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Never Too Late

There’s a reason it’s called the graveyard shift. Those hours from about midnight to dawn, generally as dark and quiet as the proverbial tomb, are unknown to most people, who — even in this 24-hour city — are tucked away in their beds, in seclusion from the rest of the world. The only people who are out are shift workers, tourists and the more enthusiastic college students, and they have the streets pretty much to themselves until the sun is up.

Funny, then, that these hours are one of the bright spots for restaurants struggling with a club-footed economy.

At the Peppermill, late-night business actually has been up, said general manager Peggy Orth. A qualifier is that the Peppermill has benefited from the cost-cutting decisions of nearby hotels. Orth said business had held pretty steady until about six months ago, when Wynn Las Vegas, Riviera and Circus Circus closed their coffee shops at night.

"There’s nowhere to go to eat, so everybody sends people here," she said. "Now it’s just gangbusters. A lot of times, graveyard rings as much as swing shift does."

That boost has extended to at least one restaurant at Wynn Las Vegas as well. Alex Stratta, executive chef of Stratta, the more rustic Italian counterpoint to his elegant and equally eponymous Alex, said that about nine months ago, Stratta started staying open until 4 a.m. on Thursdays through Mondays.

"We’re doing much better than we ever expected," Stratta said. "Some nights we’ll do more covers for late-night than for dinner."

The schedule, he said, was "based on the shows and the clubs, which are the lion’s share of our business. There’s not that many options to eat late. In the casino, when the shows break at 11, most of the restaurants are closed already. We get a big initial hit at right around 11, then we get another hit around 3, when people are coming out of the clubs."

Stratta said it also helps that the restaurant’s prices are moderate, with the average check in the mid-$20s range.

Moderate prices also seemed to have boosted the late-night business at the Firefly on Paradise Road, which is open until 2 a.m. daily.

"That’s something we’re always talking about," said Regina Simmons, banquet manager — "we’re definitely more busy, because our prices are more reasonable." Checks there average in the mid-$30s, she said, adding that the increase in business seems to hold throughout the day.

Isaac Mayberry, senior director of food and beverage at Mr. Lucky’s at the Hard Rock Hotel, said he has seen an increase from this time last year for another reason — a property expansion.

At Golden Gaming, which operates the multiple PT’s and Sierra Gold restaurants, corporate executive chef Joe Romano said the recession did bring about an initial drop in late-night business.

"As Strip business has slowed and lines to get in the clubs are now gone, that’s when we started to see less people in our taverns during those moonlight hours," Romano said. To combat the trend they introduced Moonlight Happy Hour, with half-off all drinks and pizzas from midnight to 4 a.m. daily.

"Now we have seen an increase," he said.

And June LeMay, general manager of the Crown & Anchor British Pub, said specials at her two restaurants have helped fuel late-night business. The Crown & Anchor offers a half-pound hamburger with cheese and bacon or a full-sized chicken-breast sandwich, both with fries, for $4.95 from midnight to 8 a.m., dine-in only and with the purchase of an alcoholic beverage.

"It’s been much the same," LeMay said of the pace of late-night business. "I think it’s the workers from the Strip. Spring Mountain seems to be a bit busier consistently on graveyard, and that’s a thoroughfare."

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474.

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