There's been plenty of positive feedback for the Fremont East entertainment district's roster of new nightclubs and eateries, which are credited with boosting the area's profile and giving locals a nongaming reason to come downtown.
But there's also plenty of empty space in the nascent downtown district. The hip bars are easily outnumbered by empty storefronts, but that's expected to start changing as soon as this summer.
That's when owners of The Hive, a long-planned live music venue on the corner of Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard, expect to open the doors of their club, along with a retro burger bar next door.
Activity is expected even sooner at the other end of the district, which extends along Fremont from Las Vegas Boulevard to Eighth Street. That's where an old carpet store will be demolished to make way for the Venue of Vegas, an events hall and comedy club.
Both projects are running a little behind the timetables originally set by their respective backers, but the new nightspots are expected to open this year.
Meanwhile, at least three now-vacant spaces are attracting interest from people who want to open bars and restaurants.
Leasing agent Bob Miller said he's received six inquiries about all or part of the 6,000 square feet of space at 517, 523 and 525 Fremont since the properties started being advertised this month.
"We've gotten more activity down there than I first anticipated," Miller said. "It's phenomenal what's going on."
There were five tavern proposals and one restaurant, and a lease is already being negotiated for a proposed tavern at 517 Fremont, although a final deal hasn't been reached.
"It's happening, and it's just going to pick up speed," he said.
The Hive's owners are scheduled March 19 to go before the Las Vegas City Council to get signage approval.
"We're going with lots of neon," said co-owner Jim Reding, including a glowing cheeseburger six feet in diameter. Though it has taken longer than expected to reach this point, Reding hasn't had trouble attracting financial interest in the project even in tough economic times. Startup costs are about $1.75 million.
"Just a couple of years ago, it was easier to raise $100 million than it was to raise $1 million," he said. "Now you've got people pulling their money out of the stock market and these funds, but they still want to do something with it.
"The wealthy investors are very cash flush right now, and if they do invest in something, they want it to be something they can stay close to."
Plans call for adding a second floor to the inside of The Hive's building to provide an area overlooking a main stage, bringing the floor area to about 8,800 square feet. The acts booked will mostly be rock bands, but there will be other offerings as well, such as Hispanic nights, reggae and DJs, Reding said.
The Venue of Vegas is a different business altogether, said co-owner Marty Olson, who operates an identical business in Scottsdale, Ariz.
His events hall will cater to corporate parties and private events and will try to attract the local comedy audience.
Olson had hoped to be started with construction on his two-story, 2,500-person capacity building already, but he said he's still on track to open by the end of the year.
"Everything's on schedule," Olson said. "There's a lot of moving parts to this puzzle."
In August, Las Vegas showcased the completion of $5.5 million in improvements to the area, including wider sidewalks, landscaping and neon signs. Three nightspots, The Griffin, Beauty Bar and the Downtown Cocktail Room, have attracted followings. Businesses and police report foot traffic is up and crime is down.
Contact reporter Alan Choate at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 229-6435.