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LAS VEGAS-Minus 5 Group, a New Zealand-based company that operates lounges where everything is made of ice and patrons wear parkas to stay warm in the sub-freezing temperature will enter the US market with its first permanent location next to the House of Blues at Mandalay Place, the retail portion the Mandalay Bay resort and casino at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip.

Minus 5 president Chris Ling tells GlobeSt.com the company cut a five-year deal for 4,000 sf and has been quietly building out the space at a cost of $3 million, it’s most expensive build out to date. A grand opening is scheduled for late September.

“It’s bigger and better than anything we’ve done before,” Minus 5 Group Operations Manager Anthony Leenders tells GlobeSt.com. “It’s our foundation for coming into the US market.”

Next up will be South Beach, where the company has secured a site, and New York City, where the company is about to close on a location, Ling tells GlobeSt.com, declining to be more specific until the deal is done. Michael Townsend of Los Angeles-based Townsend and Assoc. is the company’s real estate broker for its US expansion.

“I’ve spent the last year and a half on New York City,” Ling tells GlobeSt.com. “We had a site in NYC [previously] but decided to let it go and now we’ve got another site, which we have almost closed; we’re just finishing the last of our due diligence.”

Named for the temperature of its lounges — minus five degrees Celsius (approximately 23-degrees Fahrenheit) – the Minus 5 Ice Lounge is approximately 1,300 sf and indeed made of ice — the walls, the bar, the chairs, the glasses and, of course, the sculptures. The room is kept sub-freezing with the use of refrigerated wall panels hidden by the ice. As part of the show, guests are provided with winter gear — sheepskin-lined parkas, gloves, and booties – to keep them comfortable.

Next door is the “feeder bar” or “warm room,” a similarly sized but heated establishment built out in an early 1900s Schakelton’s Lodge theme where people can drink and eat snacks while awaiting their 30-minute, $30 dollar experience. The experience includes a complimentary vodka drink – or a non-alcoholic drink — and a maximum of three drinks because the cold temperature enhances the effect of the alcohol and they don’t want anyone a pretending they’re in a hockey rink.

The first Minus 5 Ice Lounge debuted in Auckland in 2002. A second one opened in Queenstown in 2003, followed by Sydney in 2005, the Gold Coast in 2006, and Portugal earlier this year 2008. The Las Vegas location will be the first of many in the US. In addition to South Beach and New York City, Townsend is also scouting out a location in Los Angeles. Internationally in 2009, the company is headed to India, Singapore, Dubai and Manila.

The ice sculptures and other fixtures are carved from crystalline ice from glaciers in Canada and then shipped to Las Vegas where they are re-assembled on-site at Minus 5. The ice cocktail glasses are made in New Zealand from pure spring water and shipped in their frozen form.

Ling says Minus 5 spent more than two years developing and engineering its concept to ensure a comfortable, arid ice environment that involves no wind, wind chill or humidity inside the ice lounge, which the company says is a rarity for attractions of this nature.

Kept cool with refrigerated panels, the Ice Lounges are recreated every six- to eight weeks to keep things fresh, Ling says–not that anything would spoil at minus five degrees Celsius.

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