Lady Luck plans
downtown expansion

Oct 5, 2004 12:20 PM

Keith Grossman says something is going on downtown and he wants to be part of the excitement. But he doesn’t want to be alone, and as he invests his own money in an entertainment complex on Third Street, his fear is that as he leads a charge into an ocean, he is going to find himself alone at sea while his fellow investors remain on the shore.

Grossman, a managing partner of the Henry Brent Company that runs the Lady Luck casino, says his biggest concern is whether the rest of downtown "jumps on the bandwagon quick enough."

Grossman also works for Resort Gaming Group, a businesses entity that owns or operates an array of real estate projects, bars, and gaming venues. Grossman and his associates recently announced that they are establishing an entertainment facility across the street from Lady Luck that he expects will give a strong boost to the casino”˜s bottom line.

The management team has already had some demonstrable success at the aging downtown casino. "We’re showing double digit growth over last year," Grossman said.

But there is a bigger market to be had and Grossman is after it. His plan to pursue it has several aspects that he describes as "creative," including two businesses that some would say will look incongruous on the same block. Hogs and Heifers, a boisterous bar in New York City that caters to a macho, motorcycle-loving crowd and was made famous in the movie Coyote Ugly, and Celebrity Las Vegas, a nightclub primarily for gays, will be within bottle throwing distance of each other.

The development on Third Street between Ogden and Stewart will also house a San Francisco style restaurant specializing in seafood and steaks, and a multi-level burlesque theater.

Grossman said the city has allowed the Lady Luck to close that section of Third Street, which Brent Company officials have labeled as "The Block," and make it a walking promenade.

Grossman is hoping that the new attractions will be viewed as an extension of the Lady Luck. Toward that end, he promises cross marketing and cross promotion between the new entertainment sites and the casino on the other side of the street.

Marketing is key, Grossman says, because there is already established gay night spots near the UNLV campus, and a new alternative club, Krave, set to open on the Strip at Harmon.

The other problem is that Las Vegas has miles go to before its name is mentioned with the same reverence as the city of Sturgis is among bikers.

There is another area of downtown that the city has officials have declared as entertainment area and offered prospective business owners a variety of enticements to open entertainment-themed venues within that district. The city-sanctioned entertainment district extends from one block on either side of Fremont Street from Seventh Street to Eighth Street. It has gotten off to a sluggish start.

Grossman claims he doesn’t see the street he is creating as being in competition with the city’s entertainment district; he thinks all of downtown is an entertainment district.

"We are creating a satellite district" that will mesh with the rest of the downtown attractions, including the Neonopolis, which houses his offices, he says.

Nonetheless, Grossman is optimistic that the multi-million dollar venture will ultimately be successful. "People are anxious to come down (to downtown) but they’re looking for a reason," he says. He disagrees with the perception that Hogs and Heifers is a hangout for young people and says he thinks as much as 60 percent of The Block’s customers will be locals with a large percentage of that number being people who work downtown.

He predicts Hogs and Heifers will attract people in the 30-50 age range, "not a young group at all," and the people he expects customers at Celebrity will be "not a young group. We want (people with) spendable income looking for a safe atmosphere and a worthwhile experience."

Grossman uses the phrase "high energy" in describing the kind of atmosphere he is trying to create in the neighborhood around the Lady Luck. He says the changes in ownership in the downtown casinos, if all of the new owners act in concert, might help revive an area that has become tired.

He says he is aware of some of the problems that exist downtown in terms of homeless people, prostitutes and drug users, though he says "you can’t change the demographics. You can’t worry about where they are. (Once the redevelopment process starts) they’ll move."

"Overcoming the downtown image is hard but it can be done if everybody jumps in," he say. "Being the only guy out there is not a good thing. If everybody jumps into it together, there (is ) excitement."

He judges the energy level of an area by the number of building cranes he sees in that location. "When was the last time you saw a crane downtown?" he asks, and then answers his question — "19 years. You drive down the Strip and there’s seven cranes."

"This (The Block) could be the mega-center of downtown. The only (element) missing is strong shopping. It’s a question of who’s going to come in first" in terms of major retailers who he thinks should be considering a downtown location as a site for a new store.

"I’m betting on downtown Las Vegas," Grossman says. "I’m betting on this property. And I’m betting with my own money."