Wednesday, Nov. 3, 1999 | 10:22 a.m.
Since the Fiesta hotel-casino opened its doors in December 1994, it has been known primarily as a place for locals to gamble -- not as an entertainment haven of North Las Vegas.
With their $26 million expansion, Fiesta's owners are trying to change that.
"We offer a great entertainment product, but we've never been known for entertainment," said Fiesta President George Maloof. "We're at a critical mass. Once you get to the size we're at, people need more."
Fiesta is adding new machines -- boosting its inventory to nearly 2,000 -- but the big focus of its expansion is restaurant dining. Among the biggest attractions are a tequila bar being billed as the world's largest, and a pizzeria centered around a 70-year-old pipe organ from New York's Roxy Theater. The expansion project is scheduled to open Nov. 30.
The tequila bar, to be called Garduno's Margarita Factory, will replace the existing Garduno's Mexican restaurant in the Fiesta. The new restaurant is being built at a cost of $7 million.
John Johnstone, president of the Albuquerque, N.M.-based Garduno's chain, said the new restaurant will feature nearly every tequila approved for import into the United States from Mexico -- a number that varies between 200 and 300 at any given time. According to Johnstone, the most comprehensive tequila selection now offered by a specialty bar is 100.
With a selection of 300 margaritas, and some tequilas going for $15 a shot, the message is clear -- not all tequila is the hard-to-swallow variety favored at college bashes.
"Our goal is to promote the tequila industry," Johnstone said. "Some tequilas are as fine as cognac."
The restaurant will be designed to look like an old tequila refinery in Mexico, with distillery pipes running throughout. It will regularly feature Latin music performers, with a Latin-themed dance club operating nearby.
"When we opened (Garduno's), people always complained we didn't have Latin entertainment," Maloof said. "It appeals to plenty of different markets."
Down the way, Roxy's Pipe Organ Pizzeria will open with entertainment of a different sort -- a monstrous, 70-year-old, $500,000 pipe organ that once graced New York's Roxy Theater, once used to accompany silent films.
Maloof said his uncle purchased the organ 20 years ago, and it has spent most of that time languishing in a hotel the family owns in Albuquerque. The Maloofs decided to refurbish it and make it the centerpiece of their new restaurant.
Once complete, the 16-ton organ will be capable of producing 125 decibels of sound through its 3,000 pipes, some reaching as high as two stories. Percussion instruments will be played from the organ's console.
"There's a misperception that it sounds like church," said Bob Maes, owner of Pipes and Palaces Productions, the company restoring and installing the organ. "A theater pipe organ is entertainment from the word go."
On Sundays, the pizzeria will feature a 10-piece orchestra playing in a hall that can seat 600.
In a booming area like North Las Vegas, Maloof feels that such projects aren't an option, but a necessity.
"We just feel the market is here, and to accommodate that growth, you have to expand," he said.