For Pete Kaufman, the foundation of hospitality in Las Vegas—the real Vegas, off the Strip and in the neighborhood—has always been about people. It’s about his staff, the folks that keep things moving at District Tavern Group venues Balboa Pizza, Whist Stove & Spirits and Due & Proper bar, and it’s definitely about their customers. Sometimes those are the same people.
“We’ve seen hostesses come in and work their way through college as servers, and now they’re doctors and they’re coming in,” Kaufman, a Las Vegas native, says. “It’s amazing what you see when you’re around for a decade. That’s the really cool side of what we do, because we are that local neighborhood thing. We’ve seen people grow up, and we’re the place for them.”
It helps that all three of those Green Valley hot spots are open around the clock. Locals working on the Strip love that 24-hour convenience, but they also recognize when there are other industry pros running the show. Kaufman worked in restaurants during college before he began his career as a dealer, working his way up the casino chain and “making a few wrong turns” that led him back into the restaurant world, he jokes.
While Balboa remains a casual favorite, Whist was remade in 2014—it opened in 2005 as Kennedy and rebranded as Presidio in 2010—to become “that social, dating, first-meet hot spot,” and neighboring Al’s Garage transformed into Due & Proper.
“We’ve always focused on consistency but not just in food and drink. People come back because of people, not places,” Kaufman says. “You can get a Coors Light anywhere. We make great craft cocktails, but so do a lot of people. The difference is the people who work here, many of whom come from high-volume properties on the Strip and want to see people more than once or twice a year. They want to have that conversation across the bar and know they’ll see you again next week.”
Don’t be surprised to see DTG expand further. “We’re always looking to see what’s out there, and Balboa is a concept made to be in multiple locations,” he says. “But it would have to be in the right place with the right people. We need to maintain the quality of what we do and the people that work with us, the most important part.”