Justin M. Bowen / File photo
Published Monday, Sept. 13, 2010 | 9:34 a.m.
Updated Monday, Sept. 13, 2010 | 10:23 a.m.
Map of Plaza Hotel and Casino
1 Main Street, Las Vegas
More than 400 employees of the Plaza Hotel & Casino face layoffs in the next 60 days as the downtown Las Vegas property closes its 1,037-room hotel and portions of its casino in early November.
While the company says the hotel closure will be followed by planned renovations of all guestrooms and hallways, it appears the closure is also associated with the recession that has hurt the Las Vegas gaming industry -- with downtown taking an especially brutal hit.
The Plaza will be "minimizing operations'' on Nov. 11, property manager Bobby Ray Harris told employees in a memo last week.
"I have suggested and been convinced for many months that an on-going 'Band-Aid' approach will not significantly change the operating results and that only substantial improvements to the property can make it successful in the long run,'' the memo said. "The economy, coupled with the need for a significant capital infusion into the property, has affected the Plaza's ability to remain competitive in the industry.''
Harris, the president and chief operating officer of PlayLV, manager of the Plaza and its sister properties, is due to leave as manager of the properties next month, when Anthony F. Santo takes over.
Santo, who will also run the Plaza's sister downtown properties the Las Vegas Club Hotel & Casino and the Western Hotel & Casino, told Nevada gaming regulators last month the properties are losing money but negotiations were under way for a $20 million loan to refurbish the Plaza.
Santo also said last month there would be "12 months of hard times" while construction work is under way at the Plaza, to be renamed Union Plaza.
Downtown Las Vegas casino revenue fell in July for the 26th consecutive month, the state Gaming Control Board reported last week. It said the July year-over-year decline was 19.2 percent, to $32.1 million.
That compared to a statewide decline of 4.9 percent.
But the July 2010 and July 2009 numbers tell only part of the story. Downtown gaming win in July 2009 had already fallen 11.6 percent from $45 million in July 2008.
And the Plaza isn't the only downtown property to be suffering from the double whammy of the recession and growth in the Las Vegas hotel room inventory, including a new 500-room tower at the downtown Golden Nugget that opened in November.
Late last year, Binion's shut its 365-room downtown hotel, citing the economic downturn.
In a statement today confirming the planned layoffs, the Plaza's parent company hinted that economic realities are driving the plan to shut down the entire hotel as opposed to closing just individual floors for renovations.
"Tamares Real Estate will be investing a substantial amount of money into its Plaza Hotel & Casino, including renovating all 1,037 guestrooms and hallways, new restaurant and bar concepts and upgrading the casino floor. These improvements are expected to take up to 12 months to complete," Kenneth Landfield, chief operating officer of Plaza owner Tamares U.S. Real Estate, said in a statement today. "The Plaza has been experiencing the same kind of operational difficulties as other casino hotels and many other businesses in Las Vegas. Despite the most difficult economic conditions in recent memory, however, we are extremely excited about the future of downtown Las Vegas and are committed to working through this process to the benefit of our employees, our customers and the city of Las Vegas."
"In accordance with employment laws, our tenant, Plaza Hotel & Casino, LLC, has issued notices to more than 400 employees explaining that their employment could be terminated within 60 days," Landfield said. "This action is necessary for us to reorganize and renovate the Plaza over the next year, during which time we will be closing portions of the casino and all hotel rooms. We anticipate that some employees will be retained to continue various operations, including, among other things, slot machines in the casino, the Firefly restaurant, ‘The Rat Pack is Back’ show and the food court."
The Las Vegas Club Hotel & Casino and the Western Hotel & Casino aren't affected by the announcement.
"In fact, we anticipate that many employees from the Plaza will be offered jobs at the Las Vegas Club, which during this renovation period will be handling future room reservations, bingo and some other amenities formerly housed at the Plaza," Landfield said in the statement.
Tamares Real Estate is part of the Tamares Group, a privately owned international investment company.
The Plaza, renovated in 2011, has a lobby that features marble and inlaid mosaic tiles, chandeliers and a plush front desk that matches the classic Las Vegas feel with a contemporary look.
The hotel has 1,003 rooms and suites that showcase views of the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas. Amenities include world-class entertainment, a casino floor that offers an array of classic gaming choice, which include 600 slot machines, a 400-seat bingo room, 18 table games and 57,120 square feet of casino space.
Among the dining options is Oscar's Beef * Booze * Broads, a steakhouse opened by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman, which is located in the glittery dome enclosure above the hotel's main entrance.
The Plaza sits at the west end of the Fremont Street Experience on the site of the first train depot and auction site in Las Vegas, dating back to the San Pedro-Los Angeles-Salt Lake Railroad in 1905. The railroad was sold to Union Pacific in 1921 and the depot was demolished in 1970 to make way for the Union Plaza Hotel, built in 1971.
The hotel has been featured or is visible in several movies, including the 1971 James Bond film, "Diamonds are Forever;" the 1989 film "Back to the Future Part II;" the 1995 move "Casino," and the 2000 movie "Pay it Forward."