The Royal Treatment

From budget hotel to hipster hot spot, the Royal Resort undergoes a boutique renovation

Just off the Strip on Convention Center Drive, with an unassuming façade and marquee, the Royal Resort looks like an average budget hotel. But once visitors step into the Royal House—the name given to the recently renovated lobby—any anxiety about being trapped in a scene from Vegas Vacation disappears. The inviting ground-floor space, polished up with locals in mind, has been transformed into a hangout for those weary of megaresorts.

The man behind the transformation is Adam Mizzi, owner of Authentic Entertainment Properties, who spent years learning the ins and outs of running resorts on the Strip. The casino-marketing executive worked for MGM Resorts International and the Cosmopolitan, among other companies, before he purchased and dedicated his full attention to the Royal. The project had presented itself to Mizzi several times, but he never had any interest in it. Outlooks tend to change with the economic climate, and in August 2010, Mizzi jumped at the opportunity to take over the long-term master lease. Refurbishment of the property began in January.

“When we took over the property it was pretty decrepit,” he says. Little attention had been paid to updates or renovations, and the bar remained wrapped in white and green linoleum. Behind it sat a makeshift showroom—a “hideous contraption” made with two-by-fours, he says.

Mizzi had to completely strip the bar and demolish the showroom. The rebuilt area features a curved bar topped with granite mined from the Mediterranean Sea. The space behind the bar was transformed into the Den, where bands and DJs take up residence.

With the help of Margot Silverman of the Yates-Silverman design firm, Mizzi and his team ordered custom-designed furnishings such as tufted chairs and vintage-inspired chandeliers. Mizzi says he was on a mission to create an authentic space that didn’t feel like it was trying too hard. “Dive-bar chic” is what he calls the design inspiration. These touches are evident in the hand-painted grand piano, pool table, classic arcade games and shuffleboard table.

It was the abundance of public space that initially drew Mizzi to the Royal, and using that space to create a community is one of his goals. “We were convinced we could reposition it and add a different flavor to Las Vegas,” he says. With the help of marketing team members Ryan Pardey and Patrick Riesgo, he books local bands and showcases local art—except for pieces commissioned from San Francisco artist Eric Bailey, whose modern Victorian works are unmistakable.

But the full remodel of the lobby couldn’t be completed until the opening of the Billy Richardson restaurant, the Barrymore. Designed by James Gundy of 1027 Design Management, the restaurant keeps in step with the authentic Vegas lifestyle Mizzi is trying to portray.

With the downstairs restaurant and bar area complete and a slot parlor filled with vintage-inspired machines slated to open in December, Mizzi has turned his focus to the resort’s 200 rooms. The first phase of renovation includes the second floor, which has suites from 1,000 to 1,500 square feet. Mizzi’s goal is to turn them into accommodations that are functional and modular so they can be used in myriad ways, from convention meetings to parties. Eventually all the rooms will be getting the “authentic Vegas” touch, with a full renovation scheduled to be completed within a year.

“We want people to know we’re not trying to take them to New York or L.A.,” Mizzi says. “We are trying to create a boutique Vegas model.”

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Yannick Augy

Style icons: Tom Ford, Brad Pitt, Ryan Reynolds, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior. What he’s wearing now: Zara three-piece suit and shirt, Valentino tie, Michael Kors tie pin, Louis Vuitton belt, Aldo shoes, Perry Ellis socks and Tiffany & Co. bracelet.