No more 3 a.m. cigars at Drai’s. No more sugar highs at Slush. No more Bill’s Lounge, with Cook E. Jarr styling Frank Sinatra and 50 Cent under the disco ball. Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall closed Monday, “temporarily,” though I’m guessing no one will recognize it when it reopens as the Gansevoort “boutique lifestyle hotel and casino” in 2014.
Especially me, since I never set foot inside. I passed the marquee countless times, always delighted to see a classic still shining but never compelled to stop. It was the same with O’Sheas, where I occasionally played $5 blackjack en route to somewhere else. You’d think I was a regular the way I mourn these losses. I talk big about the Strip needing character, the charmingly shabby counterpoint to everything Steve Wynn touches. But where was I when the chips were down? Drinking a $15 cocktail up the block.
Even if oldies but goodies make money, parent companies are always looking for more. Reinvention is simply the way of the Strip. Downtown has gone through its own swankification, and I can’t argue that updated rooms and restaurants might convince me to spend the night instead of an hour soaking up tacky relics. By that logic, the things I loved about the Coachman’s Inn are the reasons I let it die.
For more than 40 years, Coachman’s filled its corner of Eastern and Desert Inn with cheap lobster and legends of old Vegas royalty. I checked it out for a story in 2011, gushed about its throwback awesomeness and didn’t return. Ever. When it closed last summer, the manager blamed the recession, while a commenter on the Las Vegas Advisor site theorized that “their older clientele died out, and they didn’t find replacements.” I didn’t realize it was gone till months later, and I’m still kicking myself. Why didn’t I stop by for syrupy wine and a Danielle Steel loaner? Why didn’t I show my love when I had the chance?
Not because Coachman’s smelled like cigarettes and microwave and didn’t serve tapas. Because I’m lazy—like a lot of people who demand things and then take them for granted, retro casinos to dive bars, art shows to film festivals. We scream for culture and local color but don’t put our money where our fat mouths are often enough. At least I don’t, which is why my new resolution is to stop talking and start showing up.