Don’t let anyone say downtown Las Vegas can’t have anything nice, at least not after Inspire Theater is up and running.
To say Inspire will operate in renovated space of the former 7-Eleven at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard is to undersell the word “renovated.”
It’s a more than $5.5 million rebuild of a structure that has long been a blight at the intersection that connects the Fremont Street Experience casino corridor to the quirky bars of the Fremont East Entertainment District.
Not only did business partners Future Restaurant Group and the Downtown Project completely gut and replace the interior of the building, they rebuilt the exterior, adding a third level complete with rooftop bar and patio with panoramic downtown views.
Future Restaurant Group, owned by Michael Cornthwaite, includes the Beat Coffeehouse, Downtown Cocktail Room and several other bars and restaurants. Downtown Project is the business entity Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and his investment partners are using to invest about $350 million in everything from real estate development to technology start-ups.
The most striking exterior feature at Inspire is the northwest corner’s vertical neon sign with the Inspire name and large video screen facade.
Jennifer Cornthwaite, Michael Cornthwaite’s wife and business partner, said she expects replacing a dark, blighted property with a bright, multistory building will lure more people out from under the Fremont Street Experience canopy and into Fremont East.
“I’ve seen people turn right there and go back,” Cornthwaite said, pointing from a second floor balcony to the sidewalk that marks the end of the Fremont Street Experience. “I think having all these lights and people, it will just be a lot more inviting.”
The ambitious project includes a theater with more than 150 seats, a coffee shop and newsstand, four bars and myriad nooks and crannies suitable for everything from a quiet place to tap on a laptop to drinking a cocktail while watching the crowds on Fremont Street.
Cornthwaite said the idea is to create downtown spaces downtown to rival some of the area’s best spots for a nice cocktail, which include the Petrossian Bar at Bellagio or Sage in Aria.
She was particularly enthusiastic about a secluded, second-floor bar that will likely be limited to members-only, with a locked door equipped with a fingerprint scanner.
Cornthwaite said they plan to bring in a bartender who will specialize in the detailed, Japanese-style bar service rituals.
“There is nothing snooty about it,” she said. “It is just so much care and precision you just feel totally special.”
Closer to the street is the Wayfarer bar, which is already open for business. It’s a dark, mid-century style room with lots of leather and wood and sleek lighting. The bar will likely open at 5 p.m. six days per week, Cornthwaite said.
The bar opens onto the theater, which has auditorium style seating, a balcony level with general seating and a private viewing area, surround sound and the ability to send feeds from the stage to screens throughout the property.
“I think it is going to be a fantastic place for film screenings and discussions with directors,” said Dayvid Figler, a longtime writer and performer.
Figler was among the first performers to do a show from the Inspire stage on Friday.
“It is a really nice stage, you are probably no further than 30 or 40 feet from anybody,” he said. “I think it is really good to establish rapport with the audience to bring them into events.”
The theater also has a nicely appointed green room for performers with its own access to the street and a private washroom. Cornthwaite said the idea was to create a small venue that might still be attractive to experienced, widely known performers.
“There is no expense that has been spared,” she said. “I hope performers who are in Las Vegas, they will want to come down to Inspire.”
Also on the first floor is a coffee and pastry bar that opens to a newsstand with seating for work, conversation or quiet reading. Cornthwaite said there is Wi-Fi throughout the property, and customers will find places to sit and spend time on all three floors. The coffee shop and newsstand hours will likely be from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days per week.
Various features of the property will open as they’re ready in coming weeks, she said. A grand opening is anticipated in February.
“I think one of the most important things is finally having this not be an abandoned 7-Eleven,” Cornthwaite said.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at email@example.com or 702-383-0285. Follow him on Twitter @BenSpillman702.