Chick-fil-A Near Las Vegas Strip Gets Opening Date

It’s possible we’ve mentioned Chick-fil-A a time or two in recent weeks. That’s because we’ve been waiting for years to unleash our pent-up lust for the chain’s glorious chicken sandwiches, and two Chick-fil-A locations are now crushing it in Las Vegas.

To be precise, though, the two existing Chick-fil-A locations aren’t exactly in Las Vegas. They’re in Henderson. That’s about to change, though.

A third Chick-fil-A opens March 30, 2017, just off The Strip on Sahara Blvd. at S. Rancho Drive. The new outpost sits just across the street from the Palace Station casino, not far from Lucky Dragon and SLS Las Vegas.

Chick-fil-A Rancho Sahara

Do not make us choose between Chick-fil-A and saving an infant from a burning building. Infants can fend for themselves.

This new Chick-fil-A puts the restaurant within striking distance of The Strip, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to see the same crush of customers as the first two Las Vegas locations.

The third Chick-fil-A is expected to take some of the pressure off its sister locations. Both of the Henderson stores have been so busy, they’ve had to employ off-duty police officers to do crowd control since opening on Jan. 26, 2017.

Here’s another look at the third Chick-fil-A in Las Vegas.

Chick-fil-A plans to have 10 restaurants in Nevada over the next five years. So, grab the app, skip the pickles and join us as we bask in our Chick-fil-A euphoria.

And while you’re at it, please let us know how seriously we need to take this restraining order.

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Caesars Entertainment Preps to Launch Paid Parking

Paid parking has become the new normal at Las Vegas resorts, and one of the Strip’s biggest players, Caesars Entertainment, is ready to expand its paid parking program to include guests who self-park.

We hit The Strip to check on the progress of the paid parking roll-out expected to kick in sometime in March 2017. Caesars Entertainment already charges for valet parking at most of its Strip resorts.

Flamingo Las Vegas paid parking

Up first, Flamingo. The parking machines are encased in plywood. Let’s keep it that way!

While we were on a quest to visit every Caesars casino that will have paid parking, we did make the occasional stop to imbibe, a word which comes from Latin, meaning “if you can feel your face, you’re doing it wrong.”

At Flamingo, we had a lovely dinner at Carlos’n Charlie’s, including one of our favorite dishes in town, the Parmesan & Swiss Chicken. We played a bit of blackjack, and couldn’t help but snap a pic of two newlyweds at a nearby table.

Casino newlyweds

Congrats to the lovebirds. Oh, and both of the newlyweds were women. Las Vegas loves everyone’s love equally.

Next, we bopped next door to the Linq hotel, and again, paid parking machines are in place.

Linq paid parking

The machines at Linq are at the top of a steep incline, so that’s sure to be interesting.

Our Parade of WTF isn’t done yet. Right next door is Harrah’s Las Vegas, where a familiar theme is beginning to unspool. If you can unspool a theme. Just play along.

Harrah's paid parking

Harrah’s appears to have the most machines of any Caesars resort. If this keeps up, Las Vegas is going to experience a plywood and yellow paint shortage.

Next, we zip across the street to Caesars Palace, recently named “Las Vegas Resort With the Most Topless Women Carved From Marble.” We were going to say “David Wang,” but not everyone knows there’s a replica of Michelangelo’s David at Caesars Palace.

Back to the parking thing.

Caesars Palace paid parking

Caesars Palace is lagging a bit. We’re cool with that. Take your sweet time.

Paris Las Vegas and Bally’s share a parking structure, so we got a two-fer.

Paris Bally's paid parking

We totally predicted the plywood shortage.

Part of the pitch with paid parking has been it will help upgrade the various parking garages. That appears to already be happening at Paris and Bally’s. The parking structure already has a lighting system to let guests know which spaces are available (green) or not (red, please try and keep up).

Paris Bally's parking

You’re paying for the availability indicators, so enjoy! Bonus: The Availability Indicators would make a great band name.

While Caesars Entertainment has said the self-parking at Rio Las Vegas will remain free, we decided to have a look, anyway. And, boy, we’re so glad we did. As expected, there were no paid parking machines to be found at Rio. Inside, however, we found gold.

Rio Kiss Mini Golf Car

This awesome Kiss Mini Golf Car is right on the casino floor at Rio. Curious if they had to pay to park there.

While the car is cool, we found something even cooler. It’s so Vegas, it’s ridiculous. Apparently, guests have been getting creative with their selfies, so Kiss Mini Golf had to take the necessary actions to deter such behavior.

Wait for it.

Rio Kiss Mini Golf Car

So Kiss. So Vegas. So awkward.

Time to swing by Planet Hollywood. There was no trace of parking machines at Planet Hollywood, and presumably the hotel won’t be charging for parking because the structure is owned and managed by Miracle Mile Shops, not Caesars Entertainment. We take our good news where we can get it!

That’s about it. When Caesars Entertainment rolls out its paid parking program in full, it will mark the end of an era in Las Vegas. MGM Resorts started the trend when it instituted paid parking across its half of The Strip.

Visit Caesars Entertainment’s Web site for all the paid parking details.

It’s important to note you can still park free at both MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment resorts, but you have to get their respective credit cards. Having the card bumps you up to a qualifying tier in their player loyalty clubs. Get details about MGM Resorts’ program here.

The big casino companies seem determined to ride out their paid parking plans, despite rumors of fallout inside the casinos. Retail shops at some MGM Resorts casinos have reported drops of as much as 30% in business since paid parking was implemented.

We recently shared an MGM Grand insider’s observation that front line employees (from valets to cocktail waitresses and bartenders) have taken a major hit in tips, a decrease of 30% to 50%, according to our source. Read more.

Still, stock prices continue to rise, so it’s likely paid parking is here to stay. (Although, given recent bumps in the road, the jury’s still out.) Paid parking is also coming to Cosmopolitan, Wynn and Encore. While paid parking may seem to make business sense short-term, there’s a growing feeling the decision to charge for parking may have unforeseen consequences, including a change in the perception of Las Vegas itself.

Update (2/11/17): Caesars Entertainment has also announced it will raise resort fees at 10 Strip resorts.

One blog’s opinion: This really is the worst possible time to learn we can’t sit on the tongue.

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Expansion of Golden Gate Casino Has Begun

An expansion of the oldest casino in Las Vegas, Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, has begun.

The expansion will increase the footprint of the Golden Gate’s “intimate” casino and increase the number of slot machines by nearly 30% (100 additional machines). Golden Gate currently has 361 slots. Yes, exactly.

Construction is expected to be complete by August 2017.

Golden Gate expansion

Casinos and construction equipment? We’re going to need some Kleenex.

Golden Gate is expanding into the former La Bayou casino space. La Bayou, known for its free beads, daiquiris and unmistakable funk, was part of a purchase of several venues that also included the nearby Mermaids and the Glitter Gulch strip club.

La Bayou, Mermaids and Glitter Gulch closed on June 27, 2016. We should know because this blog ate the very last deep fried Oreo served by Mermaids.

Golden Gate

The Golden Gate construction site is like a duck, calm on the surface, but paddling like the dickens underneath. Or something.

The addition to Golden Gate is expected to be a two-story building. The casino will be on the first floor, and the second floor will be used primarily to supply liquor to the Golden Gate’s casino.

The demand for liquor at Golden Gate has outpaced the small hotel’s ability to deliver it, and a team of four people carry kegs and boxes of liquor up and down stairs throughout the day due to the lack of storage space. The second floor of the new structure will allow gravity to do the lion’s share of keeping the hooch flowing, and could save the casino $150,000 a year in labor and associated costs.

Golden Gate construction

Granted, we’re using the word “construction” very loosely at the moment.

At the moment, construction crews are doing some things we don’t entirely understand. They’re digging out Mermaid’s old basement and mixing the soil so it has a more uniform density or composition. Look, we are a blog and not a pedologist.

Fun fact: La Bayou was just 25 feet wide.

If you look closely, you can see the steps that went into La Bayou’s basement, a basement we didn’t entirely know existed until we security breached the construction site.

Golden Gate construction

Those are either steps or the equivalent of seeing Harambe in a Cheeto, you decide.

We’ll keep you in the loop as the Golden Gate project progresses. It’s good to hear some positive news after experiencing the loss of Du-par’s restaurant, Golden Gate’s pancake mecca since 2010.

Du-par’s closed Feb. 7, 2017, as a result of, among other things, the restaurant’s owner allegedly owing the IRS an amount of money we can’t disclose.

Golden Gate construction

You have your thing, we have a heavy equipment thing. Don’t judge.

We’re also keeping our eye on the project on the other side of Fremont Street, the new resort which will encompass the Las Vegas Club, Glitter Gulch and Mermaids. Our interrogation techniques have proven fruitless with owner Derek Stevens, but we’ll keep at it.

This blog loves it some Las Vegas newness.

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How People Started Sitting at Slot Machines in Casinos

For the longest time, slot machines were the red-headed stepchild of casino gambling. They were the thing casinos had to offer to keep the wives of table games players (“real gamblers”) occupied.

It may sound absurd now, but in the early days of casino slot machines, players stood while they played. Which sucked in a number of ways.

Slot machines

Back in the day, everyone stood at slot machines. Probably because Top Dollar and Wheel of Fortune hadn’t been invented yet.

It’s believed a major turning point in how slot machines are played came about because of our human need to urinate. See, after feeding a slot machine for a period of time, players didn’t want to leave a machine to use the restroom for fear of losing their impending jackpot to another player.

Clever players began stealing chairs from nearby table games and took to leaning them against the slots to save their spot. This is a practice that continues today, despite it being incredibly annoying.

Slot machine leaning chair

On the Annoyance Scale, this is right up there with resort fees and cigars. Just stop.

It didn’t take long for customers to use the chairs to sit and play, thus changing the culture of slot machine play forever. Today’s slot machine chairs are plush and ergonomic, and many feature sophisticated sound systems and vibration functions to keep players engaged and entertained.

The folks at Binion’s in downtown Las Vegas claim they know the exact moment the practice of sitting at slot machines began.

In 1956, the Birdcage Casino opened at the corner of 1st Street and Fremont. The casino began offering customers a 10-cent keno slot, and the machines started raking it in. In response, Binion’s offered its own bank of 10-cent keno slot machines to compete with its neighbor.

It was inside Binion’s the practice of sitting down at slot machines began.

Today, slot machines account for as much as 85% of a casino’s revenue. One of the biggest measures of a machine’s profitability is known as “Time on Device,” or TOD, or the average time a gambler spends on a given slot machine.

Suffice to say, “Time on Device” has been increased immeasurably by the fact customers sit as they play.

Here’s another fun fact about Binion’s: It was the first downtown casino to get carpeting. How’d that happen? Presumably, a gambler ran up some debt with the casino’s owner at the time, Benny Binion, and repaid his debt by carpeting the joint.

Now you know!

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Lucky Dragon’s Doing the New Casino Shuffle

In a refreshing turn of events, Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino, the newest casino on the Las Vegas Strip, put out a news release sharing some changes happening at the resort. Typically, such changes have to be ferreted out by visitors and bloggers, but in this case, Lucky Dragon was the source of the scoop.

Yes, there was a bit of spin involved, but it’s still a rare case of a casino getting ahead of the conversation, so credit where it’s due.

Lucky Dragon is doing some shuffling, and we’re not talking cards here.

We’d heard the resort had closed its Pearl Ocean restaurant, but it’s still humming along. The night we visited, Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh was in the house.

Pearl Ocean

Please don’t try to spot Tony Hsieh, you’ll herniate yourself.

The resort has closed its entire first floor Dragon’s Alley food court temporarily and the space will soon get a new Dragon’s Alley noodle bar. Noodle bars are springing up in casinos across the city, so this is probably a smart move.

Lucky Dragon Dragon's Alley

Dragon’s Alley will soon be home to a noodle house. At nearby SLS Las Vegas, Ku Noodle tanked. Hey, casinos aren’t IKEA furniture, they don’t come with instruction manuals.

Apparently, a portion of Dragon’s Alley will be the new location for Pearl Ocean, and the Pearl Ocean space will be used to expand Lucky Dragon’s VIP Gaming Lounge. That’s sort of the spin part, mainly because it seems unlikely there’s been a huge influx of high rollers to a resort with relatively few amenities high rollers demand, but let’s just go with it.

Lucky Dragon VIP salon

The Macau-style VIP Gaming Lounge would be even cooler if we knew what Macau-style meant.

Pearl Ocean will stay open while Dragon’s Alley is being renovated.

No date has been set for when Pearl Ocean will close in its current location, or when the new noodle bar will open.

Pearl Ocean

How do you say, “Damn it, now we have to change all the signs!” in Chinese?

All this is pretty much par for the course when a new casino opens. It takes a little time to figure out the right mix of offerings, and changes are made to adjust to demand (or lack thereof). It remains to be seen if Lucky Dragon can thrive despite its awkward location. Lucky Dragon is near the intersection of Sahara Ave. and Las Vegas Blvd., between the Bonanza Gift Shop and Golden Steer Steakhouse.

During our visit (on a Thursday night), the table games area was pretty much empty, but there was a fair amount of slot machine play, and the fast-casual Bao Now restaurant was packed. (The closed Dragon’s Alley was at full capacity with a private event for an Asian tour group, so we expect they stuck around to play.)

While this is all very interesting, following up on this news gave us an excuse to visit Lucky Dragon again, and we have a story to share, so gird your loins.

So, we hit Lucky Dragon’s loyalty club desk to get a replacement card. The attendant, Ellie, informs us we have “eight lucky dollars in free slot play.” This is awesome, of course, because eight is super lucky in Asian cultures, so we say, “Look, that’s lucky, so we’re going to split our jackpot with you.”

Ellie laughs, because it seems she’s heard this kind of thing before.

We say, “All right, not 50-50. But how about 90-10?” She laughs and says “fine.”

We immediately proceed to play Wheel of Fortune, and after a few minutes hit the 2000 quarter jackpot. It’s Vegas, no big deal, five hundred clams, baby.

Wheel of Fortune

Remember, a great story is always, always more valuable than a little cash.

So, we head back to the loyalty club desk to find Ellie and give her the “commission” we promised, and she seemed somewhat shocked, very appreciative, but repeatedly declined her well-deserved $50. Eventually, she caved.

She said, “Customers say things like that all the time, but nobody comes back.”

This news made us a little sad. Look, in a Las Vegas casino, it’s all about mojo. Keep your promises, take care of the crew and don’t screw with Lady Luck.

Here’s hoping the changes at Lucky Dragon are just growing pains. It’s a great little resort and “evolution” is preferable to “flounder” any day of the week.

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Du-Par’s Restaurant at Golden Gate Closes Abruptly

A beloved downtown Las Vegas fixture, Du-par’s Restaurant & Bakery at Golden Gate, has closed.

Employees were informed of the closure mid-afternoon on Feb. 7, 2017, and the restaurant shut its doors permanently at about 6:30 p.m. the same evening. It was originally announced Du-par’s would close at midnight, but the plug was pulled early, probably due to drama surrounding the closure.

Du-par's Golden Gate closed

You broke the first rule of Las Vegas, didn’t you? You got emotionally attached!

The closing of Du-par’s is particularly shocking given its colorful history and ongoing popularity.

Du-par’s opened at Golden Gate in 2010.

Biff Naylor, son of “Tiny” Naylor (one of the 22 partners who purchased the Sal Sagev in 1955 and changed its name to Golden Gate), is the restaurant’s current owner. Rumor has it Naylor has bumped up against the IRS in a serious way, so the restaurant won’t be back.

Du-par's closed

Business tip: You don’t get to charge a sales tax, then keep it. The government’s picky like that. Bonus tip: It’s not particularly cool to give employees two hours notice they’re being cut loose.

In a short statement, the management of Golden Gate said, “A leased tenant of the historic hotel, Du-par’s had struggled with payments over an extended period of time.” Diplomacy at its finest!

The owner of Golden Gate, Derek Stevens, Tweeted he’s “sad/pissed” about the closing, and clarified the “financial reasons” for the closure have “nothing to do with the rent.”

Du-par’s has frequently been named as having the best pancakes in Las Vegas, and the restaurant’s shrimp cocktail is the stuff of Las Vegas legend. Golden Gate began serving its famous 99-cent shrimp cocktail in 1959.

Shrimp cocktail Du-Par's

The price crept up to $3.99 in recent years, but that didn’t make it any less devoured.

Du-par’s at Golden Gate was open 24/7, and won numerous accolades for its fare.

The closure of Du-par’s puts Golden Gate in a tight spot because Du-par’s was the hotel’s only dining option. The casino is wasting no time seeking alternative restaurant concepts for this sweet location at the west end of Fremont Street.

Du-par's closed Golden Gate

And, yes, we’re getting a little choked up writing about Du-par’s in the past tense. Don’t judge.

We’d suggest a rebrand to “Golden Gate Grill” until a new restaurant partner can be found. There’s nothing magical about shrimp and cocktail sauce!

No matter what’s next, Du-par’s will be missed by legions of fans who will have find at new way to wrangle their drunchies and get their pancake fix. (There’s Hash House a Go Go at Plaza and Denny’s just to the east, for starters.)

Du-par's pancakes

There were times we had to choose between sex and Du-par’s pancakes. The pancakes were delicious.

There’s another Du-par’s location at the off-Strip Suncoast casino. The fate of that location is unknown at the moment, mainly because we’re currently too drunk to call and ask. Word has it, though, the Suncoast location will remain in operation.

Update (2/9/17): In just 24 hours, all traces of Du-par’s are gone at Golden Gate.

Du-par's disappeared

The only constant in Las Vegas is WTF.

Share your Du-par’s memories in the comments, and not just because it creates the illusion people actually visit and read this Las Vegas blog. Probably.

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