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Plaza uses photo-friendly approach to draw in Main Street visitors

When visitors strolled downtown Las Vegas’ Main Street a year ago, they may have stopped at the Plaza’s porte cochere to take a picture under the glittering lightbulbs.

Soon those tourists will be drawn in by the human-sized pink doughnut (the smaller of two), an old-fashioned popcorn cart and the massive spinning olive martini hanging off the new Carousel Bar, where a grand opening is scheduled for June 10.

It’s one of four projects that make up the nearly 52-year old property’s “reimagination of Main Street.” CEO Jonathan Jossel said the changes — plus the addition of Sand Dollar Downtown, a Plaza bar with weekend live music that opened last year — usher in a renewed strategy at the Plaza: draw the wandering Fremont Street-area tourists in at night.

“The Plaza’s big opportunity has been, in my opinion, that after 10:30 (p.m.) we never had much going on up until last year,” Jossel said. “This was a big step for us, to give ourselves with the Sand Dollar, a second entertainment venue.

“Now, I think we have the best bars in town. One is really focused on live music and cocktails, and this one’s (the Carousel) focus is on the experience. This one is all about Instagram, taking pictures outdoors and of the lights.”

Photographic features

The Carousel Bar and other new projects play up their photographic features. The 2,500-square-foot outdoor cocktail patio has carousel horses and larger-than-life showgirl signs situated under the Plaza’s lights. The bar, now in a soft opening phase, serves fanciful cocktails and faces the Fremont Street Experience.

Additions were also installed on either side of the street-level Carousel Bar. The Plaza has soft-launched its new smoke-free casino space with about 70 slot machines and will open a new branch of the Vegas-based Pinkbox Doughnuts. Both are accessible to Main Street, with entrances meant to attract customers with their colorful and large visuals like a doughnut over the bakery’s doorway.

Above the smoke-free casino space, the Plaza extended seating at Oscar’s Steakhouse in a rooftop deck capable of seating about 200. Customers can also rent the whole patio that overlooks the new porte cochere and Main Street.

Eagle-eyed customers may notice a change to the Oscar’s Main Street sign: It will no longer have the “beef, booze and broads” tagline that once filled the lower half. Jossel said the restaurant, named after former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, had moved away from including it in other artwork in recent years.

“The team wanted to focus on the food component of it. Oscar likes to have fun,” Jossel said of the tagline that was known to raise eyebrows. ”But we haven’t been using (the tagline) for three or four years.”

The next phase

Jossel said the idea for the reimagination came in the past several years. As downtown got busier, they saw activity increasing around their porte cochere. A Carousel Bar — inspired by the Hotel Monteleone’s own version in New Orleans — could connect people coming from the Fremont Street Experience to the Plaza.

Jossel said he sees the reimagination of Main Street as a chance to capitalize on the tourists already walking around downtown.

And it could extend farther south. The Plaza’s next development project will be at the 17-acre site of the former Greyhound bus station also on Main Street. The hotel announced plans in 2020 to redevelop the 48,500-square-foot space and encourage connectivity between downtown and nearby Symphony Park, but there is no public timeline on such a project.

In the meantime, the property has been used for special events. Most recently, it hosted a three-month-long pop-up art installation, produced by New York-based gallery Bortolami, that ended in February.

Jossel said the growth downtown has been encouraging because the proximity to new projects pushes others to compete.

“As everyone’s upgrading their properties downtown, you’ve gotta stay relevant. You’ve gotta have entertainment, new ways to attract people.”

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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