Two days after it was bought by a Florida developer, Atlantic City's former Revel casino went dark Thursday as the power plant that is its sole supplier of utilities cut off service.
ACR Energy cut the power after Glenn Straub took over the building. Mr. Straub bought Revel on Tuesday but hasn't been able to reach a deal with ACR to provide utility service there.
The city said it would fine Mr. Straub for every day that fire suppression systems are without power. Chris Filiciello, chief of staff for Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, says the fine amounts are yet undetermined, but they will be several thousand dollars a day.
Mr. Straub is seeking portable generator trucks to power the complex until he can hook it up to another shuttered casino next door that he bought last week.
Lights at the casino went out at 2:13 p.m.; water had been disconnected shortly beforehand. The shutoff raised immediate fears that the $2.4-billion building could be damaged by mould, burst water pipes, deteriorating mechanical systems, or be rendered partially inaccessible in the event of a fire less than two months before it is due to reopen.
"This is the last thing we want," Timothy Lowry, a lawyer for ACR, said Thursday morning. "But this guy ... I don't know what to believe. He wants us to provide free power. Glenn Straub doesn't want to pay anything. He bought Showboat, and he thinks he's going to be sending sea turtles down the Boardwalk with electrical cords."
Mr. Straub bought the Showboat, another shuttered former casino located next door to Revel, last Friday. He said he can connect Revel to the utility grid through Showboat, which has its own separate power plant, but it would take about two weeks.
Mr. Straub acknowledged there could be short-term problems without utilities.
"Batteries for the emergency exits last about three hours," Mr. Straub told The Associated Press. "After that, they better get their checkbook out and pray there's not another Chicago fire. The Fire Department's hook and ladder won't go up that high."
Engineering experts say the cutoff, even for a brief period, could have serious consequences. Without heat, water pipes could burst. Without air conditioning and ventilation, mould could overtake the building, which is only three years old. Sheet rock, floors and carpeting may have to be ripped out and replaced. And equipment may have to be replaced or undergo numerous costly cleaning treatments before the building reopens.
Mr. Straub remained defiant as the lights snapped off and the spigots ran dry, vowing he would not reach a deal with ACR on the company's terms or under duress.
"We will never give in to blackmail," he said. "Let them dig their own grave, along with endangering other peoples' lives."
The Atlantic City Fire Department is monitoring the situation, and a firehouse is nearby. The department warned in February that without water flowing through the building's pipes and electricity to get firefighters to upper floors, firefighting efforts at the 47-story building would be next to impossible. At 710 feet, Revel is the second-tallest building in New Jersey, behind only the 781-foot-tall Goldman Sachs offices in Jersey City.
Revel shut down Sept. 2 after just over two years of operation, during which it never turned a profit. Mr. Straub bought it for $82-million out of bankruptcy court, or about 4 cents on the dollar.
ACR's aggressive efforts to recoup some of its unpaid bills and the debt remaining from the construction of its power plant were key reasons why the sale of Revel proved so difficult. The sale occurred on the fifth attempt; a Canadian firm that made the highest bid walked away because it could not reach an agreement with ACR.
Mr. Straub said the company offered him a short-term deal of two weeks for $250,000, which he termed "way over their cost."