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April 24, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Restaurant serving ‘Fresh American’ coming to East Village

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City of Las Vegas

An artist’s rendering of the PublicUs restaurant, which is scheduled to open later this summer at 1126 Fremont St.

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Philly Steak Express used to occupy the site of the new PublicUs restaurant. The building will be refurbished before PublicUs opens, expected to be sometime likely in July or August.

PublicUs restaurant

With an opening expected in July or August, work on a new restaurant in an area of the city’s “East Village" is about to begin.

Armed with roughly $75,000 in grants from the city Redevelopment Agency, owner Nicholas Akiona will be moving his PublicUs restaurant into space formerly occupied by Philly Steak Express, 1126 Fremont St.

Publicus is a Latin term meaning “the people.”

The restaurant will open in a 3,800-square-foot space in an older, largely unused outdoor mall owned by Mission Properties LLC at the southwest corner of Fremont and Maryland Parkway.

Akiona characterized the restaurant’s menu as “fresh American,” emphasizing fresh produce and meats. It will also offer bottled craft beers.

“We want it to be a place where people can enjoy great food but also hang out,” Akiona said, addressing Las Vegas City Council members during an April Redevelopment Agency meeting.

Akiona characterized himself as a “coffeehouse junkie,” who 10 years ago began thinking of retailing coffee but switched to the restaurant idea because it seemed “more viable.” He wants the restaurant to be affordable enough for customers to “enjoy it more than once a week.”

“So the concept is not to price things out of reach,” he also said, adding that it would be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

PublicUs will be in the former Philly Steak Express, which had moved there from 523 Fremont St. Philly Steak Express didn’t last long at Maryland and Fremont, while Le Thai, which opened in its former space about two years ago, has become one of the busiest restaurants in downtown Las Vegas.

PublicUs will be just north of Urban Lofts on Maryland Parkway and west on Fremont Street of a multitude of older multi-unit buildings, many of which cater to weekly renters. Over many years, the area earned a reputation as riddled with petty crime, vagrancy and homelessness.

It is also known in the city’s Centennial Plan as the “East Village,” just as the area farther west along Fremont is identified as “Fremont East Entertainment District.”

With Downtown Project redevelopment taking root four or so blocks to the west, and with the purchase and renovation of some of those older apartment buildings to the east by Siegel Group, Maryland Parkway properties may be in line for more business consideration.

It could be awhile, though, before the area enjoys the kind of foot traffic seen as a key to minimizing criminal activities in an urban area. Councilman Bob Coffin, who represents the area, said he would be patronizing the restaurant.

At the same time, he encouraged the owner to “have the usual uniform police officer discounts, so every now and then a black-and-white will park there. It’s very important.”

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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  1. "East Village" my butt.

  2. "Armed with roughly $75,000 in grants from the city Redevelopment Agency"

    Allow me to translate: Public funding for private profits.

    If we have to share in the funding, then we should be able to share in the profits too.

  3. Corner diners like this have played a role in helping to revitalize previously downtrodden areas in places like the Mission District in San Francisco, and downtown San Diego. Nice to see the changes expanding to new areas. While I'd prefer it to be done without grants, one hopes it will spur more private investment, as has been the case in other areas of downtown.