More Woes at Playground in AC

Garces backs out, now plans to lease first-floor venues are underway.

There’s only so much you can do with a vacant luxury mall.

Yesterday, reports indicated that Garces Catering was pulling the plug at Bart Blatstein’s new entertainment complex in Atlantic City, Playground, leaving the messy concept effectively back to where it started after only a few months in operation.

But that shouldn’t be a huge surprise given just how awful the project was executed. When I first went, the décor of the bars was quite literally ripped down from vacant establishments at The Pier and repurposed throughout the venue. It looked like a failing student design project from a high school art class.

But things got worse when Playground’s largest music venue, 39N, canceled a series of concerts during peak business in August. How does an oceanside entertainment complex call off shows in the middle of summer?

What’s left at Playground? An eerie mix of high end retailers from the original Pier, like Louis Vuitton and Burberry (undoubtedly locked in to insane decades-long leases) juxtaposed with mom-and-pop shops and a bunch of sloppy bars on the first floor. Sure, Starr is still hanging on to a Continental and Buddakan on the property, but those restaurants were around since The Pier first opened. Even the multi-million dollar light and water show, which was the highlight of the original complex, was drained and replaced with a now vacant stage.

One of T-Street's venues.

One of T-Street’s venues.

Blatstein’s newest plan to save the property is to lease out the bars and entertainment venues on the first floor, but that’ll only be as lucrative and successful as the tenants who fill the spots. Some reports indicate the owners of North Shore Beach Club have signed on. While they’ve done well in Northern Liberties, I don’t know how much of a fit they are for AC.

In short, it’s not enough to attract people from Philly or New York to the property, and as much as the college crowd probably enjoys a good beer special at one of the venue’s T-Street bars, they sure aren’t paying the bills — or popping in to Tiffany & Co. to pick up some diamonds while there.

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