Critics are wondering how many bars the Arts District needs

The Hawthorne, a speakeasy-inspired urban lounge, will cover two floors in the Art Haus building, 1115 S. Casino Center Drive.

When news broke that a bar was opening on Casino Center Boulevard in the Arts District, the disapproval from area watchdogs was audible. Nobody needs another bar in that neighborhood, came the collective cry from the critics, who insist the area needs a coffee shop, bookstore or cafe—not another bar.

The response seemed a smidge over the top (or at least unexpected) given that just seven years ago, Downtowners were championing the approval of an Urban Lounge license, which would allow for some bars and nightlife in the Arts District. But apparently those hoping for an arts-friendly community watering hole didn’t expect the eventual arrival of multiple bars in the neighborhood. They certainly didn’t envision bars displacing art-related businesses.

“The Arts District needs to be the Arts District and not Fremont East,” says Brian “Paco” Alvarez, a Las Vegas native, arts advocate and Downtown resident. “We want it to be a cool little district. Too many bars in the area waters down (no pun intended) what the Arts District is supposed to be.”

Among those echoing Alvarez’s sentiment is Welthy Silva, owner of the Las Vegas Ballet School at 1039 S. Main Street. She says she was asked to vacate her rental space by the building’s new owners who, she says, told her of plans to open a bar and restaurant on the parcel, which is also home to Sharon Gainsburg’s stone sculpture studios.

The parcel is under the new ownership of Four Main Properties LLC,. A representative says that plans for the 6,500 square-foot building are not finalized yet, but that Four Main Properties is talking with current and prospective tenants and looks forward to being part of the "continuing redevelopment of the 18b Arts District."

After four years in the space, Silva (who says she has a year and a half left on her lease) says she’s not just going to walk away just yet. “My heart and soul is there,” Silva says. ‘It’s supposed to be the Arts District, not restaurants and bars.”

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