In the years since I managed Shadow Bar in the early-to-mid “aughts,” I’ve often walked past it and thought about the ladies dancing behind the screens. As time went on, it became rarer to see them. More often, I saw the cocktail servers—much the same ones with whom I spent seemingly endless hours sorting multicolor paper napkins—and a few familiar faces behind the bar, flipping bottles for a largely empty room. It was sad to see this once lively room in Caesars Palace so quiet.
There was a time when we would fling back the velvet ropes after a Celine performance and pack the lounge with bodies, throwing on Darude’s “Sandstorm” for a vibrant flair bartending performance and tossing entire stacks of those carefully arranged napkins in the air to create a spectacle the thirsty hordes simply couldn’t ignore. But the thirsty hordes will now stream from Mariah or Celine into a new corral, Vista Cocktail Lounge, operated by Hakkasan Group.
The Rockwell Group-designed experience starts at the entrance—there are more of them. Gone is the ramp entrance (well, wisely relocated), which adds a new ingress from the casino floor. Inside, the color palette has gone from cool chrome, purple and magenta to warm amber, onyx, cream and gold. At the bar, crowd-pleasing cocktails by Hakkasan Group bartender/mixologist Ray Srp bear quizzical names contributed by Vista GM Javier Parra. “The names are a little aloof, a little crazy, but it’s just to get a conversation going,” Parra says. The Dorsia, for example, is named for a restaurant mentioned in American Psycho. Adele Bloch Bauer is named for the subject of a famous painting. And the Bannister is an ode to Rita Hayworth’s character in The Lady From Shanghai.
Shanghai also features into the series of interactive digital “portals” (in place of Shadow’s dancer screens) that give Vista patrons realistic views of city skylines, also including New York and Dubai. Watch clouds roll by, rainstorms and even peer in on people in the building across the way. These cityscapes alternate with my favorite vista: what appears to be the inside of a glass of Champagne. Or a galaxy. Either way, what a view!
As for operations, Vista opens nightly from 5 p.m. till late for pre- and post-show and dinner cocktails. But I see it as much more than just a convenient lily pad from which to hop elsewhere. With more space (200 square feet more, for a total of 3,000), lots of open (repeat: open!) seating options, no velvet ropes/needless lines/VIP hosts, and a very sexy bar scene, I hope to see my old haunt once again become a nighttime destination unto itself.
You know, I once heard it was a tossup between Shadow and Cleopatra’s Barge to get the full-on makeover. Given its prime location between the Colosseum and Nobu, Old Homestead or fellow newcomers Omnia and Searsucker (also by Hakkasan Group)—Shadow is the space I would personally choose, even if it meant taking a sledgehammer to my own baby—er, bar. In fact, over cocktails, with a casino exec, I actually put in a request to be present for the demolition, but that conversation’s probably as forgotten as the reason we spent hours sorting all those damned napkins by color in the first place.