When the $620-million, multi-phase, property-wide renovation is complete on Palms Casino Resort, it will be unrecognizable. As its marketing campaign touts, Palms aims to go “from dust to gold.” Camden Cocktail Lounge and APEX Social Club (pictured, above) were two of the first new venues to open up in May as part of that golden transformation.
Andy Masi, Owner of boutique hospitality and marketing company Clique Hospitality, along with nightlife partners Ryan Labbe and Jason “JRoc” Craig, were tapped by Red Rock Resorts to bring the two unique concepts to Palms.
“I think the spaces are really exciting,” says Masi. “The new Palms is going to be pretty spectacular, and we’re excited to be the first two venues to open up.”
Camden is a dynamic cocktail lounge located adjacent to Palms’ main entrance and connected to the High-Limit area of the casino. The venue provides a level of luxury typically reserved for high rollers but here is available to anyone looking for quality, over-the-top cocktails.
Camden’s design took its initial inspiration from an old-school, elegant library and then mixed it with modern, contemporary décor. “The idea of the library was the initial inspiration—but what would a library look like in a really eclectic, modern home?” explains Masi. “That’s what we went with.”
Alongside the dark paneled walls and velvet sofas, chairs, and stools in browns and blues are glass shelving and a ceiling full of suspended, bulbous lighting fixtures that provide a dim glow to the space. Two original pieces of artwork from artist Richard Prince’s series Nurses hang in the space, adding to the modern vibe. A neon sign behind the bar proclaims, “All I ever wanted was everything.”
Camden aims to fulfill this desire spelled out in neon script through its spectacular service—something that’s been a focus for Masi throughout his career. “We always try to have unparalleled service in all the venues—world-class service—because it really does separate you from everybody else,” he says. “We deliver with great music and a great environment, we build some pretty unique looking spaces that draw customers in, but at the end of the day, we focus a lot on service.”
That superior service is on display in Camden’s cocktail program, which offers a selection of classic and new cocktails. It also features a tableside mixology program where guests choose from six cocktails and watch as mixologists craft the cocktails and explain the process right at their table.
“Our tableside mixology carts are meant to not only give value to the experience at Camden Cocktail Lounge, but it is to cater the experience to the guest specifically,” says Eric Hobbie, Corporate Intoxicologist at Camden, who has worked for a number of esteemed celebrity chefs and helped open clubs in the nightlife capitals of Las Vegas and New York City. “At a bar, the bartender doesn’t get to make every drink in front of the guest. Bartenders typically have to make drinks in designated wells. With the cart, we bring the bar to you. It is more intimate. It is a show stopper.”
At Camden, the “show” element is definitely strong in its tableside mixology program. Masi explains that the focus is on “over-the-top presentation.” “It’s not about all the different ingredients that you put in—it’s how it’s presented, what it looks like, how the flavor comes out,” he says.
The program aims to give guests a full sensory experience beyond just taste. “For example, you look at [the recipe], Lost in the Forest [Ransom Dry Gin, yellow chartreuse, meyer lemon juice, green pine cone syrup, rosemary air]. It is served on a live moss tray. Where some might see it and say it’s only for looks, think again. Every time the guest puts the cocktail down, their hand touches the fresh moss and gives them the feel of the forest,” says Hobbie. “Another example would be The Hef cocktail [Del Maguey Mezcal, Contratto vermouth bianco, activated charcoal vanilla tincture, Scrappy’s Chocolate Bitters, dry ice]. We place toasted Rice Krispies treats on top of the pipe you drink out of. When imbibing this cocktail, you smell the toast coming from the garnish, and it makes the mezcal really come to life. It gives the sensation of smoking.
“Everything was carefully put in place in these cocktails to bring forth an experience unmatched here in Las Vegas.”
Tableside mixology carts are a growing trend as bars seek to provide an individualized experience for their guests. But as Hobbie explains, the practice isn’t as easy as just taking your bartenders out from behind the bar.
“We are proud to be a part of this trend because again it gives value and special individual experience that is hard to match just sitting at the bar,” he says. “People will try to replicate it here in Vegas, but I know first-hand how difficult it is to execute high-end craft cocktails off of a much smaller space than bartenders are used to.”
To complement the cocktail menu and provide guests with something to snack on, Camden also offers a collection of small bites and desserts, including Maine lobster rolls, kung pao chicken meatballs, mini philly cheese steak heros, raw veggie summer rolls, and deep-fried brownies.
“When you’re hanging out having a couple of drinks, you always want something to bite on. It’s just part of the overall experience,” says Masi. “I think doing the bar without food would be missing something.”
Live music will also be a part of guests’ experience at Camden. The programming will change daily with a mixture of live music and DJ-driven sounds. “We’re going to keep it very low key with some fun, local DJs playing some music most nights,” says Masi. “And then a little bit of live, acoustic music during the course of the week.”
If guests are looking for more in the way of music, APEX Social Club fifty-five floors up (located in the space formerly known as Ghostbar) aims to please by featuring local and national DJs. However, the venue also seeks to encourage social interaction.
“When we created APEX, what we wanted was to make a smaller space—not have a dance floor, and not have the whole experience be about staring at a DJ,” says Masi. “The market is changing a little bit, and there’s a lot of people who don’t want that and would rather have great service and a more intimate experience.
“That’s why we got rid of the dance floor and put tables facing each other. We want people to interact with each other, talk to each other, hang out with each other, drink with each other, and dance with each other.”
Masi’s nightlife partner Ryan Labbe says the venue is about bringing back the social scene Las Vegas was known for. “A lot of people miss the heyday of Vegas when it was about the room and the energy and not just the talent,” said Labbe in a press release. “We’re bringing those days back.”
Located on the 55th floor of Palms, the 8,000-square-foot, open-air boutique nightclub also boasts an unrivaled 180-degree view of Las Vegas from its balcony. One-of-a-kind artwork; a sleek, upscale design; and specialty crafted cocktails, age-old favorites, and tableside bottle service all complement the views.
“Apex is really about the social interaction, the view, the music, the lighting,” says Masi. “When people walk in there, they’re going to be blown away. We’re really proud of it.”
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