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Jennifer Robison

Las Vegas Strip Starbucks won't be your average coffee shop

5 August 2015

In some ways, the Starbucks under construction in the Grand Bazaar Shops at Bally's - Las Vegas is like any of the chain's 21,000 stores worldwide.

When it opens later this month, you'll be able to get your usual quad-half-caf-grande-four-pump-classic-four-pump-caramel-no-foam-with-whip latte and a butter croissant.

But you'll also be able to enjoy your order from bleachers, watching a big projector screen, studying a restaurant-spanning mural or eyeing tourists on a pedestrian bridge over Flamingo Road.

It will be the only Starbucks in the world with those perks, said Dave Teator, senior project manager with the store's general contractor, DC Building Group.

Why try out those features here? For the only reason anyone ever needs: It's Las Vegas.

"It's about the experience. The Strip is known for its oddity of experience," Teator said. "You're not going to go to another Starbucks anywhere and see this. It's unique to the retail brand."

The design is practical, too. The stadium-style "grandstand" seating has three tiers on two sides and will hold about 36 people. A traditional table-and-chairs setup in the same space would handle 16.

Inspiration came from the coffee-growing terraces you see in the company's cultivation regions, a spokeswoman said.

With an unusual layout came some unusual construction conundrums. DC has just eight to 10 weeks to wrap the job; employees have been on-site 24-7 since June.

The contractor also had to get those massive benches into the 3,276-square-foot store, west of Bally's along Flamingo. There were eight pieces of precast concrete, each weighing 12,000 pounds and measuring five feet wide and 18 feet long. It would be like lifting 16 Chevy Suburbans over one of Nevada's busiest intersections and stacking them in a tidy pyramid in the middle of a small boutique.

It took two July nights — midweek, to keep traffic disturbances to a minimum — to get the job done. The Flamingo turn lane into Bally's was closed, and a crane hoisted the concrete chunks one at a time over the sidewalk and the Grand Bazaar's margins, nestling them onto a forklift and a metal skate. The benches were then rolled into the store, and lifted into place with another crane inside.

Teator said he remembers sitting in his office nearly a year ago, wondering if the company could pull it off.

"We pride ourselves on getting those phone calls: 'We don't know how to do this, and three other people told us we couldn't,'" he said.

The benches won't look like the metal stands at sports stadiums. They'll be topped with dark walnut slabs in keeping with the store's sleek, industrial design, which includes walls of glass and walnut, exposed ductwork, tile counter backsplashes and visible acoustic insulation.

The commissioned, one-of-a-kind mural details coffee production from planting, in a panel at the store's entrance, through processing, in a roasting plant depicted above the order counter.

The movie screen, also a Starbucks first, is 150 square feet — about 7% the size of an average movie-theater screen, but roughly 25 percent bigger than the floor area of a typical Las Vegas guest bedroom.

The store will also have two Fizzio carbonation machines, compared with the standard one, and a Clover coffee press. A 24-foot-wide glass door out to the patio will have eight folding panels that open on nice days. It's the first time Teator has used the system in Las Vegas.

Customers will be able to buy cups of Starbucks Reserve, a special collection of rare coffees from small farms worldwide. Baristas will also freshly grind Starbucks Cold Brew Blend coffee on site, and steep it in cool water for 20 hours in a cold-brewing method.

DC Building Group declined to disclose costs for competitive reasons.