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October 23, 2014

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Clarion, the former Debbie Reynolds hotel, to close Labor Day Weekend

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Steve Marcus / file photo

The 202-room Greek Isles is shown April 23, 2009, on Convention Center Drive near Las Vegas Boulevard. Ownership of the property that opened as the Royal Inn in 1970 has changed hands often over the years. It has operated as the Clarion since 2009.

Updated Monday, Aug. 25, 2014 | 7:38 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Entertainer Debbie Reynolds pulls the handle of a slot machine inside the Debbie Reynolds Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 1997. Reynolds would file bankruptcy later that year and sell the property for $10 million to the company behind the World Wrestling Federation.

The hotel opened by film legend Debbie Reynolds on Convention Center Drive seems to be fading to black.

The Clarion Hotel Casino has reportedly announced internally that it is shutting down operations effective Monday morning. A spokesman for the hotel said tonight that the hotel was expected to close, but did not know of the timeframe for when that would happen. The hotel website is not booking rooms after Sunday night, and an employee answering the phone declined to say whether the hotel would accept reservations past Monday.

The online publication Las Vegas Advisor, under the navigation of Anthony Curtis (who is typically on the mark about such matters), also posted today that the staff was informed a month ago that the hotel would be closing and was eventually to be torn down or imploded.

The Clarion opened as the Royal Inn in 1970, owned by the Royal Inns resort company. Michael Gaughan and business partner Frank Toti took over ownership two years later before selling to fast-food and automat operators Horn & Hardat. In 1980, the hotel-casino’s name was changed to Royal Americana but was closed by 1982.

Under new ownership, the hotel was reopened as the ill-fated Paddlewheel (which is still the punch line of a Brad Garrett joke about Las Vegas), which catered to families who were looking for an option other than Circus Circus, and was purchased by Reynolds in 1992.

Under her direction, the Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Hotel served as an ode to great films and movie legends featuring much of her extensive memorabilia collection. But Reynolds struggled to fund the project, which led to state gaming regulators to refuse to grant her a gaming license at the hotel.

Reynolds wound up filing for bankruptcy in 1997 and selling the property at auction a year later to the World Wrestling Federation. That organization held ownership for a year, but plans for a full-scale wrestling venue were scuttled because the building was deemed too small. The WWF then sold to a group that renamed the hotel yet again, to Greek Isles.

The hotel fell into foreclosure in 2009 and then fell into the hands of the resort’s creditors in a partnership with the Clarion hotel chain. The company’s Las Vegas outpost has since been doing business as the only Clarion in the country to offer gaming.

The Clarion has 200 guest rooms on a 6-acre parcel. Its showroom, Wolf Theater, is known by entertainers in Las Vegas as one of the underrated venues in the city. The problem was not with the room or quality of performances but the absence of customers.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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