If You Build It On The Sidewalk, They Will Come. Maybe…


Vegas is utilizing every available space to sell you something – with mixed results.

Sidewalk

Taking in the north half of the Strip from the 26th floor of Wynn’s original tower, I was reminded of a trend that has swept over Vegas in recent years. An amazing amount of new stores, bars and restaurants have risen where once was nothing but sidewalk.

Sidewalk

Sugar Factory restaurant in front of Fashion Show Mall. The CVS/Avengers annex that replaced a pirate ship’s dock. Gilley’s and Starbucks over the wooden “boardwalk” of Treasure Island. And directly below me, the construction of Wynn Plaza, the fourth retail corridor at Wynn/Encore resort. All have sprung from what is now considered “wasted space”.

Sidewalk

Rhumbar at Mirage was one of the first to initiate this approach. Using square footage from decorative faux grass and shrubbery, the lounge/patio opened in March of 2009. Tellingly, it arrived around the same time that the casino’s White Tiger Pool was removed in favor of BLT, a gourmet burger joint.

This entire section of Mirage was once accessed by a “people mover” or electric walkway. As was the philosophy of the new “megaresort” concept, people-movers and free attractions would lure pedestrians inside from the Strip, where they’d hopefully stay to gamble and more.

But with this decade’s falling interest in slot machines and table games, the wise men of Mirage opted to replace that expensive tiger pool with something that could potentially generate alternate income. At the same time, the people-mover was replaced with a conventional concrete sidewalk, a cost-cutting measure that reflected the new business model.

Sidewalk

Sidewalk

Soon after, Paris Hotel Casino ripped out the gorgeous La Fontaine des Mers fountain and constructed Sugar Factory restaurant and store in its place (it later became HEXX Kitchen + Bar). Then HEXX was topped with a second level for Budweiser Beer Park. That made two bar/restaurant concepts on a spot that was once just eye candy.

Sidewalk

Interestingly, now that Sugar Factory has relocated to Fashion Show Mall, it holds the dubious distinction of rising up not once but twice from Vegas Strip sidewalks.

Once the practice of using every available inch of sidewalk space for retail took hold, entire sections of Las Vegas Boulevard literally became Strip malls. So long Bally’s fountains and gardens, hello hideous Grand Bazaar Shops.

Sidewalk

Sidewalk

As shifting trends have turned Las Vegas into an oversized Mall of The Americas, visiting the casinos is no longer a must-do activity. Why bother to go inside when you can eat, drink and shop right on the sidewalk?

Sidewalk

Monte Carlo, the rather generic-looking MGM Resorts property that was once fading into indifference, is currently undergoing a major re-branding. The first step in that process was…you guessed it…the retail-ization of the hotel’s frontage. Out went sculptures and a large fountain, in came Double Barrel Roadhouse, 800 Degrees Pizza, Boulevard Creamery and more.

Sidewalk

This time, the build-out was so extreme that the hotel is essentially hidden from view. Would you even recognize it now from the photo above? It would seem that, as with casinos, the hotels themselves are now becoming a side offering.

The retail-ization of Las Vegas Boulevard eventually spread to Downtown’s Fremont Street. Underneath the four-block canopy, a wide-open pedestrian mall is now packed to the max with kiosks, vendors, bars and patio lounges (that require a drink minimum to sit there).

Binion’s is the best example of how Downtown casinos shifted their focus from interior to the sidewalks. Exploring the property, you’ll find numerous examples of a time when guests stayed and played indoors.

Sidewalk

Sidewalk

On the second floor, a buffet and the Gee Joon Asian restaurant are collecting dust. In the basement, a once-popular 24-hour Coffee Shop is abandoned as well.

Sidewalk

The back half of the casino floor, where guests once checked into the hotel (shuttered since 2009), is nearly forgotten. The poker room, original home of the World Series of Poker, has also been put to rest.

Sidewalk

But out front, thriving Whiskey Licker Bar and Cowgirl Up  Cantina would have you believing that all is well inside the historic property. Outdoor revelers raise their glasses and park their bums on saddle-shaped stools, most never venturing into the aging property. New visitors might never realize that a 366-room hotel once operated there.

Of course, outdoor offerings are no guarantee of success. When Lady Lucky reopened as Downtown Grand in 2013, a great deal of fanfare centered around activities planned for adjacent Third Street. Sidewalk gambling, movie screenings and indoor/outdoor dining and an open-air nightclub (courtesy of Richard Sandoval’s “Commissary”) were rolled out. Not one of those things took hold.

Now the folks at Downtown Grand are taking yet another cue from the Strip – an outdoor urban park called The Quad. Utilizing empty lots and part of a parking garage, The Quad will feature a stage, tavern, fitness center, nightclub and climbing wall. So far there’s been no mention of retailers, but that’s sure to come. If all of this sounds familiar, perhaps you’re thinking of LINQ Promenade or The Park at New York NY.

Sidewalk

And so it goes…the constant reinvention of Las Vegas. Eventually, visitors while tire of the heat and venture back into the casinos that put Sin City on the map. Until then, the white tigers will be waiting.

Photos: {Sammasseur, Flickr]

 

 

 

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Author: sammasseur

Fitness buff and outspoken critic/blogger. Enjoys writing about shows, restaurants, events and performers in Las Vegas. Former contributing editor for VegasChatter and former deputy editor for VegasBright...

2 thoughts on “If You Build It On The Sidewalk, They Will Come. Maybe…”

  1. Last fall I took my friends down the strip from the Strat to the “welcome” sign about 11 p.m. on a weeknight, when traffic wouldn’t be horrendous. We had a rental vehicle and two of the guys in my group had never been to Vegas. We were staying downtown, so I figured the guys should at least see the strip in all its glory.

    The flaw with this logic, of course, is that the strip is a shell of what it use to be. There’s more commerce than ever before, but as you illustrate, attractions visible from the street are quickly disappearing. Yeah, there’s a lot going on, and there’s a lot of mass to take in, but the loss of ornate, decorative showpieces, combined with the taming down of the neon glitz and signage that made the strip sparkle, makes a drive down the strip at night far less “cool” than it was 20 years ago. The loss of the old-fashiond, guady lighting of the Riviera was a quick reminder to me that the strip isn’t as spectacular, visually, as it use to be.

    That’s not to say it’s not worth seeing, but the electricity of the strip is diminished, no pun intended.

    Liked by 1 person

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