No Love at Love Field: DAL Airlines Hate Gate-Allocation Plan

No Love at Love Field: DAL Airlines Hate Gate-Allocation Plan

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Despite a longstanding dispute over gate space at Love Field Airport in Dallas, Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines have found common ground: Neither carrier likes the April 30 resolution proposed by the City of Dallas.

The proposed terms would allow Atlanta-based Delta to continue operating five flights out of DAL for an additional three years. After that time period, the City of Dallas has the option of replacing Delta with another carrier. In response, a Delta spokesperson said that “Delta believes that the City’s proposed accommodation plan reduces, rather than promotes, competition at Love Field, and will respond to the City’s motion by the deadline later this month.” Southwest simply said that it was waiting until the end of the month to further review the proposal.

Even airlines without direct stake in the game are unhappy with the proposed arrangement. According to Dallas News, three other airlines have voiced dissent, including Alaska Airlines, the other tenant at Love Field, and United Airlines, which does not operate flights out of Love Field but filed an objection to the recent proposal. American Airlines, which is headquartered in neighboring Fort Worth and operates a hub out of Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW), complained that the suggested solution would illegally prevent it from operating out of Love Field in future.

Southwest has enjoyed a preferential relationship with Love Field since the early 1970s. For many years, Love Field was the main airport serving Dallas until the FAA decided that Love Field and Greater Southwest International Airport in Fort Worth could no longer handle additional traffic, and terminated federal funding for both airports. In response, Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW) opened in 1974. Both Dallas and Fort Worth had to agree to restrict their smaller airports, requiring all airlines operating out of Love Field or Greater Southwest to relocate to DFW in an agreement known as the Wright Amendment.

But Southwest Airlines, originally established as an intrastate carrier operating quick, no-frills trips between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, wasn’t founded until after the airlines had signed relocation agreements with Dallas and Fort Worth. Based on its later arrival on the scene, the carrier successfully sued to operate out of Love Field on the basis that there was no legal reason to close the airport for commercial service, and that Southwest wasn’t bound by the same agreements the other airlines had signed. A Federal District Court ruled in 1973 that, as long as Love Field remained open, the City of Dallas could not prevent Southwest from operating out of the airport.

Before DFW opened in 1974, Love Field was the eighth busiest airport in the US, with more than 70 gates and more than 6.5 million annual passengers. Once DFW opened, DAL shut down several of its concourses and drastically reduced its operations. Yet, Southwest flourished at Love Field and began expanding its empire from its new base of operations, first launching routes to additional cities in Texas in 1975 before entering neighboring states in 1978. Because of Southwest’s success, other carriers began to re-negotiate to use Love Field for short-haul routes. A Southwest co-founder launched a short-haul competitor called Muse Air, which shuttled passengers between Love Field and Houston on DC-9s and MD-80s. (The airline, later renamed TranStar, was acquired by Southwest in 1987.)

Continental Airlines (remember them?) spent many years battling the courts over interpretations of the Wright Amendment as the city of Fort Worth as well as the DFW airport fought to keep down expansion at Love Field. After 24 years of negotiations, Continental Express successfully became the second major airline to join Southwest at Love Field, cracking open the gate for American, Delta and Legend Air to soon follow suit. But the impact on the aviation industry following 9/11 led most airlines to pull out of operations at Love Field once again, although neither Southwest nor Continental Express were deterred. In fact, Southwest began actively lobbying to have the Wright Amendment fully repealed in 2004. The process of fully lifting the ban would take another 10 years to complete, but resulted in Love Field airlines having the right to fly into Missouri. In 2006, American Airlines and American Eagle began operating flights to Kansas City and St. Louis, as well as Austin and San Antonio, although the airlines subsequently changed up their routing a few times.

An amendment passed in 2006 restricted, amongst other stipulations, that Love Field’s maximum gate capacity would be reduced from 32 to 20 gates, and that the airport would only handle non-stop domestic flights. Out of those 20 gates, Southwest Airlines was allocated 16 gates, American two gates, and Continental Airlines two gates. The bill passed despite arguments from outsider airlines JetBlue and Northwest, who complained that the terms would effectively lock out any airlines that were not named in the compromise, since the 20-gate cap would not incentivize existing airlines to share with incoming competitors.

All told, airports, airlines and cities spent four full decades lobbying for fairer terms of operation at Love Field until the Wright Amendment was fully repealed on October 13, 2014. The day the repeal went into effect, Southwest promptly added routes from Dallas to Baltimore, Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, Washington Reagan and Chicago, with Southwest Flight 1013’s Dallas to Denver route making the first non-Wright restricted flight. Several weeks later, Southwest added new routes to Atlanta, Nashville, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New York-LaGuardia, Phoenix, San Diego, Orange County (California) and Tampa.

Today, that 20-gate restriction is still in effect at Love Field, which brings us to the dispute in question. There has been some rearrangement in gate allocation: American Airlines had to forfeit its two gates in order for the Department of Justice to approve the airline’s 2015 merger with US Airways — one of which was leased to Delta Airlines. Despite bids from both Delta and Southwest Airlines, American’s former gates were allocated to Virgin America the day the Wright Amendment was repealed. Now, after the Alaska Airlines and Virgin America merger, those gates are under Alaska Airlines management, and the carrier has retained use of those two gates for itself. Delta was forced to negotiate using one of the two original gates allocated to Continental Airlines, which, as of 2015, are now under United Airlines management. But since United doesn’t operate flights out of Love Field, Southwest began leasing those two gates from the airline in February 2015, effectively giving the carrier 18 total gates. Since Delta refused to let go of the gate it subleases from United, the airline has been locked in legal battles with Southwest since 2015 over Delta’s right to continue operating five flights a day. According to Southwest, Delta’s flights constitute trespassing and interference with Southwest’s operations. Delta claims that Southwest unfairly monopolizes the airport.

If Southwest and Delta cannot reach an amicable solution this year, the Atlanta-based carrier is prepared to take the dispute to the courts in February 2019. Looks like lawmakers will have to take their ideas back to the drawing board.

TPG has reached out to both airlines for comment.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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May 26, 2018 at 04:01PM

Yelp’s Antitrust Drive and 8 Other Digital Trends This Week

Yelp’s Antitrust Drive and 8 Other Digital Trends This Week

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Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines digital trends.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>Yelp’s efforts to see tighter regulation of Google’s business practices could have more success this time around than several years ago, when the U.S. Federal Trade Commission dropped the ball. European Union regulators have really cast the previous U.S. effort in a shameful light, and the Trump team may be more sympathetic than the Obama administration: Yelp Targets Google Employees in New Antitrust Drive

>>High upfront costs remain a barrier to many travelers who can’t make a large purchase all at once. Affirm is trying to remove that obstacle and other travel brands are warming up to the monthly payments model in the process: Skift Tech Forum Preview: Affirm’s CEO on Travel Industry’s Oncoming Payments Revolution

>>A lot of brands talk a big game about data science, but few know how to use it to their advantage and to the benefit of their consumers. HotelTonight’s chief data and strategy officer Amanda Richardson will cut through the hype on stage at Skift Tech Forum on June 12: Skift Tech Forum Preview: HotelTonight Executive Cuts Through the Hype of Big Data

>>Skift Tech Forum is a first-of-its-kind, laser-focused conference on the tech disruptions happening in the retailing, merchandising, and distribution of travel. Will you join us? We’re Amplifying Our Voice in Tech at Skift Tech Forum

>>If they can’t beat the online travel companies, airlines might as well try to copy those companies’ slickest moves. A couple of carriers are testing the display of flights on rival airlines in an attempt to prevent consumers from clicking away to shop elsewhere: Airlines Test Adding Metasearch to Their Websites

>>Some airlines will not be happy that Kayak has lent its credibility and, in effect, its customer base, to startups that specialize in travel claims compensation. The claims cost airlines money. But Kayak still likes doing things a bit different from the other global online players: Kayak to Help Flyers Get Compensated for Delayed and Canceled Flights

>>The growth of mobile meeting apps presents planners with a dilemma filled with irony. Are the apps — aimed at facilitating and enhancing the meeting experience — actually diminishing the kind of face-to-face interactions that are the very purpose of on-site events? Planners Conflicted Over Mobile Technology as Tool or Distraction

>>Event planners know technology can enhance the attendee experience if deployed appropriately. How much technology is too much, though, remains an open question: How Much Technology Is Too Much For Events?

>>Can virtual reality content play a role in helping to persuade travelers to book luxury destinations in Southeast Asia? That’s the bet made by Rizort, an online travel agency startup that received funding this week: Rizort Raises $2.9 Million for VR-Infused Travel Advice: Travel Startup Funding This Week

Photo Credit: Yelp wants to see tighter regulation of Google’s business practices. Yelp

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May 26, 2018 at 03:31PM

How to Keep Your Phone From Ruining Your Vacation

How to Keep Your Phone From Ruining Your Vacation

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Cell phones are great for keeping in touch with friends and family while traveling — and it’s hard to beat having instant access to a high-end, lightweight camera. But on vacation, you want to take a break and unplug, right?

Well, no. Despite a growing interest in entire retreats dedicated to “tech-free wellness,” it turns out that we’re more addicted than ever.

According to tech-services company Asurion, Americans check their phones an average of 80 times a day while on vacation. And some people look at their phones more than 300 times each day. Even on a beautiful beach or immersed in a stunning cityscape, people are checking their phones once every 12 minutes on average.

As you can imagine, all of this screen time isn’t great for our mental and physical wellbeing.

When we put our phones aside, psychologist Jessica Nicolosi told The Points Guy, we experience a profound sense of disconnection. We feel lonely in a room full of people because we have stopped connecting, stopped saying good morning, stopped smiling at others. We no longer use our voices to communicate, choosing instead to send a text message — or worse, a picture meant to demonstrate our emotional state.

The odd thing is that we typically plan vacations designed to help us disconnect. That’s the entire point. Yet we cannot stop glancing at the screens we keep in our back pocket or the palms of our hands.

And not being able to detach can lead to physical side effects.

“My patients report a feeling of intense anxiety when they step away from their phones, and their description of the feeling is frighteningly similar to listening to someone struggling with drug addiction trying not to relapse,” Nicolosi said. “Studies have found that overuse of cell phones is related to reports of headaches, irritability and anger, along with difficulty concentrating and anxiety.”

If that’s not bad enough, too much time on our cell phones can also lead to sleeping problems.

“Obtaining restorative sleep is already challenging on the road because our sympathetic nervous system, the basis of our flight-or-fight response, is more active,” sleep expert Rebecca Robbins said. “Unfortunately, in the face of sleep difficulty, one common approach is to reach for our cell phones. But that hinders our ability to fall asleep.”

Why? Aside from the content on our mobile phones being stimulating — anxiously reading emails from a boss, for example, or scrolling through social media — mobile phones emit blue light that can suppress melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep cycles.

Knowing how disruptive cell phones can be, especially if we’re unable to unplug even during a well-intentioned vacation, is a start. But sometimes, learning to disconnect is a multistep process that takes time and discipline.

Before your next trip, try these three steps to help you prepare for a legitimately tech-free (OK, maybe just tech-light) holiday.

1. Download an app

Yes, this suggestion seems counterintuitive. Stay with us. There’s an app called Moment designed to track how much you use your phone every day. In addition to putting the amount of time you spend on your phone into (sometimes horrifying) perspective, Moment can help you reduce the hours you spend on your device. (It’s free, too.)

Before you leave for vacation, set a daily limit. The app will notify you when you go over. At the very least, Moment points out how long and how often you scroll through Instagram or check emails — something you may not even notice.

2. Make small disconnection commitments

Like any addiction you want to break, you have to start small to make significant changes. That’s why Nicolosi suggests choosing one or two times during your day to put your phone aside to begin breaking the habit.

“Perhaps you choose not to look at your phone for the first hour of your day,” she said. “Or maybe you need to start much smaller, and commit not to pick up the phone when your partner goes to the bathroom. Whatever it is, take that time to look up and notice your surroundings. Slowly, you’ll become more comfortable doing it.”

If you start to get anxious, Nicolosi suggests using self-talk to remind yourself that whatever is there will still be there in an hour.

3. Power down before bed

Wouldn’t it be great if we could power down our minds like our cell phones? Unfortunately, it does take time. That’s why we have to look at the hours before bedtime as a part of the sleep-onset process itself.

“Ideally, you should avoid cell phones 90 minutes before you want to go to bed,” Robbins said. “If you can’t do that, at least 30 minutes will help, too.”

Replace that time with something relaxing such as a soak in the hotel hot tub, reading or meditating.

“Sleep is a process,” Robbins said. “If you find yourself tossing and turning, get out of bed, keep the lights low, sit in an armchair to read or meditate, and return to bed when you are tired. Don’t get on your phone.”

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May 26, 2018 at 03:15PM

The Best Credit Cards for Extended Warranty in 2018

The Best Credit Cards for Extended Warranty in 2018

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Did your phone die just days after its warranty ended? Warranties always seem to end right before you need them, leaving you out of luck unless you put the original purchase on a credit card offering extended warranty protection. I know this firsthand, as I filed successful extended warranty protection claims for a cell phone and a shirt that each failed right outside their manufacturer’s warranties.

In this guide, I explain the extended warranty benefit offered by some credit cards, how to utilize this benefit and which cards feature the best extended warranty benefits.

What Is an Extended Warranty?

The extended warranty benefit effectively extends the manufacturer’s warranty on products purchased with an eligible credit card. Many, but not all, credit cards come with this benefit. Some card benefits match warranties up to a certain length while others extend warranties by a set amount. Exclusions and maximum coverage limits also vary across cards.

How Extended Warranty Benefits Differ

Extended warranty benefits offered by credit cards differ in a few key aspects.

  • Extension period: How long is the manufacturer’s warranty extended? Are there any maximum coverage lengths?
  • Length of warranties covered: Is there a limit on what warranty lengths can be extended?
  • Coverage limits: What’s the maximum coverage provided per item and per year?
  • Exclusions: What types of items and damages are excluded?
    • Common types of items excluded: Cars, boats, software, plants, animals, antiques, products normally hard-wired into a house
    • Common types of damage excluded: Power surges, accidental damage, catastrophes, wear and tear, riots

How to Utilize Extended Warranty

Before making a sizable purchase, consider which of your credit cards will provide the best shopping protections. This guide focuses on the extended warranty benefit, but you’ll also want to consider the purchase protection, price protection and return protection benefits offered by the card(s) you could use for the purchase.

When you buy something that has a manufacturer’s warranty and you use a credit card that features an extended warranty benefit, be sure to save the following:

  • Original store receipt
  • Credit card statement for the month showing the charge
  • Manufacturer’s warranty booklet or document

If something you own breaks and has a manufacturer’s warranty:

  1. Check the manufacturer’s warranty. If the item is still covered, begin a claim with the manufacturer.
  2. If outside the manufacturer’s warranty, check the benefits guide for the credit card that you used to make the purchase.
  3. Call a benefits administrator if you need to file a claim or have questions regarding the claim process or eligibility. Call before getting the item repaired in case the benefits administrator wants you to send it to a particular repair facility.
  4. Collect documentation — which may consist of a repair quote, photos of the damaged item, the original receipt and the credit card statement showing the charge — and submit the claim

If approved, you’ll usually receive a check or statement credit reimbursing you for repair costs, replacement costs or the original purchase cost. In some cases, the benefits administrator may ask you to send back the item for inspection or repair.

Citi: The Best Credit Card Provider for Extended Warranty

One credit card provider — Citi — stands above the rest when it comes to the extended warranty benefit. In particular, all Citi cards that I checked — ranging from the $450 annual fee Citi Prestige to the no annual fee Citi Double Cash Card — offer the following extended warranty benefit:

  • Extension of the manufacturer’s warranty by two years, with total coverage not exceeding seven years from the purchase date
  • If an extended warranty is purchased, Citi’s coverage begins at the expiration of that warranty
  • Coverage up to $10,000, capped at the lower of the purchase price and the cost to repair or replace

As far as I can tell, Citi credit cards are the only cards to offer a two-year extended warranty; the extended warranty benefit offered by other credit cards is no longer than a year. Citi doesn’t seem to have a minimum manufacturer’s warranty required for coverage either, so a one-month manufacturer’s warranty could be extended by two years.

Unfortunately, Citi’s extended warranty coverage doesn’t apply to the following:

  • Boats, cars, aircraft or any other motorized land, air or water vehicles and their original equipment. Tires aren’t covered either.
  • Services unless covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.
  • Used, antique or pre-owned items.
  • Items purchased for resale, professional or commercial use.
  • Land or buildings; housing properties.
  • Plants and live animals.
  • Items that don’t come with a manufacturer’s warranty.

Additionally, Citi’s extended warranty coverage doesn’t apply when:

  • You fail to care for or service the item appropriately as required by the manufacturer.
  • The item has a product defect, recall or experiences normal wear and tear where no failure has occurred.
  • The item is damaged because of an act of God, such as a flood, hurricane, lightning, wind or earthquake.

Best Citi Cards for Extended Warranty

All of the Citi cards I examined offer the same extended warranty and Citi Price Rewind benefits. The purchase protection and return benefits are similar across all of the cards, with annual fee cards offering higher coverage amounts.

The following Citi cards offer purchase protection of $10,000 per item and $50,000 per year on eligible items for the first 120 days and return protection of $500 per item and $2,500 per year for the first 90 days.

Unfortunately, all of these Citi cards only earn 1 point per dollar on shopping purchases. Although the following no annual fee Citi cards offer worse purchase protection ($1,000 per item) and return protection ($300 per item and $1,000 per year), they both have the potential to earn more on purchases that might need these shopping protection benefits.

  • Citi Double Cash Card
    • Earning rate: Effectively 2% cash back (1% cash back on purchases, plus an additional 1% when you pay for these purchases)
  • AT&T Access Card from Citi
    • Earning rates: 2 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on online retail and travel websites and at AT&T; 1 point per dollar spent on other purchases

Remember that, for extended warranty purposes, Citi doesn’t cover wear and tear. If you’re purchasing an item where you believe covering wear and tear or other types of damage is more important than extending the warranty by two years instead of one, you may want to consider using an American Express or Chase card.

Runners-Up: American Express and Chase

Although Citi’s two-year extended warranty extension and suite of other shopping protections is difficult to beat, there are a few reasons you might consider using an American Express or Chase credit card. Of course, by using an American Express or Chase credit card instead of a Citi credit card, you’re accepting a one-year extended warranty benefit instead of a two-year benefit.

When to Use an American Express Card

It could be better to use an American Express card such as the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express or the no annual fee Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express on purchases where:

  • The manufacturer’s warranty is for five years or less
  • You want the credit card’s extended warranty to include wear and tear

All American Express credit cards offer the same extended warranty and return protection benefits. However, purchase protection offered by American Express cards varies, with most cards offering up to $1,000 per incident and premium cards like the The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express offering up to $10,000 per incident. One transparency aspect I appreciate about American Express: the full benefits policies for each of their shopping protection benefits are available online without needing to log in.

When to Use a Chase Card

You might want to use a Chase credit card like the United MileagePlus Club Card or Chase Freedom Unlimited on purchases when:

  • The manufacturer’s warranty is for three years or less
  • You want the credit card’s extended warranty to not exclude any particular types of damage

However, remember that Chase is slashing some shopping protections in late August 2018 — so you’ll generally want to use a Citi or American Express credit card to get the best overall shopping protections.

Bottom Line

If an item you purchase has a manufacturer’s warranty, you can often get extended warranty protection just by putting the purchase on a credit card offering an extended warranty shopping benefit. All Citi cards I discussed offer a generous two-year extended warranty benefit that can extended a manufacturer’s warranty to as long as seven years. So, putting larger purchases that come with manufacturer’s warranties on a Citi credit card will likely be best. However, for particular purchases where wear and tear or other often excluded types of damage are likely, the one-year extended warranty benefit offered by American Express and Chase credit cards may be better.

Remember to read the benefits guide for the card you plan to use before making any large purchase to ensure that your purchase and its manufacturer’s warranty aren’t excluded. Reading the benefits guide will also inform you of the card’s other shopping protection benefits. After making the purchase, save the receipt, credit card statement and warranty documents in case you ever need to file a claim.

Feature image by by Matthew Kane via Unsplash.

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May 26, 2018 at 02:15PM

Can Novak Djokovic Return to Form in France?

Can Novak Djokovic Return to Form in France?

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In two weeks, barring injury or earthquake, Rafael Nadal will hoist La Coupe des Mousquetaires, the French Open trophy. It is a fool’s errand to predict anything in sports, but you’d be a fool to bet against this. Nadal’s record at Roland Garros is 79–2; one of those two losses occurred nine years ago. Last year, he won his tenth French Open title. Along the way, he did not lose a set. This clay season, Nadal has looked dominant. It is, of course, possible that he will be beaten at Roland Garros; it is also possible that it will snow in Paris this week.

All this speaks to his current form, but it also says something about his current competition. With Roger Federer ceding the stage during the clay season, as is now his habit, Nadal has no real rival. Andy Murray is out with a bad hip, and Stan Wawrinka is struggling through a comeback from a knee injury. The biggest threat comes from Alexander Zverev, a lanky German with a big serve and a smooth swagger, who was up a break in the third set against Nadal in the Rome final before a rain delay dissolved his game. When the sky cleared, Nadal won five straight games—and the set, match, and title. Zverev, twenty-one, has been spectacular this spring, winning two straight titles before nearly taking Rome, but he has never made it past the fourth round of a major, and is 0–7 against top-fifty players at Grand Slams. Another challenge could come from Dominic Thiem, whose heavy topspin groundstrokes can kick off the dirt nearly as nastily as Nadal’s. Thiem knocked out Nadal in Madrid earlier this month and, last year, beat him in Rome, bookending Nadal’s winning streak of fifty straight sets. But Thiem only sporadically summons the inspired play that Nadal brings from match to match; until beating Nadal, the Austrian had not defeated a top-ten player all year.

There are other contenders, but each comes with a question mark. The Japanese star Kei Nishikori, for instance, has had a solid clay-court season, but it has been only four months since he lost in the first round of a lower-level ATP Tour Challenger event while coming back from an injury. The Belgian David Goffin is in good form, but his build is so slight that the jet wash from a Nadal backhand might blow him over. He recently told the Times that his original goal was to make the top hundred.

Then there is Novak Djokovic.

It was only two years ago that Djokovic held all the major titles and appeared almost unbeatable; only two years since he reached the final in twenty-one of twenty-two consecutive big tournaments (majors, Masters, and World Tour Finals), winning seventeen of them. Back then, he had played patiently and with purpose, pulling players out of position, hitting close to the lines, goading opponents to go for too much, and hardly ever missing his own mark. Sustaining such dominance—to a degree unmatched even by Federer or Nadal—had seemed impossible. And, in the end, of course, it was.

When Djokovic lost to the big-serving American Sam Querrey in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, in 2016, after an exhausting, emotional victory at the French Open, it seemed understandable, perhaps even inevitable. No one could win so much for so long. But no one saw what was coming next.

There was a problem with his elbow, vague allusions to private personal issues, talk of shifting priorities. “Now I’m no longer thinking about the number of titles,” he said later that year, after losing the U.S. Open final. “If they come, super, I will accept them . . . After all, tennis is not the only thing in the world.” Indeed not. But when the titles did not come, that seemed harder to accept than he had suggested. He split with his coach, Boris Becker. He started working with a spiritual adviser, Pepe Imaz, and spoke about telepathy, telekinesis, and the power of hugs. He fired his whole coaching team (“shock therapy,” he called it), and then hired Andre Agassi, a move that was hailed at the time but clearly went wrong; their partnership ended this spring.

Whatever else was happening in his heart and mind, what was happening with Djokovic’s body was bad enough. His right elbow got worse and worse, and his serve, never his greatest strength, was obviously affected. He became less patient in constructing points, less efficient in reaching and returning the ball. His aggressive defense lost some of its punch. Eventually, the elbow injury became too much to play through. Djokovic sat the second half of 2017. When he came back, in January, his elbow still obviously bothered him, and, after a few bad losses, he left the tour again for a “small medical intervention.” Once commonly described as a machine, Djokovic appeared to have broken down.

Finally, in Rome, Djokovic showed some of his old form—and some of his former fire. In a scintillating victory over Nishikori, he stepped into his swings with purpose. He reached seemingly unreachable shots. He roared. Against Nadal, in the semifinals, he pushed Nadal hard before losing, 7–6 (4), 6–3. In the best point of the match, both men’s unparallelled strengths were on display. After Djokovic bunted the ball just over the net, Nadal raced to it and dug it out before it dropped dead, flicking it cross-court. Djokovic lunged and caught the ball behind him, blocking it up the line, and had the wherewithal to recover and volley away Nadal’s sharp reply. But the point that followed was just as telling: Djokovic hit a backhand down the line—the shot his game is built on—and sent it wide.

Some champions, including Nadal and Federer, seem born that way. Others can’t help but reveal the strenuous effort and incredible ambition it takes them to get there. Djokovic transformed himself from near-great to one of the all-time best by an extraordinary undertaking. He monitored the ingredients of every morsel he ingested and focussed on chewing to help his digestion. He stretched so much that he turned his ligaments into rubber bands. Over and over, he hit the ball two centimeters from the line. He sought guidance, signed autographs, smiled for every selfie. He wanted to be a champion, and he wanted to be seen as a champion. It was obvious that he wanted it badly. It is to his great credit that he succeeded. It is also, perhaps, why some found him hard to take. And it is why there has been a tragic quality to his struggling—not in the colloquial sense of that word, but in the classical one.

It is possible that Djokovic will play his way into shape in the two weeks of the French Open. There is no reason to assume that he cannot someday return to the top. Whether he wants to is another question. After all, tennis is not the only thing in the world. It is hard to look at Djokovic—always lean, now almost bony—and not wonder about what he might desire, and what it might cost.

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May 26, 2018 at 02:11PM

A Record of Syrian Monuments Before ISIS

A Record of Syrian Monuments Before ISIS

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In April, 2009, Peter Aaron, a veteran architectural photographer, went on vacation with his family, to Syria. It was about one year into President Obama’s first term, long before the name ISIS was broadly known. That same month, Seymour Hersh would write with a note of optimism, in this magazine, of the “Administration’s chance to engage in a Middle East peace.”

Aaron brought along a Canon 5D that he had modified several years earlier, removing the infrared coating on its lenses. Shooting with this camera would render blue skies in dark black and foliage in milky white, but he would gain a great level of detail and contrast in the gray-and-earth-colored stones of Syria’s buildings. His wife, a writer, professor, and history enthusiast, came up with the itinerary.

Aaron’s images from that trip amount to a staggering chronicle of ancient and historic monuments, many of which have since been badly damaged or completely destroyed during the war. In Palmyra, at the Temple of Bel, for example, he captures, from multiple perspectives, the two-thousand-year-old Mesopotamian structure, which, six years after Aaron’s visit, in August, 2015, appeared in ISIS propaganda enveloped by a plume of smoke and was later confirmed to have been levelled. At the Tower Tomb of Elahbel, in Palmyra, his pictures lay bare each crack and joint of its masonry blocks, which would later be entirely razed.

While architecture is the subject of his attention, Aaron considers his subject broadly, often capturing glimpses of the lived experiences that buildings are designed to support. At Palmyra’s Great Colonnade, during a visit just after the Friday prayers, he shows two men eating in the shade of a column base. At Aleppo’s souq, he shows the merchant stalls bustling with activity. Both sites are now gone.

Tower tomb of Elahbel, Palmyra.

The pillar of St. Simeon Stylites, outside Aleppo.

Originally intended as a kind of personal travelogue, these photographs now carry the weight of historical record. At the Venice Architecture Biennale, Aaron will put the pictures on exhibition, allowing many of them to be seen for the first time (on view from May 26th to November 25th). As the gruesome civil war continues—and intensifies—they serve as a quiet reminder of Syria’s recent past.

Valley of the Tombs, Palmyra.

The courtyard of the Great Mosque of Aleppo.

Underground souq (market), Aleppo.

View of neighboring villages from Krak des Chevaliers.

A street leading off of Damascus’s Straight Street.

Monastery of Mar Sarkis (St. Sergius), Maalula.

Inside court of the Mosque of Abraham in the Citadel of Aleppo.

The Roman Theatre at Palmyra.

Roman arch at the end of Straight Street, Damascus.

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May 26, 2018 at 02:11PM

Scooter Startups Believe They Can Become the Next Uber or Lyft

Scooter Startups Believe They Can Become the Next Uber or Lyft

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Just after 7 a.m. on a recent weekday morning, Alexander Berg pulled his van — bright green, with the word “LimeBike” emblazoned on the side — over on a corner on the edge of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Berg, a thin, cheerful 31-year old in a hoodie, pulled on a pair of black gloves and threw open the back of the van, which was filled with electric scooters. “We’ll do three here,” he said.

Berg’s employer, a startup named Lime based just south of the city in San Mateo, is one of a handful of companies that have spent the last few months sprinkling hundreds of bikes and electric scooters around American cities. They allow people to unlock the vehicles with smartphone apps and ride them for as little as $1, leaving them sitting on the sidewalk when they’ve reached their destination.

The companies — and the investors who have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into them over the last year and a half — see this as the next step in the massive recalibration of transportation that Uber and Lyft kicked off about a decade ago.

In an open letter to his competitors, Travis VanderZanden, chief executive officer of Bird, another scooter-sharing company, described it as the “biggest revolution in the transportation since the dawn of the Jet Age.”  Scooter sharing was an immediate hit. Lime said that each vehicle in its major markets gets used nine times on an average day. In San Francisco, that adds up to about 2,200 daily rides.

But this popularity has also been polarizing. The scooters are broadly seen as an annoying fad among tourists and clueless tech workers, who zip around the city’s sidewalks, breaking the law — scooters are supposed to be ridden in the street — and imperiling everyone around them. Scooters have been thrown in waterways and trees, broken in half, and smeared with poop.

Toby Sun, Lime’s co-founder and CEO, said some chaos is be expected in the early days of a cultural shift. “In order to change people’s behavior, we have to change their mindsets,” he said. But there’s been less than careful consideration of the consequences, in part because Lime itself was caught unaware by the sudden interest in scooter sharing. When it launched early last year, Lime was a bike-sharing company. Then Bird kicked off its service in Santa Monica, turning into a sudden sensation and leaving Lime scrambling to design and build its own scooters. This month, the company officially recognized its shifting priorities by dropping the “-Bike” from its name. The rebranding happened so quickly that Lime didn’t have a chance to reflect the change on its equipment.

It’s not unusual for startups to set their internal treadmills to speeds they struggle to maintain, especially when venture capitalists are pushing them to dominate. Lime, which has already raised $132 million, is working on closing another fundraising round, which it expects to close within weeks. It’s in 60 markets, and plans to be in 100 markets by the end of the year. To keep this pace, the company has sacrificed peace with local governments, something it has consistently said it would prioritize.

Last month, San Francisco’s city attorney sent cease-and-desist orders to the scooter-sharing companies, while local lawmakers wrote new rules. The city is accepting applications from companies looking to operate scooter-sharing services, but the number of scooters they can deploy will be limited. Honolulu; Charlotte, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; and Nashville, Tennessee have also taken action to slow the spread of scooters.

Lime recently hired Scott Kubly, formerly the director of Seattle’s Department of Transportation, to smooth over its relationship with local governments. Convincing skeptical residents falls largely to people like Berg. As he makes the morning rounds, he sees his job as both scooter distributor and ambassador.

The scooters were barely out of the truck at his first stop when a woman approached him with a hostile look. “Excuse me,” she said. “Are you just planning to leave those here?”  “Yes,” said Berg.

The woman quizzed him with an exasperated tone. She doubted the city had really approved of what he was doing, argued that leaving a bunch of scooters on the sidewalk was dangerous, and told him that the residents of this particular neighborhood didn’t want them around.

Throughout it all, Berg remained as chipper and deferential as a Walmart greeter, smiling broadly as he parried each of her points. The woman, unmollified, eventually seemed to accept defeat. Berg bunched the scooters close to a bike rack, which he felt addressed the woman’s concerns. He closed the back of the van, took off his gloves, and jumped back behind the wheel. “Happens all the time,” he said. “We try to address it first hand, so they know we’re listening.”

Later that morning, about two dozen new employees squeezed into a conference room for orientation at Lime’s headquarters, located in a scruffy office park across the street from a store selling guns and swords to collectors. The group pushed the room far past capacity, an appropriate introduction to a company stretching its limits in pretty much every way. There are more people in the office than desks, and they have to step around bikes and scooters to move back and forth. Sun addressed the group — he was sporting lime-green running shoes, track pants, and a pair of lime-green sunglasses pushed back on his head— as did Brad Bao, his co-founder and the company’s executive chairman. The two men run the company together.

Bao is a thin, energetic man who uses a bicycle for the nine-mile commute to work; sometimes he uses one of Lime’s bikes, other times he takes his personal bike. Bao acknowledged to his new employees that he couldn’t tell them exactly what to expect. “We’re pushing on a lot of fronts, and it’s not easy.” Within the office, the breakneck speed is a point of pride: employees say they’re working on “Lime Time.”

Bao and Sun met through an alumni group for the University of California at Berkeley’s business school, then worked together at Fosun Kinzon Capital, an investment firm active in both China and the U.S. Bao was Sun’s boss, and put him in charge of finding investment opportunities in transportation. Both men were struck by the Chinese phenomenon of bike-sharing, where companies just dumped bikes around town rather than setting up docking stations in strategic locations, like in the U.S. For riders, this provided more flexibility; for cities, it erased the need to create any new infrastructure. When they couldn’t find a company they thought would be a good investment, the two decided to start their own.

Bike-sharing is a deceptively complicated business. Lime had to acquire a fleet of vehicles strong enough to withstand a beating, build software to deploy them, and establish individual operations in each city. Adding scooters was just another layer of complexity. Even transportation experts who support the sharing platforms expected them to spend years in obscurity. “Nobody took it seriously — at least I didn’t,” said Sharon Feigon, the executive director of the Shared Use Mobility Center, an advocacy group pushing for alternative transportation. “Then all of a sudden it took off.”

Besides pedal bikes, electric-assist bikes and scooters, Lime is also developing “transit pods,” one- or two-person vehicles smaller than cars but more powerful than golf-carts, that drive in city streets. Bao and Sun are vague about when the pods might hit the streets.

Eventually, Lime envisions a kind of transportation subscription service, where people would choose the type of vehicle based on their needs. While skeptics see an odd fad, Lime thinks its business will become an alternative model for transportation, at least in urban areas.

Uber and Lyft have been hinting that they see things in a similar way. In April, Uber paid over $100 million to buy Jump, another bike-sharing company, and Lyft has approached San Francisco about launching its own scooter-sharing service, according to technology news website the Information.

While some city officials feel that they’ve suddenly been deluged with scooters, Bao argued that they need more. Capping the number, he said, will doom scooters to being novelties, because there won’t be enough of them for people to always find one. A better solution, he said, would be to require companies to show that each vehicle is getting a minimum amount of use each day. He suggested a threshold of two rides per day for scooters, and one ride every two days for bikes. In Lime’s major markets, the company said that people who open the app fail to find a scooter about half the time. “It would be bizarre for a transit system to know that 50 percent of riders can’t get on a train, and then you say, let’s reduce service,” said Bao.

For now, a main limiting factor on scooting is the capacity of the batteries. Scooters start off fresh at the start of each day, but are mostly exhausted far before the sun sets. On a recent Sunday in San Francisco’s financial district, inert vehicles were scattered throughout the streets, frustrating people trying to use them.

Two pre-adolescent boys sprinted up to a group of scooters tucked against a wall along the Embarcadero, then realized they were out of juice. One boy checked his phone and yelled, “There’s one over there!” Off they ran, as a group of women in high-heels came up to the scooters and posed for selfies.

Hoping to get a free ride, a child broke away from his dad and dragged one of the scooters into the middle of the sidewalk, realized it wouldn’t start without being unlocked, and abandoned it. Within a minute, a teenager rode by on a bike and kicked the scooter, nearly hitting a passing stroller. “Oh no! I kicked a LimeBike,” he shouted.

An annoyed employee from a nearby water taxi grabbed the scooter and dragged it against the wall. “I hate them,” she said of the scooters. “I wish I could throw them in the Bay, but I know I’m on camera.”

In the ensuing hour, about 20 people tried to unlock the scooters. Just after 6 p.m., a dingy white Dodge Astro pulled up, a small red light spinning on its roof. Out jumped Livia Looper, a tall woman with tattooed arms and hands, sporting a long black skirt. She threw open the back of the van, which already had five scooters inside, and lugged over the three scooters within sight. Then she proceeded up the road. About a half a mile up, Looper saw a scooter lying on its side. A man was examining it. Looper pressed a button on her phone, causing the scooter to make a loud noise, and he quickly moved along. Looper tossed that one in her truck, too.

In Lime’s parlance, Looper is a juicer. The company pays her for each scooter she takes off the street, charges, and drops off before dawn the next day at designated spots. The standard rate is $12, although Lime tweaks the price based on specific conditions at various times. As of early May, Lime had about 250 scooters in San Francisco, and juicers were responsible for the nightly recharging of less than half of those.

Other scooter-sharing companies have adopted a similar model, using contract labor to help maintain their fleets, while pitching the idea to potential workers as something of a lark. The idea is a variation of the labor model popularized by Uber and Lyft, as well as delivery companies like Postmates, who have all drawn consistent criticism by paying low wages and avoiding benefits by classifying drivers as independent contractors.

Bao said Lime would avoid such controversy. The company, he said, isn’t so reliant on the juicers that it would risk conflict by trying to cut into their wages. Besides, he said, no one is going to support themselves by driving around at night charging electric scooters. “In our case, there’s no pressure,” he said. “If it’s too low nobody’s doing it, that’s just a fact.”

Looper’s story gives a more realistic picture of how this corner of the labor market actually works. In March, she was living in her car. She had a college degree, but felt stuck in the margins of society. “I’m transgender, I’m a thief if you check my criminal background,” she said. “Once you’re down below the poverty line, and you don’t have a certain job history, and you don’t have access to showers, it gets really difficult to compete.”

Looper was one of the first juicers to hit the streets, and immediately started pulling in over $200 on a good night, minus her expenses. Gas costs about $20 a day, and she pays $70 a month in insurance. At first Looper paid to rent a U-Haul, then bought the Astro for $500. She pays friends for access to a warehouse they’re squatting in, where she charges about two dozen scooters a night and sleeps during the day. She hopes to move into her own studio soon. She was also able to pay for a long-delayed trip to the dentist.

Looper is grateful for Lime, which she said provided her with a bridge back to the mainstream. But it’s uncertain how sustainable her situation will be. Lime recently put caps on the number of scooters any single person could pick up in a night, effectively limiting Looper’s income. As more juicers join the market, said Looper, people are increasingly anxious there won’t be enough scooters to justify their time. Looper said that fear hasn’t been borne out, not yet at least. She sees the gig as lucrative but temporary.

“I make what I make because I work seven days a week, four to sixteen hours a day,” she said. “The benefit of being an independent contractor while able-bodied.”  Once she saves enough money, Looper plans to sell the Astro for scrap — she think she can get $300 for it — and move on. “That’s why I’m working so hard now,” she said. “I don’t know how long it will last.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P. This article was written by Joshua Brustein from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Photo Credit: Lime, a scooter-sharing company, is racing to stay ahead of competitors and critics. Bloomberg

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May 26, 2018 at 02:06PM

Aviation Strikes Continue in France, A New Business Card From Chase, Ebola Deaths Mount in Africa and More

Aviation Strikes Continue in France, A New Business Card From Chase, Ebola Deaths Mount in Africa and More

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Each Saturday, we round up news stories that you might have missed from the week before. Here’s the top miles, points and travel news you might have missed on TPG this week.

Another Week, Another French Aviation Strike

On Tuesday, air traffic controllers in France went on strike — again. This caused major disruptions for flights in, out and within the country. The air traffic controllers’ strike comes amid ongoing demonstrations by Air France employees over pay disputes that have roiled flights throughout Paris and the rest of the country since early February.

Chase Unveils New Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card With $500 Sign-Up Bonus

Chase unveiled its Ink Business Unlimited this week. It’s the latest addition to Chase’s business card lineup, joining the existing Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and Ink Business Cash Credit Card, both of which will continue to be issued along with the new offering.

Congo’s Ebola Death Toll Rises to 27 — Including a Nurse

An Ebola outbreak in the rural Bikoro region in the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed the lives of 27 people so far, including a nurse.

A Tourist Was Kidnapped in Plain Sight at Bangkok Airport

Watch this startling video footage of a tourist being kidnapped in the middle of Bangkok Airport (BKK) — in broad daylight.

United Partners With The Private Suite at LAX for Preferred Ground Services, Lounge-to-Plane Car Transfers and More

United is launching a new service, allowing its passenger to purchase access to The Private Suite at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The Private Suite offers, as its name would suggest, privacy for travelers as it’s located in a separate, private terminal at LAX and advertises a dedicated lounge, lounge-to-plane transfers and more.

Uber Officially Shuts Down Self-Driving Car Operation in Arizona

After a fatal crash in which one of the Uber’s self-driving vehicles struck and killed an Arizona pedestrian, the ridesharing company announced this week that it’s officially shutting down its operation there.

United Reaches Settlement With Family of Puppy That Died in Overhead Bin

The family whose dog died in a United Airlines overhead bin has reached a settlement with the airline, after the affected family originally planned to sue the carrier.

11 Excellent Reasons to Visit Argentina Now

Seventeen years after Argentina’s economy collapsed, the value of the US dollar has never been stronger there — check out the top reasons to visit this South American nation right now.

Alaska Airlines Is Ditching Plastic Straws

Alaska Airlines announced this week that it would start phasing out single-use plastic stirrer straws and citrus picks in favor of more sustainable options

Score Incredible Awards for Cheap by Buying Alaska Miles With a 40% Bonus

Alaska Mileage Plan miles are some of the highest-valued airline miles in TPG’s monthly valuations. And, through July 3, you can get up to a 40% bonus when buying miles.

Featured image of the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa.

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May 26, 2018 at 01:00PM

Hiring: A Team of Rock-Star Entrepreneurs to Launch My Startup, Unless I Get a Real Job First

Hiring: A Team of Rock-Star Entrepreneurs to Launch My Startup, Unless I Get a Real Job First

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I am looking for a team of forward-thinking, highly motivated entrepreneurs to help me get a startup off the ground, if it comes to that. This year, I decided to abandon the unfulfilling traditional work landscape and create something that’s all my own, unless I get a real job first, in which case forget the startup thing.

ME:

—Passionate about improving the world through hard work and new ideas.

—Ready to disrupt norms and create something innovative that changes the way people think about the future.

—Believes that work doesn’t have to be just work—it can be an adventure.

—Just applied for a job at my friend’s dad’s paint store, and would be willing just to do that instead.

YOU:

—Interested in reaching your true potential and using it for the good of the average American consumer.

—Loves working as part of a team.

—Excited to tackle new challenges every day.

—Completely willing to work at a different place that’s not this startup.

WE are a brand-new startup looking for developers, marketers, administrators, and probably some other personnel, depending on what we decide the startup is. Social-media managers, maybe? I have not exactly thought it through because I am still kind of banking on that paint-store job.

TOGETHER, we will figure out what the startup is and what it does. We’ll work closely to identify a good or a service that the world at large needs, even if it doesn’t realize it yet. Together, we will find cost-effective, convenient, and fun ways to fill that space, using the vast potential of . . . probably the Internet, I guess. It is also possible that I will just sell paint and you’ll work somewhere else. I will have a better idea of whether or not this is happening by the end of the month.

Along the course of your journey here, you won’t just make colleagues—you will make new friendships that’ll last a lifetime, unless I abandon the startup to sell paint. I guess even if that does happen you guys could all still hang out, but it would be entirely up to you to plan that. I would not be there.

While I strive to foster a spirit of exuberant play in the workplace, you must also be ready to buckle down. Here at whatever-the-name-of-the-startup-ends-up-being, we believe no business gets ahead by cutting corners. Every day at a company like this must be a test of one’s true potential. Working at the paint store would definitely be way easier. I would just have to learn a little bit about paint and then sell it, and that, honestly, sounds nice. But if the startup happens, which hopefully it won’t, then we all need to be ready to strive for greatness, but hopefully not.

The right candidate will be contacted immediately for an interview—is what Steve’s dad tells me, regarding the paint-store job. The right candidate for this position will be contacted immediately for an interview if my lead on that paint-store gig doesn’t pan out. You must posses superior communication skills, a strong sense of empathy, a can-do attitude, and relevant experience in the field to work at that paint store, so if you have any of those things please get in touch and give me some pointers. You also need those skills to work at the startup, or not, fingers crossed.

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May 26, 2018 at 12:03PM

Bites: An Omaha Restaurant Redefining the Steakhouse Experience

Bites: An Omaha Restaurant Redefining the Steakhouse Experience

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Bites

An Omaha Restaurant Redefining the Steakhouse Experience

Of the many steak joints in the Nebraska city, Monarch is the first to dry-age steaks in-house.

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The housemade chestnut agnolotti at Monarch in Omaha, Neb.CreditPatrick Micheels

By Kathryn O’Shea-Evans

All meat should be hung. That was the directive Patrick Micheels, a chef in Omaha, Neb., took from reading “The River Cottage Meat Book,” a 543-page tome by the British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall that captivated the food cognoscenti in the early 2000s. It’s also the philosophy Mr. Micheels is attempting to instill in the Midwest’s unofficial capital of steak with Monarch Prime & Bar, which opened in October 2017. Nebraska ranks just behind Texas as the state raising the most cattle (in less than a third of the area). Yet of the 25 steak joints in Omaha, Monarch is the first to dry-age steaks in-house.

Dry-aging “makes the fat taste like it’s liquid gold,” Mr. Micheels said. “Think of a sauce reducing on a stove — you’re losing water and condensing flavor, taking the meat to another level. It’s like prime rib squared.” As with almost all of what he serves in the restaurant, the steak is local — butchered 27 miles away in Blair on Tuesday, delivered on Wednesday. “You have to start with the freshest product possible,” he said.

Mr. Micheels knows meat: He grew up across the state in Scottsbluff, hunting and butchering deer, pheasant, turkey and quail — “everything the land had to provide.” While the 45-day-aged Wagyu prime rib my husband and I ate at our recent dinner at Monarch was melt-on-the-tongue tender, it was the other dishes that left me wanting to drive back to Omaha from my home in Colorado, just for another bite.

The fancified French onion dip was what I’d imagine gets served at Warren Buffett’s Super Bowl parties: soubise white onion mousse, with pickled red onion, powdered potato chips and a lump of hasselback caviar (from Missouri). Cuddled with local cherries and peppery nasturtium flowers, my chestnut agnolotti tasted like November in Vermont, the pasta glistening with charred onion chestnut sauce.

My Irish blood ran hot for the baby red potatoes, served atop emulsified crème fraîche and veiled in paprika and dill — a riff on what the chef’s mother used to serve him at breakfast, fresh from the garden. My sole criticism was dessert: The deconstructed s’mores, whose ganache-topped cubes of smoked graham crackers were nearly as leaden as the slice of Nebraska black walnut wood they were served upon.

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The dining room at Monarch.CreditAparium Hotel Group

Set in the circa 1930 Hotel Deco, Monarch’s shadowy 70-seat space felt like an otherworldly backdrop from a Bogart movie, with channel-tufted velvet banquettes and taxidermy butterflies, beetles and cicadas affixed to black floral wallpaper.

“Our steakhouses down here are old school, people wearing big old blazers and green leather boots — ‘got my shrimp cocktail, got my dirty martini’ kind of thing,” Mr. Micheels said. “We wanted to step up the game a little bit.” If my rouge pink New York sour cocktail, frothed with Omaha egg white and studded with a perfect, tweezer-applied line of microflowers, was any barometer, they’ve more than done it.


Monarch Prime & Bar, 316 South 15th Street; monarchprimeandbar.com. Dinner for two, without drinks and tip, is about $110.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page TR8 of the New York edition with the headline: Amid Many Steak Joints, It Stands Apart. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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May 26, 2018 at 11:09AM