Here’s What’s New at The Hard Rock Hotel

Goose Island Pub has opened in the 3500 sq. ft. of space formerly used by The Ainsworth, a ritzy New York style sports-focused lounge, apparently not heavily mourned after its nearly-four-year tenure there.

While this pub is new to Las Vegas, they have been pouring Goose Island at the Hard Rock for a while. The Goose Island Brewery has a bit of history itself, having been started as a single brewpub in 1988 by John Hall in Chicago, and named after an actual island in the Chicago River. Thus, no surprise, the first Goose Island Pub (this is said to resemble it) was located in Chicago, which provided a strong influence on design features as well as the menu.

HRC Vegas Strip

The brewpub was a success, the beer won awards –World Beer Championships, World Beer Cup, World Expo of Beer the Great American Beer Festival– and expansion followed. Anheuser Busch AnBev acquired the Brewery in 2011 sans existing pubs, and this is one of the first pubs to be built since then.

The Pub offers a selection of artisan brews on tap, signature craft beers like 312 Urban Wheat Ale (“312” is a Chicago area code), Four Star Pils, Green Line Pale Ale, Goose Honker’s Ale, Goose IPA, Matilda, Sofie and Summertime Kölsch. These are described fully on the menu, so no need to go into more detail here.

The bottle list appears to be fairly short, but various special features are said to be available from time to time. On a regular basis, here is what that offers: one beer, The Illinois [$8], their Bourbon County Stout [$21] which people stand in line to buy in other cities, and the pricey Rare Bourbon County Stout which is aged for two years in 35-year-old bourbon barrels [$100]. If Goose Island is new to you, try their sampler of four beers at a very reasonable $8. For the non-beer-drinker, wine and cocktails are also on the menu.

To satisfy your hunger, you can choose from a selection of pub food items designed to pair with these beers. Three specialties cited are Cast Iron Chicago Pizza Dip served with garlic crust on the side, South Side Deli corned beef sandwiches, Shrimp Po Boy on a hoagie roll. For Chicago fans, the selection continues with items such as Lake Shore Fish and Chips and the Cub Club. Besides the usual round up of burgers, fries, rings, poppers, salads and wraps, some other items sound tasty as well: chicken quesadillas with guac, tater tots smothered in pulled pork and cheeses, a variety of flat bread pizzas, maple bacon beer nuts, etc.

Next, now that the Pub is open, we’ll also be seeing a $15 million expansion of convention center space, and the new exterior signage highlighting it. Conference attendance is up 14% this past year in Vegas, and the Hard Rock is targeting more of that business.

While the Hard Rock may not be the first hotel you think of for conventions in Vegas, around one quarter to one third of their rooms have been occupied by meeting-goers. The difficulty has been accommodating larger size gatherings. Frequently they have managed by utilizing The Joint as a venue (concert capacity for 4,000, although only holds 1,800 in a speech setting), but that necessitated working around bookings there.

An additional 23,000 square feet is being built: 18,000 more for meeting and conventions, plus 5,000 as back-of-house storage, office facilities; when done, the total will be about 110,000 square feet, with the latest in high tech sound, light etc. The steel structure was finished in May and the rest should be completed by this fall.

This ensures having a dedicated ballroom, with contiguous meeting space and event venues, so larger groups can be accommodated and experience exciting and impactful conferences. Other properties may have more space, but the Hard Rock comes with its own unique vibe. There’s all the music memorabilia and history — acts such as The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney, Carlos Santana, Sting and KISS have all performed there — plus other amenities, including their five-acre pool deck.

While it’s unknown if these two additions are connected or coincidental, perhaps they are some part of a strategy to make the Hard Rock more welcoming to women. Chief Operating Office Jody Lake was quoted on that subject recently, saying:

“Hard Rock has been a very male-centric property for a long time … we need a more female audience … are absolutely working toward entertainment for females and retail for females that will grow our customer base.”

Channing Tatum, the original Magic Mike, has a plan to solve this problem. For over a year now, he has been working on directing and producing a new Magic Mike Live Las Vegas revue slated for the old Body English underground nightclub, adjacent to the casino floor. That is being transformed into the cabaret Club Domina (from the Magic Mike XXL movie), created as a 360-degree 450-seat venue with three elaborate bars. The show, which will feature someone else as sexy handyman Mike Lane, is set to open in March 2017, for those age 18 and older. It will be running Wednesdays through Sundays, with performances at 7:30 and 10:30 PM.

What’s next for the Hard Rock, once all this has been accomplished? They upgraded the Central Bar last fall, and spent $700 mil on their 2010 expansion, but rumor has it the original hotel tower could be up for a refurb – stay tuned!