Atlantic City’s new Revel is all substance, no style 0

The Social nightclub in Revel

The Social nightclub in Revel

ATLANTIC CITY — Is it finished yet? Will it ever be?

Revel Atlantic City, the $2.4 billion mammoth, is open for business, and that may be the worst thing its adventurous financiers could have done at this stage.

Forget the lighting fixtures (inside and outside) that are not finished and the holes in the atrium ceiling if you look way up. Revel is a marvel to look at for any visitor to AC. It is a beautiful building with interesting artwork on the inside and flashy gaming floors.

Of course, on our recent visit the slot machines were not working properly, and each rare winning had to be given on a hand-written slip. That wasn’t much of a concern, because every time we put a twenty into a machine, after 5-6 spins, we were down to a few pennies, which we didn’t bother waiting for a paper slip to collect at the cage.

Makes you wonder how this casino is losing so much money… Not really.

To be fair, this is not a full review of Revel. We did not stay in the rooms nor dine at the restaurants. But that makes this article all the more poignant. I am not an Atlantic City connoisseur (I’m an expert on Vegas though..) but my brother is. Living nearby in Connecticut, my brother Chris and his girlfriend have gone to AC more than a dozen times in the past two years for weekend and daytrip getaways. They had never been to Revel, and this July 4 week, we all wanted to see as much of the city as we could.

So we ventured to the end of the boardwalk and walked into Revel. The first thing we noticed was the distinct lack of people to notice. No one greeting us. No one introducing visitors to the casino. No comps flying all around. Not even a cute girl passing out club or restaurant cards

Our first visit was last Saturday night. The place was dead. We got a bad feeling right away when we started at a French themed bar and quickly dropped $60 on four drinks. I asked for a whiskey sidecar, and the bartender looked at me like he didn’t know if he should pour a drink or rent a motorcycle. A second bartender confidently guessed, wrongly, and still charged me $16 for the drink.

We walked right through the entire place, even the second and third floors and were amazed by the ghost-town feel of it all. We walked into a bar that was half indoors, half outdoors. It was beautiful. Amazing furniture, fires burning. It was very stylish, but we soon realized we were the only people at the place — and I apologize, because the name escapes me and I can’t find it on the website.

We’re not about to let the lack of a crowd at 10 p.m. get us down — if anything we were more motivated to stay and turn the place into our own party hall. That wasn’t to be, however. The staff (was) looked bored. We sat in one of several expensive-looking loungy tables, but after five minutes we had to go up to the bar and ask the waitress, standing with her back to us, for a drink menu. After 20 minutes, we left because we got the distinct impression that we were holding up the staff who wanted nothing more than to go home. On our way down, we saw what seemed like a half dozen bars with 1-2 people at each.

We walked past a guarded door on the third floor and could make out some kind of fire sculpture but didn’t see any people. We weren’t allowed in, as we were not hotel guests. I can only assume that’s where all the people were that night.

We walked around a bit, but we were just shocked to see how empty the place was on the Saturday before the Fourth of July. The two beach bars down the Boardwalk were packed, as were the bars and gaming floors at Harrah’s, where we were staying.

We returned early the next day, eager to see what the place looked like in the daylight. We walked past a pool area, overlooking the beach, but again we were not allowed in. Let’s be clear — we were walking around in street clothes, not towels and bathing suits. We were not looking to crash the lack of party going on at Revel. We just wanted to walk around this new place and see it for ourselves.

People like my brother and his girlfriend are exactly the ones Revel needs. They are a Gen-Y couple that lives nearby, likes to go to AC, likes to spend money in AC, and would rather drive there than fly anywhere. A few years ago, they had never been to Harrah’s before when they took a cab away from the Boardwalk and wandered in on a weekend. They were walking around when they came upon the domed Harrah’s pool, where a hotel worker promptly showed them in, showed them around, and kindly asked them to come back real soon. They’ve stayed at Harrah’s, and only Harrah’s, ever since.

The staff wasn’t looking for their room key. They were looking to add a customer. Harrah’s knows it has to work hard, because it’s off the Boardwalk. It has the pool, which is sunny and 80 degrees even in January. But Harrah’s still has to get people to come.

That’s my problem with Revel. We walked in twice and were ignored by doormen, bartenders, waiters, and other staff. And when the hotel had the chance to hook us as new customers, its staff dropped the ball again and again.

On the flip side, the Mussel Bar has been excellently reviewed, and some of the chefs the resort are bringing in have excellent track records. The trouble with Revel, however, is that the staff has to get past this lukewarm preview period and get people to want to come back.

Revel is all built-up and ready. There are tons of bars, promising restaurants, nooks all over the resort to hide or make friends or party with your nearest and dearest. It’s a great framework, but there’s no execution. All substance, no style.

I read some promising reviews of Revel, and there is a ton of potential in the place. It needs a serious public relations lesson though. Revel stands out as an upscale, expensive, flashy glass tower in Atlantic City. But Atlantic City isn’t all about being flashy, upscale, and expensive. Unless Atlantic City is about to drastically change, Revel has to.