Las Vegas Weekly

September 12, 2013

Las Vegas Weekly

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AS WE SEE IT… IN BRIEF J O E D OW N TOW N GRAND AMBITION The Downtown Grand might give Downtown Project some stiff competition BY JOE SCHOENMANN > GAME CHANGER? Seth Schorr (inset) envisions the Downtown Grand becoming a major player Downtown. Four months ago at the Smith Center, hundreds of people gathered to watch a short video in which Las Vegas city officials declared that Third Street represented the center of Downtown. I sat way in the back. I doubt anyone saw me scoff. Third Street has the Mob Bar, Triple George Grill and Hogs & Heifers. The Mob Museum can be seen at the end of the street. But the "it" place is East Fremont Street, where Downtown Project is lining the streets with gold, so to speak. Schorr has a long history in casinos. Among his detail-oriented approach: He's tweaked the traditional model and created one-stop, 24/7 shops for the cash-out cages and players' club cards. He's also put a deli smack-dab in the middle of the sports book. But here's why Downtown Grand is really going to succeed and, IMHO, become a focal point for a lot of Downtown newcomers: 1,500-plus Zappos employees. It's about a block east of Zappos, so walking there takes maybe three minutes. By contrast, walking to Fremont East, where redevelopment is taking place, takes "forever," in the minds of convenience-seekers. Remember, too, Zappos employees get good free eats on the job. Then again, Fremont East changes are coming. The Container Park will open soon, and farther down the street the old Ferguson Motel is going to be redone with three new taverns. The John E. Carson hotel at Sixth and Fremont is also being renovated. There are still no significant or reliable residential plans on the drawing board, however, so Downtown-based customers are stretched a little thin. If nothing else, Downtown Grand will up the ante and give everyone a little more choice. PAY CUT Nevada blew it, and the state's unemployed are paying the price. Sequestration cuts have been looming for months, but our state decided to wait until the last minute—the end of the budget year, September 30—to carry them out, necessitating a whopping 59 percent cut in unemployment benefits this month. That means the average weekly benefit of $309 is now about $127. Imagine having your paycheck cut in half for a month, and you have some idea of the hardship this is causing. DR. JOHN If you can't beat 'em … open a luxury animal hospital in Summerlin. That's exactly what disgraced congressman John Ensign is doing, two years after resigning his post because of an ethics probe into his affair with a former campaign staffer (amid other unpleasantries, including allegedly trying to set her husband up as a lobbyist). It makes perfect sense—Ensign was a veterinarian before going into politics. We're animal lovers here, so we sincerely wish him the best of luck in the venture—as long as he promises to never go into politics again. –Ken Miller COMMENTS? QUESTIONS? BEEFS? RANTS? LET'S HEAR IT! SHOOT AN EMAIL TO LVWEEKLY@ GMGVEGAS.COM DOWNTOWN GRAND PHOTOGRAPHS BY LEILA NAVIDI Joe Schoenmann doesn't just cover Downtown, he lives and works there. He is Greenspun Media Group's embedded Downtown journalist, stationed at an office in Emergency Arts. His work appears in the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Weekly. So despite the vision of Seth Schorr and his team, whose ambitious plans to remodel the Lady Luck looked incredible on paper, the idea that a tiny slice of street and a casino resort could become some kind of synergistic center Downtown seemed about as likely as a $2,000-per-hour hooker in a Motel 6. Then I met Schorr at the Downtown Grand, Lady Luck's new name, Tuesday morning to take a look around. Before I proceed, let me get this out of the way: Casinos are not my thing. They all look and sound and feel the same to me after so many years. Like most locals, I actively avoid the Strip, and all I could remember of the old Lady Luck was the stench of prime riband-baked potato dinners that seemed to pour from the ventilation system. So I was predisposed to disliking Downtown Grand, which will wrap construction by the end of October. And I could not have been more mistaken. You can walk into restaurants and bars from the street, without ever having to pass slot machines. Where massive AC units used to sit, there is now a rooftop bar and pool with artificial grass for picnics. Beneath Downtown Grand's west tower, the first floor will be home to five non-franchise eateries, with price points from $10 to $12. You open the door from the street and you're already there. HASHING IT OUT Score another win for common sense! The Nevada Athletic Commission raised its cannabis testing threshold by 300 percent—from 50 ng/mL to 150 ng/mL, effective immediately. The decision comes months after the World Anti-Doping Agency raised the threshold by the same amount to reduce the chances of athletes testing positive for out-of-competition use. Obviously fighters can't be under the influence during a fight, but it's good to see a progressive stance taken on what up to now has been a silly issue. 12 LASVEGASWEEKLY.COM SEPTEMBER 12–18, 2013 12_AWSI_3_20130912.indd 12 9/11/13 1:08 PM

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