Monthly Archives: March 2016

Austin “Chumlee” Russell Arrested for Drugs, Guns and a Metric Ass-Ton of WTF

In a world with a seemingly boundless supply of suck, the arrest and fall from grace of beloved “Pawn Stars” goofball Austin “Chumlee” Russell ranks right up there with resort fees, paid parking and running out of Captain Morgan.

Chumlee was nailed for felony weapon and drug charges on March 9, 2016 when police showed up at his home following a sexual assault allegation.

In all, Chumlee was charged with 20 felony counts, although he’s not been charged with sexual assault yet. Bright side!


Chumlee at the premiere of “Pawn Shop Live,” a stage production based upon “Pawn Stars.” Now, for that show someone should’ve been arrested.

The list of items seized by police is impressive and sad: A bag with 4.4 grams marijuana, two jars of marijuana (8.2 grams and 2.8 grams), a Ziploc bag with a quarter pound of marijuana, 17 Xanax bars (also called “Zanies”), and seven capsules of methamphetamine powder.

It all seems pretty harmless, except what’s not being too widely reported is the fact police found “tin paper containing brown oily substance/residue.” Dude, that’s heroin. There was also a “baggie with white residue,” or cocaine.

Read the horrible and wildly entertaining arrest report here.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the police report says “It should also be noted that the amount of narcotics, narcotics paraphernalia and narcotics-related items found throughout the residence suggests [Russell] openly allows and participates in the unlawful use and possession of narcotics. Many of these items are commonly found with persons who package and sell controlled substances, i.e., plastic baggies and digital scales.”

So, yeah, they think he’s also a drug dealer.


Maybe he meant the human kind?

Among the other revelations resulting from the police search of Chumlee’s house was a “Chum Chum room with dance pole.”

Chumlee’s castmates have issued curt statements of support, and the networks which air “Pawn Stars” have kept mum following Chumlee’s arrest.

Chumlee is currently out on $62,000 bail. The court wanted bail set at $90,000, but Rick Harrison talked them down. Kidding.

This whole drama is bittersweet for fans of “Pawn Stars,” including this Las Vegas blog. We’ve met Chumlee on several occasions, and he’s always seemed to be a likable goofball, pretty much as depicted on the show.


Take heart, Chum. This is the stuff of which best-selling autobiographies are made.

Ultimately, Chumlee is just an average guy, thrust into the limelight because of a twist of fate. Who ever imagined a reality show about a pawn shop would break ratings records and draw thousands of tourist to a seedy part of downtown Las Vegas to visit the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop? (That was its name before it became famous, by the way.)

Chumlee has acquired more wealth than he ever imagined having. Combine that with a degree of celebrity, as well as all the temptations available in Sin City, and Chumlee’s fall feels inevitable.

The reality is that even if he doesn’t serve jail time, and that’s a big “if,” it’s likely we’ll never see him on “Pawn Stars” again, other than in reruns. The smooth move, of course, would be for Chumlee’s drama to be integrated into “Pawn Stars.” The show is only marginally a “reality” show at this point. The show is heavily scripted and isn’t even taped in the actual pawn shop (there’s a duplicate of it built elsewhere on the site, closed to the public, used for taping). The world has a lot of affection for Chumlee, and his story could revitalize the show. Just saying.

Of course, if Chumlee is charged with, or convicted of, sexual assault (or worse, rape), all bets are off. The most he’ll ever be able to do is perform a one-man show at a major Las Vegas resort. Ahem.

It’s unknown what this incident will do to the “Pawn Stars” brand. Ironic given the sketchy reputation of pawn shops before the show gave the industry a boost in the public consciousness.

We sincerely wish Austin “Chumlee” Russell the best as he navigates these serious allegations.

In the meantime, we’re definitely not going to refrain from sharing this excerpt from our podcast.

Downtown’s Bridger Building Purchased by Derek and Greg Stevens for $2.7 Million

Casino owners Derek and Greg Stevens have further expanded their downtown Las Vegas empire with the purchase of the classic Bridger Building. The duo scooped up the building for a song, $2.7 million.

Bridger Building

The Bridger Building is located at 225 E. Bridger Ave. on the southwest
corner of Bridger Ave. and S. Third Street. Next to a church, so behave.

The Stevens own The D Las Vegas, Golden Gate, 18 Fremont (what they’re calling the now-closed Las Vegas Club) and the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center.

The Bridger Building sits just across the street from the stage at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center.

The Stevens brothers were the sole bidders for the Bridger Building, a similar scenario to that of their $10 million acquisition of a county courthouse which was demolished and turned into an events venue hosting concerts and sporting events.

Bridger Building

Clark County Board of Commissioners meetings are a blast, similar to falling into an industrial rock crusher.

Demolition isn’t in the cards for the Bridger Building, however.

Hours of investigative reporting (specifically, asking Derek a question) have revealed the future plans for the Bridger Building.

Initially, the building will be used as warehousing space.

Then, the building will serve as office space, and eventually will be a distribution center for the three downtown casinos owned by the Stevens.

The D Golden Gate team

Fresh from their successful bid in the public auction, the team from The D and Golden Gate (from left): Co-owner Derek Stevens, COO Dave Tuttle, CFO Susan Hitch and co-owner Greg Stevens.

The 10-story Bridger Building was built in 1964 and was originally the Bank of Nevada. The building housed Clark County government offices until they were moved in 1995. Read more.

The building, built in the “International style,” has 74,000-square-feet of office space.

Back in 1999, county officials received bids for the Bridger Building for as much as $3.8 million. Rather than selling the building, though, it was decided the building would be renovated instead, at a cost of $20 million, but that plan never came to pass.

At one time, the Bridger Building was slated for demolition, but the purchase by the Stevens brothers will ensure this classic downtown building will endure.

Bridger Building

Here’s a look at where the Bridger Building sits in relation to the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center.

While the building was purchased at a relatively low price, it will require a substantial investment to make it inhabitable. For example, it’s estimated $30,000 will be invested immediately to deal with pigeon waste disposal. Sexy.

It was once estimated it could cost as much as $6 million to “rehabilitate” the Bridger Building. Here’s a fun read if you’re a preservationist nerd.

If the eye-catching building wrap on The D is any indication, and it is, you can bet Derek Stevens is already hatching a plan to use the Bridger Building as a marketing tool beyond its obvious utility.

Hear more from casino owner Derek Stevens in our Vital Vegas Podcast interview. Derek Stevens was our very first guest, and surprisingly, his reputation doesn’t appear to have been sullied in the least.

Derek and Greg Stevens are some of this blog’s favorite people, and we continue to be impressed by their investments in downtown. It’s an ongoing vote of confidence about our favorite place on Earth.

Full disclosure: This blog’s day job is at Fremont Street Experience. The D and Golden Gate are member casinos of that organization. Derek is also a friend, as well as this blog’s future adoptive father, we hope.

Downtown Grand Refreshes Its Pool Deck as Citrus

In what’s become an annual tradition, Downtown Grand has again rebranded its pool area. The new name: Citrus at the Grand Pool Deck.

The thing is, it’s such an appealing space, this go-around the concept just might stick.

Citrus at Downtown Grand

“Citrus” refers to a tree or shrub of the tropical and subtropical rutaceous genus Citrus. Which we could’ve just made up, because nobody actually fact-checks photo captions.

The Downtown Grand originally opened its 35,000-square-foot rooftop pool complex as Picnic, and in 2015 rebranded it as Pool Deck at Downtown Grand.

Casino owner Derek Stevens has described downtown as “under-pooled,” so Downtown Grand’s attempts to make its pool experience a differentiating amenity makes a lot of sense.

So far, nothing’s really caught on, but a recent overhaul and upcoming plans for Citrus could very well do the trick for the beleaguered Downtown Grand.

Citrus pool at Downtown Grand

Citrus has debuted at the perfect time. The weather in Las Vegas is perfect for about 72 hours in March of each year.

As we were checking Citrus out, we bumped into one of Downtown Grand’s collaborators on the pool rebrand effort, Ralph Cautela, COO of 34th Floor Hospitality.

Cautela’s company had hand in businesses at Pawn Plaza, including Inna Gadda de Pizza and Pawn Donut & Coffee. The company is also involved with Topgolf, a high-profile new project near The Strip, set to open soon and already getting some good buzz.

The Citrus name came out of the brain of 34th Floor Hospitality’s CEO Olivier Zardoni, after what Cautela calls some “creative abrasion,” a lighthearted way of describing heated debates.

Citrus at Downtown Grand

The citrus theme includes several hand-painted murals. Orange you glad we pointed those out? They’re appealing, and we hope Citrus succeeds. Phew, got those out of our system.

“Our company 34th Floor Hospitality does an array of services,” says Cautela. “We do food and beverage and entertainment and retail consulting. We also have a marketing and design firm partner called Drex Agency, based out of Las Vegas. We wanted something to create some excitement for the Downtown Grand.”

Citrus pool Las Vegas

Even the towels have been updated to fit the Citrus theme.

Of the new pool concept, Cautela says, “Citrus certainly has connotations of being refreshing and something you can enjoy in the summer and we’ve converted the bar to one of the largest lemonade stands we’re aware of. Everything is fresh-squeezed to order. You can see the citrus presses on the top of the bar and certainly the color scheme. It’s light, it’s refreshing, we had a beautiful blank palette to work with and we’re pretty happy with the results.”

The vibrant new decor of Citrus has touches of yellow, green and orange.

Citrus pool Las Vegas

It’s hard to know what to do first. Do you hang out, kick it or chillax?

There’s a new batch of ornamental trees and foliage, and even the staff uniforms have gotten a once-over.

Citrus features a revamped new look and has outdoor games (not the gambling kind, the Gold Spike kind, like foosball, corn hole and table tennis).

An all-new menu has been created for Citrus. The new menu will have a number of citrus-themed elements, including “Minted Frozen Citrus Treats” and “Citrus Signature Slaw.”

Citrus pool food menu

Please don’t eat and foosball. It’s unsanitary.

There’s also a specialty cocktail menu, of course.

Our first cocktail at the new venue was distinctive and quite memorable. Citrus can officially consider itself a member of our elite Panty-Dropper Cocktail Club, which wasn’t actually a thing until we just made it up.

Citrus Downtown Grand

Say “hello” to the Shake My Cherry. We’re not going to be the one to point out cherries are not citrus fruits. Two of these babies and your genus concerns will subside in a big way.

Citrus has a great happy hour, 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Our happy hour price was a $4 savings on our $12 drink.

As for the food and cocktail menus, Cautela says, “The team here is great. They were excited to work on the concept with us. Quite honestly, they did most of the heavy lifting. Chef Daniel Galan is fantastic. He designed the menu. We did several tastings, which is typical of the refining process of menu development and what he’s come up with is a great, light, shareable, summertime pool menu. The desserts are refreshing. The signature dessert, this one’s going to get lot of attention, is a grapefruit bowl if frozen citrus segments and grapes and a mint simple syrup which you can add a nice shot of tequila to.”

Suddenly, you have this blog’s attention.

Citrus pool cocktail menu

Please do not attempt to read this version of the Citrus pool cocktail menu. It is for illustrative purposes only, and squinting is not your best look.

Take a look at the full beverage menu at Citrus.

Citrus is open to the public, free to hotel guests and Las Vegas residents (age 21 and older). We couldn’t find any mention of a cost of entry for everybody else, but it shouldn’t be too oppressive.

An intriguing element of Citrus is that there are a number of organic herbs being grown on-site, for use in the cocktails and as garnish.

Says Cautela, “We’ve got the classics and the basics. We made a point of growing a lot of mint and basil because we’re going to use a lot of mint. And we have an assortment of organic peppers, Chili peppers, habanero, jalapenos. I think we have serranos, too.”

Citrus pool deck

The herbs at Citrus aren’t self-serve. Please leave the herb harvesting to a trained professional garnisher.

While attempts to do entertainment at the venue have fallen well short of expectations in the past (most notably Lit in July 2015), a line-up of live entertainment is promised, including DJs, concerts and special events.

We hear Downtown Grand has budgeted generously for both band bookings and marketing this time around, so Citrus is poised to become a thing.

Citrus will be open 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., with longer hours during special events.

Citrus pool deck Las Vegas

Bonus: We’re a big fan of sass.

“Stay tuned for programming,” assures Ralph Cautela. “We’re going to have DJs, we’re going to have some cool concerts, and we’re working on the entertainment schedule right now. Hopefully, we’ll get something in March, but definitely it’ll start up in earnest in April and then we’ll rock and roll all summer. We’re excited to be able to present this concept on behalf of Downtown Grand.”

And we’re excited to work our way through the rest of the signature cocktail menu at Citrus.

Downtown Las Vegas may be “under-pooled,” but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks it’s under-cocktailed.

Citrus Pool at Downtown Grand

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Episode 6: Chumlee, Cheese Whiz and Cocktails

Our sixth installment of the Vital Vegas Podcast is live, so let the festival of WTF begin!

Vital Vegas Podcast

Vital Vegas is to podcasting as pig farms are to fragrances.

In this installment of the Vital Vegas Podcast, we purport to chat exclusively with Austin “Chumlee” Russell, of “Pawn Stars” fame, about his recent arrest on charges related to drug and gun possession.


The awkwardness runs deep for fan favorite Chumlee at the moment.

We also superficially discuss the latest Las Vegas news, and trot out some filler in the form of “This Week in Las Vegas History.”

Hard Rock Las Vegas

On March 10, 1995, the world’s first Hard Rock Hotel opened in Las Vegas, bringing with it a slew of rock stars. Which may explain the proliferation of pharmacies on the Las Vegas Strip, if you get our drift.

Our favorite part of this week’s show is an interview with renowned pizza god Tony Gemignani, the aforementioned “cheese whiz” and mastermind behind the best pizza joint in Las Vegas, Pizza Rock.

Tony Gemignani not only tells us how to pronounce his name, he also talks candidly about the International Pizza Expo recently held in Las Vegas, and also shares how he was banned from competing in the World Pizza Championships for winning too often. Gemignani also talks about the potential expansion of his growing pizza empire to the Las Vegas Strip.

Tony Gemignani

Tony Gemignani opened the International School of Pizza and certifies pizza chefs from around the world. This blog is certifiably nuts about Pizza Rock.

This week’s episode also features our quick picks of 10 great bars where one can grab a cocktail in Las Vegas. We break our picks into two parts, one devoted to fancy bars with great views, another consisting of downtown bars that are fun and cheap.

Here’s the list we slapped together in five minutes.

Upscale, Fancy Las Vegas Bars With Stunning Views

1. 107 Sky Lounge at Stratosphere
2. VooDoo Lounge at Rio
3. Eiffel Tower Restaurant at Paris
4. Skyfall at Delano
5. Mandarin Cocktail Bar at Mandarin Oriental

By the way, if it’s views you’re after, check out our list of the 10 Best Views in Las Vegas.

Fun and Cheap Downtown Las Vegas Bars

6. Longbar at The D
7. Triple George Grill
8. Therapy
9. Outdoor bars at Binion’s
10. F. Pigalle


The bar at Therapy provides just that. Therapy, that is. Please try and keep up.

Las Vegas simply has too many great bars to make a definitive top 10 list, sorry. But our slapped-together list should keep you busy.

This episode of the Vital Vegas Podcast has as much Las Vegas as it’s physically possible to squeeze into an hour without the use of subliminal messages. Thanks for listening.

Guy Fieri’s El Burro Borracho Las Vegas Opens, Could Bring Much-Needed New Energy to Rio

There are a few things you know about Guy Fieri’s restaurants before you even set foot in one, starting with what they’re not.

They’re not pretentious, they’re not understated, they’re not about nuance or gourmet dining.

What they most certainly are is over-the-top, indulgent, audacious and unforgettable. Just like Las Vegas, come to think of it.

Guy Fieri’s second restaurant effort in Las Vegas, El Burro Borracho, opened at Rio Las Vegas on March 4, 2016.

El Burro Borracho Las Vegas

Welcome to Ciudad de Sabor. Which we’re not translating when you have the whole Internet at your fingertips.

“El Burro Borracho” translates as “drunk ass” in Spanish, so we’re not left to wonder what’s in store at this lively spot that’s taken up residence in the former Buzios Seafood space.

If you’re unfamiliar with Guy Fieri, you need to invest in a television. Fieri (real name: Guy Ramsay Ferry) hosts 90% of the shows on the Food Network. He’s the guy a lot of people love to hate, but unless you’re a food snob, his crowd-pleasing Vegas restaurants, including Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar at the Linq Hotel, possess a lot to love.

El Burro Borracho, which will inevitably have a nickname, is a long, narrow space, with a bar (pictured below) as well as a long counter area running along an open kitchen.

El Burro Borracho Las Vegas3

You know you’re in for a good time when the hooch is right up front.

The menu at El Burro Borracho is in the realm of Mexican food, although purists are sure to discover a lot of WTF.

There’s a variety of comfort and bar foods in the mix, including nachos and street corn and jalapeno poppers and quesadillas and other favorites.

El Burro Borracho Rio Hotel

The chips are on the house. A lone fried pork rind is included to remind us about the resilience of the human arterial system.

You’ll also find soups and salads, hamburgers, tacos, enchiladas, fajitas and chimichangas.

We went with the Al Pastor tacos ($17), with marinated pork shoulder, grilled pineapple serrano salsa, avocado crema, pickled red onion and cilantro. Delicious and filling.

El Burro Borracho drunk ass

Al pastor tacos were inspired by the spit-grilled meat brought by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico. Look how much more worldly you are now than five minutes ago. You’re welcome.

Desserts include house-made churros, fried ice cream, chocolate flan cake and other temptations.

Check out the full El Burro Borracho menu on the Rio Las Vegas Web site.

As for the cocktails, they were plentiful and strong, stealing the spotlight by appearing before the food in the restaurant’s menu. The signature cocktails are priced at $15, and most could easily serve four people.

El Burro Borracho

This is how the burro ended up so borracho.

We went with the Aztec Punch, a true panty-dropper cocktail if ever there were one.

The Aztex Punch has El Jimador tequila, Sailor Jerry spiced rum (regrettably not Captain Morgan, but we’re not entirely inflexible), orange and pineapple juices, peach syrup, strawberry puree and a dark rum float.

El Burro Borracho Rio Las Vegas

Pineapple juice contains bromelain, which is believed to help prevent cancer. You can totally use that as an excuse for having a sixth Aztec Punch.

El Burro Borracho faces the hotel’s pool area, and there are plans to open a “taco stand” in the back portion of the restaurant, accessible to those at the pool seeking munchies and libations in ridiculous quantities.

El Burro Borracho

This “taco stand” area should be hopping as things heat up in Las Vegas.

Currently, Guy Fieri’s El Burro Borracho is open 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The restaurant is technically in a “soft opening” until the official grand opening, April 1, 2016.

The copious amount of liquor, friendly staff and party atmosphere make for a fun night out at El Burro Borracho.

Rio Las Vegas could certainly use a shot in the arm, with many of its retail shops closing and a large section of its casino floor devoted to timeshare sales. We are not making this up.

The upstairs BK Whopper Bar has closed and will soon be replaced with a Smashburger.

BK Whopper Bar

Out with the old, in with the smashed.

KISS Minigolf will be moving into the former seafood buffet space (zero construction has started yet from what we could see), so that could also contribute a new sense of energy to the resort, as does the hotel’s show (recently relocated from the Venetian), “Rock of Ages.”

We hear a new “high-profile restaurant concept” is yet-to-come, and will sit in the space once occupied by Antonio’s Italian Ristorante.

If a hotel is looking to amp up its vibe, Guy Fieri’s brand seems a good fit. El Burro Borracho is a great place to kick back with friends, numb some brain cells and fuel up for a Las Vegas adventure.

Because when was the last time you saw someone wearing an “I Got Nuanced in Vegas” T-shirt?

Guy Fieri's El Burro Borracho at Rio

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Episode 5: Bliss Dance Artist, Slot Jackpot Guy, Downtown Ideas for Newbies

It’s time for what is easily one of our top five Vital Vegas Podcast episodes, ever!

For starters, we talk to the guy who recently won $242,000 on Wheel of Fortune at Golden Gate. In our interview, Casey shares what it’s like to hit big on a slot, and we all learn a little something about what happens after the adrenaline subsides.

Golden Gate slot machine

The lucky machine. You can call it 4133/312-3. Yes, that’s the machine’s actual number.

Our “Listicle of the Week” features an introduction to downtown Las Vegas.

We’ve slapped together a list of must-dos for the downtown newbie. Don’t look now, but here they are!

10 Essential Things to Do in Downtown Las Vegas

1. Pizza Rock
2. Downtown Container Park
3. Mob Museum
4. Shark tank waterslide at Golden Nugget
5. Dancing dealers at The D
6. Slushy drinks on Fremont Street (especially daiquiris at La Bayou)
7. Burlesque Hall of Fame
8. Neon Museum
9. Photo op with Vegas Vic and Vegas Vickie
10. Main Street casino antiques and oddities

Mob Museum

The Mob Museum is one of the nation’s largest repositories of information related to whackings.

But wait, there’s more! Here’s a bonus 10 things to do downtown, because we give until it hurts.

10 Bonus Things to Do in Downtown Las Vegas

11. Hogs & Heifers
12. Craps (it’s just better downtown)
13. Restaurants: La Comida, Le Thai, Therapy, Carson Kitchen, Eat, Nacho Daddy, Triple George Grill, F. Pigalle, Smashed Pig, Stoned N Baked
14. Blarney stone and Sigma Derby at The D
15. Pawn Plaza, Gold and Silver Pawn Shop
16. Heart Attack Grill
17. World’s biggest functioning fire hydrant (also the world’s biggest slot machine, world’s biggest pint glass and world’s biggest gift shop, Bonanza)
18. Historical placards on Fremont East
19. Deep Fried Oreos at Mermaids
20. Lappert’s Ice Cream at The California

Pawn Plaza

Highly recommended: Rick’s Rollin’ Smoke BBQ & Tavern. Rick Harrison even tends bar on the weekends.

10 Double Bonus Things to Do in Downtown Las Vegas

21. Banger Brewing microbrewery tour
22. Antique slots at Main Street and Golden Gate
23. Former El Portal (first air-conditioned building in Las Vegas, now a native American craft store)
24. BBQ at Binion’s
25. Oscar’s Beef * Booze * Broads Steakhouse at Plaza
26. Meet casino owner Derek Stevens at Longbar
27. Fremont Street Experience light shows
28. Play coin slots (El Cortez, Plaza, Fremont, Main Street, The Cal)
29. Gold Spike (host to The Real World: Go Big or Go Home)
30. Glitter Gulch strip club

With those 30 things to do, you’ll get a pretty good feel for what downtown Las Vegas is all about. At least it’ll be downtown the way we do it. We’d love to hear your ideas!

Also in the podcast, we’ve got an exclusive interview with the artist behind a new addition to The Park outside the Las Vegas Arena, Bliss Dance.

The Bliss Dance sculpture was originally created by artist Marco Cochrane for the Burning Man Festival. Cochrane shares some of the history of the illuminated statue and what it took to refurbish the 40-foot statue for its unveiling at The Park, a pedestrian mall between Monte Carlo and New York-New York.

Bliss Dance Las Vegas

Bliss Dance has been freshly buffed for its Las Vegas debut.

We’ve got a metric ass-ton of Vegas news, of course, and a little “This Week in Las Vegas history.” Hint: Mandalay Bay opened March 2, 1999.

Thanks for ignoring your family and other responsibilities to take a listen.