Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2005 | 10:40 a.m.
One of several older off-Strip properties slated for redevelopment, the Quality Inn Key Largo Casino -- known for $1.99 burgers and budget accommodations -- is expected to close today, the property's general manager said.
The casino and hotel at 377 Flamingo Road employs about 200 people.
The owners received approval from the Clark County Planning Commission in November to build a 196-foot condominium tower with 905 units in addition to a 70-foot hotel tower with 344 rooms.
The hotel units would replace the existing 314-room hotel, according to plans filed with the county. The plans didn't specify whether the property's casino would be torn down or redeveloped.
General Manager Brett Johnson confirmed that the property would close today but declined further comment on the Key Largo's future, referring calls to co-owner John Gilbert. Gilbert could not be reached for comment.
Dislocated employees can receive job and unemployment help from the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation through various JobConnect offices around the valley, spokeswoman Karren Rhodes said.
"Our staff are waiting for them," she said. "We encourage people who are unemployed not to wait."
Rhodes declined to say whether the Key Largo had contacted the state agency, citing state privacy laws.
"When we hear about a closure or mass layoff, we work with every employer who will work with us to get information into the hands of soon-to-be unemployed workers," she said.
The Key Largo is affiliated with Choice Hotels International Inc.'s Quality Inn brand. It is among several smaller gaming and nongaming hotels located along the Flamingo Road and Paradise Road corridor that are fed by tourist traffic from the airport and the Las Vegas Convention Center as well as by locals who work nearby. Several condominium towers have been proposed in the neighborhood to take advantage of lower land costs off the Strip and unprecedented demand for vacation homes and investment properties in Las Vegas.
The project won't be able to move forward without building and demolition permits, neither of which have yet been obtained from the county, records show.
The Robert L. Mayer Trust of 1982, based in Newport Beach, Calif., is listed as the owner of the 4.9-acre parcel. The property, which dates from 1981, was purchased in 1982 for $9.5 million.
Las Vegas land-use attorney Greg Borgel said the redevelopment plans "are moving forward" and a new development group is likely to spearhead the project. Borgel said he didn't know the identity of the group or the timeline for the redevelopment plans.
State gaming regulators will be supervising the final closure of the casino tonight.
"It's about 90 percent closed already," said Keith Copher, chief enforcement officer of the Gaming Control Board. "It's more a bunch of regular customers over there saying goodbye."
Copher said the casino's sports book, which was operated under a lease agreement with the Leroy's Horse & Sports Place chain, closed last week and the company's 245 slot machines and five table games -- four blackjack tables and a roulette wheel -- would be shut down by midnight.
He said representatives of the Gaming Control Board's audit division would be on hand to oversee the shut-down beginning about 11 p.m.
"We may have a couple of (enforcement) guys stop by to observe, but that's about it," Copher said. "Sometimes when there's a controversial closure, they'll need our help, if there are disputes between the buyer and the seller or if it's an involuntary closure. But that isn't the case on this one."
Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor consumer newsletter, said redevelopment plans for the Key Largo had been rumored for at least two years but said those plans appeared to change often, with one plan focusing on a boutique casino and another on hotel rooms and lodging.
The Key Largo won't be terribly missed, he said.
The property has loyal customers but wasn't nearly as popular as the nearby Ellis Island and Terrible's casinos, Curtis said.
"They always seemed to be a notch below those," he said. "They seemed to be squeezed."
The location is still close enough to the Strip to make sense as a condominium getaway, he said.
Such projects are "nothing but great for that area," he said.
As he was leaving the property Monday afternoon, customer Mel Ho said he was disappointed about the closure and said the Key Largo had its own special place in the neighborhood.
Ho said he patronized the Key Largo for quality meals at low prices.
"It's a classic," he said of the Key Largo. "It's a place with a unique feeling and atmosphere. It's not like the Strip and not like downtown. It's different."