Hard Rock Biloxi Moves Forward Despite Bankruptcy Case - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Hard Rock Biloxi Moves Forward Despite Bankruptcy Case

As a saw cut a piece of steel, sparks shot across the inside of Hard Rock Biloxi. And that had Joe Billhimer smiling. "It's very gratifying to see the level of work and the progress that's been made, particularly in the last two to three months," the Hard Rock President said.

In the process of repairing what Katrina destroyed, Billhimer found ways to tinker with what his company initially built, but never got open. "We're still here to add to a beautiful coast. We're not here to change anything," he said.

The most noticeable improvement is outside the resort. The hurricane damaged casino barge is gone. It's been replaced by cement pilings that will form the base of a more storm resistant casino. "Anything to improve what we had before," said Billhimer.

Before the hurricane, Hard Rock had Roger Kuehn on its payroll. "The Hard Rock thing was pretty sweet," he remembered. Things could have gone sour for Kuehn in January, when Hard Rock cut its ties with him. But he landed on his feet. Kuehn took a temporary job at a Mississippi Development Authority office. He began teaching at Tulane. And when Hard Rock starts rehiring workers, he has an agreement to become Vice President of Hotel Operations again. "Having worked with Hard Rock Biloxi for about six months, it's now part of me," Kuehn said. "And it's really something I enjoy doing."

Billhimer was glad to hear that, because he's counting on people like Roger Kuehn when Hard Rock finally opens. "I'm looking forward to the summer of 2007 more than most people can imagine," Billhimer said. "We want to let everybody know we're coming back."

Hard Rock is back with a resort that Billhimer says will sparkle even more than the one Katrina destroyed.

Premier Entertainment is Hard Rock Biloxi's parent company. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on September 19th. In those intial court papers, the company said it had been denied access to insurance money paid to its trustee after the hurricane. Premier would like the $160 million to help cover the cost of the Hard Rock rebuilding project.

By Brad Kessie

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