Vital Vegas Blog

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.

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.

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.)

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

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

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.