau Las Vegas, intended as a sister hotel to the legendary Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel – the southeastern compound of Rat Pack legends such as Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. and considered America’s first mega-resort – broke ground in 2007 under Soffer’s leadership.
The hotel tower reached its peak in 2008. The following year, banks collapsed, financing dried up, lawsuits were filed and construction was halted. What was planned to be the tallest tower in the state of Nevada, at 67 stories, remained in limbo for 12 years and was 70 percent complete. It was a precious reminder of the Great Recession, which hit Southern Nevada hard. The unfinished building was considered an eyesore by those who encountered it day in and day out. Many believed it would never be finished and would eventually be demolished.
Various owners came and went before Soffer and Fontainebleau Development, in partnership with Koch Real Estate Investments, reacquired the property in 2021. Plans were unveiled, construction restarted and the 3,644-room resort will finally open on December 13, 2023, before Fontainebleau. Miami’s 70th anniversary, in 2024.
“You could be the best businessman in the world, but if you don’t have good timing…” Soffer says of the project’s long dormancy. But in the end, “everything just lined up.”
When Soffer found out that Fontainebleau Las Vegas was back in business, one of his first calls was to Miami-based hospitality entrepreneur and restaurateur David Grutman, who was about to sign a long-awaited deal with another Las Vegas casino-resort.
“He said, ‘Don’t sign this deal. I’m going to get the Fontainebleau Las Vegas back. I need you,” says Grutman, whose favorite Miami venues include the Goodtime Hotel, LIV nightclub and Komodo, Papi Steak, Strawberry Moon, Swan, Gekkō and The Key Club restaurants.
“It had taken me two years to get to that point – my deal was done, ready to go,” says Grutman, who worked on the original plans for Fontainebleau in Las Vegas 16 years ago. But (Soffer) was the guy who gave me my opportunity. My first bartending job was at his dad’s restaurant in his shopping center. When I went to open my first nightclub, he made me his partner at LIV in 2008. He gave me a platform to do what I do. There is only one man in the world who could keep me from signing that deal, and that was Jeff Soffer.”
Through a strategic partnership, Grutman’s Groot Hospitality will bring Fontainebleau Miami Beach’s LIV nightclub and two of its restaurants, Komodo and Papi Steak, to the desert when the $3.7 billion Vegas resort debuts. LIV Beach dayclub will be a new addition to the portfolio and will open in the spring of 2024.
These locations will be Vegas supersized. This will be the third location for Southeast Asian restaurant Komodo, following Miami and Dallas. According to the “Restaurant Business Top 100” rankings of the largest independent restaurants, the Miami location was No. 1 in the country in 2022 with $41 million in revenue and 285,000 meals served. Papi Steak is helmed by the charismatic David “Papi” Einhorn, whose Louis Inspired by the Marsellus Wallace briefcase in Pulp Fiction, the Beef Case is like a bottle service for a steak. When someone orders a $1,000 Wagyu Tomahawk, they get a 60-second show with sparklers, an entrance song and lasers, all to present the piece of meat in a gold-lined, enchanted case. These antics equate to big business: It’s estimated that Papi Steak, with just 93 seats, grossed more than $24 million last year. The Las Vegas version will be almost three times the size of the original. Grutman’s restaurants are frequented by celebrities such as David Beckham, Drake, Rihanna, Tom Brady, Anitta, Maluma, Justin Bieber and more. Both Komodo and Papi Steak are among 36 new restaurants and bars opening at Fontainebleau Las Vegas. Located on just 25 acres, a compact footprint for a Las Vegas casino, the resort is vertically integrated – the casino has 40-foot ceilings – with the restaurants and other amenities set apart from the gaming action.
“Las Vegas has matured tremendously since I started this project,” says Soffer. “People want to see, be seen and be entertained. LIV and LIV Beach won’t be the biggest (nightclub and dayclub) in Vegas, but they will have the best experience.” Soffer also notes that everything at Fontainebleau Las Vegas will exhibit the highest standards of luxury.
LIV opened in Miami in 2008, the same year XS debuted at Wynn Las Vegas, ushering in the megaclub era. The EDM DJ boom would follow. The two cities have long been neck-and-neck, with Vegas gaining the edge over Miami with new versatile venues, the luxury of space and, above all, the multi-billion dollar casino business that powers the club industry, which the DJ paydays of $60 million. Since Resorts World opened in 2021, no new resort has been built on the Strip. LIV will embody how Las Vegas audiences now want to consume their entertainment.
Soffer and Grutman opted for a stadium-style design from superstar architect/designer David Rockwell without a bad seat or obstructed sightline at LIV, the 50,000-square-foot, multi-level, 62-table nightclub, or the adjacent LIV Beach, the 35,000-square-foot nightclub. -square meter day club. LIV Beach is everything you find in the nightclub, just add water and sunshine, with six bungalows with private pools.
Both clubs will be built around the DJ and stage tables, intended to be the most coveted seats, which can fetch up to $25,000. But unlike most Las Vegas clubs, where the general public doesn’t even get to see the DJ booth — and the best views are reserved for those who buy five-figure tables — at LIV the average patron will congregate in the middle of the club. the action. Both LIV and LIV Beach will have a capacity of approximately 2,000 people, half the Strip’s standard.
“I’m in the fun business and we’re throwing a party, and I want you to be part of that party, whether you’re at the bar downstairs or upstairs, or in a skybox, or you’re on a table next to the DJ” , says Grutman. He also promises to do something different musically with a “new, fresh set of DJs who have been making a lot of noise around the world, but haven’t made that kind of noise in Las Vegas.” No doubt they will also pick up headliners from other nightclubs in the city.
“There is no cuter hospitality city in the world than Las Vegas. We actually don’t have a cent to waste,” says Grutman.
A version of this story appears in the September 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.