It was once common for portable black bars to be trundled out into the Fremont Street Experience plaza to provide alcohol for the evening's revelry.
For the past decade, casino owners have placed the bars in front of their properties to feed into the Fremont frenzy before packing away the makeshift liquor outposts until the next night.
That's not really the look the Experience's board is going for anymore.
"We weren't pleased with the look and feel of them," said Fremont Street Experience CEO Jeff Victor. "If there are going to be bars out there, (it's important) that they become more permanent, more attractive and contribute more to the look and feel of the street."
The Golden Gate in September 2010 upgraded its mobile bar to a permanent structure near its Fremont-facing entrance. Binion's in March opened the street's first outdoor bar and patio. The property put a few hundred thousand dollars into building the Whiskey Licker.
And the Golden Nugget last week opened Bar 46, a lounge with both indoor and outdoor seating (and a two-drink minimum).
"It adds another entrance and exit into the property, but it also offers guests a place to sit down and relax and have a drink and be able to watch what's going on on the Fremont Street Experience," said Amy Chasey, the Golden Nugget's vice president of marketing and advertising.
The Las Vegas property took cues from its Atlantic City sister, which opened this year with its own Bar 46. (The name comes from the year 1946, when the Golden Nugget opened.)
The company spent $1 million on expanding what was once a service bar out into the street. Bar 46 features chrome accents and bright white lights, a modern look that Chasey said the property will begin implementing across the rest of the casino floor. The next remodel will be of the bar adjacent to Bar 46, which will also get an upgrade next month from dark wood to chrome decor.
For many properties, like the Golden Nugget, adding permanent outdoor bars is part of continued reinvestment along Fremont Street. Three floors of the Golden Nugget's Rush Tower, which opened in 2009, will soon be remodeled to add more suites.
"We always want to present our best face," Victor said. "You have a number of properties down here investing in themselves. We're doing the same on the street."
The D Las Vegas, formerly Fitzgeralds, is planning to add a permanent outdoor bar called D Bar as part of its ongoing $15 million renovation. The bar will feature an escalator that takes customers up to the casino's second floor. Construction on the bar will begin in the next month.
"You can have something that's more of an indoor experience outside," said owner Derek Stevens, also a partner in the Golden Gate. "It raises the quality level, not incrementally but substantially."
Permanent bars may be more aesthetically pleasing than mobile bars, but they also offer a front-row seat to the action on Fremont Street.
"People want to be outside," said David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "Just like if you had a great location, if your restaurant has a great beachfront location, you wouldn't put up big cinderblock walls so people couldn't see the beach."
Though Fremont Street isn't exactly a beach, tourists do seem to enjoy gawking at the street performers and light shows. Binion's spokeswoman Lisa Robinson said the casino's customers congregate on the Whiskey Licker patio for concerts on the First Street stage. The addition of seating where previously there was just a mobile bar has boosted traffic in the front of the casino, Robinson said.
The trend toward permanent outdoor bars is "a welcome change," she added. "It brings the street scene to life."
Contact reporter Caitlin McGarry at email@example.com or 702-387-5273.