Joe Downtown: Hotels packed and pricey for inaugural Life is Beautiful festival

An exterior view of the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013.

Life Is Beautiful Festival Lineup

Imagine Dragons perform Live at The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

With rooms at Fremont Street hotel-casinos going at rates several times higher than normal this weekend, it’s easy to see why operators might be pondering the beauty of life.

With the first Life Is Beautiful festival opening downtown, most hotels are sold out Saturday night. Rooms are still available at the Golden Nugget for $499, but a two-night minimum is required, according to the casino’s website this morning.

Rates are up because of increased demand.

The festival starts with a private party Friday night featuring musicians Dawes, a folk-rock band from Los Angeles, and Todd Rundgren, known widely for his work in the 1970s and ‘80s.

The meat of the festival, which features dozens of bands, musicians, artists and speakers, begins Saturday and ends Sunday night. Organizers have said the event is expected to draw about 50,000 people.

That’s a huge crush of people into the downtown area. With increased demand, room rates rise downtown just as they do at Strip hotels on fight nights or during other events that draw crowds.

Many Fremont Street hotels are sold out Saturday night, according to their websites. (Rooms may still be available, or at different prices, through third-party businesses.)

The Plaza, at the intersection of Main and Fremont streets, is sold out Saturday night. The hotel markets itself as having the “best hotel rates in downtown Las Vegas.” Its website lists a room Friday night at $139.

In November and December, rooms at the Plaza on Fridays range between $35 (during the third weekend of December, historically one of the slowest weekends in Las Vegas) and $109. Saturday rates are between $35 and $104.

The D, formerly Fitzgerald’s, also is sold out Saturday night. A reservationist said the rate for a room that night was “in the $200s.”

Over the next four months, Saturday night rates at the casino run from $39 (third weekend in December) to $109. Its rate this Friday is $158; Friday rates typically range between $39 and $119.

The Four Queens, Golden Gate and Main Street Station are all sold out Saturday night.

The Golden Nugget has rooms available Friday night for $189 and $499 Saturday.

A little further south at the Stratosphere, rooms remain available both nights.

Friday’s rate at the Stratosphere was $211 and $238 for Saturday. Rates over the next two months for each of those nights range between $29 (third weekend in December) and $125.

On the Strip, a quick scan of hotel websites shows some rates Saturday night about 50 percent higher than over other weekends in November.

Terry Murphy, president of the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance, a consortium of dues-paying downtown businesses, said the festival is a “great benefit to the local economy.”

“We have people coming from all over the world, all over the country and all over town to not only enjoy incredible music, art, food and learning opportunities, but to experience what’s happening in downtown Las Vegas,” she said. “It’s just really exciting.”

Organizers recently said the festival, partially funded by Downtown Project, will be back next year.

“From where we are right now, we know there will be a second one,” Ashley Goodhue, co-founder and chief operation officer, recently said. “The response we’ve had has been incredible.”

Real Estate

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown; he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.