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Las Vegas prepares for perfect storm of St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness and spring break


It’s raining beer.

What else would you expect from “the El Nino of March,” as it’s dubbed by Joe Bravo, director of nightlife and daylife at the Hard Rock Hotel?

“It’s the perfect storm,” he says of the beer-vergence of St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness and the start of the college spring break season. “You can’t ask for a better situation than that.”

“It’s by far our biggest day of the year,” agrees Jay Lattimer, food and beverage director for The Linq, which includes O’Shea’s. That Irish-themed corner of The Linq — year-round home to live bands and beer pong — and the outdoor Linq Promenade have become the Strip’s main gathering point for St. Patrick’s Day.

Last year, St. Paddy’s was on a Thursday and The Linq (including Tag Sports Bar) went through 350 kegs, or about 57,000 beers, Lattimer says. A beer wagon on the outdoor plaza was good for about 35 kegs.

“We go through two cases per hour of Jameson (Irish Whiskey) for about 16 hours, starting about noon,” he adds.

Downtown casinos are fortified for the Las Vegas Firefighters Benefit Association Annual St. Patrick’s Day March at noon. On the west end of Fremont Street, the Plaza is closing its domed entrance for a 7 p.m. party followed by an all-green fireworks display at 10 p.m.

The Downtown Grand will close the Third Street block in front of the hotel from noon to 6 p.m. to host the fun and games (such as a hose race) that follow the firefighters march.

How do you not run out of beer on a weekend like this?

“Plan, plan, plan,” says Kevin Glass, Downtown Grand’s general manager. “That’s the one thing you just can’t have happen when you have that many people here.”

To some degree, the three parties are separate crowds sharing common ground. But Rehab, the Hard Rock dayclub made famous by reality TV, is stocking up “pallets and pallets” of canned beer for the first St. Patrick’s Day party in its 14-year history, the Hard Rock’s Bravo says.

The wearin’ of the green used to be more the province of local bars and Irish festivals but gradually “became part of the lexicon of the bar and club scene,” he says.

Rehab typically sells maybe one-fourth as much beer as mixed drinks. But St. Paddy’s is expected to flip that equation to at least half beer.

“We won’t carry 35 kinds,” Bravo says. “It’s not like people want that new IPA. They want beer that’s wet, and helps lubricate the day.”

The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament will seat more die-hard basketball fans indoors, but it “actually marries quite nicely” with the onset of spring break season, Bravo says.

“It’s become an event sort of on its own,” Lattimer agrees. He can remember a time, not much more than five years ago, when casinos were casual about March Madness. The sports books were open and the TVs were on for anyone who wanted to come watch.

Enough people “just did that on their own that it just sort of built on itself,” Lattimer says. “Eventually we all, as operators, realized we should capture this and cater to this market: ‘Let’s put together a weekend for them.’ Each year we get better at it, in terms of selling packages. The (pool) cabanas become ‘man caves’ to watch the games.”

The games will be on in Rehab’s cabanas, as well as on the LED wall over the stage. That makes Rehab at least one place you can combine all three elements of the storm: wear your leprechaun hat while standing knee-deep in a pool, watching a game while surrounded by spring breakers.

“If anybody can pull this off, it’s us,” Bravo says.

Contact Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com. Follow @Mikeweatherford on Twitter