Ellis gets a makeover

Nov 27, 2019 3:00 AM

Sometimes, you have to change your appearance, even if you don’t want to.

It’s called competition.

At Ellis Island Casino Hotel & Brewery, it was a fairly easy call. The family-owned casino had been at the same location since 1968. It’s popularity had remained strong among locals and had attracted tourists who had been willing to venture off the Las Vegas Strip.

So Owner Gary Ellis decided it was time to spruce up his place, located at 4178 Koval Lane behind Bally’s, while maintaining all the things that drew customers to the property in the first place.

Some $10 million later, Ellis Island has a fresh look, an expanded beer garden, a spruced up interior and the latest casino games, all without compromising its popularity.

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“It was time,” said Ellis’ daughter Christina, who is the property’s director of marketing. “It’s an older building and we had an opportunity to upgrade the exterior and the interior.”

Ellis said the property’s expansion will allow it to do things it previously didn’t have the capacity to do.

“It’s a chance to do weddings and conventions,” she said. “It also allowed us to expand our restaurants. Sometimes, there’s as much as a two-hour wait to get in and we wanted to make it more convenient for our customers.”

The two-story beer garden, known as “The Front Yard,” will be a big drawing card. Ellis Island brews its own craft beers, which are extremely popular with its loyal customers. It brews over two million glasses of various craft beers annually and with the new Front Yard, it can accommodate more people and move more product. The area will initially be open from 3 p.m. to midnight.

“It’s beautiful,” Ellis said of the two-story patio, which has both indoor and outdoor seating with the second floor providing unobstructed views of the Las Vegas Strip. “We had to the space to expand it and we’re very excited.”

The new Front Yard recently had its soft opening and the official grand opening is, Friday Dec. 6.

As for the menu at Ellis Island, it has maintained two of its most popular items — the steak special and its outstanding ribs.

The steak special, which originally used as a marketing tool to draw people to the property, is currently $7.99. It includes a 10-ounce top sirloin, choice of potato, garlic green beans and soup or salad.  To get it, customers must sign up for an Ellis Island players’ card, which is free, then use the card to print out a voucher to present to the server when ordering the special.

“It’s become part of the Las Vegas experience,” Ellis said of the steak special. “We want to make sure it’s a quality steak and as it’s harder to find a quality deal in town, the steak special remains one of the unique things.”

The ribs are also popular.

“We try to give value to people but it’s all about the quality,” she said. “The flavor is great.”

And if you don’t feel like eating, 

Ellis Island remains the Karaoke spot in Las Vegas. You can come in seven days a week and sing to your heart’s content.

“We start at 9 p.m. and we go until 3 a.m., 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday,” Ellis said. “We have such an eclectic group of people who take to the stage and want to sing. The drinks are always flowing. It’s just a fun atmosphere.”

Ellis Island has a William Hill sportsbook adjacent to its restaurant and over 300 slot machines. Parking is free and the usual assortment of table games — blackjack, craps and roulette are offered.

And with the upgrades to the entire property and another phase of improvements planned, Ellis Island is primed to remain vibrant in its next 50 years.

“I’m a little bit biased obviously, but I think it enhances our comfort for the customers and we’re very proud of the new look,” Ellis said.

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