Thursday, August 6, 2009

This week's LVW col: Enter The Stage Door

Here's this week's "The Strip Sense" piece. Didn't actually get to the bottom of the mystery, but maybe this one's about the journey, not the destination? Enjoy. -Steve

A riddle wrapped in... Harrah's?
There may be great stories about the Stage Door, but good luck finding them


The rule of thumb for marquees on the Strip is not to force anyone to think too hard. I challenge anyone to look up and down the Boulevard and spot much signage that stops you in your tracks in bafflement. Subtlety, thy name is not Vegas.

Which is why the Stage Door Casino has long fascinated me. To be honest, though, until last week I didn’t even know the place had a name, let alone something with such phony theatrical aspirations as the Stage Door.

I just knew it—as I suspect a whole lotta folks do—as that place on Flamingo across from the Bally’s Sports Book entrance with a sign that reads, “WE HAVE 21 YEARS LEFT ON OUR LEASE. WE ARE HERE TO SERVE YOU.”

The number changes each year, as you might expect. Huh, you wonder. Defiant! What’s that all about?

I suspected I knew. Must have something to do with all the development pressures in the area, some valiant holdout against the big, bad Harrah’s Entertainment, which owns so much land on the east side of the Strip.

That hunch seemed to be rewarded earlier this month when I stopped in at the video poker and sundries shop immediately east of Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon and attached to the venerable Battista’s Hole in the Wall. When I asked a cashier if I could speak with the owner or manager, a portly, courtly fellow named Alan Hoffman emerged from his office with a warm handshake and a broad smile. He was effusive—“Oh, we’ve got stories to tell you!”—and even started gabbing with me about Harrah’s and its plans for neighborhood domination. Hoffman even pointed out that it was Harrah’s that was paying for the construction on Flamingo designed to bury the power lines east of Bill’s and the Flamingo Las Vegas. “They can’t build up without doing that,” he gossiped.

Ooh, good story, I’m thinking. Besieged, profitable David vs. near-bankrupt Goliath. Fun!

Except then something weird happened. Hoffman asked me to come back the following Wednesday to meet the owner, Ron Markin, “and we’ll tell you everything you ever wanted to know.” But when Wednesday arrived and I called up Hoffman to set a time for my return visit, his brio was gone.

“The owner wanted me to tell you we’ll have no comment,” he explained awkwardly. “Go read the InBusiness Las Vegas piece about us from a few years ago.”

“But last week you were so excited to talk,” I said, confused.

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you,” Hoffman answered, also a bit confused, although I’m not sure about what. Then he hung up.

Hmm. That was weird. Up went my scandal antenna.

Read the rest


Anonymous said...

I went to the Stage Door several times last year when we stayed at the Flamingo. It serves one very important function-it is the only place for about a half mile where you can get a Review-Journal. I hope it stays open for that reason alone.

Jeff in OKC

Anonymous said...

Typical, it's always the little guy starting the fight.

Anonymous said...

Another intriguing story is about developer Oscar Nunez whose buildings are right in the middle of Harrah's properties east of the Strip. Harrah's has not come to sale terms with him. He owns the row of seedy apartments along Albert Avenue between Koval Lane and Audrie Avenue. He has tried to increase the sale value of his holdings by applying for a permit to raize two of his buildings and replace them with a 14-story residential tower at the northwest corner of Albert and Koval.

Jay said...

First time I went to Las Vegas I stayed in Bally's and noticed that place. At the time it said "We have 24 years left on our lease!"

What an interesting story. I hope you continue to do more investigating, I'd love to know the whole story.

Anonymous said...

I met the owner once. Back in 1993 when the MGM Grand opened I was looking for tickets for Barbara Streisand as she was their for the grand opening of the hotel. It was the hottest ticket in town and a big deal at the time. Well I was asking around for tickets and was told to go to this place and ask for the owner. I went there and he came out from the back room and sure enough he had tickets but they were extremely overpriced. Not sure if he still does this, but he seems to run this side business of ticket sales because the people that worked at the casino knew about this guy as a source for hard to find tickets.

Anonymous said...

Great place, hot dog and a heineken for 2 dollars, it maybe 3 dollars now. Great service also...