Much more than Ditch Fridays, Palms Pool & Bungalows makes its case as a top-tier summertime oasis
By Jack Houston
It’s a Friday afternoon at Palms Pool & Bungalows, and Ditch Fridays, the now 6-year-old weekly pool party, is going off. While Mark Stylz spins, go-go dancers on either side of the elevated DJ booth dance to remixes of Adele and Flo Rida and the crowd of hooky-playing bodies gravitates between lily pads, luxe daybeds and pimped-out cabanas.
On the surface, everything is the same as it has been for the past six years. The music is loud, the crowd is hot and that sun—the one that had temps inching toward 106 on our visit—is even hotter. Yet a closer look reveals some new changes, ones that general manager Chuck Oliverio hopes will keep the pool, among increasingly stiff competition, at the forefront of the city’s daylife scene.
“The place is six years old. Just like anything else, it gets beat up,” Oliverio said. To fight the wear and tear of age, he recovered all cabanas in a new color (replacing the old orange with vibrant red) and placed daybeds in front of each cabana, allowing partygoers the opportunity to play in the shade or in the sun, depending on the mood. Eight circular lily pads were added to the 8-inch-deep water in the shallow end of the pool, and 40 daybeds now offer prime real estate around the perimeter.
The once-slippery pool deck was enhanced with better tread and artificial turf replaced the sand that once lined the pool. The service staff was outfitted in new uniforms, the food menu was tweaked slightly (an emphasis on comfort foods like quesadillas, sliders, Asian chicken salad), and the sequence of service in bottle presentation was streamlined to make it flow more efficiently. Even the DJ booth received an upgrade, with new trussing, DJ rig, go-go boxes and custom couches to keep the DJs’ entourages comfortable during sets.
Perhaps most importantly, the pool added two new days of programming—Palms Pool Saturdays and Sunday Scene. “We have this great Ditch brand that’s been going since 2006, but they only marketed it on Fridays, so they never did anything on Saturday and Sunday,” Oliverio said. With newer pool clubs catering to the exploding EDM scene, the Saturday party is more electro-focused, featuring DJs such as Roger Sanchez and Sex Panther, as well as California-based DJs who spin under the Cali Love banner, such as Zen Freeman, who performs a set on June 23.
Sunday Scene, which “caught a little bit of fire,” says Oliverio, when it debuted at Palms Place last year, puts the emphasis on locals and industry professionals with fewer table minimums, food and drink specials and reduced admission. Ditch, with its established name, will continue to host top musical acts. Already this year, Kelis, Flo Rida and Jason Derulo have performed; Wiz Khalifa, Wale and Tyga are on their way.
Another promotion, Cabanas for a Cause, returns every Monday with cabanas specially priced at $100 each and all proceeds benefiting local charities. On June 18, proceeds will be donated to Three Square, an organization devoted to fighting hunger in Southern Nevada.
“It’s a big change from when we came in,” said Oliverio, who assumed his post in December. “My goal with the marketing team is you’re going to come to Ditch for what you know you’re going to come to Ditch for, and all of a sudden, ‘Wow this is great. I want to stay. Instead of going someplace else on Saturday, we’re going to stay here because it’s a great experience and the customer service is good and people are friendly and the pricing’s reasonable.’”