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‘This destroys business’: Owners lament F1-related road construction

Updated October 26, 2023 - 7:16 pm

Blocked off access to the Jay’s Market and Shell gas station near the Strip at the corner Koval Lane and Flamingo Road makes it appear like a nearly deserted island.

Road construction has been going on for months around the gas station — including a temporary bridge structure over Koval built for special race access when drivers are on the track — for the upcoming Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix in November. The gas station used to sell up to 4,000 gallons per day, manager Pamela Vassil said. In recent months, it’s never been more than 800 gallons.

The drop in demand forced Vassil to lay off four people on Oct. 19, cut hours for others and reduce the number of people on schedule at a time. All the while, Vassil and some other businesses along the path of construction said they have been left feeling alone with little help from county and race officials.

“It’s causing a huge hardship,” Vassil said.

Months of roadwork

Phased roadwork began in early April for the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, taking place Nov. 16-18. Crews have been paving and installing track lighting, temporary bridges and barriers on the 3.8-mile track in the resort corridor, before the 105,000 fans take in the nightly racing action on the track.

The Clark County Commission is negotiating with Liberty Media, the parent company of F1, over how much the county is responsible for in connection with the roadwork, expected to cost $80 million, if at all. Race officials asked the county to pay $40 million in June.

The interment closures and other disruptions from ongoing work have been frustrating for some businesses along the route.

Stage Door Casino General Manager Randy Markin said the small slots operation and bar with an attached convenience store on the corner of Flamingo Road and Linq Lane has seen declining revenue since construction began.

“This has cost our business over a million dollars in sales over a normal year because nobody can get here,” Markin said. “We don’t have one regular in the bar. No regular will come in and nobody can get to the store.”

Markin said access has been so bad that customers can’t get rideshares to the area because drivers refuse, and the famous Battista’s Hole in the Wall has lost reservations from people canceling over the state of the roads.

He’s further concerned about business during race week. Clark County officials also recently relayed that glass bottles cannot be sold during the three-day race period because of an events ordinance — consistent with holiday events like New Year’s Eve. Markin said even the increased foot traffic expected from race visitors won’t be enough.

“Foot traffic would be nice, except we’re not going to make up over a million dollars and we can’t sell any product,” Markin said.

Still, other businesses have noticed an increase in foot traffic since construction began around the Strip. Road construction — as well as the development of $50 million standalone nightlife spot Bottled Blonde at the corner of Flamingo and Las Vegas Boulevard — has forced foot traffic further into the Grand Bazaar Shops. More people stop by the Puff Vegas Smoke and Vape Shop in the plaza, clerk Metin Kahraman said.

He said customers have come into the store because they’re turned around and can’t reach the location they originally targeted.

“I don’t want to walk over there if I’m a tourist,” Kahraman said. “That’s why I find something else because I don’t want to go to the shopping mall.”

‘Taken over town’

Clark County maintains that businesses were alerted of the impacts through public meetings and “regular contact with local business owners and residential units who were going to be impacted” by roadwork. They’ve used signs to make clear that business access is still open during construction.

“As these individuals have reached out to the county, Clark County has directed Las Vegas Grand Prix representatives to reach back out to those affected business owners to further address any concerns they may have,” the county said in a statement. “Clark County Public Works continues to work with the Las Vegas Grand Prix to identify additional options to help ensure business access is not interrupted during these times as well.”

Vassil said her employer has contacted the county commission about his concerns and inquired about possible compensation but didn’t hear back.

“I think the bottom line is they have no consideration for any of the businesses that are being affected,” she said.

Markin said he hasn’t heard from anyone involved but doesn’t know what could help his business this far along in the construction. He’s concerned that annual disruptions, if the race continues on the 10-year contract, could force the Stage Door to close, though officials have argued construction will be most disruptive this year because it’s unprecedented.

“I don’t know what they could do,” Markin said. “I don’t know how the town let all this happen. I mean, they’ve (Formula One) really taken over the town. I think it’s exciting and I’m a businessman so I’m expecting to take a hit because it’s better for the city. Sometimes businesses have to do that. But this destroys business.”

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 X.

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