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New Strip sports bar aims to outflank competition

Updated June 9, 2023 - 6:00 am

When you visit Flanker Kitchen + Sports Bar at Mandalay Bay, imagine Buffalo Wild Wings in that location.

It almost happened.

MGM Resorts International had worked a deal with national chain of casual-dining restaurants more than 3½ years ago. The concept would have taken over the former RM Seafood spot across from the House of Blues entrance and a Starbucks outlet.

The deal was announced in September 2019. The Buffalo Wild Wings scene was to have opened in mid-2020.

The pandemic erased those plans. Veteran Vegas hospitality and nightlife visionary Sean Christie then stepped in to draft his own concept, Flanker Kitchen + Sports Bar, opening this weekend.

Christie launched his Carver Road Hospitality company in April 2020, brazenly launching a hospitality company in the first month of the pandemic shutdown. Flanker follows his gorgeous steakhouse, Carversteak, at Resorts World, on the Carver Road roster.

Similar to a flanker on the gridiron, the new restaurant will catch business riding up and down the nearby escalators to Mandalay Place and Luxor. It will enjoy waves of football fans on Sundays, positioned just a swing pass from entrance and exit of Stadium Walk to Allegiant Stadium.

Flanker will also serve guests in a kind of red zone around Mandalay Bay. Luxor, Delano, Excalibur and Four Seasons are interconnected.

Christie has installed the “wow” feature, an homage to an F1 tack in the main dining room. Fun lighting elements, an open ambiance and a 26-foot screen that will — naturally — glow with live sporting events.

But the scene will shift to more general appeal when the games are over.

“The games end at around 10 o’clock, and we’ll have a video component that will adjust,” Christie says. “One of my beefs, when you go to some of these places, after 9:30 or 10 o’clock, you’re generally seeing a bunch of TVs that have on ‘SportsCenter,’ with a bunch of commercials. That’s kind of a dumb way to present your space.”

The programming will then be non-sports, and as they say, more will be revealed.

After nearly a quarter century game-planning experiences, the Boston native still offers touches of his home town. He grew up on 24 Carver Road, inspiring the company name. A No. 24 Sam Jones jersey hangs in his office, atribute to the great but underrated Sam Jones.

In Vegas, Christie has always taken advantage of high-traffic locations. Flanker is just across from Starbucks at Mandalay Bay.

“You cannot get as big as Starbucks unless you know your location,” Christie says.

Christie had taken a liking to that particular location when touring the space for execs who might want to do business there. At the time, Christie was the company’s president of nightlife, piloting the development in On The Record (with partners Jonnie and Mark Houston) and Mama Rabbit at Park MGM, and Mayfair Supper Club with the No Ceilings Entertainment team.

“This was before they had created the escalators and the beautiful entrance to the Mandalay Place row,” Christie said. “That was that was hugely important. I was actually pitching that to people to, quote unquote, take the space, if you will. But nobody really had the right concept for it.”

Christie draws from his experience in Vegas, dating to opening House of Blues in 2000. He went on to blaze trails as managing partner of The Light Group in the early and mid-2000s. Light ignited such Strip nightlife destinations as Jet at The Mirage, Light and Fix at Bellagio, and Stack at Luxor.

Christie’s Las Vegas Nightlife company, created in 2006, operated clubs at City Center, M Resort and Wynn Las Vegas. That led to a 10-year run as a leading nightlife executive at the Wynn, where he developed Blush, Surrender and Encore Beach Club. That preceded his run at MGM Resorts.

Christie’s company also operates Flanker outposts in Salt Lake City, and in Glendale, Ariz., just outside State Farm Stadium.

In essence, Flanker will play the Super Bowl in back-to-back years, with Super Bowl LVIII set for Allegiant Stadium in February.

The nightlife all-star brings a sense of competition to his career in Vegas.

“We are in a city that is larger than life, and in my mind doesn’t exist anywhere else,” Christie says. “No matter where you go, everybody knows what Vegas is. What does it mean when you say, ‘Las Vegas?’ It means you’re in the Entertainment Capital of the World, by a mile.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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