'Tis the season.
No, not that season.
'Tis the season when balmy weather inspires restaurant patrons to dine outside.
From Boulder City to Boca Park, from the District to Desert Shores, from Town Square to the Strip and Glitter Gulch, patio dining has shifted into high gear.
Although heaters and closed-in patios make outdoor dining an all-season option in Southern Nevada, spring's arrival signals an increasing demand for open-air seating.
"You can't keep people inside when the weather's like this," says Michelle Knoll, senior vice president of advertising and public relations at Treasure Island, which features two restaurants -- the Asian-themed Khotan and the just-opened Gilley's Saloon, Dance Hall and Bar-B-Que -- overlooking both the Strip and the resort's Siren's Cove pirate battle.
At Brio Tuscan Grill in Town Square, "people will wait 30 minutes to dine outside, even when there's immediate seating inside," notes Kenna Warner, general manager and managing partner.
With 220 seats outside, the terrace doubles the restaurant's capacity; it's so popular Brio is adding a second fire pit.
At the recently opened Beso, in Crystals at CityCenter, the patio has been open for about a month.
"The Vegas weather that people were waiting for has finally arrived," says Mali Nachum, who's partnered with "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria Parker in the Latin-themed steakhouse.
At Neonopolis, the Las Vegas Rocks Cafe opened in December without a patio -- and "not even a thought of one," admits Tony Sacca, the restaurant's founder and chief executive officer.
But when Sacca observed the popularity of patios at such neighboring Fremont Street establishments as Hennessey's and Mickie Finnz, they added one, too.
Now, less than two months later, "there are more people on the patio than inside the restaurant," Sacca says.
Even when the patio isn't private, the outdoor option draws diners, says chef Giacomo Zarcone, whose Italian bistro La Focaccia (on South Eastern Avenue, just north of the Las Vegas Beltway) has about 15 tables.
Right now, his patrons would rather dine alfresco, he says, "because it's gorgeous out."
Yet the weather's not the only draw for many outdoor diners.
On the Strip and downtown, a hearty helping of people-watching also is on the menu.
Serendipity 3's Caesars Palace location -- next to the Caesars fountains at Flamingo Road and the Strip -- puts the eatery "on the 50-yard-line of Las Vegas Boulevard," notes general manager Jerri Rose Sessoms. "People-watching is a big, fun thing to do."
That goes for Las Vegas Rocks Cafe's Fremont Street location, too, Sacca says.
"It's like being at Disneyland," he says. "And sometimes it's like (watching) 'Cops,' too."
Las Vegas' fabulous fountains also figure prominently at several outdoor spots.
Bellagio has five patios -- from the Fontana Bar to the award-winning restaurant Picasso -- overlooking the resort's Lago di Como, where musical waterworks entrance patrons.
"It's a restaurant and a show," points out Dominique Bertolone, Bellagio's food and beverage director. "It's almost a totally different experience. You really feel you're not in Las Vegas."
Across the street at Paris Las Vegas' Mon Ami Gabi, the front-row seat for Bellagio's fountains represents only part of the patio's appeal.
"It's a free show," says general manager Ryan Richardson. "There's no better place to people-watch."
Mon Ami Gabi's patio is "way more popular than indoors," Richardson says. With 150 seats (about a third of the restaurant's total), it's much bigger now than it was when it opened, about a decade ago, with 18 open-air tables.
Even so, he admits, "we wish we could make it bigger."
Beso's owners opted for fewer, but more "cushiony, comfortable chairs" that "compromised a lot of our capacity," Nachum explains. "Maybe financially those chairs were not the best choice," but "the patio was where we wanted to have that laid-back experience."
Treasure Island's new Gilley's outpost boasts completely retractable windows, so when the weather isn't up to current springtime standards, diners still "can hang out and enjoy a nice patio," general manager David Modelo says. For now, however, "the great weather draws everyone to want to eat outside."
So hurry, because you've only got a month or so before springtime splendor gives way to inevitable triple-digit temperatures.
"The misters are going to come out when it gets hotter," Nachum says. "Right now, it's perfect."
Contact reporter Carol Cling at email@example.com or 702-383-0272.