A line of rolling chairs waited Thursday outside the slot parlor at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, which has opened for customers ahead of its soft opening this weekend.

“More people are starting to realize that something exciting is about to happen,” said chair operator Wendell Brown, before snagging his next fare. “I think it’s going to be an explosive summer.”

The renovated section of Resorts Casino Hotel — part of a larger $35 million project that will eventually include a beach bar — opened to little fanfare. But rolling chair operators knew where to find the crowds Thursday.

Inside, cocktail waitresses dressed in Resorts’ trademark flapper uniforms mingled with customers amid the strains of Jimmy Buffett tunes. Blue and gold carpeting led patrons from the parking garage through the existing casino to the new slot parlor, a gift shop and restaurant.

Bartenders stocked the It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar inside Resorts while, outside, construction continued on the LandShark Bar & Grill, which will boast ocean views just off the Boardwalk. The entire complex is slated to open Memorial Day weekend.

Representatives from both Margaritaville and Resorts did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Like most of Atlantic City’s casinos, Resorts suffered a substantial decrease in gross operating profits last year, falling more than 35 percent to $7.9 million. The industry as a whole fell nearly 28 percent, to $360.7 million, during the same period. The launch of Margaritaville may help reverse that downward trajectory.

It wasn’t just the rolling chair operators who noticed the new atmosphere at Resorts, which had previously branded itself with a Roaring ’20s style.

“It’s a nice atmosphere — different from a lot of other places,” said Angie Miller, 46, of Newark, while walking out.

Ninety-one-year-old Carmine Conti, who travels to Atlantic City from Wyckoff, Bergen County, several times a year, said the change is a big improvement.

“It was a little dull before,” he said. “I think the carpets have a lot to do with it.”

Tina Barsik, 62, of Emmaus, Pa., said she liked the look of Margaritaville, the design of which is dominated by LED-lit palm frond columns.

“So far, it looks all right,” said Barsik, who sat outside with her husband, Charlie, 66, on the Boardwalk. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Brown, 55, of Atlantic City, said he’s happy to finally have a new attraction to bring potential rolling chair riders back to the Boardwalk.

The 20-year rolling chair veteran said Margaritaville so far has been better than even Revel has for his business because it’s closer to the main part of town.

“Things have picked up quite a bit, and they haven’t even opened,” he said. “Just imagine when it does open.”

Mohammad M. Rahaman, 25, also of Atlantic City, said he, too, is looking forward to Margaritaville’s full opening this summer. The relative newcomer to the rolling chair game, having shuttled tourists up and down the Boardwalk for about two years, was parked in a line of chairs in front of Resorts.

“Once everything opens, it will be very good for us,” he said.

Contact Wallace McKelvey:

609-272-7256

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