Derek Stevens Buys Glitter Gulch, Mermaids and La Bayou

Downtown casino mogul Derek Stevens, with his brother Greg Stevens, has purchased three iconic downtown haunts: Glitter Gulch, Mermaids and La Bayou. The Stevens brothers currently own The D, Golden Gate and 18 Fremont (the temporary name of the former Las Vegas Club).

The three venues are of strategic importance to the Stevens brothers’ growing empire on Fremont Street and beyond (the pair also own the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center). La Bayou is next to Golden Gate, while Glitter Gulch and Mermaids are adjacent to what was the Las Vegas Club.

It’s expected Glitter Gulch, Mermaids and La Bayou will close in roughly 60 days, on June 27, 2016.

Employees of the three businesses, owned by Steve Burnstine (Granite Gaming Group), have been informed of the change in ownership.

Glitter Gulch

Glitter Gulch was once a term that referred to all of Fremont Street. It’s in good hands.

Acquisition of these three venues could have some interesting implications for the Golden Gate and Las Vegas Club project.

Having the La Bayou space, in addition to an alleyway between it and the Golden Gate (the oldest casino in Las Vegas), could allow an expansion of both the Golden Gate’s casino, but potentially could provide space for a hotel expansion.

Vegas Vickie

Glitter Gulch is home to Vegas Vickie, sometimes erroneously referred to as “Sassy Sally.” And, yes, they’re real. Weirdo.

The purchase of Glitter Gulch and Mermaids changes the potential scope and design of 18 Fremont (the closed Las Vegas Club) dramatically.

No specific details of the expansion plans are available at the moment, but rest assured Derek Stevens has big things in store for this entire section of Fremont Street.

All the venues involved in the purchase have long and colorful histories.

For example, La Bayou opened as the Las Vegas Coffee Club and in 1920 became the Northern Club. The Northern Club received the very first Nevada gaming license.

La Bayou

La Bayou has been one of the biggest suppliers of Mardi Gras beads and brain freezes in Las Vegas for many years.

Glitter Gulch and Mermaids have some of the most distinctive neon signage in Las Vegas, including the aforementioned Vegas Vickie, the companion sign to Vegas Vic. They were married at one point. Long story.

The glorious Golden Goose sign sits above the Glitter Gulch strip club as well.

Glitter Gulch

While the fate of the Golden Goose sign is unknown, Vegas Vickie is likely to be featured prominently in whatever the Las Vegas Club becomes. Specifically, a resort likely to give Golden Nugget a run for its money.

A new name for the former Las Vegas Club has yet to be announced, but the planned resort is likely to cost $100 million or more.

Hear more about 18 Fremont in our interview with Derek Stevens. On our podcast. Which you probably didn’t even know existed. Rude.

Mermaids fried Oreos

Yes, the deep fried Oreos will be missed, but trust us, the purchase of Mermaids is the best possible thing that could happen to your lifespan.

Fans of the daiquiris at La Bayou and the deep fried Oreos at Mermaids may bemoan the change of ownership, but big picture, the purchase of Glitter Gulch, Mermaids and La Bayou is a giant stride forward for Fremont Street and the surrounding businesses. (We know of which we speak, we work at Fremont Street Experience as our day job.)


Some of these Mermaids machines will be updated and placed in the expanded Golden Gate or new 18 Fremont (formerly Las Vegas Club). The new casino will have 1,300 machines, or about the number in Golden Gate and The D combined.

Derek Stevens famously purchased the Las Vegas Club, at least in part, to kill off a potential CVS pharmacy, and he similarly is taking out two somewhat seedy “grind joints” and easily the most communicable strip club in Las Vegas. Stevens also purchased downtown’s Bridger Building.

We look forward to learning more about what’s in store, and you’ll know when we do!

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  • As suggested in the penultimate paragraph, just buying these 3 properties in order to close them down will class-up that end of Fremont Street.

    • Truth. You have to break a few eggs to make lemonade. Or something.

  • mkhnks

    I know the new development will be top notch, but having a grind joint that serves daiquiris, a la Bourbon Street in NOLA, and a place that serves wacky, cheap food that you can’t find anywhere else on Fremont, will take some of the colorful uniqueness from under the canopy. I can see why these decisions will help build his empire, but I will be saddened by their loss. As for the strip club, I’ve never set foot in the place, so I won’t miss it.

    • Yep, some color will be lost, new color in the works. We’ll see what Derek has up his sleeves.

  • Mike Tarayos

    I totally hate steven he has now completely wiped out all the good cool places on fremont street the fitz the golden gate the las vegas club and now worst of all he is going to ruin mermaids he wants to eliminate any economy place on fremont so he can continue to jack up prices the greedy bastard will never get a penny from me its so sad how one greedy bastard can ruin a entire iconic area

    • AcesCasino

      Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new Guinness world record in the category of “longest run-on sentence.” Side note — I was married at Fitzgerald’s a hundred years ago. Belated congrats to the man that did to the Fitz what I wanted to do for a long time.

    • Yes, everything is ruined. Everything.

      • This is my favorite internet comment in a long time.

  • DJ-Ken Steely

    These seedy, iconic places are part of what made Fremont Street in Las Vegas a FUN place to visit and drop some cash. If these kitschy places are gone, I’ll simply enjoy their memories and look elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy classy places too. But the kitschy places are usually just a whole lot more fun and I need some of both, classy & kitschy in my life.

    • There’s still a mix, I think. Some great memories, though, to be sure.

  • I’m going to miss those delightfully sleazy little dives. But seeing what Derek has done, I have a feeling I won’t miss them for very long. As long as he puts a deep-fried Oreo stand in somewhere.

  • Bouldersteve

    As you mention Scott all 3 of those places have a colorful past but it’s just that the past. Since Burnstine bought them they are as you say grind joints. Lousy food…lousy drinks and the worst slot machines downtown.It would be nice if somehow the neon signs could be saved and I don’t put in the neon graveyard buy still lit up on Fremont Street.

    • Agree. Mixed feelings, but overall happy to see these places going to somebody who gets it and gets what people would like to experience downtown.

      • Ted Lukowski

        Mixed feelings here too. We loved the Fitz, but like the “D” too. We love “old”Vegas and it’s almost all gone- The El Cortez is about all that’s left now.

        Vegas is all about change, but it’s sad to see everything disappear.

        Yes the food was lousy, but the drinks were strong (well if you asked them to make them that way) and the slots were VERY tight, but, after a night of drinking and having fun, nothing beat a deep fried Twinkie and some greasy fries from their snack bar!

      • Randall

        Lots of commenters here saying, “lousy drinks”. Well my question is, compared to what? As I posted earlier in a different thread, if you are daiquiri person, La Bayou was the absolute BEST. There is just no comparison. Those outdoor daiquiri stations are overpriced, water-down junk. La Bayou and Mermaids did these drinks the right way. They were always flavorful, had plenty of alcohol, and refills were half price. Nobody else does that.

        So exactly which drinks are you guys talking about? Let’s compare apples to apples here please.

  • Ted Lukowski

    Sad news! Love, love, love Mermaids! So much fun in there over the years. Crappy drinks and terrible, cheap food, but that’s what Vegas is about, especially downtown.

    I doubt he will, but I hope he takes care of the employees.

    • The existing employees will be interviewed and many will be part of the new offerings, from what I hear.

      • Ted Lukowski

        I hope so. We’ve known some of them for years!

      • Western Hotel Casino

        Will any pass the drug tests is the real question

  • Wally Marshall

    Overtime i see Derek in the news he has a cocktail and a bunch of almost nude girls surrounding him. Now he can have nude girls surrounding him and joining him in all he does! From everything i have seen, it seems like derek is a drunk and loves loose women, who doesn’t right? He can just get it done. He will be like the Caesars Ent of downtown. Will be fun to watch him take over the entire freemont street excluding the nugget.

    • Derek is a friend, and while he does enjoy a cocktail or two, the loose women thing is uncalled for. He’s utterly devoted to Nicole, his wife, who often accompanies him to Longbar. One of the selling points of The D and Golden Gate are the hotties, so yes, he often poses with them, but there’s nothing seedy going on. Agree he gets things done, though!

      • Bouldersteve

        Your right Scott. Derek knows how to play the game to get attention for his casinos. His public persona and his private life are not to be confused.

  • WadeCollins

    Who”s the shill writing this spin driven PR.? We’re so fortunate that these brothers are buying up every bit of the flavor of downtown?. Pal sounds like you have a vested interest, I don’t give a damn about making downtown a total hipster experience for a bunch of entitled bed wetting millennials, it’s like taking out all the classic bar grind joints in New Orleans, those little shacks offering cheap Hurricanes and Daiquiris are as much a part of New Orleans as Preservation Hall.

    • AcesCasino

      Hey, buddy! That Shill writing that spin-driven PR is my friend! (OK, wait, that didn’t come out right.) You do have a good point, though — We need to keep those entitled bed-wetting millennials on the strip, where they belong.

      • I am not personally aware of Millennials wetting the bed any more than anyone else, although if they do, be sure Las Vegas hotels will institute a Millennial sheet replacement fee.

    • red318is

      He does have a vested interest and will admit it. Those properties although under the canopy were not contributing to his employer, FSE, while benefiting from all of its marketing. He is also friends with Derek. Weather you are going to miss these places or are glad to see them go, that doesn’t make it less of a story.

      • You are correct. These businesses do not contribute to FSE, and have benefited from FSE’s marketing. FSE is my employer. I am also friends with Derek. And whether one is going to miss them or not, it’s a story.

    • I guess I’m the shill in question. I do consider the Stevens’ brothers investment in downtown a good thing. Have you been to The D? The hipster quotient is reasonably low, and while some may miss the Fitz, I think The D is infinitely better and I play there much more often than I did the previous incarnation. Just a personal preference and my blog is my personal opinion. Everyone gets one, but comments should be civil (and name-calling isn’t necessary, unless I’m the one doing it–it’s my blog). While I agree these places have a certain charm, I think Derek’s vision is much more appealing. There’s still a lot of gritty downtown, and a lot of low-roller fun. That isn’t going away.

  • Troy Swezey

    I have not been in Glitter Gulch in the 12 years I have lived in Las Vegas as I have not heard a single nice thing said about the joint yet now I suddenly find myself wanting to go…

    • red318is

      Don’t do it. Some things cannot be unseen or removed with soap.

      • AcesCasino

        So true. There isn’t enough Lava soap in Las Vegas to get that job done. And if the Stevens’ investment in Downtown Las Vegas means that I’ll stop being accosted by that costumed “Captain America” idiot asking for $20 to take a picture with him, I’m all in.

        • Unfortunately, this won’t do that, but that scenario certainly wouldn’t hurt the visitor experience.

      • Agree. Some experiences are better left unexperienced.

    • Just be sure to wear a full-body condom.

    • jeremy1980

      went to a friend’s bachelor party that made a stop in the gulch. let’s just say it’s a stripper retirement home. someone bought the groom to be a lap dance from what I believe was the inspiration for Ursula in the little mermaid. this was 2 years ago

  • Mike Tarayos

    You used to be able to go downtown with 50 bucks in your pocket and be able to get a decent hotel room 3 good meals get drunk and do some gambling but that was before derek stevens came to town and ruined fremont street

    • Yes, everything is ruined.

      • Jonesy55

        You’re hilarious?

    • Yeah, lots of people enjoyed the 60s. Inflation has had more of an impact on that than the Stevens. Sorry, I’ll get off your lawn now.

      • Mike Tarayos

        Adam Bauer I wasn’t talking about the 60,s you could still have a great night on Fremont for 50 bucks up until 2011 when stevens started making his impact

  • VegasWeedReview

    The old becomes the new and the new becomes the old. Soon everyone will want to stay downtown and the strip will be old news. I can’t wait for the HighTimes Casino where you can gamble, smoke bud, sleep and eat.

  • Muse

    Whatever happens it’s gotta be a step up from the Herb Pastor days of watered down liquor and staph infection-inducing dirtiness. Still, he did give a lot of people their start in Vegas working in those grind joints. Would like to see the LV Club come back with it’s baseball theme, although I imagine that time has passed.

  • Christine

    Downtown was dying; Derek Stevens and his family have brought it back from the brink. I desperately wish he’d keep Mermaid’s open but, based on what he’s done with The D, I gotta trust that what is coming will be amazing!

  • beerdiva

    As a fan of the old Las Vegas Club, I hope this isn’t a sign that Fremont is losing it’s gritty edge

  • Funkhouser

    I can’t really say the demise of LaBayou or Mermaids will have any significant impact on Fremont street IMHO. Being mainly a strip tourist, visiting these joints only made me want to double up on the hand gel and depart Fremont street that much quicker. I think Derek will incorporate these properties into his casino empire footprint nicely. Only time will tell if he actually uses the square footage to build something worthy enough to draw the strip tourist away from S LVB. I hope these don’t become just another addition to a loud downtown grind joint. He has the opportunity to use this new footprint to reinvigorate downtown with a place worth to compete against the Golden Nugget. As for Glitter Gulch I am sorry to see an dirty locale met it’s demise, it no longer fits into the family friendly Fremont street image of downtown being built, but hell a little seediness is needed just to remind us we are in Sin City. I hope the iconic sign is preserved for future generations.

    • Randall

      Family-friendly? You mean the old guy in the diaper and cupid outfit? Or the topless, skinny cowgirl with only her nipples covered? I’m sorry but throwing in a Sponge Bob here and a Minnie Mouse there, doesn’t mean it is family-friendly.

  • Bouldersteve

    I have bunch of those Mardi gras beads the girls would give out at Mermaids.Maybe now they will be a collectors item.

    • Western Hotel Casino

      Doubtful considering they give out a metric ton a week

  • William Wingo

    I’ve been to all three of these “delightfully sleazy little dives,” years ago. I had been going to Vegas several times per year since 1969 and often stayed downtown. Not any more. Nothing from the FES on has been an improvement.
    I described in an earlier post how I haven’t been downtown since being charged for parking after spending the entire afternoon in a downtown casino several years ago. That was my last impression of downtown Las Vegas. The only way I would go back is if my wife wanted to.
    No doubt whatever replaces those sleazy little dives will have all the modern conveniences: resort fees, parking fees, 6-5 Blackjack, miserable VP payouts, metered “comped” drinks at the bar, etc.
    Maybe I’ll see you in Laughlin.

  • Rooster

    I think this will be a good thing.

    Say what you want about DS, but so far he has done a good job of cleaning up the dumps he bought (Fitzgeralds) while at the same time keeping the Freemont vibe (Golden Gate).

    I’m going to give the dude a chance to show what his vision is before I bag on him for closing down two grind joints and a really bad nudie bar.

    • Funkhouser

      I think Derek is a great guy and a middle of the road casino operator. He did wonders with the Fitz dump, and polished it up and made it a really nice turd. But unfortunately in a lot of ways its still a turd in comparison to other Vegas resorts, even downtown. I hope he has the capital to build something really nice out of LVC. I realize the economies of scale he gains by grabbing up more square footage on Fremont. The question is, will he use it for more gaming space to squeeze out operating profit or leverage it to upgrade his resorts.

  • narsfweasels

    Bit of a shame, friends, but so be it. Sad because I had intended to come get my money back at Mermaids after losing so much of it last year.

  • Dan Yost

    I’m of two minds over this…

    On one hand, I love downtown and Fremont Street and spend 70% of my Vgeas trips there as opposed to the strip. With that said, I may have spent a combined five minutes in these places and never saw myself stepping foot inside them again. I know a lot of people enjoy the fried Oreos and Twinkies along with the cheap hooch, but they weren’t my joints and probably never would be. So, these spots may be turned into places I’ll enjoy.

    On the other hand, as much as I love the D and Golden Gate, I don’t like the idea of downtown becoming controlled by only two major ownership groups. Boyd will control half, Stevens the other, with Golden Nugget and the Binions/Four Queens acting as outliers. A lack of competition is rarely customer friendly.

  • Mike Tarayos

    i was just at mermaids again tonight place was packed and the line for the food was at least 50 people long so we didn’t eat but we won 122 on the slots its really gonna suck when it shuttered the best and fastest cocktail servers in town and the only truly good value food on Fremont and machines that actually pay out unlike the D

  • MikeS29

    I love how people are actually mad about this and will miss these dumps when they close. If these people were to be listened to then no new development should happen in Las Vegas so the older casinos can still live on. By this logic and having no new development in Las Vegas, which in turn will slow down visitation, which will then lead to these underperforming casinos to close down anyway. But I guess that’s hard to understand when you’re enjoying your steak, PBR, and hot dog that cost $5.

  • #1 Arby’s Fan


  • David W Macchia

    Simple fact is the math does not add up for small casinos to operate on such valuable real estate anymore even with a pay out only slightly better than the airport. That said Mermaids will be missed in my book not only for the old school goodness of placing real money into a machine but the staff that made it down to earth and the grit kinda of like Time Square before the evil mouse took it over and made it a wholesome place where the corporate bankers now strip you of your cash with the elegance of a T.S.A. strip search rather than a stripper who would at least tease you a bit perhaps even with a lap dance. I never touch that stuff that comes out of those 7-11 type frozen drink things but I always received a good, stiff adult beverage from the bar so for price of playing old school machines and a good tip it is/was my favorite place to get a nice buz before a flight. As for the future I say tear those bitches down and please hire a design team with a clue that not everything needs to look like a typical mall space with a fake-ass Chipotle vibe. Outside of saving and restoring the signage the sky is literally the limit. Bringing the generation of X,Y & Z to spend money as well as stay downtown will takes a delicate touch of making the property both unique and modern but keeping with roots which is the very history of beginning site of Vegas.

  • tkell31

    Cant say I ever went into any of them, but I can say all this “development” is driving prices up to close to the strip level. I mean drinks at most of the outside bars are already close to $10…which is ridiculous when rooms on off peek dates aren’t too much more than that.

  • Dora Shaffer

    As a 28 year employee of the Las Vegas Club, it breaks my heart that we are remembered as seedy. We weren’t always. It was a nice, clean casino, remodeled just 16 years before closure believe it or not. We had a great business for slots and the most liberal 21 in town. We had a Dugout cafe, open 24 hrs with great deals and good food, but the best kept secret in town was our gourmet room. You haven’t lived unless you had our house salad with a secret dressing that rocked. Then followed with veal marsala OMG! When Mel died, the son, and Gaughn sold it and several other properties to a company that belly upped within a year. From there everything went downhill. Properties were being sold off piece by piece. Not a cent was put in our casino from that point on, no repairs, nothing. Restaurants closed, hotel closed because they wouldn’t fix anything, nor pay people to clean the rooms, just a sad story that kept getting sadder. They despised the employees so badly that they met us at the time clock and told us we had 3 days before closure, and were out of a job. What a nice Thank you for your service. Yet they still operate the Plaza across the street and it’s beyond my comprehension that anyone would spend money in a place that treated all their employees so horribly. Mr. Stevens gave them 60 days to continue operating, they chose not to. I hope it is restored to it’s former glory, cause it was a GREAT place to play and work once upon a time.

    • Thanks so much for your thoughts, Dora! You’re so right about the evolution (de-evolution) of Las Vegas Club. It suffered from neglect, and the closure is a great step forward. Think you’ll be surprised with what’s in store. A fitting legacy.

      • Dora Shaffer

        I’m not sure closure and putting it’s dedicated long term employees on the street as a great step forward…but hey, whatever is best for the casinos, not the people who work to make them special.

    • Randall

      Dora, my wife and I love the Vegas club. We have been making quarterly visits to Vegas ever since getting married (we spent our honeymoon there). We were devastated last year when we went to make our “rounds” on Fremont and saw that the LVC doors were closed!

      And now this year we were blindsided yet AGAIN, this time with the closing of Mermaids and La Bayou. We didn’t care about the deep-fried desserts or hot dogs. We loved the daiquiris.

      Those second-rate outdoor daiquiri stations, in front of The D and the Golden Gate, are just not going to cut it for us. For one, it’s just too damn loud to place an order. Who’s bright idea was it to put a bar a mere 15 or 20 feet away from a stage?!

      But also, the quality of the daiquiri mixtures compared to Mermaids and La Bayou are simply inferior (especially the strawberry mixture). There is very little alcohol in them and they only give you two dollars off on refills. Paying 17 bucks for a Slurpee that we need to lace with our own alcohol, is not what we call a reasonable alternative.

      But anyway, getting back to the LVC, Dora if you have any interior photos of the Vegas Club, or if you know where I can find some, those would be like gold to me and my wife.

      Thank you for reading. Take care.

      • Dora Shaffer

        Randall, I’m sure I have some shots, let me go through my albums and see what I have. I’ll get back to you.

        • Randall

          Thank you Dora. That would be so awesome.

  • Randall

    Can somebody please tell me what made Mermaids and La Bayou a “grind joint”? They sold the best (by far) daiquiris in Vegas and they sold some weird desserts and hot dogs, and they had some slot machines. So?

    • Well, the “grind joint” label usually gets applied when a casino offers little else but slots (often tight ones) in the way of amenities. La Bayou did serve great daiquiris, but the liquor quality was awful. Often, “grind joint” refers to a small, locals-oriented casino, without the negative connotation.

      • Randall

        Thank you for the explanation. I thought “grind joints” meant places where you get off-the-books lap dances or something…

        My greatest problem with La Bayou going away is that their daiquiris with the “awful liquor” were also awfully good deals for refills. My wife and I (and some siblings) kept and reused our same elongated cups for over six years! It had become a family tradition for us.

        Those also-ran daiquiri stands out in front of the D and the Golden Gate (horrible location by the way, unless you enjoy screaming your order at the girl, a foot away from your face), do not offer 50% off on refills. And they very well may use better liquor but they don’t seem to use a whole lot it. I know I can get an extra shot but I’m already paying 24-26 bucks for basically a Slurpee. So I’d be better off spiking it with my own stuff.

        We make quarterly trips to Vegas. It’s just very disappointing for us to have a tradition pulled out from under us. You may laugh, but La Bayou was one of the staples that kept us off of the strip. You just cannot get daiquiris like La Bayou’s, anywhere that I know of…

        I mean all of this with all due respect. I understand with progress always comes the people who hate change. This is one bit of change that is going to be tougher for me to swallow is all…

        Good day sir.