02/18/2005 12:00AM

Sin City returning to its roots with Vid


It doesn't seem that long ago that Las Vegas was marketing itself as a place for parents to bring their children. From the late 1980's through the 1990's, families were a big target audience.

Casinos added child-care centers, arcades, amusement parks, and shows designed to attract a wholesome crowd. In a Time Magazine cover story dated Jan. 10, 1994, Las Vegas was called "The New All-American City."

This mind-set left some old-time marketers shaking their heads. Las Vegas is called "Sin City" for good reason. If you go on vacation to be naughty, you come here, if you want to be nice, you head to Orlando, Fla.

In the new century the marketing pendulum has swung back to the niche that made Las Vegas famous. This is an adult playground. An exclamation point was made this week when Vivid Entertainment, the nation's leading producer of adult videos, opened "Vivid, The Club" at The Venetian hotel and casino.

This is no small feat because The Venetian is a five-star hotel that has been rated among the very best in the world. It does not need to take risks that might alienate its core customers. However, adult movies are more mainstream than anyone cares to admit. A big part of selling Vivid, The Club is that the leading ladies plan to be at the nightclub whenever they're in town.

The 9,000-square-foot nightclub is sure to draw the attention of the Gaming Control Board. The GCB doesn't take kindly to overt sex and nudity in public places. Last year, it fined the Hard Rock $100,000 simply for provocative advertising.

Vivid, The Club replaces the short-lived Venus Lounge & Tiki Bar that failed to cut through the clutter of risque nightclubs that are opening in all of the major casinos.

Vivid has a partner, ARK Restaurants Corp., which owns and operates 22 restaurants around the country. Steven Hirsch, co-founder and co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment, said his company didn't want to open a gentlemen's club because "there's tons of stuff out there already."

The two companies researched one another and found common ground for doing business. ARK has a solid pedigree in the competitive restaurant and bar industry and Vivid has a branding that makes even Playboy and Penthouse appear puritan.

These are two seemingly odd business arrangements between Vivid and ARK and Vivid, The Club and The Venetian. But in a town where each casino continually tries to outdo the other, moving in this direction is just pushing the envelope out a bit further.

Richard Eng is the turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap Up radio show.