One of Las Vegas’ most beloved restaurants closed its doors without warning last week, and it could be months before Lotus of Siam reopens for business. The world-renowned Thai eatery, set to celebrate its 19th anniversary in November, suffered significant damage when portions of its roof collapsed during a heavy rain on September 8.
In the days since, manager Penny Chutima—whose mother, Saipin, is Lotus’ chef—has made some pointed public statements about landlord Mark Kaufman. “We’d notified him about the [condition of] the roof before. We called him and let him know in writing, per our lease. We even told him we’d pay for half of it, but he said he’d do it,” Penny Chutima told the Weekly. “If it had been [fixed], I don’t think this would have happened.”
If it sounds like a separation might be in the offing, think again. Chutima says she and her mother have no intention of leaving their longtime home inside the Commercial Center on east Sahara, even as other storefronts go dark throughout the historic plaza. “Chef has an attachment to it, and she doesn’t let go of things,” Penny Chutima says. “I literally grew up in this plaza, when Cue Club was three stores wide, when Mary K’s [arcade] was here. This used to be the place to hang out. … It’s sad to see how it’s come to what it is, with everyone leaving because it’s getting old. You don’t leave your grandparents because they’re getting old.”
The Chutimas hope to return to the space by year’s end. In the meantime, Penny has been hunting for temporary digs—“something turnkey, where we can do pop-ups”—and trying to keep her mother’s spirits up. “It’s really tough for Chef. This is the longest we’ve ever been closed,” she says. “In the first couple of days, Chef was trying to keep a positive mind-set. When she realized how bad the damage was—I’d say 75 percent of the restaurant was damaged; it got into the walls, into our inventory, everything—I think reality finally hit her.”