By Michele Zimmerman
Guests at the Bugsy and Meyer’s Steakhouse get a taste of secrecy with their meal. Inside the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas is a bright, tropical-themed bakery and coffee shop, but behind this seemingly straightforward storefront is a secret passage into a shadowy speakeasy. This 9,000-sq ft eatery with a double life opened in July 2020 and is, of course, a delicious nod to famed mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky. When two modern-day collaborators—Studio K Creative and Morlights—were tasked with the project design in 2019, they knew their challenge was not only to create drastically different designs for the coffee shop, dining room and backroom bar, but to work the shadows into the necessary brightness of a hospitality restaurant.
“You end up with a lighting system that needs to provide plenty of light for clean up, and tremendous light for food preparation…but in the day-to-day workings of the project, it wants to be dimmed down to almost nothing,” says Sean Murphy, senior designer of Morlights. Murphy and Avraham Mor, founder of Morlights, worked side by side on the project. They used the restaurant’s three-tiered mirrored-ceiling and indirect vertical lighting created by LED tape at a color temperature of 2700K, 16 types of eye-level custom fixtures, and adjustable cylinders to achieve a brightly lit workplace for employees and an intriguingly dim entertainment space for guests.
Designers aimed for a 40-50-footcandle target in food preparation areas, a 20-fc target in service areas and a 16-20-fc target in the bar and private dining areas. However, the only lighting guests are truly aware of, aside from the decorative luminaries, are the radiant strips of LED tape along the brick perimeter walls. In total, over 1,600 ft of LED tape lines the Speakeasy, main dining cove, bar support, exterior canopy, private dining spaces and banquette booths. With a wattage range of 3.2 to 4 watts per ft, and a combined use of grazing and frosted lenses, designers achieved indirect vertical lighting. “In hospitality enviornments, vertical illumination is very important, even if it’s not intensely bright…you can see people’s faces and you can see activities without feeling that you, yourself, are intensely lit,” says Murphy.
Fringe lighting alludes to duality, secrecy and luxury. “That vertical illumination creates silhouettes across the room, creates that mystery [and] really shows at the perimeter…you can kind of see out of the dining area, but the idea is that you can’t really see into the dining area. The idea of lighting the fringes and not so much the middle, allows…you to sit in shadow. Your faces are in shadow. So, there is a ‘who’s that sitting across the room?’ feeling.”
Custom decorative fixtures specified by Studio K Creative add warmth and intimacy to the dining experience. Some examples include enclosed fixtures at bar tops and booths, hardwired with integral drivers and LED engines, as well as open fixtures with clear filament lamps and fixtures with glass shades and frosted lamps, both utilizing retrofit LED lamps.
An unexpected challenge of lighting the restaurant within the hotel was the switch from the initial plan to use a digital dimming system to a more traditional system as per the Flamingo’s request. Ultimately, 76 control zones break up the space, using 0-10-V dimming.
With no other unexpected twists and turns, the successful collaboration between Morlights and Studio K Creative harkens back to the theme of Bugsy and Meyer being true partners in crime. Murphy stresses the importance of Studio K Creative’s interior design in this project: “We really enjoy working with Studio K because…they really understand the way lighting interacts with their work and so, they design projects that are fun to light…the interaction between our two studios is really solid and we really value that collaboration.”