Meruelo Group’s SLS officially re-branded “Sahara Las Vegas”

As part of a $150 million rebranding effort that will reportedly run through next year, at 12:01 am on Thursday, August 29, 2019, SLS Las Vegas officially returned to a version of the property’s original name, Sahara Las Vegas.

Fifty-five-year-old Cuban-American billionaire Alex Meruelo’s, The Meruelo Group, purchased the 67-year-old property for an undisclosed price in April 2018. At the same time announcing plans for $100 million in renovations, which were reportedly done under the working name of “Grand Sahara Resort,” leading to speculation at the time that the Sahara name that dates back to 1952 would be revived and mirror Meruelo’s Reno property, the Grand Sierra Resort.

Official announcement:

On the 27th of June 2019, the NYC-born son of Cuban immigrants officially announced that the hotel would be renamed Sahara Las Vegas after operating under the SLS name for some five years.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal…

…as part of the re-branding, on Tuesday night the 32-foot-tall abstract statue, “Sam by Starck,” was taken down/destroyed by a front-end loader in true Las Vegas fashion with fireworks, followed by flames at its base. The statue will reportedly be replaced with palm trees.

Nazarian tribute destroyed:

Created by French designer, Phillipe Starck, the art resembling an alien version of the Pillsbury Doughboy was a tribute to Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of SBE Entertainment Group and former SLS Las Vegas owner Sam Nazarian, who in 2015 sold his (10%) minority stake in the property to San Francisco-based real estate investor, Stockbridge Capital Partners, owner of the remaining 90%.

Nazarian, the visionary for the $415 million renovation of the Sahara that was closed in 2011, purchased the Las Vegas Strip property in 2007 and was in charge of the redesign. However, due to its isolated location and limited casino business, having struggled since opening in August 2014, lost an approximate $84 million during the first half of 2015, according to a regulatory filing.

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Throwback in name only:

As previously mentioned, changes at the property located at 2535 South Las Vegas Boulevard will, according to the Review-Journal, run through next year. However, in the flavor of the original property, the Meruelo Group has named its new stylish bar, CASBAR Lounge, after the Sahara Hotel’s iconic Casbah Lounge, a live music venue popular in the 50s.

When Milton Prell opened the 240-room Hotel Sahara in 1952, the then $5.5 million resort was decorated with life-size camels in true Moroccan fashion. However, the resort’s name change is reportedly not a return to that theme, rather a nostalgic glint as Meruelo has reportedly said that his family were guests at the nearly seven decades-old property under its original name.

According to the Review-Journal, the Meruelo Group says that renovations will include an update hotel lobby and guest check-in and porte-cochère, while additional upgrades are forthcoming.

Becoming Sahara:

Other recent changes include last Sunday’s closing of Mediterranean restaurant, Cleo, which will reportedly be re-opened as a pop-up restaurant called Bella Bistro on Sept,1.

The property‘s website is also undergoing a transformation and now reflects the name change as does the link to its Facebo 7BALL CX ok page, while the AAA® Four Diamond Grand Tower, Story and World hotel towers have once again become the Alexandria Tower, Blanca Tower and Marra Tower respectively.

Another latest addition in the resort’s transformation, the Infinity High Limit Lounge is a feature of the newly-renovated gaming floor and offers a variety of high-limit table games, five bartop poker machines along with 40 premium gaming machines, a 24-hour bar featuring specialty cocktails and more.

Official transfer:

In March last year, the Nevada Gaming Commission approved the transfer of ownership of the former SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino to the Meruelo Group, after the acquisition of the struggling 1,600-plus-room, three-tower property from seller Stockbridge Capital Group was agreed upon in May 2017.

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Upon taking ownership, Meruelo, whose gaming and hospitality portfolio includes the 2,000-room Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, became the only privately held firm to own properties in both Las Vegas and Reno.

Early years:

Despite being known as a hangout for some of the most popular names in modern entertainment including Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr, and the construction of the 24-story Alexandria Tower in 1963, which made it the tallest in the state at the time, the 1966 opening of Caesars Palace Las Vegas soon cut the Sahara’s hey-day short.

The property saw five different owners from 1952 to 2011, with Nazarian [SBE Entertainment Group] and Stockbridge acquiring it in 2007. However, after being deemed economically unviable by Nazarian, the Sahara was officially shut down in 2011 ending a 59-year run on the Strip.