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Wednesday, September 09, 1998

COLUMN: TASTE OF THE TOWN: Michael Paskevich

Play It Again Sam remodeled into adult supper club

By Michael Paskevich
Review-Journal Some callers sounded dismayed, others merely curious. Could it be true? Had Play It Again Sam, a Humphrey Bogart-themed locals' favorite since 1976, turned into a strip joint? Not quite. "This is still a restaurant with an even better menu than before," says original owner Randy Kiefer of a transformed Sam's he calls "Las Vegas' first adult supper club."

      The respected restaurateur and former president of the Nevada Restaurant Association -- he owns Kiefer's Atop the Carriage House, a new Kiefer's in Henderson and opened the original Elephant Bar -- admits his topless dancing and dining concept is a risk.
      "I really think I'm on to something hot," he says. "We may lose some regulars, but the reaction so far has been very favorable and we're getting couples. I even brought my 79-year-old mother in the other night and she said it reminded her of the days of (fan dancer) Gypsy Rose Lee."
      Kiefer shuttered Sam's for seven weeks this summer to revamp the eatery at 4120 Spring Mountain Road.
      "This has been a fantasy of mine," he says during a tour of the remodeled 5,200-square-foot nightspot, "and part of that fantasy was to get rid of all the things I don't like about adult clubs."
      Such as stiff cover charges and costly drink minimums. Or bulky, intimidating hosts in tuxedos wearing microphones for security reasons. Blaring, brain-draining bad rock music and disorienting light shows. And, most important perhaps, no scantily clad women constantly wooing customers for $20 lap dances.
      "All of our dancers wear evening gowns (when not performing) and you'll never get hustled or see a lap dance in the dining room," Kiefer promises. There's a private room (with runway stage) in back for that sort of action, and dancers are forbidden to approach patrons while they're dining in awning-draped private booths that recall poolside cabanas.
      "I think food is sexy and I think pretty women are, too," says Kiefer of what he hopes is "the perfect combination" of sensuality and quality food -- plus video poker at the bar.
      Tinted glass separates one arched dining area from the front lounge where a stage is trimmed in fiber-optic lights for solo strips set to softly played music ranging from swing and Linda Rondstadt-Nelson Riddle collaborations to vintage hits by the Rolling Stones.
      Executive chef Ray Gallo oversees a menu that includes 10 appetizers, all priced at $8 each, such as oysters Rockefeller, coconut-battered shrimp, garlic-pepperoncini calamari and escargot baked in puff pastry rounds.
      Fine wines and champagnes can accompany contemporary entrees such as king salmon fillet baked on a seasoned cedar plank ($20), ahi tuna fillet encrusted with sesame seeds ($19), and a veal and pork meatloaf with prosciutto and provolone cheese in a Chianti wine sauce ($15).
      Drinks start at $3 and climb higher for exotic martinis (chocolate?!) and other concoctions, notes general manager Bob Davis.
      About 20 women will dance and undrape daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Kiefer is confident a more peaceful adult environment will lure local businessmen and conventioneers to a place where they can eat and still hear themselves talk. Dancers are allowed to dine with customers upon invitation.
      Open barely two weeks, Play It Again Sam's fleshy concept will soon be extended to an (almost) naked lunch weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Phone 876-1550 for more information and reservations.
      Kiefer's unclothed concept could be part of a trend as Club Paradise, 4416 Paradise Road, also is offering dinners daily from 5 p.m.
     
      Submit information to Michael Paskevich, Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, Nev. 89125-0070. You also can reach him by fax at 383-4676 or through computer e-mail at Michael_Paskevich@lvrj.com.


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MICHAEL PASKEVICH

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