Sunday, April 13, 2014

An Oyster Caper, Starring Vintage Mollusks

The restaurant inside the social club Rose. Rabbit. Lie. received a B grade with 20 demerits (read the full inspection below).  The restaurant was re-inspected on February 13 and received an A grade.  Some of the demerits on Feb. 7th were for violations such as micro greens not being prewashed correctly and chefs touching micro greens with bare hands.  But one violation in particular caught our attention:

“Oyster shells being run through dishmachine [sic] and used as a plate for oyster dish—LOT numbers do not match/ unsure if they match”

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Vintage Coastal Luxury Management

Rose. Rabbit. Lie (“RRL”) in The Cosmopolitan (a supper club managed by Spiegelworld and Coastal Luxury Management) had its first health inspection on February 7, 2014. Read about their B grade here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

It's a Variety Show

Click on the image above to expand and read what health inspectors had to say on February 7th.  Read our post on dishonest oysters: Oysters Go On Blind Date at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Oysters Go On Blind Date at Rose. Rabbit. Lie.

Have you eaten an oyster off a shell that belonged to another mollusk?
Rose. Rabbit. Lie (“RRL”) in The Cosmopolitan (a supper club managed by Spiegelworld and Coastal Luxury Management) had its first health inspection on February 7, 2014. The restaurant received a B grade with 20 demerits (read the full inspection below).  The restaurant was re-inspected on February 13 and received an A grade.  Some of the demerits on Feb. 7th were for violations such as micro greens not being prewashed correctly and chefs touching micro greens with bare hands.  But one violation in particular caught our attention:

“Oyster shells being run through dishmachine [sic] and used as a plate for oyster dish—LOT numbers do not match/ unsure if they match”

The prescribed correction from the inspector was as follows:

“Do not run oyster shells through dishmachine to use oyster shells. May use 1 time as a plate from oysters from the same bag/ lot/ date. - Discarded oyster shells.”

RRL’s menu features both cooked oysters Rockefeller and raw oysters on the half shell.  The inspection form does not indicate which menu item the shells were being used for, but any reuse of shells as serving plates is a violation of Nevada regulation 4-302.17.[1] Restaurants are required to keep lots of shellfish separate and retain the tags showing the origin and date of the stock for 90 days after receiving the product.  This is to ensure that any recalls on shellfish can be done safely, and any food borne illness can be traced to the correct wholesale source.  The practice of reusing oyster shells for any dish, raw or cooked, is banned in Nevada.  It is also illegal in New Jersey, where RRL Chef Wesley Holton worked as executive chef for many years. 

In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has interpreted its food service sanitation manual as prohibiting this practice SINCE 1976, and states such as Nevada often model or mirror the FDA’s food codes.  According to a 2004 memo on the topic by an FDA Consumer Safety Officer of the Retail Food Protection Team, “If a natural oyster shell is used as a serving utensil, the assumption is that this is the shell where the oyster developed.” The memo also addresses the issue of sanitation:

The natural materials of oyster and other mollusk and crustacean shells are not sufficiently durable to withstand caustic cleaners and high pressure sprays from dish machines or pressure sprayers needed for repeated cleaning. These shells collect residues from the environment (dust, animals, birds, etc.) or from organic material with its pathogens and biofilms and are not easily cleaned with their cracks, crevices and porous shells. Soil on the back of the shell in the radial growth rings is also very difficult to clean. Both Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus have an affinity for the chitin in shells and are not easily removed. Because of these factors, natural mollusk and crustacean shells do not meet the criteria for characteristics of a multiuse utensil and cannot be reused beyond the limited exception for preparation of the animal and return to its shell associated with Section 4-502.14.

The memo goes on to say that “Reused shells with shucked shellfish would be considered misleading and not honestly presented.” 

RRL is not a specialty seafood restaurant, but it does offer extravagant dishes such as whole roasted giant Alaskan red king crab for $1200, and one kilo of California White sturgeon caviar for $2,642, and  Beef Wellington for $275.  Although RRL prices its raw oysters on the half shell at $13 for four ($3.25 per oyster) rather than at market price, the menu we have a copy of from before the inspection, as well as the one on the website as of this week, do not specify the variety of the oysters or where they were harvested. This information is not required to be on the menu, but it is also not an unusual practice at restaurants that charge premium or market prices for seafood.


The Cosmopolitan has a ten year contract with Spiegelworld (“SW”) to run RRL (see below).  According to the company website, this is the only venue in the U.S. where SW employs restaurant staff in addition to performers and production staff.  SW then subcontracts with Coastal Luxury Management (“CLM”) of Monterey, CA, for services including menu design, arranging suppliers, kitchen design, licensing, and selecting the executive chef and other food prep staff, who are then employed by SW. Coastal Luxury Management, owned by David Bernahl, Rob Weakley, and Terroir Capital (owner of several wineries, and a project of Charles Banks), also runs the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival and two restaurants and a pub in California. 

We asked health inspectors in California if the practice of reusing oyster shells is allowed there, to which they responded that they had never heard of such a practice.  So we asked an oyster wholesaler why a restaurant might do such a thing, and he said that shipping costs can easily double the landed cost of an oyster, and shells make up a majority of that weight. Pre-shucked oysters are a less expensive alternative.

[1] 4-302.17 Molluscan and Crustacean Shells, Use Limitations: Molluscan and crustacean shells shall not be used more than once as serving containers for FOOD.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sexual Assault and Theft at The Cosmopolitan

Sexual Assault at The Cosmopolitan

Given the recurrent sexual themes of The Cosmopolitan’s Just The Right Amount of Wrong and more recent MISFIT Right In advertising campaigns, we find it particularly disturbing that sexual assaults were 2.5 times more common at The Cosmopolitan than The Hard Rock, and more than 2 times more common than at The Palms, between December 1, 2010 and January 31, 2014.  In fact, as of January 31, 2014, The Cosmopolitan has averaged more than one sexual assault per month, with 42 reported sexual assaults responded to by police since its opening. 

Police Incidents

The Las Vegas Metro Police Department’s (LVMPD) incident logs show that since opening in December 2010, there have been 9,152 police calls to The Cosmopolitan premises.  When compared to The Hard Rock Hotel and Palms Hotel—two other Las Vegas casinos known for a younger “party” scene and hip music and club scene—The Cosmopolitan had 1.8 times the number of police calls to The Hard Rock, and nearly 2.5 times the number of calls to The Palms.[1]

Prostitution at The Cosmopolitan

The employees who work at The Cosmopolitan have expressed concerns for their own safety at work.  For example, a mixologist who has worked for there since it opened, is very concerned about illicit activity in his bar:
I work the graveyard shift, and I don’t feel safe a lot of the time.  I have been threatened twice by pimps.  One said “I’m gonna end you.” We get no training about how to handle these situations, or the prostitution that goes on in the bar.  During certain hours, there is usually only one manager to look over three bars, the casino floor, and service areas. There is no security station near my bar, despite the illicit activity that has gone on in there, and the proximity to an entrance.  A fist fight broke out in the bar recently while I was working alone.  One of the customers was taken out on a stretcher.  Sometimes it takes security 5-15 minutes to get to my bar when I call them.

A court ruling from August 2013 describes an incident involving a Cosmopolitan guest and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. The guest was allegedly approached by an undercover police officer known by Cosmopolitan employees as “Porkchop” and detained for suspected prostitution.[2]  According to the district judge’s order reciting testimony from Vice undercover officers, LVMPD was engaged in a large anti-prostitution sting operation at The Cosmopolitan in 2011 after receiving “complaints that the place was being overrun” with prostitution-related activity.[3]  Sergeant James Signorello of the LVMPD Vice section testified that “enforcement activity is often requested by the casinos themselves to ‘clean up’ their property.”[4] The court documents are posted below. 

You can keep up to date on the level and types of crimes happening at The Cosmopolitan by typing in 3708 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, Nevada, 89109 at this crime mapping website.

[1] LVMPD records showed 3705 police calls to The Palms between December 1, 2010-Jan. 31, 2014, and 5033 calls to The Hard Rock during the same period. 
[2] Chentile Goodman V. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. May 14, 2012, page 1.
[3] Chentile Goodman v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. August 2, 2013, page 11
[4] Chentile Goodman v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. August 2, 2013, page 10

Monday, November 25, 2013

Is the Cosmopolitan Trying to Rebrand?

Is The Cosmopolitan abandoning its award-winning campaign Just the Right Amount of Wrong?

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas built its brand from scratch with an Effie and CLIO award winning campaign, Just the Right Amount of Wrong.  Earlier this year ad agency Fallon produced a third round of this edgy campaign: two new TV commercials released in July and August.  But as of October 2013, The Cosmopolitan has removed the award winning spots from both its youtube channel and the hotel’s website.  Articles about the ads that used Cosmopolitan's youtube channel links are no longer functional.
In fact, The Cosmopolitan recently posted a spot on its youtube channel called DISCOVER: The Cosmopolitan.  This ad does not use the tag line Just the Right Amount of Wrong or show any salacious images like the previous ads.  Given the fact that this new commercial has very little in common with the earlier Fallon spots, and no agency is credited, we are wondering: Has The Cosmopolitan dumped Fallon? 

The new spot features exactly what the award winning ads do not: what appears to be b-roll footage of the resort, people eating and gambling and relaxing in the pool, with a piano music soundtrack.  The writing consists solely of a list of awards (some more than two years old) the resort has received from various websites and publications, and lists of chefs and other amenities.  Has The Cosmopolitan given up on the “Curious Class” and provocative ad content? 

Compatible Brands?

What does it take to become a Ritz-Carlton partner resort? 

Before the casino opened in 2010, and before the ad campaign by Fallon was launched, the casino negotiated a marketing agreement with Marriott which includes a place on the Ritz-Carlton website, and allows Ritz customers to use their rewards points at The Cosmopolitan.  (The resort is not managed or owned by a hotel or casino chain, but is wholly owned by Deutsche Bank, with a management board made up of bank executives.)  So Marriott offered the Ritz-Carlton partnership before The Cosmopolitan had opened or launched its brand, and we wonder: what kind of expectations were attached to that pairing?

Ritz-Carlton’s marketing campaign by Team One features families making “indelible memories” via the “ladies and gentlemen” who serve them.  Ritz’s Let Us Stay with You campaign invites guests to “Let us introduce your kids to a loggerhead turtle,” and “Let us take you snorkeling by moonlight.” The TV spot showcases the Ritz-Carlton service the global elite expect from the Ritz: “Let us arrange a tailor at 5am,” and “Let us turn tonight into 25 years ago, tonight.”

In contrast, The Cosmopolitan’s campaign targeted a demographic perhaps interested in a different type of wildlife than the loggerhead turtle.  The casino features art sold in vending machines like old cigarette machines, condoms and lube on top of the mini-bar, and until recently, the option of getting married “on a whim” at the Pop Up chapel in the front windows of the 3,000 room Strip casino, as tourists look on.  The website Jet Setter described it as having a "raging party scene and hip boutiques.”  On November 6, 2013 USA today named Cosmo one of the top ten best party hotels in the country.

Brands build-- and build upon-- reputation

The superficial differences between the two brands are obvious.  But beneath the Ritz brand aesthetic is a credo and service model unparalleled in the industry, and this is central to its marketing campaign as well as its management practices.  Ritz-Carlton is known for its high levels of service, and one of its marketing goals is to leverage existing customers into more frequent customers through the service experience.  Part of the strategy at Ritz is investment in staff.  A 2010 GallupBusiness Journal article reported that Ritz-Carlton employee turnover “is low enough to be legendary: a mere 18% compared to the luxury-hotel industry average of 158% for line-level workers, 136% for supervisors, and 129% for managers.”  The Cosmopolitan doesn’t publish staff turnover rates.  But Cosmo's branding does not even attempt to impart an expectation of service.  

The partnership led us to investigate the conditions management has maintained inside The Cosmopolitan over the last couple years, and we found some differences between what one would expect from a Ritz-Carlton and The Cosmopolitan.  Even customer reviews both good and bad of the casino illuminate very different expectations among customers who compared the resort to a Ritz.

About a week after we began blogging about this, The Cosmopolitan posted the DISCOVER commercial to its youtube channel.  No more pantless bellhops, women in corsets wandering around with kittens, stray deer and baby chickens, no flashing WILD IS LAID and PROPER DIES messages.  In fact, the time lapse scenery, collage aesthetic, and piano music reminded us a lot of the Ritz-Carlton spot made by Team One.  So, we are wondering a few things:

Is Cosmo abandoning its Just the Right Amount of Wrong campaign?

Why the new ad with conventional content?

How does the Ritz-Carlton feel about the Just the Right Amount of Wrong ads, or The Cosmopolitan brand?

Friday, November 15, 2013

From the SNHD Archives: Estatorio Milos in The Cosmopolitan

"Touted as one of North America’s finest Greek restaurants, Estiatorio Milos by restaurateur Costas Spiliadis features fine Mediterranean cuisine at its best and has a longstanding reputation for serving the freshest, most pristine seafood imported daily in New York City and Montreal."
Although the restaurant currently has an A grade from the Southern Nevada Health District, in 2011-2012 inspections at Estatorio Milos were notably different.  It all began with a series of complaints, followed by inspections.  The health department responded to the following complaints on March 28, 2011:

“Wash machine on 1st floor used to tenderize octopus in hot water. Machine has not been sanitized/ cleaned in months, causing a strong odor.”

“Employee grabbed raw fish with bare hands then placed it on the counter while placing order into computer.  Went to bar to get drink orders all without washing hands in between tasks.”

Both complaints were found to be valid by inspectors and fees were charged.  The health department inspector reported an “extreme foul smell” and “octopus guts on washing machine, hair on washing machine.”
Both the restaurant and prep kitchen received C grades on March 28, 2011.  Due to the number of complaints filed with the SNHD, and the inspections, SNHD officials held a conference with Executive Chef Joshua Smith on March 30, 2011.

The following year, on March 1, 2012, the restaurant and prep kitchen received C grades once again.  Some of the reasons for the C included “container of broccoli sitting in water from leaking refrigerator” and “dirty rag used for cleaning counters.”  The inspection sited “large issues with lack of training of employees” and that “due to repeated issues in facility” that restaurant management was required to hold a supervisory conference with SNHD supervisor Robert Urzi.

Below is the report from the conference with three representatives of SNHD and Nikolaos Georgousis- Sous chef, Savvas Georgiadis- general manager, and Duane Welch, director of stewarding for The Cosmopolitan. Also included are the inspections mentioned above.