Casino File: Boogie Nights to reopen at Trop, Magic at Harrah’s, Water Dog to Bally’s, Rivers' poker tourneys
There’s no doubt David Pena would be a billionaire if only he could figure out how to bottle and market the joy he is currently feeling. That’s because the long-standing, Atlantic City-based nightlife impresario is finally ready to revive Boogie Nights, his landmark danceteria that was shut down 16 months ago by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I'm so excited about reopening Boogie Nights. It really is a dream come true,” says Pena.
Boogie Nights opened in 2007 on the site of what was the Camelot steakhouse on the second level of what is now Resorts Casino Hotel. In 2012, Tropicana Atlantic City made Pena an offer he couldn’t refuse: A built-from-scratch facility right off the casino floor. From the start, Boogie Nights was unique among AyCee dance clubs: While others have traditionally keyed on contemporary “EDM” (electronic dance music), Boogie Nights celebrates the music and popular culture of the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s—complete with posters and other artifacts, as well as characters and mascots including the iconic “Roller Girl” (both the disco’s name and its signature character pay homage to Boogie Nights, the 1997 film about the porn industry of the late-1970s and early-’80 starring Burt Reynolds and Mark Wahlberg).
According to Pena, who also owns Planet Rose, the long-running Karaoke bar at The Quarter, the Trop’s retail, dining and entertainment complex, he was ready—and relieved--when the green light to reopen he’d been anxiously awaiting finally arrived.
“When I got that call, everything started rolling through my mind,” he offers. “I already knew exactly how we were going to open it. I had the marketing campaign already set up in my mind. I knew exactly how we want to come out. I feel like a little boy hoping everybody shows up to his birthday party.”
As for what awaits guests, Pena, whose Boogie Nights universe includes outlets at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi (Miss.) and Hollywood-branded casinos in St. Louis and Lawrenceburg, Ind., said that while there will be no radical changes, there will be additions and upgrades designed to enhance the vibe he describes as “Disneyland meets Studio 54.” He also promised some “surprises.”
Pena’s track record of success with Boogie Nights is indisputable—after all, it’s Atlantic City’s longest-running disco operating under the same brand. But that doesn’t mean he intends to rest on his laurels.
“I never underestimate the crowd,” he says. “I never take for granted that we're going to be packed no matter what. Yes, I know we'll be packed. But at the same time, I always feel like you always have to be humble and you always have to work hard for the crowd, and you have to give them what they want.
“You have to give them the product they deserve, what they expect and what they remember. And in addition you have to give them something new that will blow them away. And I that's what I'm trying to do.”
Boogie Nights re-opens July 15 at 9 p.m. and will be open Thursday through Saturday.
Harrah’s’ focus on hocus-pocus
What’s summer in Atlantic City without a gaming hall magic show?
For decades prior to the COVID-clobbered 2020 season, some of magic’s brightest stars of the time—including Lance Burton, Jeff McBride and the team of Mark Kalin & Jinger--lit up casino stages with hot-weather residencies at various properties. This year’s entry is Masters of Illusion—The Live Tour, which is being staged through Aug. 4 at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City. And while the program, which is being presented in conjunction with the CW network series of the same name doesn’t quite boast the same level of star power of some past AyCee offerings, it does provide 75 minutes’ worth of breezy, family-friendly entertainment.
Turco, who may be familiar to veteran AyCee magic-show fans, is the most traditional of the trio. His is a straightforward, if bright and engaging, approach that favors standard illusions like levitation and making the show’s female assistants disappear and reappear, all of which he does with sure-handed panache and easygoing professionalism. His stage-mates, however, are more offbeat in their presentations.
Lowell presents himself as a hyper-caffeinated wiseacre in the mold of the wonderful—and wonderfully zany--Jeff Hobson (to whom he bears a physical resemblance). He is a first-rate and funny (if silly) entertainer and a joy to watch, especially when he is (frequently) interacting with audience members.
Sperry is the no-frills production’s wild card. Looking like Marilyn Manson on a particularly bad day, he introduces himself with some nifty conjuring of birds from thin air. However, his later turns inject welcome edginess into the proceedings with segments that tread firmly on the turf staked out by Penn & Teller (which means blood is ostensibly spilled).
But parents needn’t worry; the bits do not cross any lines and kids will likely find him a most compelling and enjoyable figure.
In all, Masters of Illusion may not break any new ground, but it’s certainly a worthwhile and entertaining effort.
For show times and tickets, click here.
‘Dog’-in’ it at Bally’s
Last September, Bally’s Corp. honcho Phil Juliano told this column that he hoped to have Ventnor’s popular Water Dog Smoke House become part of the culinary lineup at Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel and Casino. Well, it’s a done deal.
The 8,000-square-foot Water Dog Atlantic City is set to open next month in the space that was Buca di Beppo. It will boast seating for 200 diners, a 35-seat bar and a live-music area.
As for the bill of fare, Water Dog will offer an eclectic menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The daytime options will include everything from house-smoked, Pastrami-herbed salmon, build-your-own eggs Benedict and challah French toast to Asian-fusion items such as pork belly/sticky rice egg skillets and breakfast Banh Mi dishes.
Dinner options include lobster rolls, (which are billed as being all meat with no filler) and Poke bowls with a variety of optional proteins, among them raw or spicy tuna and salmon, teriyaki scallops, seared yellowfin tuna, lobster, grilled salmon and Kobe beef.
Many of the dishes will be prepared with the smoking process that has made the original outlet in Ventnor, N.J. a favorite of locals and visitors alike.
Water Dog AC will be open 7 am-11 pm Sunday-Thursday; 7 am-2 am Friday/Saturday.
Big deal(s) at Rivers Philly
Regularly scheduled poker tournaments have returned to Rivers Philadelphia Casino. The schedule is as follows:
*Sundays, 11:15 a.m. — $160 Deep Stack No-Limit Hold ‘Em ($5,000 guarantee)
* Mondays, 7:15 p.m. — $130 NLH ($4,000 guarantee)
*Wednesdays, 7:15 p.m. — $130 NLH ($5,000 guarantee)