Among city officials and business owners, cautious optimism greeted Monday’s news that Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Gloria Burns had allowed Glenn Straub’s purchase of the shuttered Revel Casino Hotel.
“This is a very impressive property, and it represents 3,000 jobs,” said Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian. “It’s very important that we find someone to buy it and reinvigorate that property before next summer.”
Guardian said he hasn’t met or spoken with Straub before, but is attempting to set up a meeting on Tuesday.
This fall, Straub floated various ideas for what he wanted to do with the property, from reopening its casino to constructing a high-rise where intellectual heavyweights would tackle thorny global problems.
Guardian said he hopes a casino and hotel remain part of whatever Revel becomes.
“That’s critical for the healing process and for turning this city around,” Guardian said. “We really need to get Revel back on board.”
Councilman Marty Small, who represents Atlantic City’s Second Ward, said that Revel’s “original mission was to improve the community” in the city’s north end.
Small said that he also wants the property to reopen as a casino, and that he would do what he could to push for laid-off locals to be rehired.
“We can’t tell anyone to do anything,” Small said. “We encourage and try to work with people to make those things happen. And one of the key things is to keep the union contracts, because we supported that movement for the Revel workers to unionize.”
Small said he hasn’t spoken to Straub before and he’ll wait until the deal is finalized to reach out.
“I’m not getting excited about discussions,” Small said. “Been there, done that. Until everything is signed, sealed, and delivered, I’m just taking a wait-and-see approach.”
That attitude was shared by Frank Shull, chief operating officer of the RW Restaurant Group, which owns the Mussel Bar & Grille sitting empty inside Revel.
“We were having a very successful time up there, and we’d be excited to work with a new owner,” Shull said, adding that he would like to rehire many of the approximately 100 people previously employed by the restaurant.
But future business plans depend on the property retaining a hotel and casino element, Shull said, the kinds of businesses that generate significant foot traffic.
“I don’t know anything about the gentleman,” Shull said of Straub, “but if you can bring in the right people to run the casino, run the food and beverage, and run the hotel, you’re going to have a winner.”
Ivan Kane, the owner of the burlesque nightclub Royal Jelly, struck a similar stance.
“Royal Jelly was absolutely my most successful venue,” Kane said. “It was incredibly successful at Revel despite the well-publicized problems with the property.”
Kane praised his former staff, which also numbered about 100, and suggested some could be brought back. New musicians and performers would take time to recruit, he said, as many of the originals have moved on to other contracts.
But Kane, too, expressed a clear preference for the shape of Revel’s future.
“Obviously, if — and that’s a big if — Revel goes forward as a casino resort, I would love to continue to be a part of that property,” Kane said. “If not, I built an incredibly loyal following and I would certainly look to open (in) another casino in Atlantic City.”
Down at street level, where the neighborhood’s remaining businesses still huddle in sharp juxtaposition to Revel’s gleaming facade, word of a potential sale was welcomed.
Dooney Nellom, 39, owner of the Just Cutt’n Up barber shop at Atlantic Avenue and Revel Boulevard, said more people in the area would mean more business for his employees, who often cater to walk-in customers.
David Feliciado, 44, the manager of Uptown Auto Repair a block away, said the Valero gas station he rents out front saw more business when Revel was open.
“No customers for the casinos, no customers for us,” Feliciado said.
Bemen Mate, 27, the owner of the Venus Market at Atlantic Avenue and South Massachusetts Avenue, said his shop didn’t see a huge bump in customers when Revel was open, but there was enough improvement to warrant setting up a few tables out front last summer in the hope of attracting customers.
Mate said cars used to fill the surrounding streets for blocks on their way into Revel’s parking lots.
“Now after 5 or 6 o’clock, this side (of the city) is like a ghost town,” he said. “We hang in to see what is going to happen.”
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