ELV POSTS CORRECTION: We mistakenly reported that Woo in The Palazzo had closed. We discovered last night that reports of its death had been greatly exaggerated. All bets are off, however, on its chances for survival. ELV blames his staff and regrets the error.
Now, back to reality.
The headline in Nation’s Restaurant News in June said: “Vegas refuses to fold as economy craps out.” By late September that same banner read: “Hard luck befalls Las Vegas following U.S. housing bust.”
The first article was full of quotes from the usual celebrity suspects and their flacks about how things weren’t as bad as they seem. Three months later, every one of them admitted business is down (in food and beverage up and down The Strip) around 16% from a year ago.
Off the record, a number of F&B honchos have told me the figure is closer to 20%, and one very famous celebrity chef suffered a 45% decline in sales for 2008.
The canary in the coalmine was probably DJT. This exquisite jewel box could only sustain itself for five months – which didn’t prevent it posthumously from receiving a Michelin star. But then, quickly, it became a harbinger of things to come.
In rapid succession Louis Osteen closed Louis’ and Louis’ Fish Camp, Joseph Keller quietly folded Bistro Zinc at Lake Las Vegas, Sapporo, SeaStone and even a steakhouse: Becker’s – threw in the towel. Andre’s Downtown is history (good riddance) and a number of places in The (overbuilt) Palazzo are said to be hanging on by the skin of their teeth. As of this writing, Mainland has closed and more shutterings (Woo, Table 10, et al) are rumored to be in the works.
All of this bodes well for diners, as early bird specials and bargain prix fixes are showing up in places everywhere but the big boys…and even Guy Savoy has his Bites and Bubbles bar menu, that’s a relative bargain, and a wine list that seems to have more good bottles under $100 than ever).
Are you listening out there sommeliers of the world? Bring down your wine prices if you want to sell the stuff! This economy won’t abide 3-400% markups anymore, and the salad days of expense-account-drenched, Dionysian revelry are over….
Into this stew pot of lowered expectations comes Encore – with five new restaurants — three of which are aimed at the fine dining crowd: Sinatra’s (Chef Theo Schoenegger); Botero Steak (Chef Mark Lo Russo-KNPR’s Chef of the Year in 2007); and Switch (Chef Mark Poidevin). How these will fare in an already crowded (and much less profitable) field, should be most interesting to watch.
Wynn has already scuttled plans to open Larry Forgione’s An American Place, in the space housing Tableau. Forgione (an American food and chef icon) is now hard at the stoves at Tableau as its Executive Chef – updating and revising its menu – but not getting his signature restaurant name on the door (or the redesign that the place sorely needs).
Yes, we’d like to say Happy New Year to all, but the last 12 months have been anything but for our restaurant scene, and 2009 may be even worse….