Golden Nugget transformation going slowly but surely

When Landry's Restaurants Inc. of Houston assumed ownership of what was then Trump Marina in late May, the plan was to have the transformation of the  26-year-old, bay-side hotel-casino into the Golden Nugget completed by December. But now, it looks like the first quarter of 2012 is a more realistic target date.

"I think we'll be 75-80 percent by December, have another 10-15 percent by January and by the end of February, we'll be finished," Landry's President and CEO Tilman Fertitta said recently.

A rendering of Golden Nugget Atlantic City at the marina. A previous Golden Nugget in town closed in 1987.

According to Fertitta, the reason for the delay in the $100 million rehab project is the amount of red tape involved in such an undertaking. "We struggling with pricing and permits, trying to move as fast as we can," he offered. "The system is not at our beck and call. [The renovations] are going well, but running a a bit behind."

Not that there haven't been major visible changes made at the gambling den formerly owned by Donald Trump. Outside, work is well underway on giving the formerly dull, tan exterior a brighter cover. And inside, among the new elements already in place are two upscale restaurants, the Chart House and Vic & Anthony's steakhouse.  

In addition, the hotel rooms and suites are getting complete makeovers, bringing them in line with the accomodations at such top-tier AyCee properties as Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and Harrah's Resort Atlantic City. And on Saturday, what was the old-style nightclub, the Shell, will be reopened with a set by comic Kathleen Madigan as a 440-seat theater (with all seats facing the stage) called the Showroom.

Still to come are a spa and a reconfigured casino with a poker room--something the property has not had since the 1990s.