Nightlife jitters: What does a Downtown zoning change actually mean?

The long-dormant, former Mad Dogs & Englishmen pub space on Las Vegas Boulevard could now be reactivated.
Photo: L.E. Baskow

Last week, the Las Vegas City Council voted unanimously to make a key change to local ordinance: Venues with nightclub licenses, previously forbidden within 500 feet of single-family homes, are now permitted on Las Vegas Boulevard between Charleston Boulevard and Fremont Street, provided that they’re at least 5,000 square feet in size.

Downtown residents decried a vote they say runs directly against the City’s recently completed Downtown master plan. In a letter to the council, public policy consultant Terry Murphy criticized the change, calling it “absolutely inconsistent with business and civic uses.” She cites the current character of the street, home mostly to government buildings, legal offices, wedding chapels, Gold & Silver Pawn (of Pawn Stars fame) “and one peep show.” So, why relax nightclub regulations at all?

The answer might be in the regulation itself. As you’d expect, the “nightclub” designation covers DJs, but also live music, karaoke, comedy, “performance artists” and even magicians. Thanks to this change, venues like Pawn Plaza—which recently had a back-and-forth with the City over allowing acoustic music inside a bar—can now pursue entertainment avenues that were previously closed.

Pawn Plaza’s owner, Pawn Stars’ Rick Harrison, is understandably pleased. “If this makes it easier to do business, glory hallelujah,” Harrison says. “I have a tavern license right now, but it’s good to have options.”

Another possibility is that a long-dormant, 11,000 square-foot bar and performance space at 515 Las Vegas Blvd. S.—the former Mad Dogs & Englishmen pub—can now be reactivated. And there are some empty land parcels that might now be more attractive to developers. But in the short term, this change means existing properties can fire up the occasional karaoke night—and some property owners can reconsider their long-term plans.

“Who knows? Ten years from now, I could turn the pawn shop into a nightclub,” Harrison says chuckling.

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