More than good burgers are lost when small businesses close

In the endless battle for the unofficial title of Best Hamburger in Las Vegas, Kilroy’s was a perennial top contender.

Shortly after it opened in 1991, the bar and grill at 1021 S. Buffalo Drive gained a deserved reputation for good food and friendly service. With its funky caricatures on the wall, it established its own identity above the haze of smoke-choked video poker caves that once seemed to inhabit every strip mall and street corner in the valley.

For my money it was the burgers. Oh, the burgers. Be still my cholesterol-clogged heart.

Hefty, hot and drip-down-your-elbow juicy, they were a genuine gastronomic good time. Eventually, the burger enthusiasm attracted the attention of the Food Network, which heralded Kilroy’s as the home of the “best burger in Las Vegas.”

It was a high compliment and surely was the envy of the competition. But don’t try to find one of those heavenly hamburgers at the Kilroy’s at 1021 S. Buffalo Drive these days.

Kilroy’s was here. Why did it close?

Paul Lampi has his theories. With Jack Forbes, Lampi co-owns the remaining Kilroy’s at 4340 S. Grand Canyon Drive and Ozzie’s bar at 5020 Spring Mountain Road. Lampi’s perspective is tempered by 33 years in the bar and restaurant business, and he acknowledges we’re having this conversation while Las Vegas founders in the worst recession most can remember.

But it’s more than that, Lampi says. If the government is truly interested in increasing employment, it can do more to help small bar and restaurant owners.

Back to those burgers. Lampi says Kilroy’s bought $30,000 a month in groceries for its small restaurant, which employed 30. At its best, it grossed $1.5 million in food business in addition to its bar and slot profits.

The slumping economy changed everything. When the state instituted a $1-per-hour increase in the minimum wage, his bottom line was slashed by approximately $48,000 a year. That took the meat of the net profit out of the food side of his businesses and in 2007 made a very difficult decision to close the restaurants inevitable.

First the kitchen door, then the front door.

When Kilroy’s on Buffalo closed last year, the last 20 employees were let go. He believes other bar and restaurant owners were faced with the same hard call.

“Kilroy’s closed last year when they instituted the minimum wage increase of $1 an hour,” Lampi says. Overall, “we laid off 40 employees. I basically haven’t sent in this year $170,000 in sales taxes because of the closure.”

He figures the Kilroy’s closure also had an impact on food and drink suppliers, delivery drivers and more.

“It has a huge ripple effect through the entire economy,” Lampi says. “It rippled up and down, and none of the employees made minimum wage. They all made more than that.”

Like other local bar and restaurant owners reacting to the ever-tightening economy, Lampi favors the tip offset system in place in other states. Businesses with traditional tip-earning positions are allowed to pay less than minimum wage to waiters, waitresses, bartenders, cocktail servers and the like.

He swears he’s not against the minimum wage, but he knows what a poorly timed increase did to his business.

And don’t get him started with the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act, which compels bar and restaurant owners to either shut down their kitchens or spend thousands to enclose the smoke-approved bar area from the food service. By Lampi’s count, those design changes cost Kilroy’s $40,000.

Then he watched as other bar-restaurants ignored the law and greeted chain-smoking slot customers who were turned off by being encased in glass.

While burger aficionados weep, Las Vegas will survive without Kilroy’s on Buffalo.

Save your biggest tears for the 40 people who once worked there.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at

News Videos
Jim Foley talks about 30 years of living HIV-positive
Jim Foley, who was diagnosed as HIV positive 30 years ago, talks at his home in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Traffic Slows to a Crawl on I-15S Near Primm
Traffic slowed to a crawl around 2:30p Sunday, on I-15S near Primm, Nevada.
Homeless residents speak about safety
The homeless residents living at the corner of Owens Ave. and Main St. reflect on how they feel about their safety after two homeless men died, one was hit crossing the street and another was beat to death by another homeless man. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
CCSD Superintendent address alleged racially motivated threats at Arbor View
CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara gives update on alleged racially motivated threats against Arbor View High School, and says such threats will not be tolerated. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Super Bloom Near Lake Elsinore, California
Crowds packed the hills near Lake Elsinore on Saturday to capture a rare selfie amidst the super bloom of poppies turning the landscape purple. The super bloom was caused by the larger rainfall this year. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fiery accident in Las Vegas
A three-car accident on Spring Mountain Road around 6:30 pm on Monday night
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Stardust implosion anniversary
Twelve years ago today, the Stardust Resort and Casino was imploded. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Lawsuits filed against security contractors at Nevada National Security Site
Two lawsuits were filed today against the current and former government security contractors for the Nevada National Security Site, one on behalf of Jennifer Glover who alleges sexual discrimination and assault and the other on behalf of Gus Redding who alleges retaliation after he gave statements supporting Glover’s claims. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New housing option helps Las Vegas moms keep kids while kicking drugs
WestCare Nevada Women and Children’s Campus in Las Vegas has added a new transitional housing wing for women who have completed the inpatient treatment at the behavioral health nonprofit to help them as they go through outpatient treatment, shore up their finances and prepare to secure long-term housing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Teenager in critical condition after being struck by an SUV in Henderson
Authorities were called about 2:45 p.m. to the scene in the 2100 block of Olympic Avenue, near Green Valley Parkway and Sunset Road. The teenager was taken to University Medical Center in critical condition. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Water Question Part 3: Conservation loves a crisis
Future growth in the Las Vegas Valley will rest almost entirely on the community’s ability to conserve its finite share of the Colorado River.
The Water Question Part 7: How much can we grow?
Many experts agree that Southern Nevada can continue to grow, so long as residents are willing to do what needs to be done to stretch our crucial resource as far as it will go.
The Water Question Part 6: How many people can Southern Nevada’s water sustain?
The number can swing wildly depending on a host of variables, including the community’s rates of growth, conservation efforts and the severity of drought on the Colorado River.
Mylar Balloon Demo
NV Energy presented a demonstration Wednesday to depict the damage that can be caused by the release of Mylar balloons.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students. Educators from around the State are bringing the Red for Ed movement to the steps of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, NV, and to the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Home Front Page Footer Listing