Tom ‘Big Dog’ Wiesner was town’s best friend

Jul 9, 2002 9:46 AM

Last month, Las Vegas lost one of its favorite sons, Tom Wiesner, who died after a year-long battle with leukemia. He was only 63.

Besides a successful businessman, Wiesner was an active leader in the community. He served as a Nevada university regent and was two-term Clark County commissioner. He was also a force in the national Republican party and a powerful fund raiser.

But most Las Vegans will probably recognize Wiesner as the founder of the popular Big Dog Hospitality Group. In fact, Wiesner became known to his friends as the Big Dog.

Wiesner, along with his brother George, made their start in the restaurant business in June 1988, when they opened the Draft House ”” a place famous for its genuine warm Wisconsin hospitality.

Located in the Northwest area of Las Vegas, the friendly, hyperactive bar and grill served menu favorites that included bratwurst, walleye, hamburgers, sandwiches, salads and soups.

In August 1992, the restaurant expanded to the Draft House Barn and Casino, giving Las Vegas its first dining barn and Green Bay Packer Fan Club.

Offering the same friendly hospitality as the Draft House, Big Dog’s Bar and Grill opened on April 12, 1991 in Northeast Las Vegas. A dog lover’s dream, this location features an eclectic canine décor, great food, and gaming fun.

"Player’s Best Friend" became the motto for this successful location and Wiesner’s company was "going to the dogs?"

In spring of 1992, the family of Big Dog’s Hospitality Group grew to three locations with the addition of Big Dog’s Café and Casino on West Sahara. The Café and Casino features a collection of classic doggie artwork, a great bar atmosphere, traditional Big Dog’s menu, fine banquet and meeting facilities, as well as Top Dog Catering. Both Café and Bar and Grill have been voted Best Bar styled food in recent years by the RJ Readers poll.

In April 1998, Two Dog’s Tavern joined the Big Dog’s litter with "Twice the fun." Located at Nellis and Twain, guests can enjoy classic Big Dog’s cuisine, Gambler’s bonus, a private banquet room, and our east-side Packer Fan Club.

On December 4, 1998, Little Dog’s Pub became Wiesner’s newest and "littlest" location. Unique only to Little Dog’s, this property is smaller in size and all guests must be at least 21 years old.

Prior to launching the Big Dogs chain, which also included the Holy Cow Brewery, which closed last year, Wiesner built a fortune investing in real estate, ranging from athletic clubs to casinos.

Wiesner and his partners sold the old Marina hotel-casino to the builders of the MGM Grand for $80 million in 1990. The shell of the old Marina, in fact, was incorporated into the structure of the MGM Grand.