Plaza CEO dishes on casino’s big plans for downtown Las Vegas
By Sean Chaffin
Some big things are happening downtown Las Vegas and the Plaza is one of those properties leading the charge. The company recently unveiled plans for four major additions to transform the casino’s historic Main Street façade. The entrance area faces the Fremont Street Experience and will receive a major overhaul including the iconic dome, now becoming part of a one-of-a-kind destination for cocktails, gaming and dining.
What can visitors expect? The porte-cochère (the circular drive area in front formerly for taxis and cars) under the iconic dome will convert to the new Carousel Bar, featuring an outdoor bar experience with handmade cocktails, beer and wine. Life-sized Vegas-themed elements are a major part of the project including carousel horses moving up and down, spinning martini glasses, an oversized deck of cards, a Vegas showgirl, and a rotating ribbon of lights above the bar.
Those who appreciate Vegas history will be pleased to know that the design preserves the dome’s iconic vintage Vegas lights that have been featured in many movies and television shows through the years. The 2,500-square-foot venue includes an outdoor cooling system and seating for nearly 100 guests overlooking Main Street.
“We believe downtown is always going to be the neighborhood to be in in Las Vegas,” Plaza CEO Jonathan Jossel tells Casino Player. “And within downtown, we always believe that Main Street is going to be the best street in downtown. We realized that we have a lot of real estate facing Main Street that isn’t best utilized. Primarily this porte-cochère with the lights, which is iconic. Everybody knows it. It’s iconic in downtown Las Vegas. But it’s just a porte-cochère, you just have taxis sitting there.
“So our thought process started with that, which was how do we make this more appealing and revenue generating versus just sitting empty?”
The expansion plans then began with the hopes of making a significant addition to the downtown area. The company envisions a vibrant area for cocktails, a nice meal, hanging out with friends, and some gambling in the area facing Main and Fremont.
Beyond the bar, even more is in the works at the historic property. With additional space surrounding the porte-cochère, which was recently closed to begin construction, management started thinking of other possibilities to enhance the area even more. Adding something new and different was important, while also retaining the history and character of the casino.
“We started to think, ‘Well, what about everything around it? We have a space up here, a space over there,’”Jossel says. “There is an argument you could say about the history of a classic building and then some of these design features, but I think we’re doing it in what we believe is a tasteful way that will also create fun Instagrammable moments, which is relevant to today’s crowd, while maintaining the iconic neon, the light bulbs, and in the end, the history of the building.”
Downtown’s first smoke-free and social media-friendly gaming space is also part of the plans and will be located adjacent to Carousel Bar. The area will feature the industry’s latest and most advanced slot machines, including the popular Brian Christopher Slots area that debuted last year at the Plaza. Christopher hosts one of the Internet’s most popular slot platforms. His own section at the casino has been a big success, according to Jossel. He says the casino sees guests every day that make their way to the property simply because of Christopher’s platform.
“I like saying that I don’t want to talk about it,” Jossel says. “Because I don’t want anyone else to realize that it’s something that’s beneficial to us because I think other operators think of the YouTube thing as sort of a nothing business and it’s pretty impactful. They’re not aware of why it’s impactful.”
The new smoke-free casino expands on the partnership with Christopher. Plaza officials believe the addition will become the ultimate destination for Christopher fans looking to play the games they’ve seen on the social media influencer’s channels. The 2,500-square-foot gaming space will feature up to 100 games and ramps up the social media theme. Expect style similar to the Plaza’s prior Studio 71 photo space, with fun backdrops for selfies, group shots and Instagrammable moments.
Another addition is Oscar’s patio on the rooftop deck above the new gaming space. The venue will be accessible via the restaurant’s existing lounge. Oscar’s patio will be the first al fresco space for fine dining in downtown and can accommodate up to 225 people.
Pinkbox Doughnuts is also opening a 1,200-square-foot store located right on Main Street behind an oversized, three-dimensional doughnut with sprinkles. Pinkbox has become a Las Vegas staple and features over 70 different flavors of doughnuts, with both classics and signature creations. The Plaza Pinkbox will also launch an exclusive menu of spiked doughnut milkshakes. Construction on the four projects began in June and is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
Beyond these projects, the Sand Dollar Lounge also opened along Main Street in May. The live music venue features handcrafted cocktails, pizza and pool. The 4,000-square-foot space can host 300 guests and also features a dance floor, expanded booth seating and billiard tables. Jossel believes the venue fills a need at the property and helps add to the casino’s overall efforts along Main Street.
“There’s great video poker in there, there are great bartenders, great cocktails,” he says. “The Plaza has been on an upward trajectory the last few years, but we have not had any late night options. So when Oscar’s closed, the bingo room closed, and the showroom’s done, after 10:30 or 11, there was nothing to do. The Sand Dollar is busy from 11 to 3 a.m.” The additions may not be over for the Plaza. The company owns 17 acres around the property and is planning on developing that at some point as well. The efforts are part of an overall resurgence of downtown over the last decade. That included renovated properties like D Las Vegas and Golden Gate, the addition of the new Circa casino, a new Golden Nugget tower, and additional restaurants and bars opening in the area. Entertainment additions like the canopy zipline and free concerts have also boosted the downtown scene. More than 800 apartments, the new city hall, and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts have also been built in the area.
“It’s been a big uptick,”Jossel says of those changes bringing in more guests downtown and to the Plaza. “It’s been a gradual uptick year over year over year—every year has gotten better. And then I would say in the last two years, if you look at the changes around us, they’ve been the most dramatic. We’ve noticed a big impact in the last two years.”
Jossel believes even more good times are ahead for downtown Las Vegas and that the Plaza can be a major part of that success. ´