A Las Vegas life is a pretty regular one, until you want it to be something else. I’m the type of local who frequents the Strip for a dose of spectacle when it’s needed, and having one of the world’s greatest tourist destinations at my disposal has built some pretty unreasonable expectations.
That’s probably why the continuing cascade of casualness along Las Vegas Boulevard hasn’t thrilled me. When you grow up with volcanoes and castles and exploding pirate ships, streetside bars and mini-malls and oh-so-many Walgreens might not get the blood pumping. Take that cranky attitude into Beer Park, for example, the streetside bar at the Paris (under the fake Eiffel Tower), and it’s a recipe for disappointment, right?
Actually, I kinda love that place. Long picnic tables for group gatherings, chilled-out rooftop views of Bellagio’s fountains and the Strip, pretzels with cheese dip and Bavarian-style sausages, loads of different brews. No pirate ships, but no pretense, either. I never thought I’d support the notion that the new theme of the Strip is to make you feel like you’re cozied up back in your own neighborhood—but this is a whole lot of easy fun.
“Beer Park? I’ve probably been there more than any other venue in Vegas lately,” says Andy Masi. “I just go hang out. That’s the kind of place I’m comfortable in, and that’s where the market is shifting. People want cool craft beers, easy food and great service, but you don’t need five stars everywhere.”
Masi is a founding partner of Clique Hospitality, which operates a growing group of restaurants and bars all over Las Vegas, including the very casual, very easy sports bar the Still at the Mirage, which replaced the much clubbier Revolution Lounge.
He also co-created the Light Group, the former company that dominated Strip nightlife and food and beverage for years with venues very different from the current casual craze. So if it seems a little strange that he’s going in this direction now—the Still has an Airstream trailer that serves wings and sliders to go with your suds and sports—keep in mind that this guy has an uncanny understanding of the Vegas customer.
“What I felt and what the MGM guys felt the customer really wanted [at Mirage] was something super-casual, no cover charge, where you can go in and get great craft beer and great food,” he says. “A lot of customers are coming to Vegas and really looking at their options. Of course you always want to bring something fresh to everything you do, but you also want to deliver. I’m just happy to be kind of in on this first.”
Certainly there have been similar venues on the Strip in recent years, but the experience he’s describing is very specifically like the one at the Still, or Beer Park, or Beerhaus. Planted firmly in the middle of MGM Resorts’ Park development linking the Strip to T-Mobile Arena, Beerhaus is the only venue owned and operated by MGM itself. Surrounded by restaurants slinging burgers, chicken and waffles, pizza and sushi, Beerhaus is the only Park experience that hits all these right casual notes, which explains why MGM kept it for itself.
Sipping a huge, icy beer and snacking on some nachos while watching some out-of-towners play a drunken game of giant Jenga at Beer Park, it became impossible to maintain that cranky attitude. And it became obvious that these much more relaxed, much more ordinary experiences aren’t replacing the wild and crazy. It’s just the further diversification of Vegas fun, the Strip trying to be all things to all people. Seems like it might work out.