Call it Parrot Deco. As Resorts Casino Hotel transitions from its 1920s-era theme to the host of the Atlantic City branch of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville empire, the styles may not fit together exactly.
"Cheeseburger in Paradise" echoed amid the mirrored halls and a dark, neon bar in the casino had a clock shaped like half a lime - though a few touches, such as marble columns with giant palm leaves and stained-glass pineapples, gave the lobby a "chilled-out Gatsby on vacation" sort of vibe.
But to the first visitors to the unofficial soft opening of Margaritaville, the latest Boardwalk attraction was less a work in progress than a much-anticipated success.
"It's what we've been waiting for for years," said Jeff Puorro, of Manahawkin, Stafford Township. "We went to the one in Vegas and we said, 'We need one in Atlantic City.'"
Puorro and his family had grabbed a table designed to look like the back of a tropical fishing boat, complete with a fishing pole that kept his son, Tyler, busy reeling in imaginary marlins.
"We saw people picking up and ready to leave, and we kind of swept in," admitted Puorro's wife, Rachel.
The restaurant, which was fully open Sunday after a private event kept it shut for most of Saturday, was just one part of the $35 million complex that includes a 160-machine slot parlor, a gift shop and coffee shop and the yet-to-open Landshark bar & Grill, a year-round beach bar.
There was no trace of art deco in the bustling Margaritaville restaurant - and if the space had ever been part of an early 20th century art deco hotel and not a slightly cleaned-up version of Key West, it didn't show it.
Pelicans perched over quaint, dockside shacks as a mini-seaplane dove into a flock of seagulls, all beneath a giant map of the Bahamas on the ceiling. For Roy and Wendy Heintz, add some almost-empty tropical drinks and it may have well been paradise, cheeseburgers or no.
"I love it," Wendy Heintz said. "I've been to Orlando (Margaritaville), and this is much better than Orlando."
Stephen Sauta, of Toms River, said he was just at the Margaritaville in Key West, "and it's great to see it here. It looks beautiful. It feels good, it's a good atmosphere. All you need is the sun outside.
"It's going to do well here," Sauta added. "Theyneedthis here at Resorts."
For Resorts, which saw gross operating profits drop 35 percent last year to $7.9 million as the rest of the Atlantic City casinos fell a combined 28 percent, the attraction drawing crowds on a dreary Sunday with little advance notice may be a good sign.
Parrotheads were certainly clued in, despite the soft opening before the official, hard opening this Friday, when Landshark will also open its doors.
Mary Fusco, of Collegeville, Pa., is Facebook friends with Margaritaville and learned about the soft opening when she asked about the Atlantic City location.
Patti Bertino, of Egg Harbor Township, meanwhile, read about it in from a trusted source.
"Yeah," she said. "It was in The Press."
As for Charlie Chiclacos, of Glen Cove, N.Y., he was already making plans to alter his Atlantic City routine.
"I was just down at Caesars, and wanted to see what it's all about," Chiclacos said, standing outside the Landshark. "I'm a big Jimmy Buffett fan. I saw him when he came here a couple years ago. If this is what they're going to play, and if this is the state of mind, I'm ready to change my latitude from Caesars."
Added his friend Rita Reilly, of Langhorne, Pa., "This is going to be magnificent. I'm looking forward to this thing opening more than I did Revel. Because this is a party atmosphere."
And so the laid-back, party atmosphere of Jimmy Buffett begins its reign at Resorts. As someone once wrote in the 1920s, large parties are always the most intimate.
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