Fremont Street Gains White Castle Restaurant, Loses Classic Trader Bill’s Sign

There’s been a lot of great buzz about a new White Castle coming to Fremont Street. We should know, we started it.

Recent developments at the site of the new White Castle, however, have been more buzzkill than buzz.

They involve a classic sign for Trader Bill’s.

Trader Bill's sign

Spoiler alert: Now would be a great time to start not getting emotionally attached to things.

For comparison purposes, here’s a look at the Trader Bill’s sign during the day, in other words, without its make-up.

Trader Bill's sign

That’s not old and faded. That’s character.

The first sign, ahem, of trouble came when we noticed the arrow on the Trader Bill’s sign being painted blue. All of the sign’s bulbs and neon were removed. (From what we can tell, the bulbs will be back.)

Trader Bill's

The journey of a thousand WTFs begins with one coat of paint.

The next day, workers began covering up the gloriously distressed sign.

Trader Bill's sign

The Trader Bill’s sign, redacted.

Within just a few days, the Trader Bill’s sign transformed into a White Castle sign, and everything was ruined.

White Castle Fremont sign

White Castle has but one location in Las Vegas, at Casino Royale. When it opened, the restaurant had to temporarily shut down due to overwhelming demand.

The conversion of the Trader Bill’s sign to a White Castle sign probably wouldn’t have been as jarring were it not for where the sign sits. For many who frequent downtown, the sign’s location is what amounts to the “entrance” to the Fremont Street Experience (where we work in digital marketing as our day job).

Once lit up, the White Castle sign is likely to be an eye-catching focal point for anyone looking down, or taking photos of, Fremont Street and what’s billed as the world’s largest video screen.

That’s great news for White Castle, but we’re not convinced it’s great news for our street. Yes, it’s ours, but we let millions of people borrow it each year.

For many, White Castle will now be the first impression visitors get of what the street is all about. Not the circus-like atmosphere of the Fremont district. Not the casinos and their neon facades. Not the history of “Glitter Gulch.”

Rather, a fast food restaurant.

White Castle Fremont Street

We’re going to need a lot of sliders to get us through this period of adjustment. It’s expected Fremont’s White Castle will open at the end of August or in early September.

This latest loss of a distinctive downtown sign follows on the heels of the removal of Vegas Vickie on the other end of Fremont Street. She’ll soon be followed by demolition of the Golden Goose, the Glitter Gulch sign and the baseball player statue atop the former Las Vegas Club.

On the bright side, Vegas Vickie is likely to return. That’s not in the cards for the Trader Bill’s sign.

In searching for some background about Trader Bill’s (it began operating at the corner of Fremont and 4th Street in the early 1930s), we came across an intriguing quote from an article written in 1997.

At the time, Trader Bill’s was transitioning from being a souvenir store to a jewelry store, and the then President of Fremont Street Experience, Mark Paris, is quoted as saying, “The thing that’s important to us is the streetscape—how it looks—and the owners of Trader Bill’s have maintained the neon and lights that we feel are in keeping with the spirit of Fremont Street.”

While a White Castle restaurant fits the “spirit” of Fremont Street perfectly, we can’t say the same for the White Castle sign.

We’ve said often in this blog that the only constant in Las Vegas is change. That doesn’t mean we have to like it.

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  • Photoncounter

    As an anchor point to the FSE this looks stupid. White Castle burgers like spoiled dog food. Ordered some once, one bite, spit it out confirming my suspicions.

  • RustyHammer

    This is really incredible, and disappointing, content!

  • Kevin Rackley

    If there’s something more appropriate for a street full of drunk people than a White Castle, I don’t know it. Admittedly, I treat my digestive tract like a rental.

  • Anthony

    Did you really think there was any chance they were going to keep it the way it was, or had you somehow not even considered it?

    While I kind of liked the distressed look during the day, my memories of it were much more of an eyesore after dark than your fully-functioning example. Usually multiple letters dark, and a good chunk of the arrow bulbs burned out. At least now they’ve got a tenant with the resources and interest in maintaining it.

  • Manybar Goatfish

    You just can’t please some folks. If they’re not griping about fees and expensive cocktails, they’re bellyaching over cheap eats. LOL. Man, I love this blog!

  • MT Moorehead

    Sad, that was a great sign in the perfect location…

    • True. Pretty sure that was a strategic move on the part of White Castle, and a key part of their deal.

  • LasVegasJunkie

    Serious Question – How long before we see a Nike store, big Starbucks sign, maybe a McDonalds with big golden arches on the opposite corner? Sad…

  • Jefe

    I will NEVER understand how people can eat that garbage.

  • Manybar Goatfish

    The White Castle imagery adds a homey touch of Americana to the Freemont Street Experience backdrop. Plus, it’s in-step with the “gold mining” theme that put Las Vegas on the map. That was a gold mine idea by White Castle if there ever was one. I like it. Seriously, if your life’s mission is aesthetic purity and godliness, Las Vegas is probably the wrong reservation for you. Consider hanging out with a glacier next time.

  • Bob MILLER

    To be honest, while I have stayed on Fremont my last 6 trips, I’ve never considered the Trader Bill’s sign to be “classic” — in fact I’ve never paid ANY attention, considering it to be just a cheap souvenir place. Therefore I won’t miss it and the change to “White Castler” doesn’t move my needle either way.

  • Keith McConnell

    I think it is nice that the sign pays homage to the original in its shape, they also kept the original design under the new “skin” I bet someday the Trader Bills sign will make a return!

  • Funkhouser

    Let’s be honest the spirit of Fremont was ruined when they constructed the big ass zip line platform downtown. Losing the Trader Bills sign not like loosing something of major historical significance.

  • Bouldersteve

    I am always told it not what’s outside it’s what inside that counts when it come to people. Does that apply to hamburger joints as well. Sure the burgers are not that good but after your 8th Budweiser who cares?

  • Scott

    Truthfully, the Fremont Street Experience is what ruined Fremont Street.

    • Scott Roeben

      One person’s ruin is another renewal. Downtown was dying at the time, and Fremont Street Experience saved the day. It’s why 70% of Vegas visitors bother to go downtown. I work there, so I’m probably not objective. I also never went there prior to the canopy. That would’ve been cool.

  • Bouldersteve

    The only thing lacking on FSE now is a Taco Bell Cantina

  • Annster

    This is definitely a suck it up buttercup moment for those of us who hated listening to old people whine about how things used to be. We’re old now, and doing the whining, and TOO DARN BAD. You’ve got a paying tenant in a still challenged business environment. Said tenant offers a mass appeal product (which does not appeal to me, but still) and has a higher than average chance of success in that location. How many years until it becomes “now-iconic” rather than a jarring newcomer?